How much is a good price to charge for close-up

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Evan Chartrand, May 30, 2019.

  1. I'm a close-up magician who is just starting out payed gigs, and I have no idea how much I should charge. Any idea to give me an understanding of what is reasonable.
  2. Well, I think it should depend on your skill level personally. The greater the skill required for a complete gig the more you get paid. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. I heard somewhere that $60 is about average then again I have never done a paid gig in my life. With all that in mind your safest bet is to put together a show that revolves around effects that you are extremely familiar doing. Good Luck.
    CWhite and CoreyHarris like this.
  3. This will really be different from place to place and performer to performing. You need to look at your market, and then the value you put on yourself. I am a big believer of having different price points for different services of magic.

    Walk Around - Party
    Walk Around - Corporate
    Table Hopping
    Private Parties
    and so on.

    Table hopping at a restaurant is going to be my cheaper side of my prices as I am likely going to be there for 2 or 3 hours and it is really a mutually benefiting performance. Hopefully I am keeping customers coming back and in turn getting new bookings from those customers for their events.

    Corporate is going to be more my high price, maybe not my highest price though.

    Then everything else is in the middle.

    Don't price yourself out of a gig, but also don't undercut yourself. In my area I know many magicians that get shows because they are "Cheap" . I have even had a potential client ask me why I am my price when they can get so and so for $50 bucks.

    I heard in a recent interview that you should charge your monthly cost of living divided by the number of shows you can book in a month. So if your cost of living is $2k, and you can book 4 shows a month then you are looking at $500 a show.

    I only agree with that to a certain extent, because if your cost of living is $2k a month and you can book 40 shows, then that's only $50 a show. So you need to evaluate your worth, what are you bringing, you act, your clientele.

    Sorry, if this was a no answer answer, but really it's more complicated than just "How much should I charge"
    D.Darko, Mr_ARPY and Gabriel Z. like this.
  4. jasonkillsx likes this.
  5. Don't mean to be rude, but if a post includes "I've never done a paid gig in my life" the advice is probably not valid. I wouldn't leave my house for $60 an hour. Honestly, I wouldn't even respond to a gig inquiry that quoted that low.

    The problem is this question can't actually be answered. Or rather, the number of answers is too vast to be useful.

    Your best bet is to look around your area (and probably expand outside of it at least an hour or two of travel) and find other performers. Find out what they are charging and if possible, try to see how good a performer they are/what kind of value they are offering to their clients.

    You'll find guys working for $50 - eff those guys. They're a blight on the professional market. But luckily they also provide a filter for bad clients - people who are only concerned about finding the lowest price will never be loyal to you.

    Once you've got an idea of what other performers are charging, your next step is to find out what other competition is charging - this is going to be balloon twisters, party venues, bounce houses, stilt walkers, clowns, etc. Not only are these adjacent to what you're doing, they'll also be the ones potential clients are going to be looking at when they're considering entertainment. You can narrow this down to things that are more in your niche if you have figured out what that will be.

    By that I mean - If you're doing kids parties, then Chuck-E-Cheese is something you should look into. Because if someone's thinking about booking Chuck-E-Cheese, they have a budget of around $500-$1000 for parties. This gives you information.

    Once you've got an idea of other entertainers and what they are offering, as well as other entertainment options and what they are offering, that's when you take a good, hard look at yourself.

    How good are you, really?

    How much value are you really adding to an event?

    How likely is it that someone who sees you perform will go talk to the person who hired you and say how good you were?

    Remember this: The number one, most important thing when getting hired to entertain, is to make the person who hired you look good. If the audience loves you, and they all are super happy that booker hired you, you will absolutely get hired again.

    It's not about you. It's about adding value to the event.

    Once you've figured out where you stand on that scale, price accordingly.

    I stopped doing strolling because I hate it, but I think my last gig (which was strolling side show stunts) I brought home about $550 for 1 hour of strolling and a showpiece (Bed of nails) to open the dance party, as well as a bit of fire performance. Kind of weird gig, but a good time.

    The one before that was a maquerade. 2 hours of strolling bizarre magic, $600.

    It's very easy to under charge, because what we do is fun and it's really hard to price things that are enjoyable to do. But you need to remember everything that goes into it.

    Think of it like this. Say you get offered $100 to 1 hour of strolling. Sounds good, right?

    Except that's probably going to use up say 2 decks of cards. $5.
    You'll have to drive to the gig. $5 for gas.
    You'll want at least one 'special' trick to wow the VIP of the party. There's a lot that could be done there, so we'll just say $10.
    You're already down to $80 for that hour.
    But you're a good magician and you put the proper amount of practice and rehearsal in to make sure your tricks are the best they can be, right? For the sake of easy math, say you spent 5 hours dedicated to each trick (this is very low, btw). 3 sets of 3 tricks = 45 hours. Plus 5 more for that special trick - 50 hours.
    So now you're actually at 51 hours, for $80, or .... $1.57 per hour.

    That's not even including if you have to buy any new clothes so you don't show up for a professional gig in a T-shirt and jeans (unless the gig specifically is suited to that kind of attire - you should put some effort into the wardrobe).

    This is why the guys who charge $50 are a blight on the industry. They warp the concept of value to the potential clients and make it impossible to actually make a reasonable living.

  6. That's classy.
    CWhite, Mr_ARPY and RalphB2 like this.
  7. My advice is to make friends with the guys in your community and ask what they charge for the same kind of thing. Then talk to them about what they think you might be worth.
  8. What can I say? I'm tired of people who don't know what they're doing ruining the market of a whole city.

    When one person says, "I'll do this kid's party for $50" - they set the value of a show at $50 for that client, and likely every person that client talks to about the performance. If that $50 performer is an anomaly then the client will find out the next time they go to hire someone else. If that $50 performer is the norm, then that's the value everyone is stuck with starting at.

    As I broke it down earlier, $50 is basically not getting paid. So when someone who actually has some business sense and wants to be a professional comes along, they have to fight tooth and nail to increase the perceived value of entertainment to where it should be.

    Entertainment is valuable. What we offer is valuable. People who undercut, purposely or not, are reducing the value of what we offer, and in doing so they are trivializing it. The people doing the $50 gigs are also a big part of why so many people think all magicians are just kids birthday party clowns.
    CoreyHarris likes this.
  9. This.

    Also, on a related note - don't dress like a kid's birthday party clown, ie like most of the search results when you look up images of "party magician", unless you want to be shoehorned into kids shows.

    // L
  10. I completely agree. Maybe if you are a child magician just starting out $50 might be fine. I remember doing shows at a local daycare when I was only 8 years old and getting paid $25 back in the late 80's.
  11. I'd say don't dress that way even if you want to do kids shows.

    Those are really good questions. I would add one more:

    How professional are you?

    I don't mean whether you do this full time for a living, but instead how you present yourself and your performance to the customer.

    I'm going to start with your appearance. Do you dress in a manner that reflects your value? It doesn't always have to be the French blue button down and black blazer that I wear (could with be jeans, black jeans or dress pants depending on the audience), but it has to present your image. My outfit wouldn't work if I was to try to do @ChristopherT's Witchdoctor show. But I will say this, the less neatly dressed you are dressed are, the better your reputation needs to be.

    Then look at your performance. Part of professionalism is how practiced and rehearsed (there is a difference between the two) your routine is. Have you done it enough times that it is automatic and that everything that could go wrong has already gone wrong at least once? Are you comfortable and relaxed when performing and is the adrenaline rush enhancing your performance rather than making you nervous?

    The other thing to look at in your performance is whether there is something there that differentiates you from every other magician? This goes to what the people will say ABOUT YOU after the performance. Not what they say about your tricks but what they say about you.

    How you interact with your client goes a long way. This means being polite and professional in talking to them and in e-mails. This means having a contract that they sign and return to you that has all the details you need to do an amazing show. This means arriving five minutes early (with sufficient time to set up). This means advising your customer about the best way to present your magic (e.g. location of where you are, timing, lighting, etc.). Always be willing to talk to people before and after your show.

    Finally, there are other things that I think make you seem professional. For example, having something nice to carry your props in. For my parlor show, I have two heavy duty black storage bins and an aluminum brief case. I also travel with my own folding table with a floor length table cloth. Most of my props are ordinary items that were not bought at a magic store (restaurant menus, large jar of fruit, apple bushels, empty gin bottle, envelopes, a basket, a wine bottle, etc.). The typical magic props that I do use are high quality (many custom) and don't look like what you can get at your average magic shop. Part of this is differentiation - my show is different that what most people think of as magic- and part of it is professionalism because the audience sees that the show is thought out.

    The more professional you are, the more you can charge.
  12. If I might add...."customer" in my opinion has such a negative connotation. And that's after 35+ years in retail. I really prefer "client". That immediately ups the ante as to the attitude of the relationship. Clients are cultivated and cared for, customers seems such a throwaway idea. That's why I cringe at the commercials for banks or investment firms using the term customer. Even when I was in the financial services industry, I NEVER used "customer", always client. What YOUR attitude about yourself and the relationship is speaks volumes. Cultivate it, ask for referrals, and have fun.
  13. Thanks, for all the help, I'm thinking that I will end charging between 100 and 150 an hour based on the fact that I am quite professional and have done plenty of practice and know my stuff, but lack professional experience. Does that sound like a responsible price? I live in Winnipeg Manitoba so I don't think there is a huge market.
  14. I don't want to contradict everyone .. However I'll keep this short. I just found this by typing something about magic in google

    How do you become a professional magician?
    In this guide, we're going to go through some essential things you need to know about choosing this career path.
    1. Be an entertainer. ...
    2. Practice. ...
    3. Find your niche. ...
    4. Be realistic about time frame. ...
    5. Meet other professional magicians. ...
    6. Perform somewhere. ...
    7. Start at part-time or charity events. ...
    8. Create your brand.
    Look at number 7.........It's nice to think that you can start off by charging $150+ an hour for an event. Most of us have to start somewhere , so I'm going to stick with my initial thoughts on the matter. And for those that think differently I think that @ChristopherT was onto something when he said
  15. also, start with a $ figure higher than you"d normally go. You can always work down depending on location, travel, expenses, whatever. You can NEVER negotiate higher. Hate to see anyone find out they could have made more had they only asked.
  16. If you want to be a professional (i.e. get paid for doing magic on a regular basis), you need to start by developing a quality show. Have the product before you start marketing. Practice it as much as you can. Then start off doing free shows for friends or people you know to get experience. I don't have a problem with doing a couple of shows for charities that you have a connection with for free. This is the dress rehearsal phase.

    When you start charging money, set your rate at where you want it to be. Let's say its $150 for a show. For the first six to nine months, tell people you are trying to build up your client base, so you are giving a 20% discount which is $120 (or a $50 discount for $100). If people call you and ask for the 20% discount over the next six months, tell them you aren't doing that any more, but you can give them a 10% discount. After that, raise your rate to $165. If someone calls and asks about a discount, tell them your rate is now $165, but you can do your old rate of $150.
  17. There's a big difference between doing a show for 'free' and doing a show for 'nothing'.

    My wife does certain gigs where they simply don't have the budget to pay her fee. In these cases she works out a trade with them. They have to advertise her being there, she has to be on any print materials, they have to put up social media posts about her being there (with links to her site and contact information), etc. So she may not get paid as much as she prefers, but she'll be plastered all over the place and people will know she's there and who she is.

    When you're starting out it can behoove you to do some charity gigs. Street fairs, fund raisers, local fraternal organizations, that sort of thing. But be aware that those gigs will do absolutely nothing for you if people don't know who you are. Be shameless - get your name and contact information and picture printed and posted as much as possible.

    Eric Mead has said, "Business is the bigger word, yes, but the Show comes first."

    And a good thing to remember when negotiating is a concept Scott Tokar calls, "Removing the Elephants." You decide your price. That's what you're willing to work for. If they say they can't do that, say, "Ok, well, I can take out this trick and this trick, and then I can do it for ..."

    What this does is never dilute your value. Because if you say, "I'll do it for $150 an hour" and they say, "That seems to high" and you say, "Ok how about $100 an hour?" ... your price is $100 an hour and in the future you'll be fighting up from there. But if you say, "I can do it for $150" and they say no and you come back with, "Ok, well, if that's out of your budget then I can remove this special trick and this one, and that means I can bring it down to $100" then you're maintaining your value. David's structure above makes it much easier to increase your rates as your value increases, because people will already be acknowledging that you have value.

    Also - I put discounts on the invoice/contract. Normal price, discount, subtotal. This emphasizes that they're getting a deal and it's not the normal pricing.

    Also also - have a contract. For every gig. This not only provides you the base line of legal protection in case someone decides not to pay, it also lays out in plain print exactly what is expected from you, and exactly what is expected from the client. If you need XYZ, make them sign a contract that says they will provide XYZ. I find it useful to toss in something slightly trivial, like "Bottled water must be provided" - that way if you show up to the gig and they say, "And there's your water" you know they read the contract thoroughly and you'll probably be fine as far as set up goes. If there's no water, you need to make sure everything is right and proper.
  18. I'm not going to beat a dead horse because most of the veterans here have covered it with a plethora of knowledge.
    I've been performing for 19 years and based upon my demographics someone like myself can typically only get about $100 per hour for strolling/table hopping which actually isn't too bad. Now if you are doing corporate work in a big city or a big event you may definitely be able to pull twice that per hour depending on the client.

    Note: I am talking about strolling not a close up "show". My close up show runs $225 for a 40 minute performance. Again this is what works for me in my area compared to all of my competition.
    jasonkillsx likes this.
  19. Rick's post inspired me to share my personal details in regards to booking.

    For context, I live in an urban area of a little over 120,000 people in the city and about 367,000 people in the county. The average income of the city per person is a little over $60,000. The average rent for a nice single apartment is about $1,500/month.

    My last booking was $250 for an hour of walk around magic and then another $250 for a half hour of parlor style magic. I had a wedding prior to that and was paid $120 for the hour but also had another magician working with me and he got the paid the same. Had it been me by myself, it might have been closer to $250 for the hour.

    As far as quality, the big trick to that is all about perception. I advertise on my website that I'm a different show than most of the other performers around my area. I typically go for more edgy and shocking material than your typical cups and balls style shows. I have my website and photos have a matching aesthetic of a similar color scheme and style. I also primarily advertise myself performing in large auditoriums which gives the perception that I am a different tier of performer than a typical walk around performer even though to us magicians we know that the skill levels are not dependent of that at all. But again, how much you charge and how for how long is all about the perceived value your potential client will see.
  20. Location absolutely will play into this. Which is why I recommend figuring out what other performers are charging in your region.

    If everyone is making $100-$150 an hour, you'll have to be extra super special to make more than that. Particularly in areas where there's actually a lot of performers. It can be difficult to prove superior value when there's 10 other options that charge significantly less. My friend Kyle is in that situation currently - his show is great, one of the best in his city, but he struggles to get new clients willing to pay his fee because there's so many people charging so little, and the clients just don't know better until they actually see him perform.

    Another thing to remember, because this isn't complicated enough yet, is that you have to be conscious of burning out your potential audience pool. By that I mean - If you get to the point where you're able to charge, for random numbers, $500 an hour for strolling magic. Great! But if only 5% of the people who live in your area can afford that ... not so great. You'll find you soon run out of new clients, and it's not uncommon for people not to hire the same entertainment for every event. Many places do like a 3 year rotation even, depending on what's available.

    So if you want to charge higher fees you may also need to expand the region you're willing to work. Personally I end up doing gigs up to an hour away regularly because those cities are larger and have more money. My city is mostly poorer people, with a small community of multi-millionares that I haven't quite manged to break into yet.
    RickEverhart likes this.

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