I first heard the term “professional story teller” when reading one of Bryce Dallas Howard’s Nine Muses newsletters and immediately felt drawn toward it.
To those working in the entertainment field, the term “entertainment” can sound a little circus-y. We’re here to create art, and entertainment is a secondary part of it, right? We’re not performing storytelling events– we’re sharing our truth and our art.
But the simple art of telling stories— immediately, I took to it.
It describes us creatives quite nicely: bound by a driven and profound desire to share stories with the world through their performance, embark on paths to weave narratives that resonate deeply with our audiences, whether it’s by assuming a character’s role, orchestrating the production of a film, crafting compelling scripts, or telling our own personal story through a script.
What is a professional storyteller?
Being a professional storyteller goes beyond the traditional boundaries of a single profession or medium. It encompasses an array of skills and roles; all centered around the art of storytelling and the storytelling process.
For some, it’s working as an actor, breathing life into a character. For others, it’s as a producer orchestrating the magic and bringing written storytelling to life. Still, for others, it’s sharing their own stories through writing scripts, songs, films, music videos, television, Youtube web series, and short-form clips and using their own life experiences to be a part of a greater story.
But to put it simply: a professional storyteller is a creative artist who uses their talents to tell stories.
Professional storytelling creatives understand the power of narratives to inspire, entertain, educate, and evoke a range of emotions, embracing the notion that stories possess a unique ability to connect people, transcending time, cultures, and backgrounds. Through their words, musical instruments, stature, and direction, they strive to leave a lasting impact on those who experience their stories, creating moments through real or imaginary circumstances to use their personal experience for a higher purpose.
In turn, it captures an audience’s attention and creates a connection that’s rarely found anywhere else, allowing them to see their deepest feelings through someone else.
5 steps to becoming a professional storyteller and creative multi-hyphenate
If you feel like this is you, then you probably recognize another fundamental truth about being a storytelling creative: how broken the arts industry is and how it’s up to us to fix it to create a full-time income from a creative career.
Spotify changed music listening forever; touring often squeezes energy and gusto out of musicians and singer-songwriters (or puts them in overdrive), and highly concentrated arts programs like BFAs– as much as they have their own unique beauty and value– don’t often teach business or marketing skills, leaving graduated artists feeling like their only option is to become a bartender until the ever-changing “big break.”
But, there has been a fundamental change in it all: the digital space. There are careers being built from influencer marketing, blogging, and content creation, all of which can be done through being your most natural, creative self. And there are ways to get started, using ways to monetize completely online, so you can make your lifestyle your own.
Step 1: Know your “why.”
What type of creative do you want to be? Do you like working with other storytellers and creatives in the theatre, producing and acting in work because you’re telling stories through someone’s scriptwriting? Do you have songs that you know others feel heard in and know that you want to release and perform your music to create a greater audience and community?
Your professional storytelling journey might even be a little further from any stage or gallery through storytelling via influencer marketing, blogging, and partnering with brands to make creative content that pays you.
And if you have digital marketing skills like graphic design, writing, or content creation, then you already have the leverage to make money from it through freelancing or selling your services.
Knowing your “why” guides your creative decisions, shapes your artistic voice, and identifies a sense of purpose and direction in your creative arts, deeper than just “I love performing,” or “I’ve always wanted to be a painter.”
Your what is “I want to be a comedian,” and your why is, “Because the world is a dark place, and I know that making people laugh will help everyone.”
Your what is, “I want to be a musician,” and your why is, “Because I know music to be the biggest way we can connect with one another and share an experience.”
Your why doesn’t have to be one thing. Your why doesn’t have to be wildly perfect to get started. But your unique perspective and drive to create will breathe life into your career and make your work fulfilling every single day.
Step 2. Get training.
Whether it’s enrolling in a renowned film school, attending a Meisner-based acting program, taking voice lessons to refine your vocal abilities, or learning the intricacies of film production, investing in training will empower you to elevate your storytelling to new heights.
Not to mention, it gives you the confidence and power to be grounded in your work, your values, and yourself.
For you, it might mean going to (or going back to) school to achieve your bachelor’s or finding a training program to spend time listening, learning, and making great mistakes. For those who already feel they have the springboard to start, it could also mean becoming an apprentice to get their hands dirty where they want to be. Let’s use a few examples:
To become a performer: getting training in a well-renowned technique and getting performance experience.
To become a designer: starting through social media and a blog, showcasing your journey as a budding designer, and building up your audience to eventually create an Etsy shop and build an audience for products or shows.
To become a producer, theatre owner, or venue manager: get business training and build up a passive income stream in the meantime to fund your space. Networking to connect with groups of artists who could be resident contributors, like directors and actors.
Remember that training is not solely limited to formal education. I’ve personally had some of the biggest learning curves from training programs, books, and online courses, and having a supportive community of like-minded creatives to remind me of what’s possible and to collaborate and grow with.
Through continuous learning, you’ll continue to evolve in whichever creative endeavor tugs at your heartstrings.
Step 3. Build up a financial strategy to support your work.
The landscape of the art world has undergone a remarkable shift in recent years. No longer confined to major cities like New York or Los Angeles, the digital age has granted storytellers the freedom to create and thrive from anywhere in the world. With this newfound flexibility also comes the opportunity to build a financial strategy that supports your creative endeavors, all from your home.
Being a professional storyteller and creative used to mean living in a big city working as a bartender to make ends meet, and attending auditions, showings, or networking events during the day. But take it from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, who was way ahead of his time when he showed us that the first step to freedom is remote working.
Having a “real job” is often referred to as a prison to artists– but it can actually be one of the most freeing ways for many professional storytellers to build up their financial assets whilst venturing into the full-time landscape. Here are the 2 instances we think are the fastest ways for you to start making money while you build up your path to full-time creative work:
- Work in a remote, full-time position: if you have experience as a creative, chances are, you can contribute your creative ideas to those in the corporate world who are looking for a visionary. Think of your skills- writing, graphic design, or even coding- and use the power of free Youtube videos to teach you how to make a resume, apply for jobs, and get a full-time role.The beauty of working a remote full-time job is that once the clock strikes the end of the day, you’re done working and can focus your efforts on your other work. No more hoping that you’ll get more money this week than last. It’s always guaranteed, so you can put that money towards your endeavors and save that time at night and on the weekends to work on your craft.
- Build up a full-time schedule freelancing through Upwork. If you’re open to acquiring clients and building your schedule yourself, you could also build up a full-time schedule freelancing through coding, consulting, writing, social media management, or anything you know you have a monetizable skill for. Having a single well-defined idea of what you’ll market yourself as on job boards will help you zero in on clients, and writing pitches tailored to what your potential clients need will help you stand out from the crowd.
Remember: we’re approaching our financial strategy with a long-term mindset. While there are other ways to make money, like through more passive income streams where your income isn’t attached to your time, these are the fastest that will ensure you’re not in debt trying to find significant opportunities that can also pay your bills.
Step 4. Share the work through a personal brand or business.
Building a personal brand is a powerful tool for creatives in today’s digital age.
While you’re obtaining your consistent income, building your own personal brand is integral to being able to control exactly what you want to control, paving the way for building your career under your terms.
Some ideas for having your own personal brand or business:
Affiliate marketing and brand sponsorships through a blog and/or Instagram
Building up a brand through sharing personal stories, showing your journey, and sharing education are probably some of the most widely seen ways we see creative personal brands popping up. Xo Macenna creates and produces her own full-time YouTube channel (and now a podcast!), sharing her ventures learning DIY and fixing up a more than 110-year-old cottage.
Deya educates new freelancers on how to create a full-time income from their work in a fraction of the time it takes most people after having lived it herself.
Spicy Moustache uses his more than 7 years of experience in urban farming to share how to use every piece of food, cook, and garden without needing much space.
ADHD Couples has a faceless Instagram that shows educational graphics about how couples can navigate the trials and tribulations of ADHD in their relationship.
Consider these social media platforms as avenues to showcase your work, share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your creative process, and connect with a global audience that resonates with your storytelling style. Embrace these online spaces as a means to express your creativity while and forming meaningful connections with fellow artists and industry professionals. Having an online presence means you get to write your own destiny and how others see you.
Personally, I’m not crazy about supporting social media channels, particularly ones that like to censor or control the content that’s put out. It’s all about uncovering what you’re open to doing, what you’re not, where you’ll draw the line, and the priorities that lie beneath the surface.
There’s one thing that I’ll say about this: there is no guideline as to what you can create. There are so many personalities and niches out there, and you already have the storytelling skills to be creative, so you’re fully capable of monetizing it to make it into a brand, too. ?
If you took the freelancing route and found that your clientele kept growing and growing, you can consider turning your work into an agency model. Take on a few people to help you with your tasks and add on some specialists to make your offerings a little more full-stack. Here’s an example:
Say you’ve been a freelance SEO writer and have been taking on more clients than you can handle. You’ve been upping your price to focus on only a few but have still been graced with an abundance of work! You’ve also been asked quite a few times if you manage social media but have only since been sticking to writing. Start your agency by adding another writer to take on some of your tasks, and hiring a social media manager, so you can start offering more work all under your roof. From there, you can keep listening to what your clients want and continue growing from there.
Airbnb or real estate
Some say it’s passive income– we say it’s just another way to detach your money from your time. This is mostly recommended if you already have another space already, or if you have the funds to build one out yourself. Real estate is a great passive investment, just know that there will be expenses and time on your end.
Step 5. Have a community behind you.
After over 25 years of being alive, I learned that the key to stopping being a people-pleaser for me was to have a community behind me.
No longer was I looking around, seeing if others accepted me. No longer was I putting on my overly friendly face when meeting others. Sure, I’m not perfect, but once I learned that I have a set number of people I know will always be in my corner, I could let go of any self-judgment on whether I was doing the right thing.
As you venture into this journey, you’re going to feel like you want to explore some different avenues. Some of them you’ll try and then realize it’s not for you. With a solid support system, you’ll never have to be fearful of being judged or looked down upon. As long as your community has your back, you’re free to just be.
This is huge for artists like us, who want to experiment but wonder who’s watching. Hint: Nobody’s watching. Nobody cares. And if they do, well, they’ve got other things they need to worry about. ?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a professional storyteller or creative?
We see a professional storyteller as an artist who uses their creative talents to share stories through performative mediums such as theatre, film, music, and art.
They can take on various roles, such as actors, writers, producers, or anyone who is dedicated to sharing stories in different mediums and providing a service through connected intentional entertainment.
What is a multi-hyphenate?
We sometimes mention multi-hyphenates here and throughout the blog.
In the context of storytelling, a multi-hyphenate could be an individual who not only writes stories but also performs, directs, produces, or does a combination of it all.
Being a multi-hyphenate allows artists to explore different facets of storytelling and express their creativity in diverse ways.
How can I be a full-time performer?
To begin your journey, you can leverage digital opportunities through one of the following:
- Working a remote, full-time job for consistent income
- Creating a freelance career through job platforms like Upwork
Once you’ve started building up your income through those parts, you can:
- Explore influencer marketing by creating a YouTube channel, blog, or Instagram account
- Find passive income opportunities through digital products or real estate
- Build up your own business
Hope you enjoyed venturing into the land of artistry, using your storytelling skills for the creative essence they were meant to be. ? We’re rooting for you!
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