Supporting the art of storytelling throughout Ohio.
After scheduling my 105th gig for 2011 earlier today, several storytellers asked what I am doing different to get this many. So, without giving away the farm, I’ll share the process. There is nothing terribly different, just a constant commitment to marketing. Do note, one thing that is different is that I do not market myself as a storyteller. I market programs. That keeps me fresh for the audience I market to and does not make other storytellers “competition”.
First of all, I am not giving programs away, am not doing them "on the cheap". I do a few programs that I donate my time each year, however that was only 5 this year. They are mostly my choice, not a response to someone calling out of the blue and asking for a free program.
I do try to keep the fee reasonable and I would rather work than not work. I do my homework, finding out what the going rates are for other performers that do similar things, including storytellers. I take into consideration, experience, expertise and geography when I develop fees. However, I am not bashful about telling a venue what a fee would be and do not apologize for the fee. Yes, I do offer discounts. For example, if January is a slow month, I might pit a gold sticker on a postcard with “Ask about discounts for January programs.”
My personal method involves tons of postcard marketing. Each week I do targeted (not scattershot to everyone) mailings - I try to do at least 50 postcards per week minimum. I know where I can get gigs and look regularly for similar venues. My cost per piece is 37 cents, so I spend $18.50 per week or $962 per year on postcard mailings. I always am looking for good deals from vistaprint.com or other sites and take advantage of them to keep cost down. I use several postcards and do order some in bulk - 2,500 for $289. (A year's supply)
As I said earlier, I market programs, not me as a storyteller. Recently I scheduled a second gig with a venue that had invited me to do my Mark Twain program. As a follow up to my gig I sent a postcard in an envelope with a note written on the back of the postcard. The postcard listed several other storytelling programs I offer. Every contact person as a gig will receive a followup that not only is a “thank you” but suggests other programs.
The postcards are followed up with e-mails to the venues with the best prospect of hiring me, but often I get calls before I can e-mail. On average, I usually get at least 1 or two gigs per 50 mailings.
At every event I have postcards rather than brochures. I do hand out business cards, but at 8 cents per postcard, I give anyone that asks a postcard. I usually give out 15 or 20 per event... less than two bucks per event. AND yes, I do get calls from those I hand out.
The main goal every day is to market, constantly market. I brainstorm with friends constantly about venues that are out of my "box".
When I went full time, I did an informal survey of quite a few tellers. So many tellers told me that they made less than $10,000 a year. Many made less than $5,000. Neither is bad for a part time hobby. Many tellers tell for various reasons.
The bottom line? You can be a storyteller, develop a good plan and stick to it AND increase your income as well as making a difference.