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Most professional storytellers are self-employed. They are one-person businesses, and their salary is calculated based on how much they charge per performance, the amount of their overhead, and how much profit they earn per year. Many professional storytellers are also actors, musicians or experts in different cultural traditions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists professional storytellers as entertainers and performers. Their average hourly wage was $18.60 as of May, 2010.
Fees and Pricing
Most professional storytellers charge a fee per performance, and add costs of travel, meals and lodging. Schools and libraries are main sources of income for professional storytellers. Some storytellers charge as little as $50 per performance, and may even perform for free. Others charge fees ranging from $200 to $1,000 or more. Professional storyteller Dianne de las Casas advised storytellers to set an hourly rate based on their overhead expenses and living costs, including equipment, health insurance and other costs.
As of May 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an average annual wage of $29,827 for independent entertainers and performers. The lowest 10 percent earned $18,075 a year, and the highest 10 percent earned $69,021, according to the BLS. Children's author and storyteller Alison McGhee's fees are up to $300 an hour and $1,200 to $1,500 for all-day programs. Storyteller Rachel Hedman charges $300 an hour, and advises that storytellers can ask for additional in-kind services from schools and libraries.
As independent performers, storytellers need to be able to determine an appropriate amount to charge per-performance that will allow them to earn a profit each year after all their expenses are paid. Dianne de las Casas advised storytellers to add together all of their expenses and labor, including preparation time and practice, and add the amount of profit they want to earn. Storytellers will determine their fee per performance by dividing the number of performances they are able to give into the total.
Number of Performances
Many storytellers travel frequently and give a number of performances each day or week. Dianne de las Casas told storyteller Chris King that she performs between 150 and 200 shows a year. Other storytellers perform more shows. At an average price of $150 per one-hour show, a storyteller performing 175 shows a year would earn $26,250, but would also need to pay his living and overhead expenses. At $400 per show, the storyteller would earn $70,000 before paying his living and overhead expenses.
- Rachel Hedman; Receiving Rate vs. Starving Artist Syndrome; May 2008
- Alison McGhee: Fees
- "Storyteller.net": Storybiz - How to Figure Your Pricing; Dianne de las Casas; February 2008
- Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010; 27-2099 Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, All Other
- "Storytelling Power"; How to Get Started as a Professional Storyteller; Chris King;
- Seattle Professional Storyteller's Guild: Performing Tellers
Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.
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