So, what do you need to get set up your magic business? Remember, this is needed whether you are going full-time or part time:
- Register that you are earning self-employed income
- Produce numbered invoices
- Open a business bank account
- Have Public Liability Insurance
- Have a website with your own domain and email address
Not essential, but definitely needed for generating new and ongoing business:
- Your unique brand
- Marketing material and advertising
- Systems for running your business
The biggest mistake people make is skipping over the “boring” steps of creating a business first and jump to the more fun steps of designing logos and advertising. But how can you really promote a business without having a business in place to promote?!
Friends and family already know you, they aren’t worried about you having suitable insurance, or you not turning up on time (as you’ll likely already be a guest anyway) and chances are they don’t want an invoice or receipt as they are paying in cash on the night – if you’re getting paid at all. A booker organising a prestigious corporate event, or a bride organising her wedding reception need more assurance when it comes to picking their entertainment.
We’ll review each of the items to set up your business here, then check out the pages on generating enquiries and bookings once you have the solid foundations of your business in place to build.
Register that you are earning self-employed income
Even if you are planning on remaining in full-time employment and only taking bookings in your spare time, you still need to register your intentions with the Inland Revenue (in the UK, the IRS in the USA, or equivalent in your country).
This will mean that you will need to complete a tax-return each year. This isn’t that hard to do online nowadays, and as long as you keep your status as a sole-trader (as opposed to setting up a Limited company) you want need to use an accountant.
The down side is that the income you earn is liable to tax, on the up side it means that the costs incurred in running your magic business (including props, tricks, marketing, website design and fuel costs) can be off-set against the income you earn.
It’s even possible, especially in your first year when costs involved in setting up your magic business could be larger than the income you earn, that it may even off-set the tax you’ve already paid your job and you could get a tax rebate.
When talking tax I do recommend speaking to the Inland Revenue or an accountant for advice about your own situation. Tax rules vary in different countries, and rules, laws and limits change regularly.
Produce numbered invoices
Saying “I’ll be there at 8” may be fine for your friend when they ask you to do a few tricks at their party, but a corporate booker will require confirmation in writing, as will a bride booking a magician for her wedding in 18 months time, especially if they are paying a deposit up front.
I recommend using an invoice that incorporates the conditions of your contract. This can be printed or emailed to the client as a pdf document. The invoice should:
- Be on headed paper with your address and contact details,H
- ave a different number on every one,
- Confirm the agreed fee and payment terms,
- How the client can pay,
- Date, time and location of the event,
- What service you are providing (and if necessary, what you aren’t),
- Any other terms and conditions.
You can get a customisable contract template (and lots of other documents to help you start and run your business) by registering your name and email address with How To Be A Professional Magician.
Open a business bank account
Admittedly this isn’t a legal requirement (at least in the UK) to have a business bank account, but it really it is highly recommended and gives your prospective clients peace of mind that you are professional.
Having a separate account for business income and expenses also separates your business dealing from your personal transactions, making it a lot easier for you (or your accountant) to produce your annual accounts.
Business accounts often aren’t free, but most banks offer a free period (usually around a year), and when you do start having to pay it will likely be in the region of £5 to £15 ($5 to $20) per month for the average magician. Nowadays most transactions are made electronically so choose a tariff which benefits this, as opposed to cheques.
Have Public Liability Insurance
Many UK venues insist that anyone working at events there must be covered by at least £5,000,000 Public Liability Insurance. I personally have £10,000,000 cover, though how I could possibly achieve that much damage doing card tricks is beyond me!
My cover is through Equity, the entertainers guild, which includes the PLI as part of being a member. I recommend speaking to insurance companies and brokers to find the best package for you.
Have a website with your own domain and email address
Again, not a legal requirement or essential, but from a booker’s point of view it shows that you are professional, and that you’ve invested into your business. For example, my website is www.robertbone.co.uk, or you could have a more descriptive website, such as www.berkshire-magician.co.uk.
You can set up a free basic website, Facebook page and Twitter account, but buying your own domain name is cheap (around £/$5-10 per year) and a basic hosting package isn’t much more.
It also means you have a professional email address email. Avoid “free” email addresses for business use, such as gmail, hotmail and yahoo accounts. My business email address is [email protected]. If you want you can re-direct it to your hotmail or gmail account.
A good tip is to avoid such words as “info” and “admin” in the email address, as it is possible that your emails will be more likely to end up in your client’s spam folder as opposed to their inbox. Use your name instead.
Remember to subscribe to How to Be A Professional Magician now to get free stuff, including templates to help you build your magician business.
Now your business foundations are in place, now we can start looking at Branding Your Magic Business.