Getting started professionally! Where to start?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Marc-Antoine Denis, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. #1 Marc-Antoine Denis, Feb 20, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2013

    I am a 16 years old magician from Montreal, and I consider myself a little above the intermediate magician. I do a lot of card work, but I also perform effects with ropes, coins, rubber bands and everyday objects. I practice each trick I learn with dedication, and I have spent the last 3 years focusing on acquiring proper technique. My goal was to learn as much as possibe, and then choose specific tricks to create routines, sets, shows, and start performing professionally. This is where I am now.

    My biggest problem is I have no idea where to go. I want to perform as much as possible to gain experience, but I don't know where to do it. Some people tell me to do kid's shows, but I have never done anything like that: in fact, the magic I perform is mainly for kids 10+ and adults. A formal close up/stand up show would be ideal, or even table hopping, but then again, I don't know where to start. I am confortable doing stand-up and close-up.

    The only times I performed for money was at my dad's company event doing table hopping in a restaurant, and a small show with 5 12 years old childrens.

    I have business cards with my email and my website printed on them, and I left the other side blank to perform effects such as Toosh. I also have a domain name matching them, and I am currently building the website.

    Also, if you think I shouldn't be worrying about those concerns now, and that I should do orientate myself toward something else, feel free to tell me!

    My questions are:

    - Considering my young age, where would you advise me to go to gain experience performing in different situations?

    - Depending on the type of magic you suggest me to perform, how much should I charge?

    - How would you design a website to make it appealing? What are keys things I should include?

    Thank you very much for taking the time to answer :)

    Best regards,

    Marc-Antoine Denis
  2. My first suggestion would be to completely focus on school and getting a good education because that is what is going to pay your bills. Most magicians except the BIG BOYS have a full time working job and do the magic semi professionally on the side as additional revenue.

    My second suggestion would be to join a local magic club that is near you. This is how I grew professionally the quickest and met a ton of great friends. There will be gentlemen there that you can network with and who will eventually send you out to cover a potential gig. If you do well, you'll get more gigs sent your way. Word of mouth travels fast. Initially they might take 15% of your cut, but you are learning and getting your foot in the door at venues. Then with your business cards, a GOOD website, and testimonials you can start landing things on your own as well.

    It is tough at your age just to walk into restaurants and land a full time paying gig. Also keep in mind that most establishments will want you to work when they are the busiest. Guess when that is? You guessed it. Friday and Saturday nights....when most of your friends are going to be out doing other fun things.
  3. Rick is spot on with his encouragement but, you might be able to at least feed your need to perform a bit if there is a family establishment like a Chuck E Cheese or Ferrils Ice Cream type joint in your area. This atmosphere will serve you well in earning your chops and opening doors for doing kiddie shows, etc. BUT, you must get that kid's show pulled together fast, before you start offering said service. Because of your age, don't expect much if any actual pay from the establishment, $30.00 to maybe as much as $75.00 for a 3-4 hour gig is going to be it but more than not you're hustling for tips, which means you will need to learn how to ask for the money without actually doing so. This will take a bit of time and experience but if you study buskers and how they call for a tip, you'll learn it faster than normal.

    Education is paramount! At your age there is a very long list of formal training you can get that will allow you to work towards that dream show you want to build, everything from Dance & Speech lessons to business classes and courses that will help you in specific areas of magic that you want to put focus on, such as working part time for a local locksmith or getting involved in Community Theater (one of the best routes to take). These are the things that help you build your foundation as a showman, which is far more important than learning tricks, believe it or not. If you learn to be a showman you will need no props or gimmicks or even tricks, you simply know how to ENTERTAIN folks in some way.

    Rick touched on something I'm going to emphasize here; if you want to be an entertainer forget about all the party life you see in the gossip rags and you can pretty much forget about having "a life" by traditional standards, we work so others can have down time and enjoy themselves. That means we work during holidays, on the weekends and during special events . . . I just had a few friends of mine come back from working the Inauguration Parities, for an example. This is something to keep in mind in that we might be part of the festivities . . . part of history . . . because we are workaholics and have learned to both, manage our time and too, accept that we aren't living anything remotely close to being a "Normal" life.

    Rick pointed out that most magicians have a "day job" that has little to nothing to do with magic, which has included Mark Wilson, Jim Stinemeyer, even Blackstone, so even the big named guys rely on alternate income streams (unless you hit Copperfield like status, but even in that case, there are numerous income streams not just the shows). This is why it is important early on, to get some legitimate business classes under your belt -- small business start-up courses, basic marketing & networking, etc. But similarly, you need to look at earning a degree in areas that will support you, your family and your dreams. Many a doctor & lawyer have been magicians and award winning performers to beat, so keep this in mind.

    I was very lucky young in life, to be able to present corporate type shows the problem is, I wasn't taught all this other stuff I'm mentioning here; as they say in the industry, I was the cute kid next door that fit the suit . . . a kind of trained monkey if you would. Because of how show biz operated back then there was little to no real protection for "kid" performers such as you find now days and so, when the contracts ended and all the support was gone we were left holding a full bag without any directions. Trust me, it's not a great position to be in, it can lead to some very self-destructive behavior, so take things slow! You have age on your side. Invest into your future by getting the education and experiences you are going to need after age 25.

    I will make one last note because of your age; there were three young lads who, when they were about your age, started creating acts that were solid -- 20 minute programs perfect for the Amusement Park Industry. Ultimately all three of them would work at the same amusement park at the same time and from there and the networking that happened during that couple of summers, they went on to know considerable greatness. The least recognizable guy in this trio was Tim Moore, a collector & performer residing in Columbus, Ohio who just happened to be a Dentist by day and a serious award winning magician by night. The next guy in this group is now known as Pop Haydin a.k.a. Wit Hayden, one of the better known comedy magicians in the industry today. Then we come to the last guy in this group, a rather strange kid from Kentucky named Lance Burton . . . need I say more?
  4. I'm going to have to go against what Rick says in a way about having to get another job to support yourself as a performer. It all depends what you want to do, and how you promote yourself.

    Look at agencies. They have been very good to me and have helped me a lot when I've had a tricky month. Craig hit the nail on the head when talking about business. Go to some networking events to talk to owners of companies in your town. They might not be the big names like ASDA or Amazon or huge companies like that, but chances are they will be more than happy to help promote you and may have an event coming up you would be perfect for like a product launch or a trade show. These are all things that you can do now at a young age to get yourself out there into peoples faces. I know because I did it! Also Wedding Fayres are very good, however they cost money to get in and don't always get back a return.

    When it comes to how much you charge, it's all about how much you feel you are worth. Some events are good to perform at because they will put you in front of the right people. if you want to do those shows you are possibly going to have to charge a lower rate to make sure you get it, but it usually pays off.

    You've done everything really well so far, you are much more on the ball than the usual 16 year old who wants to do magic! Again I know from experience. Although I was doing these things I've mentioned above, I wasn't doing enough of it.

    A good name to look into is Chris Cross. He's a few years older than me (23-24) and he has performed all over the world, for royalty and huge clients, and he started working for tips in a gentlemans lounge at 14, and worked his way up. He never had a 'real' job and has only done magic, through street performing, escapology, and basically working for whoever and whatever he can. He's been my mentor and has helped me a lot. Something good for you maybe would be to look at a performer you admire and try to do what they do to get business? That could work for you :)

    Hope this helps!

  5. Craig gave you a plethora of knowledge to feed your mind with. Well said!

    Simon, I understand what you are saying and you may very well be "making" it right now. However, put yourself a few years down the road with the following demands:

    House Payment
    2 Car Payments
    A Wife and 2 Children to support with food and clothing
    Insurance for all of the above
    Gas Bill, Electric Bill, Sewer Bill, Cable, cell phone, Internet, etc. YIKES $$$$$$
    Medical Payments for when a family member is sick (did I mention that this could be well in the thousands of dollars? per month?)

    My guess is you are making nowhere close to putting a dent in those types of financial demands. Reality sucks. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parades, but that is how it is man.

    I completely respect you, but there is NOT a CHANCE in hell i would want to be in the position I am in and try to make ends meet with only magical entertainment as revenue.
  6. Rick I completely understand where you are coming from buddy. It is correct that I don't have all of those things to worry about right now, and I'm sure when I do have to worry about those things, the other job will become more apparent. I would however still like to keep it within the 'magic fraternity' as it where, or the cabaret/variety scene, maybe working in a magic shop or creating or teaching. Mainly because i seriously doubt i could do anything outside of it proficiently as I have basically submerged myself into it. Which is something important for the OP to remember that I forgot. Get some interests outside of magic! I'm doing well at the moment but god I wish I could find other things I'm interested in to take my mind off magic at least occasionally.

    I do know of only one or two magicians that are in the same boat as you, that do do it full time, and I respect them greatly for doing it. It is bl**dy hard out there, and the fact that there are a few that can do it in that situation is incredible. I think that the main reason a lot of magicians can 'go pro' is due to their spouse being able to pick up the bill at the end of the month if you don't get any bookings.

    There is one magician I do know of who is quite famous in the magic world and semi famous in the 'real' world who used to see my current partner (not going to name names) who although seems like he's doing quite well, and is doing very well, is only able to because he travels all around the world and has literally no attachments other than a flat and bills. So be prepared to travel anywhere and everywhere if you want to do this job!

    Bit of an all over the place post, but i hope it helps like the other

  7. Simon, I know you and I are good friends and we both respect each other. We are obviously both at different points in our lives and so it is interesting to take in different perspectives. I would love to see where you are in 10 years and if your thoughts and outlook would be the same or if it would change based on the financial demands of a family. Guess we better keep in touch and hope Theory11 doesn't vanish by then...Ha Ha.

    I guess I should probably answer his original questions if I were in his shoes and 16. (keep in mind I'm 34)

    Question 1: I would probably still join a local magic club (even if it were up to an hour away) to attend month meetings. I would perform at birthday parties, Cub Scout Events like Blue and Gold Banquets, Church Functions, and Libraries. If I could work at a restaurant even for FREE at that age I probably would because the amount of practice and what you learn you cannot even put a price tag on. I would attend as many lectures and conventions that I possibly could and that my parents would allow me to go to.

    Question 2: As far as how much to charge that would depend on what you are doing. If it was a little half hour birthday party show you could start out somewhere around $50.00 or so and then increase up to around $125.00 once you have an actual show (not just a string of "tricks" lined up) Strolling magic is different. You might charge an hourly rate or charge a certain amount for the first hour and then give a price break for each hour afterwards. The demographics and location of where your events are will also impact your prices. Someone in New York city might be able to get $200 for a little party that somewhere in a small town where I live would only pay half that.

    Question 3: As far as a website: You need to have plenty of GOOD photos of yourself performing at actual events, possible video clips of performances, and most of all, testimonials from past clients. The site needs to have contact information for you as well, including a phone number and email address. Before you jump into creating or paying someone to create a really sweet website for you....I encourage you to just spend the money on some nice, heavy card stock, business cards. Give these out to tons of people when you are out performing and more importantly COLLECT business cards from potential clients as well.

    Sorry my answers are a bit short, Craig and others can chime in a bit more, but husband duties call. Time to put the kids to bed. Ha Ha.
  8. Wow thank you very much for the awesome suggestions! It's funny you guys talked about education, because studying for a big exam was the reason I couldn't log into Theory 11's forums for a while. I definitely agree with you on this point.

    I already have a box of 500 simple business cards with a blank back (to perform effects such as Toosh). It only shows my phone number and my email adress, and the design is a pre-made template, which I would like to change. Considering this problem and the fact that my website does not show, should I change them?

    I have designed websites in the past, so hiring someone to do it isn't necessary: my father could also help me with that.

    Two weeks ago, my mom's friend asked me to present a 30 minutes show for his daughter's birthday (last friday), who is 12 years old. I chose a routine I had already created a year ago for a similar family show, and it worked perfectly. They ended wanting more, so I performed an extra 30 minutes for them. Even tough I insisted on not being paid, he gave me 50$.
    The interesting part is that he filmed my whole performance on his Ipad, and suggested sending it to me. I figured that with this footage, I could edit it to show future customers what I can do.

    To conclude, I visited a retirement home yesterday, proposing my services as a magician who wants to gain experience. The guy told me they have a weekly wine tasting event, and that I could present a show in that context. He wanted to see promotional material: he suggested a DvD. What should I do? I already have an edited promotional video of me presenting magic to the camera, but I feel like I don't have enough experience yet to show me performing at different events, because I only performed ''for money'' once.

    Again, thank you very much for your answers. They help me a lot! I apologize if I make some grammar mistakes in my posts. English isn't my first language but I try my best to speak/write it well.

    Best regards,

    Marc-Antoine Denis
  9. Marc. . . the web-site I use for my primary target market is a generic site through Yahoo ( it works for what I do and the people I'm reaching out to. For a young person like yourself, using a stock template is perfectly fine INITIALLY . . . once things start rolling for you on the money end, then you can pour some serious $$$s into the web-site and your print materials . . . you want things to match so as to create a kind of memory trigger for the people that see the patterns and color display, my buddy Jon Stetson has, in my opinion, one of the best examples of this through his web site and everything tied to his shows. When you consider that he's one of the busiest and highest paid Mentalists out there I'd say it's obvious he's doing something right.

    Best of luck!

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