"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Storyteller's New Year: Goals to Celebrate

If you need an excuse to aim for the stars as a storyteller, then now is the time. It doesn’t have to be January 1st. Your goals are waiting for you to pursue them.

Some Storyteller Goal Categories:

  • Artistic
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Please feel free to explore other categories or questions as you progress in your storytelling. Share any goals you have as this makes it more likely for your goals to be accomplished.


Your friend--the right side of the brain--will enjoy these goals. Research, repertoire, and practicing of stories are a few in this realm.

National storyteller Elizabeth Ellis is quick to say that most storytellers prefer to only set goals in this category, especially as it is considered the “fun” side of the craft. Of course, this could also explain why the term “starving artist” came about as the business, marketing, and technology sides are ignored.

List how many new stories you performed in the past year. How many new stories will you add to your repertoire?

You may have those stories that you tell over and over again, but if you do not have any new stories ready for the stage by the end of the year, then you are missing opportunities.

Last year I had a goal to create at least one new story every month. As I went to monthly storytelling guild meetings, that gave me deadlines to accomplish this goal. Now I go to two different monthly guild meetings so I want to have at least two new stories every month.

Often I have performances that request themes. One time I was asked to share two hours of Scandinavian stories (four 30-minute sessions with no repeats). At the time of the request, I had about 30 minutes worth of stories that fell in that category. After much research, I gained at least 2 ½ hours worth of Scandinavian stories. I certainly met my monthly goal due to that gig.

How much time will you dedicate to work on new material? Existing repertoire?

National storyteller Bill Harley dedicates at least one hour every day to creating stories. He admitted that there are days he does not feel like doing it, but he pushes through. Other days he goes for hours developing material. Depending on his schedule, he has had late nights where the temptation would be to go to bed and make up the hour in the morning. Instead, he stays up—even if it is past 1:00am—to meet his goal. That is commitment.

I am not to that level yet. I have decided that 30 minutes a day for six days of the week will be my step in the right direction.

Perhaps you do not feel you have the time to spare. Some people solve this problem by waking up 30 minutes or so earlier than normal.


Here is where you admit to yourself that a professional storyteller is also a business owner. You determine your hours and what days you can take off. You also determine how successful you will be.

Do you have some sort of business plan in place?

A business plan often merges with other important documents such as a mission statement, vision statement, and artistic mission statement. If you are expecting to be paid as a storyteller, then you need to realize that these plans give you the foundation to base other goals.

How many thank you cards did you send last year? What is your goal for this year?

This is hard-core office work since thank you cards involve writing and/or typing, stuffing envelopes, sticking on stamps, and mailing. If these tasks sound scary, then perhaps you want to hire a neighbor kid to do these things.

I prefer to type my cards as I write about a page worth of memories to my sponsors. I always share specific instances. By the time the thank you letter is done, I have a one-page storytelling journal entry. Two important things happen as a result: you have a record for your business and your sponsors appreciate and remember you more often.


Storytellers need to be “loud” on and off the stage. A microphone is often held with ease though many storytellers are slow to spread the word about them. I am one of those strange storytellers that love the artistic and the marketing side.

How many venues do you wish to perform at for the year?

I am always honored to perform at the same venues as the year before. I also like to challenge myself and put a number of new venues I would like to perform at for the current year.

How many referrals did you get last year? How many do you wish to have this year?

One of the first things I ask a person is where did they hear about me. I want to know if there is a specific person to thank.

A sponsor receives a file from me with my resume and other materials including at least 10 business cards so they can feel free to give them to others. For the person who refers me to others I give discounts for future performances.


Using technological tools could build credibility and confidence for how others look at you the storyteller. Embrace the possibilities.

How is your presence on the Internet? How can you have more of a presence?

One way to determine your presence is to go to a search engine—like Google—and type in your name. My three most common searches are “Rachel Hedman”, “Utah storyteller” and “Utah storytelling”. The listing for my website and my blog usually top the search. Every so often I find comments or references about me from others. The more links connected to you, the more likely a sponsor can find and hire you.

I have also set up a Google News search so anytime my name is in the online media—newspaper, magazine, newsletter—I am sent a notification. Certain venues are wonderful at submitting your name and even a link to your website on their own website. Be willing to ask if this is possible. They will most likely say yes.

If you do not have a website for others to link to, then create your own blog. Usually you can set one up for free—like through blogger.com. Then you can give this web address to venues to hire you as well as print it on your business cards.

List any online directories/calendars or social networks you participate in. List any online directories/calendars or social networks you wish to join by the end of this year.

Two specific storytelling directories are a must for storytellers: Storyteller.net and National Storytelling Network.

Other places to consider: Chambers of Commerce, Art Councils, Storytelling Guilds, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I recently joined “Networking in Utah” as well as Facebook. Both of these places allow me to list any events that I am participating in. This is a great way to advertise to others “hey, I could tell for you, too.”

Hopefully you have been inspired to improve as a storyteller in at least one way. Who knows? This could be your best year yet!

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair for Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799

No comments: