How do you start getting paid for magic?

Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 013

This podcast episode falls below my high standards of audio quality. Apologies!


- Hello, and welcome back!
- As you might have guessed if you've seen the title, this week's episode is about moving into paid work as a magician.

- That's not something that's going to apply to everyone.
- As I've said previously, some people want to keep their magic as just a hobby.
- That's a great thing. Remember that magic as a business brings with it extra pressures that just aren't there when you're doing it just for the love of it.
- Now, I love being a magician, in general, and as my job, but it's not true that "if you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life." There are days when being a professional magician is hard!
- Really hard.
- Of course, most magicians, and (performers in general) start off doing a few shows a year, then a few shows a month, so it's not like you're going to jump straight into a full schedule.
- That hopefully gives you room to assess if you want to go further, stay at the level you're at, or stop.

- I also know some of you listening are already established professionals.
- Hopefully, you'll stick with this episode though.
- As you know, I try to keep them to the essentials, and who knows, maybe you'll be able to pass on the information in a conversation with a friend.

- Alright, with the preamble, out of the way, let's get into it.

- So, when should you start getting paid for magic?
- The rather unhelpful answer is, when you're ready.
- I think generally, magicians get paid too soon.
- That's an industry wide problem, but when I look at stand up comedy, which is an artform I think is in many ways very close to magic, I see they go about things very differently.
- I'll be creating an episode comparing magic and stand up in the future, but for now what I wanted to point out was that in stand up, performers work for years sometimes to craft a 10 minute performance before they start "breaking into paid work."
- By the time they start getting paid, they might have done 70 - 100 shows for free.
- In magic, there's the joke (which is not too far off) that a young magician finds the magic shop in the morning, and by the afternoon he's already got a website and a set of business cards.

- Remember, learning your craft is important.
- If it's true that you build a better business by becoming a better performer, then it must also be true that you can struggle in business by giving poor performances.

- I'm perhaps being quite negative, but the takeaway from this part of the episode is, don't rush into it.
- It's much better for people to say, "you should get paid for this," than "you get paid for this!"

- So, let's say that you've already done a good chunk of shows for free.
- To put a number on it, shall we say 50.
- And, by that, I don't mean you've done the trick to a friend of family member 50 times, but rather you've done 50 events - open mic nights, charity events, family parties.
- Then you can perhaps start looking to charge something.

- But where do you find the work, and what do you charge.
- Well, initially, and this is what I did, I would start expanding the network you already have.
- So, parties not just for family and friends but friends of friends who you might not know that well.
- And the people who run open mic nights, often run ticketed shows too.
- The advantage of that is they often have a ticket split or a set price they pay acts, so there's one less thing to think about.

- Also, and this is perhaps more suited to someone younger in age, but there are several opportunities to do a season of performing. such as at a holiday park or even magic specific venues such as The House of Magic in Salou.
- I never did that, but I've heard great things about it.
- As mentioned in a previous episode, the chance to repeat your performances over and over again with a short iteration cycle, is incredibly valuable.

- The closest I got to anything like that was a few weeks residency at House of Illusions in Bristol.
- I really found that experience useful in both watching other magicians perform (listen to last weeks espresso episode for more on that) and for learning to deal with an audience I wasn't that used to.
- I also get emails every few months asking if I'll do three months of magic in the Middle East for about $1500 per month, which sounds fun, but is too low of a fee for me.
- So, basically, the work is there, you just have to find it.

- And part of that is also being involved with the magic community.
- Get to know other magicians, by going along to open mic nights, or magician's meet ups, or even a local magic club.
- If you've listened to episode one, about figuring out what you want to do, then you could pair up with a performer who doesn't do that.

- In my case, I don't do magic for three and four year olds, so instead I send all of those enquiries to someone who does a fantastic puppet show.
- I also often get enquiries for charity events with little or no budget and in those cases, I pass them on to one of my students.

- One really important thing to say at this stage though is, know your level.
- You'll notice that I've not mentioned corporate events or weddings.
- Those types of events are really important to the people organising them and so they are probably best left to a professional.
- In short, don't step on anyone's toes.
- Work your way up to that.

- For private events, the best way is simply to be honest with the client.
- I charge this amount because I've only been doing this a year, but if you would like me to recommend someone more experienced then I can do that.

- Like many things in life, you've got to find a balance. In this case, the balance is between saying yes to events, whilst not taking on something out of your depth.
- And also the balance between setting a price where you're not being taken advantage, but you're also not ripping the client off.

- I hope this has been useful in helping you to break into paid work.
- It's much better for people to say, "you should get paid for this," than "you get paid for this!"

- Also remember you can find out more about me, and every episode at
- Don't forget to share the podcast with friends, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from, and I'll see you in the next episode.

- Until then, thanks ever so much for listening.

Additional Show Notes

- There's only a few notes for this episode, but I wanted to point you in the direction of a few places where as mentioned, you might be able to find a summer season, or part summer season:

House of Illusion Bar, Salou, Spain

Rising Stars Circus Agency

Here are the UK Holiday parks - as mentioned, these are going to be more useful for someone quite young.

Butlins Careers, UK

Pontins Careers, UK

Haven Careers, UK

Park Dean Careers, UK

Park Holidays Careers, UK

And then a little later down the line, you might also look at.

Smoke & Mirrors Bar, Bristol


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