Establishing Your Storytelling Business

Establishing a storytelling business is like establishing any other business. You will need to create a business name, produce a business plan, set up a bank account, secure the proper licensing, and manage financial matters. Most importantly, you will need to build a nurturing support network. Building A Support Network Embarking on the journey of a self-employed artist is challenging. In addition to being “your own boss,” you are also the company’s Director of Marketing, Booking Manager, Public Relations Agent, and Office Administrator.

Wearing all of these hats can be overwhelming at times. Build a support network of people who will encourage you to succeed. Your support network will be a group of people – family, friends, and professional colleagues you can turn to when you need a little extra encouragement, feedback, and advice. Even professional sports teams rely on their support network. Basketball and football teams enlist the cheerleaders to cheer the team on and lift their sagging spirits when the team is down. Don’t underestimate the value of a good support network. They are your personal cheerleaders. Who are You?

Your professional identity will define you for many years to come, so think carefully about creating a “label” for yourself. Your name, or moniker, is your calling card. It’s how presenters find you and how audiences follow your work. In short, it’s who you are. Many storytellers create catchy monikers for which they become widely known. Jackson Gillman bills himself as “The Stand-Up Chameleon. ” It’s memorable and unique. The tandem duo of Barry Marshall and Jeri Burns bill themselves as “The Storycrafters. ” Then there are other storytellers who simply choose to use their own names.

We all know Bill Harley, Heather Forest, David Holt, Jay O’Callahan, and Donald Davis. They are examples of tellers who marketed themselves by simply using their own names. We know them because they are good at what they do and they know how to get their names into our collective consciences. When I first began my career as a professional storyteller, I went by the moniker “Dianne and the Magic Suitcase. ” I chose the suitcase theme because I have lived and traveled worldwide. I brought an old red suitcase, full of props, to all my performances. Initially, I received a lot of attention and the name got me noticed.

But then the suitcase drew more attention than the storytelling. Kids always wanted to know “what was in the suitcase. ” In addition, many people thought I was a magician and would ask when the magic would begin. After struggling with whether or not to make a name change and consulting my support network for advice, I made the decision to drop the suitcase and market myself simply as “Dianne de Las Casas. ” I changed my stationery, business cards, and marketing materials, and I notified my clients of my name change. It was a costly transformation, but in the end I am happier and my storytelling business is booming.

When you choose a moniker, test the waters and see how it works. Make the commitment only after you feel completely comfortable with the image and how it is perceived. Remember, it should last you for the long haul. You don’t want to have to go through costly re-imaging later on. Your Trade Name If you have a unique name for your storytelling business and would like to protect your name, you may want to register your trade name. This is different from registering for a trademark. You can register your trade name with your Secretary of State’s corporate or business division.

When you register your trade name, you will be a recognized, legal business entity within your state. A visit to your state’s Secretary of State website will provide you with the necessary information you need to begin. In some cases, you may also perform a trade name search on your Secretary of State’s website. Trademarking Your Name So what exactly is a trademark? The U. S. Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) defines a trademark as: “a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

” The professional storyteller would most likely register a service mark. According to the USPTO: “A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. ” There are many advantages to registering your trademark including: • notice to the public of your claim of ownership of the mark, • your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration, • the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court.

The “TM” (trademark) or “SM” (service mark) designation may be used to inform the public of your claim to the mark, whether or not you have filed an application with the USPTO. However, the federal registration symbol “®” may only be used after your mark has been registered by the USPTO. You may not use the “®” symbol while your registration is pending. In addition, the use of registration symbol with the mark is limited to the goods and/or services listed in your USPTO registration. While registering for a trademark can be costly, the long-term benefits of your investment may be worth it.

The USPTO has an online database in which you may perform a cursory trademark search. In addition, The USPTO’s website also allows online trademark registration. Visit www. uspto. gov for more information. Types of Businesses There are several types of businesses. The main types are sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. Think carefully about which type of business you will be known as and operate under. Sole Proprietorship In a sole proprietorship, one person provides all the capital and assumes all the responsibility and liability. There are many advantages to a sole proprietorship including:

• Low start-up costs • Greatest freedom from regulation • Direct control by owner • Minimum working capital requirements • Tax advantage to small owner • All profits to owner Many professional storytellers choose to operate their businesses as a sole proprietor. Be aware though that there is unlimited personal liability. Partnership Like the sole proprietorship, in a partnership, the liability of each general partner for all the debts of the firm is unlimited. Each of the general partners is personally responsible for all the debts of the company. Some distinct advantages to a partnership are: • Easy to form.

• Low start-up costs • Additional sources of venture capital (your partners) • Broader management • Limited outside regulation If you are considering a partnership (such as a tandem telling team), be sure to spell out your partnership agreement on paper. You may need to draft Articles of Partnership. See a legal professional for assistance in this regard. Corporation The liability of the owners of a corporation is limited to the value of their shares of stock. In addition, a corporation is a legal entity and its longevity is unaffected by death or the transfer of shares of stock by any or all owners.

“C” corporations are corporations that have the disadvantage of double taxation. Income tax is levied upon corporate profits and then dividends are paid to the stockholders. The stockholders then have to pay taxes on their dividends. Corporations require extensive record keeping and are closely regulated. Another disadvantage is that should the company become insolvent, liquidation of assets is difficult. Advantages to forming a corporation include: • Limited liability • Specialized management • Ownership is transferable • Continuous existence • Legal entity • Easier to raise capital

• Authority in board of directors With a certain type of corporation known as an “S” corporation, profits are passed through to the individual stockholders and no federal income tax is levied upon the corporation as an entity. There are many differences between “C” corporations and “S” corporations. A popular type of corporation for small businesses is the Limited Liability Company (LLC). The LLC has the advantages of a corporation and a sole proprietorship/partnership rolled into one neat package. The LLC is responsible for business’ debts and liabilities and taxes operate like a partnership.

With the LLC, there is no personal liability and no separate business tax returns. You may want to consider incorporating your business if you require an umbrella company to handle your audio and book production, merchandise sales, bookings and/or business property. Be sure to discuss your options with a financial advisor or tax professional. Small Business Assistance Small businesses have many resources available to them. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) “is a resource partner with the U. S. Small Business Administration. SCORE is dedicated to aiding in the formation, growth, and success of small business nationwide.

” Online consultations through email are available with retired executives who have experience in every aspect of business. You can select your counselor by reviewing their qualifications and even schedule a personal consultation. There are SCORE chapters located all over the United States. Best of all, the SCORE service is free. Check with your local university. Many universities have small business development centers that offer workshops, seminars, and consultations for small business owners. Setting Up a Checking Account It is now time to set up a company checking account.

If you are operating as a sole proprietor, look into small business checking accounts. Banks compete heavily with each other for your business, so shop around. Many banks offer free checking to small businesses. If you are operating under a company name but are a sole proprietor, you may need to open a checking account as a d/b/a (doing business as). For instance, I could open an account as “Dianne de Las Casas d/b/a The Story Connection. ” Some banks require you to furnish a business license or a fictitious name certificate. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or City Hall for information.

“Opening a storytelling business only checking account was one of the most important ways that I said to myself and others, ‘I’m really serious about this. It’s not just a hobby; it’s a business. ‘” – Patti Christensen, Professional Storyteller Some banks require a tax I. D. number to open an account. You can obtain one from the IRS. There is no fee for the number. You simply fill out the form, send it in, and a number is assigned. Visit the IRS’s website, www. irs. org, for a downloadable form. Business License Many states, counties, and cities require businesses to obtain a business license.

It is a fairly simple and affordable process to obtain a business license. A business license allows you to conduct business activities legally. Where to obtain your business license varies from state to state. Check with your local Small Business Administration or your Secretary of State. See Resources at the end of this chapter for listings. Business Plan Do you have a business plan? You may ask, “What do you mean? What is a business plan? ” A business plan is a blueprint of your business, a written plan of where you want your business to go.

If you were to approach a commercial lending institution to borrow funds to start a business or to establish a business line of credit, the loan officer would ask you for your business plan. But you don’t have to be in a position to borrow money to establish a business plan. A business plan will help you to define your goals and provide you with a roadmap to success. “All businesses need a sound plan that typically includes a mission statement, budget, set of goals, price or fee structure, marketing plan, and time management analysis. Performing artists need to be firmly connected to the core values that drive their art as well as being focused and organized.

” – John McLaughlin, Business Entrepreneur and Professional Storyteller Roy Mack, Jr. , President of Consulting Services and the Southeast Regional Representative for the State of Louisiana Economic Development Department, states emphatically, “Everyone should have a business plan! ” The following is an outline for a business plan model suggested by Mr. Mack. Concept Statement Define your business ideals and concepts. Cover the reasons you are in business, as well as your desire to serve your customers, to cover a market need, and to make money with an ability or talent.

Include your artist mission in this section, your philosophy as an artist. Executive Summary Provide a brief but complete description and history of the business, including the basis for the type of business form chosen. This section also includes a description of information contained in other sections of the business plan. In the executive summary, you may include: • Origin of your business’ name • Location • Products/services • Target customers • Competition • Goals/objectives • Background and experience • Potential revenue • Sales and promotional goals Management Team

Describe your internal and external management team, show your organizational chart, and describe departmental and key personnel functions. Briefly describe the reasons and business support for the choices made. Market Analysis This section contains a brief but detailed description of your marketplace, target customers, and effective research methods used. Describe everything from your ability to match your management decisions, your direction for the company, etc. , to industry and market trends. Describe what methods of input and feedback you have in place to secure needed information to ongoing management and operation of your business.

Describe your revenue and cost forecasting methods based on your market analysis. Cover market penetration tactics (how you will reach potential customers), customer profiles, and techniques to handle current and future products and services. Describe what your industry trends appear to be. Marketing Plan This section will provide an explanation for your financial information and a rationale for other sections of the business plan. The information contained in this section substantiates the revenues received and expenses incurred by your operations.

It shows the growth potential of your business and your industry. Describe your typical or desired customer here, and how and why they buy. Describe your plan to attract customers. List and describe your competition. Stress the benefits your company brings to marketplace or to your customers. Financial Information In this section, place your last three years’ business financial statements, tax returns (business/personal as needed), and cash flow statement. Provide key business ratios related to your business and a five year projection. Support Documentation

In this section, provide important support documentation such as key resumes, business license documentation, incorporation documents, customer testimonials and letters, press clippings, business and personal awards, citations, and any other information that sheds a positive light on you, your staff and your business. Putting together a complete business plan may sound overwhelming and intimidating to the individual artist, but don’t be afraid. There is help – free help. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) provides free consultations and assistance to small business owners both over the Internet and in person.

Visit www. score. org. Also, check with your local college’s or university’s small business development association. Often, universities have centers available for business help. If you follow a good business plan, you will define your future path to name recognition and financial success. General Liability Insurance With any business, liability is an issue. General liability insurance will protect many incidents including injury during a show. It is a good idea to carry this protection and many performance venues now require that you provide a Certificate of Insurance (proof that you have liability insurance).

For less than a couple hundred dollars a year, you can purchase general liability insurance with up to $2 million in coverage. It’s a small price to pay for security. Resources are listed at the end of this chapter. Insuring Your Equipment and Merchandise If you have a home-based business, you probably store your sound equipment, props, costumes, instruments, and merchandise inside your home. Should property damage or loss of property occur due to a fire or natural disaster, your home insurance will not cover equipment and merchandise related to your business.

You can purchase a rider to your home insurance, which will give you the protection you need for business equipment and inventory. Keeping Track of Your Income How do you keep track of your account’s receivables? I previously used a manual ledger system in addition to a simple accounting program that allowed me to track my receivables. I now use Microsoft Money for Small Businesses, which allows me to generate invoices, calculate my gross income, track expenses, and total my net earnings. The program also allows me to print out any necessary reports, which is an asset at tax time.

Microsoft Money has a feature that also permits artists/writers to track their inventory (books and tapes) and keep track of that income as well. Quick Books and Quicken are other popular softwares that have simplified accounting abilities. Tackling Taxes Many expenses can be deducted for your business – postage, photocopying, computer equipment and software purchases, office supplies, stationery, brochures, lodging and meals for overnight trips, books, sound equipment, costumes and props, advertising, mileage, tolls, craft supplies, etc.

You may also deduct a portion of your home’s mortgage and utilities if you have a dedicated home office. Keep all receipts and keep accurate records. Talk to a professional accountant to help you determine exactly what deductions you are allowed. To track my expenses, I keep monthly receipt envelopes. I place all my business receipts in the envelope. I use a Palm handheld, known as a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) to track my expenses daily. See Chapter 8 – Setting Up Your Office for more information on PDAs. This has been every helpful.

The information is transferred to my lap top computer when I synchronize the Palm with the computer. Before I bought it, I logged my receipts onto the top of the receipt envelope and my husband entered the information into our accounting software for easy access during tax time. Receipt envelopes can be purchased at places like Office Depot, Office Max, Wal-Mart and other office supply stores. If you are taking mileage deductions, you must keep track of your business mileage. You can do this with an Auto Mileage Log. Keep it in your vehicle at all times.

On January 1, log the beginning mileage and on December 31, log the ending mileage. When traveling to performances, write down the beginning and ending mileage for the trip, and keep track of it month by month. If storytelling is your main source of income, you will have to file estimated quarterly income returns. You calculate your gross wages, subtract your expenses, and pay taxes based on your estimated net earnings. The form can be ordered from the IRS by calling 1-800-IRS-1040 or visiting www. irs. gov. IRS Publications you may be interested in reading are: • Publication 17 – Tax Guide for Individuals

• Publication 463 – Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses • Publication 334 – Tax Guide for Small Businesses The IRS publications may be downloaded as a PDF file directly from their website at www. IRS. gov. If you are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of accounting, hire a professional accountant. Your accountant can also give you advice on how to save more and reduce your taxable income. The Business of Storytelling Operating your own business is one of the most exciting ventures you will undertake. Being able to profit from your passion is exhilarating.

When you take yourself seriously as an artist entrepreneur, others will too. “We can be artists without having a career in the arts, and we can have a career in the arts without being artists. But if we are making a career of our art, we’d better attend to our business. ” Milbre Burch, Kind Crone Productions “Even to this day. ” RESOURCES Recommended Reading Geisler, Harlynne. Storytelling Professionally: The Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer. Libraries Unlimited, Inc. (1997) Goldstein, Jeri. How to Be Your Own Booking Agent, 2nd Revised Edition. New Music Times, Inc. (2004) Heflick, David.

How to Make Money Performing in Schools. Silcox Productions (1996) Loos, Barbara. Getting a Grant. Barnes & Noble Books (2002) Mooney, Bill & Holt, David. The Storyteller’s Guide. August House (1996) Shih, Patricia. Gigging: A Practical Guide for Musicians. Allworth Press (2003) Silber, Lee. Career Management for the Creative Person. Three Rivers Press (1999) Silber, Lee. Money Management for the Creative Person. Three Rivers Press (2002) Silber, Lee. Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain. Thomas Dunne Books (2004) Zobel, Jan. Minding Her Own Business – The Self- Employed Woman’s Guide to Taxes and Recordkeeping.

Easthill Press (1998) Storytelling World – Issue 10, Summer/Fall, 1996; entire issue devoted to the business of storytelling (back issues still available – order form at http://pages. preferred. com/~hjoy/events/journal/ordinfo. htm) Organizing Items ItemManufacturer Receipt EnvelopesDay Runner Order No. 480-217 Auto Mileage LogDome No. 770 Accounting Software Quicken – www. quicken. com Quickbooks Pro – www. quickbooks. com Microsoft Money – www. microsoft. com/money Small Business Assistance SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) 1-800-634-0245 www. score. org Small Business Administration Answer Desk.

6302 Fairview Road, Suite 300 Charlotte, North Carolina 28210 1-800-UASK-SBA (1-800-827-5722) Send e-mails to: [email protected] gov Answer Desk TTY: (704) 344-6640 www. sba. gov U. S. Trademark and Patent Office www. uspto. gov Internal Revenue Service www. irs. gov Liability Insurance Clowns of the U. S. , Inc. Al Fellerman Insurance 7732 Cayenne Plaza West Woodbury, MN 55125 Phone: 651-738-0280 [email protected] com Al Fellerman offers liability insurance for performing artists (you do not have to be a clown). The $2 million policy is reasonably priced at less than $200 per year.