Magic is a bit of an oddity when it comes to entertainment. Whilst most people enjoy a good magic trick, unlike singers, actors and musicians, comparatively few people feel inspired to take it up.
Whatever reason there may be for this it does mean that there is often a higher demand than supply for magicians in a lot of areas, which is handy for you! Parents want magicians for children’s parties, businessmen want them for corporate events, and some nightclubs even hire magicians for special nights.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that making money performing magic will be easy though. It takes an awful lot of practice, time and determination to get to the level where you are ready to perform in front of strangers. If you already have a passion for performing magic though, it can be a fun way to make some money.
- Where to begin
- How to get yourself noticed and make money
- How much can I make?
- Interview with a magician
To start making money as a magician, you’re going to need to learn a few magic tricks. Many magicians have been into magic from a very young age, but you shouldn’t be be afraid to give it a try if you’re a late starter.
Here’s what you do:
Pick what kind of magic you want to focus on.
The most accessible is going to be street magic because it is less expensive and easier to practice and try out on a small scale, but don’t let that put you off stage magic if that is your real passion.
A good place to start learning tricks is YouTube
as there’s a whole range of magic tutorials there guiding you through tricks you’d probably think impossible. All the tutorials are free and you are able to search for specific tricks that you would like to learn. It’s also beneficial as you actually see the trick performed, which often makes it easier to follow than reading about it. The downside to YouTube is there are a lot of amateur and poorly explained tutorials, so you might have to separate the wheat from the chaff. However it is a particularly good way to begin to learn tricks, and to see if you have the passion and skill to delve deeper into magic.
If you want to advance then buy some instructional material.
For example, there’s a whole host of books, considered by many magicians to be the best way to learn, that teach magic tricks. It is simply a case of browsing through and finding a book that teaches what you want to learn, as well as ensuring it is recommended by others who have used it. It’s probably best to start with a book that teaches you the very foundations of forging a life as a magician, such as Tom Ogden’s ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Magic Tricks’ or Mark Wilson’s much loved ‘Complete Course in Magic.’
There are also websites that you can sign up to, for a fee
which will then teach you a whole range of tricks. For example, encyclopediaofmagic.com.au provides high definition videos which talk you through different types of magic tricks, from card tricks to mentalism. Some of their videos are free to access but for others you have to pay a membership fee. Tricks are classified into different skill levels and the higher the level you want to learn, the more the membership costs.
It’s also important to remember that part of being a great magician is being a convincing actor. You’ve got to not only misdirect the audience but try to make them suspend their disbelief and believe, if only for a moment, you have special powers. Without theatricality your magic tricks could become dull and maybe even smug.
If you want to get a bit of acting training you could check out The Poor School which aims to offer the best acting training for the lowest cost. It is a two year course and takes place mainly during weekends and evenings. Paying for an acting course is still going to be expensive, however, so make sure you only do it if you think you really need it and that it would substantially benefit you. You could always get a bit of acting experience making money as a film or TV extra instead.
To start making money you’re going to need to market yourself, sell your skills and convince other people that you are worth paying for.
One of the best ways to do this is perform street magic. If you can show people an impressive magic trick then they’re going to know your good, so if you can follow the trick by handing them a business card you may well get a booking.
Street magic is great because it’s a way to build your brand, practice your skills and grow your confidence all at once. It’s best not to try out a new trick in front of others as if it goes wrong it could knock both your confidence and your reputation, but equally you may need to take a few risks.
If you’re feeling really brave you could have somebody film you whilst your doing it, so you can also then put the trick you perform on your YouTube channel. It’s also worth having a website set up that you can put on your business card, as people will be then be able to look you up and, if the site looks professional, it may encourage them to book you.
It may well also be worth contacting your local nightclubs as well as many welcome alternative forms of entertainment to help bring customers in. If the manager doesn’t seem interested in paying you then you might consider doing one night for free and, if that turns out to be successful, it might lead to paid nights in the future.
You simply need to advertise yourself as much as possible. Ask around your friends and family to see if they have any kids parties you can perform at, after all, the more people who see you perform the higher the chance you’re going to get booked. Advertise yourself on social media and even put ads out in your local paper, you never know what might come of it.
Earnings vary radically depending on your skill, how established you are and where you are based. If you become the next David Blaine or Dynamo you could make millions, but you’re probably best keeping your expectations in check.
If you’re starting out it is best to keep things simple and not be too greedy. If you’re performing at a children’s party, for example, then £40 an hour would be reasonable. Don’t be afraid to ask for petrol money if you have to travel a long way.
Nightclubs tend to prefer to pay a total rather than by the hour. For a three/four hour night you could charge around £120. It’s not just to cover your performance, don’t forget that if you’re doing card tricks it’s not uncommon to sign cards or leave cards with the person you just performed the trick for. Eventually you’ll realise that you’re losing cards and it all adds up, so it’s important to factor that into the equation when setting a price.
If you can get yourself onto the books of an entertainment agency then you stand the chance of making a fair bit more money. Those at the cheaper end of the market could expect to earn around £150 for a 2-3 hour booking. Finesse Entertainment, an entertainment agency who take on mid to upper range magicians, say that prices vary wildly but a magician on their books would look to be getting between £250 – £600 for a 2 hour close up booking. At the real high end some magicians charge £1500 for their cabaret shows that last around 30-40 minutes.
Ultimately you get to decide how much you charge for your session, so it is a case of getting as much as you can whilst at the same time not pricing yourself out of a booking. Start cheap and establish your reputation.
MoneyMagpie interviewed George Horlock, who has been earning money as a magician since he was sixteen.
How long have you been doing magic, and what got you in to it?
I’ve been doing magic since the age of four. I got my first magic kit for Christmas from my great uncle who was also a magician and I fell in love with it and decided to do it as my hobby. I performed my first stage show in front of 200 people at the age of six at a talent contest. I came first place! When my great uncle died I promised to continue doing what I do best in his memory.
Where did you learn your tricks?
I started learning tricks and different techniques from YouTube and from relatives including my great uncle of course. Then at the age of 15 I started to invent my own tricks.
And how long does it take to learn a trick?
I can spend ten minutes learning a trick, or a month learning a trick. It all depends on what the trick is.
When was the first time you got paid to perform a trick?
The first time I got paid was at the age of 16 at a garden party for one of my ex-teachers who had always had an obsession with my magic! I performed for three hours and made £60 plus a £10 tip from a drunk.
How much on average would you expect to earn now?
Money all depends on where the place I’ll perform is and for how many hours I’ll be performing.
I’m currently charging £40 an hour for almost every event I do, although I always give family and friends a discount. Plus if it’s a long way to drive I’ll charge extra for the petrol. But my advice money-wise is start of cheap so you get lots of gigs and experience, then start charging more.
I’ve performed in some cool places. I performed for troops coming home from Afganistan to see their families, I’ve performed in a limo, I earned £80 an hour performing for a building society and I have also done weddings, birthdays, clubs and stage shows.
I’m expecting to earn enough money by getting enough gigs to make a full time living out of magic some day.
What would be your advice for someone wanting to make money from being a magician?
My advice would be to be different. If someone compares you or your tricks to another magician, whether it be Dynamo, David Blaine or any other magician they’ve seen before, then you need to do something new. You have to be yourself and be completely unique and different to any other magician. Whether it be close up magic or stage shows, you need to do things that will make people remember you.
And, of course, you must have a passion for it; the only reason I get paid for what I do is because I pushed and pushed. I went into Brighton with a camera and recorded people’s reactions to put on YouTube. I showed everyone what I could do and was never afraid to fail because, if I had been, I would never have pushed myself. I kept pushing because I had a passion and wanted everyone to know that what I do isn’t what you see on a daily basis, it’s something that when you see it you remember it.