advice given by all the sources I have come across recommend that becoming a
professional magician should be a slow process. During this process you take
the following steps:
- Research different styles of magic and learn different techniques,
- Slowly build a repertoire and get used to performing by showing tricks to friends and family,
- Perform a few tricks at parties and family events,
- Perform at charity events for free/low fee, giving out marketing material,
- Build a client base and gradually increase fees,
- When income from magic is enough for you to live on leave regular job to concentrate on magic full time.
problem I personally found with this path was the time-scale, requiring a bare
minimum of 6 to 8 months for a children’s entertainer (where there is a greater
demand and shorter lead time), through to 2 to 3 years for close-up magic (less
demand and longer lead time).
The time for close-up magic could be reduced by planning and targeting, such as using your resources to get a restaurant residency. In this case you’ll be getting an income quicker (whereas a wedding booking may be taken over a year in advance, which also means it’s over a year until you get paid); and not only that you are also marketing yourself directly in front of potential clients who may wish to book you for an event. The flip side is a regular restaurant residency will not pay anywhere near how much a private function would.
remember, whilst you are building your magic business on the side, you are
still having to dedicate the majority of your time to your regular job.
Before I became a professional magician I was a mortgage adviser and would have to work long hours to enable me to see clients at time convenient to them. I would need to be in the office by 8:30am every weekday morning, normally finishing around 6:00pm – though on occasion with may be later if I had to meet a client who could not get to the office within normal working hours. Not only that, but also had to work every other Saturday, though it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to pop in for a quick hour on my Saturdays off to meet a client.
I tried to work a residency on a Friday evening and that was exhausting. Then if you have a booking or two on a Saturday the fun really wears off quickly. And you don’t get Sundays off either, as that’s also a popular day for children’s parties and family functions. And if you’re not doing that then you may be spending your day at a wedding fair instead.
and of course there’s the admin that needs to be done as well. Instead of
getting home in the evening and relaxing over dinner and watching TV you need
to reply to enquiries, chase leads, type up contracts, do your accounts and all
the other chores required to successfully run a business.
seven days of solid work, including your weekends and evenings. Friends and
family? Social events? Going out and enjoying yourself? Forget it!
So something has to give, and I very quickly realised that with my particular job there was no way I could continue it full time and follow my dream of becoming a professional magician. I took drastic action (and I DON’T recommend you follow this advice!) by quitting my job completely.
At the time I handed in my letter of resignation I had not made a single penny from magic. Because I had put together and implemented my business plan I had got the ball rolling, though very slowly. My marketing campaign had started, enquiries were slowly coming through and I had a few bookings already confirmed in my diary. By the time I had completed my four week notice period and received my final pay-cheque I had done just three paid bookings.
were a few other factors in my decision, and trust me, these were weighed up
before I resigned from my steady employment:
- I no longer enjoyed my job, I had zero job satisfaction and it was getting to the point I physically loathed the people I had to work with,
- As an experienced and qualified mortgage and financial adviser I could get employment with another company should the magic career fall flat,
- I had some money saved that I could use to launch my business, and some more left over to ensure I could meet my financial commitments whilst income from magic to increased to the necessary level for me to live,
- I had a firm business and financial plans to ensure I knew which direction I needed to go in,
- I handed my notice in at the end of September and left towards the end of October. This meant I was able to promote myself in the months leading up to Christmas – the busiest time of the year for a magician.
you can see that though my decision appeared reckless, there was reasoning and planning
behind it. It wasn’t a spur of the moment action.
gone through this roller-coaster I strongly advise against following my
actions. There were times in the first year or two when things were closer to
the edge that I’d have liked them to be. I was driving a old VW Golf, sometimes
I needed to rely too heavily on credit cards (I’d always prided myself on being
debt free and credit cards were always paid off in full when I was working a
proper job) and one month the only money I earned came from painting someone’s
I recommend the best course of action to be a full-time professional magician
is to put the ground work in whilst you are in full-time employment. This is
parts 1 to 4 in the preceding list. Essentially you are finding your style and
really seeing if being a magician is something you really want to do –
entertaining a group of drunks at a Christmas party with a disco pounding away
is completely different to showing your latest trick to friends, family and
Once you are at the stage when people are happy to pay you (not just a token couple of pound) you need to seriously consider if this is something you want to continue. If not then continue it as a hobby. So often amateur magicians think that doing paid bookings is part of the hobby – it isn’t! If you enjoy learning a new trick and showing your friends then perhaps staying in the comfortable day job is the best path for you.
you’re still convinced magic is the career for you then you need to take
action. Instead of giving your boss a letter of resignation, speak to them and
explain the situation; and ask them if you can work flexible hours, or even
better, part time.
say that you are planning on quitting completely in the future though,
otherwise it’s likely that they’ll deny your request and put you in the
position of either staying there full time (and effectively dashing your hopes
of becoming a full-time pro) or forcing you to hand your notice in (and going
pro without a safety net of guaranteed income whilst you build your business.)
will free up your biggest commodity – time – to invest it working on your
business. Ensure you spend this time wisely and not just learning new magic
tricks for the sake of it, or even worse, staying in bed late and then watching
daytime TV or playing video games.
Spend your time learning about business, marketing and finance. Allocate a fixed period of time to work on new material for your professional repertoire, write scripts and rehearse it. This is different to watching DVDs or downloads of the latest new trick, or practising a fancy card move to impress your fellow magicians; once your business is running you’ll have plenty of time for that then.
of the biggest lessons as to why you need to reduce the hours you are
dedicating to your day job is because you will get more bookings if you offer
prompt customer service. This was illustrated to me one day when I was in my last
few weeks of employment, but was at home as I’d used a day of annual leave to
work on my magic business.
telephone rang and when I answer it the first words I heard were, “Great!
Finally, a real person!” The caller had been working their way through the
Yellow Pages in their lunch hour to find a magician for an upcoming birthday
party and every time she encountered an answer-machine she hung up and went to
the next advert on the page. If I hadn’t have been home that day I wouldn’t
have known I’d have even had a call.
She asked for my availability for a date and when I said she was free she immediately booked me and gave me all booking details. It wasn’t until the call was almost over she said, “by the way, what’s the fee?”
moral there is some people aren’t too worried about the cost or even if you are
the best magician, they just want to get it booked so they can cross it off
their to-do list.
realise that nowadays most enquiries come through email, and using mobile
technology the process can be simplified by cutting and pasting in reply
templates – but the fact remains that some people will contact a bunch of
magicians and book the first acceptable one that replies.
course, don’t just sit by the phone and computer waiting for enquiries. Use the
time by pro-actively seeking work and generally improving yourself and the
service you offer.
your way through the rest of this course and implement the lessons. Hopefully
this will fast-track you, and with luck you’ll be having another conversation
with your employer in 6 to 8 months, only this time you’ll be handing in your
notice so being a full-time magician is your sole source of income.