Magic as a Career

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Delusional, Nov 17, 2011.

  1. Hey guys,

    There is nothing in life that I love more than magic (outside of my family). I've been performing for about 4years straight, and I've never taken a break. I've recently been considering my options for the future, and there is quite a bit I don't know, about taking up magic as a profession. Specifically being a magician as a Job. I have alot of questions.
    -What are my options to make money as a magician?
    -What is the average yearly salary of a magician?
    -Will I be able to provide for my family by doing magic?
    -Will I need to have another job outside of magic, to help provide for my family?

    If you guys could help to answer those questions for me, that would be a big help.
  2. Most performers I know locally around my area are not making it without a spouse also having an income. A good health insurance plan costs a lot of money but is well worth it when you have medical bills adding up. Kids are not cheap and a lot of artists will tell you that to make money you need to be willing to travel, stay in hotels and be away from your family while out on the road. I'm not talking about full time guys stationed in Vegas. What I am sharing doesn't apply to them near as much. I know for a fact I would NOT want to nor could I even come close to supporting my family's needs on a magic career. The money coming in for most entertainers is inconsistent. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade...just telling you what it is like in the outside world. Many performers have a day job as well.
  3. Rick is right. I actually don't know a performer that only just does magic as a career. There are other options however that are still creative, for instance becoming a compere for events, releasing magic, doing both stage and close up. One problem is that you will have to travel up and down the country to remain busy, and if you can't do that, then your gonna have trouble.

    The best way I have found when doing little bits of research is that to be able to do magic full time you will need to have a fully focused business mind and also a good option would be to sit down and write up some magic tricks. It's a really good income if the trick is good enough and could help to give you money when you aren't making any from performing one month. I just need to take my own advice and write mine up!

  4. It is very possible to be rich as a magician but it requires a lot of hard work. Paul Daniels presented a masterclass on it years ago and also sold a 12 module pdf series, in that series he tells a story of a woman he knows that makes £50,000 (approx $120,000) per year by performing only at the weekend. She has a normal job during the week.

    You will undoubtably need to build it over time while you survive with a normal job but if you put the work in (and have the talent) it's possible to retire as a millionaire.
  5. I believe Benji Bruce does magic full time, although I could be mistaken. Anyway, I think there are more paths in magic than just performing to consider. One can be an advisor(in many categories), a technical assistent, an illusion maker for bigger names (kind of like a song writer for big name artists). As for performing full time, that'll take A LOT of work. One can do restaurants, kids shows, corporate events, trade shows, close up/parlor shows, all on a regular basis if they take on a business man attitude.
    Just some other options that I believe are possible.

    If you want a happy home, spouse, kids, dog, cat, etc. what most call "normal" then show biz ain't for you.

    If you want to know security, peace of mind, and stability in life, show biz ain't for you.

    Yes, it's a wonderful adventure done a road paved by shattered dreams, devastated hearts and far too many tears to be considered. It is a harsh and unforgiving venture that will suck the life out of you over time UNLESS, you're a natural work-a-holic and have little to no need for a personal life, in that this is a 14+ hour a day rat race and worse, it is a dog eat dog society -- those you think to be your friends will undercut you on job bids, "borrow" material from your show and even develop effects you've shared ideas of in confidence just so they can get that next step ahead.

    THE PROBLEM IS some of us seem to be born with saw-dust in our blood and the need to be a part of the scene no matter how brutal and lonely it can get; it's just our nature. Not a "Calling" but an integral part of who we are.

    IF you are contemplating this path then get some solid education under your bum; especially business school and marketing but a year's worth of business (entertainment & contract) law won't hurt. On top of that take some courses in effective communications, public speaking, and negotiations in that you will be working more as a full-time sales man who just happens to do a magic show than you will be a magician with some business acumen going for him.

    BTW. . . stop dreaming right now about all the parties, rubbing elbows with VIPs, etc. While you'll certainly have such opportunities they aren't the norm. Too, they have a very ugly dark side to them that few consider (just go to a 12-Step meeting in Hollywood, Vegas, Atlantic City or New York). All industries in which long hours and unhealthy family life exist have a horrid booze & drug addiction scenario and more, so chew on that bone a bit while you dream about this "perfect career", it's the stuff you will rarely hear about. The other key-point few mention when they glorify show biz as a vocation, is the fact that most of your successful players have a real day job in addition to performing; most actually run a corporate enterprise now days that involves multiple streams of revenue which takes us back to the need for some formal business school time and being willing to LISTEN to folks that have been around for a while.

    Yes, you can make a living in this business but it's not for everyone. Too, not everyone will be able to make a living with it; look at the statistics. Less than 1% of all the talented music lovers out there gain any level of true public recognition and less than 20% of that 1% become "stars", the acting & film world is comparable in the findings but when it comes to the variety arts (magic, puppets, juggling, comedy) the percentage of those that become publicly recognized talents drops considerably. While there is a stark handful that do generate high six and low 7 digit incomes few break the $200k bracket with the majority being stuck at the $30-50 k level and specializing in Kiddie Shows, not the successful club act let alone theatrical gigs.

    Success in this business depends on your personality type, your connections, and how much you're willing to reinvest into yourself; celebrity is now a commodity that you can buy. It's been such for a long time but today it is even more prevalent that it's been in generations past (look up the term "4-Wall Promotion" and you'll get a glimpse at what I mean).

    Taking on any sort of self-employment is a huge challenge that should never be taken lightly but when it comes to show biz, you are dealing with a cruel mistress that's unpredictable, so think long and hard.
  7. I perform full time and you can definitely make a ton of money when you run your own's not easy.

    You're basically running your own business so you must be very disciplined in setting your own schedule, marketing, etc. The more you work on your business, the more you make.

    I started performing in restaurants and charged a low price for shows but I realized it wouldn't work in the long run. So I began charging no less than $1,000 for shows and haven't turned back.

    You can start out as a restaurant performer and do more and more private gigs but once is hard work. If you're not marketing every day then you won't be a full-time performer.

    There is no "average salary" of a magician because you can make as little or as much as you want when you own a business (you MUST see yourself as a business, not a magician). When you run a successful business, you can provide for a lot of people :)

    What you need to do is see "magic" as a business and run it like one. Imagine your starting up a "coca-cola" company and you're building it into an empire. It will take more work than you realize but if you're serious about being a full time performer then it is possible.

    I have a newsletter which gives tips about marketing at if you want to check it out
  8. Benji is just one example and he's a new one at that, had it not be for this message board I wouldn't have known about him. Most people I know have jobs that they rely on the side for. Stay in school get an education, and get a job. Work on the magic a little bit at a time until you find a way to replace your full time job with it.

    Full time magic takes a hell of a commitment to. Blood sweat and tears man. You can do it, but be smart about it.
  9. Benji, can I please pry into your life just a tad to see how realistic your case / situation is? Please do not think I'm attacking you because I have all the respect in the world for you. I'm guessing you don't have a wife and kids with braces to pay for, house payment (not rent), 2 car payments, medical bills, groceries to feed 5 mouths, college funds to build up, etc. I'm not making excuses..I'm just saying it is probably a tad bit easier for someone who does not have all of that going on as well.
  10. Rick,

    One thing about running a business is money management. I've learned how to "spend" my money and not just save it. So while others are spending it on ways to "keep up with the Jones"...I don't.

    I don't have a wife and kids (I don't like kids) :)...I paid for my car, so no payments. I paid off my medical bills (I had knee surgery which sucked). I buy my own food (does it count if I consider my mouth to be the equivalent of 5 people?)

    I understand what you're saying but here is what I'm saying. When you run a business...there is no limit to the amount of money you can make. I don't want to say how much I'll be making in December but lets just say that it is more than what several people make in a couple of months. Running a business isn't for everyone because you have to be VERY disciplined.

    But people who work a 9-5 have more trouble than people who run their own business. They work from 9-5 and barely have enough to pay rent. I realized that I never wanted to be like that.

    It is definitely easier for someone to get a job instead of run a business. When you get a job, someone else is telling you what to do, when to wake up, etc. When you run your own business, you have to do everything yourself. You need to wake up in the morning, work on your business (more importantly, work on the RIGHT things), etc.

    So having a job is easy...running your own business is HARD. But nothing worth having is ever easy
  11. All valid points. Do you feel that you could still run your business and give it the time, drive and dedication that you do now if you had the demands of a family and playing the role of dad and husband? That might be difficult for you to answer. Not just financially (sounds like you are okay there)....time commitment wise? When your daughter has a 3 hour dance recital on a Saturday night that you are supposed to be at instead of taking that gig that you wanted....or helping coach your son's T-ball team and being at practices and games? I'm just asking real life questions because I'm playing the other side of the fence (okay...that didn't sound good...ha ha). You know what I mean though. I'm just picking your brain man. Would love to hear your thoughts. Do you plan to get married and have a family or not?
  12. #12 William Draven, Nov 17, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 17, 2011

    I'll chime in on that one. The wife wants to have kids and the one major reason why we've not done that yet is because I'm at a very transitional point right now in my personal life. I travel a lot, at least 4 months out of the year, often in a row, and you're absolutely right. Kids, and family is a deal changer at the least, and sometimes even a deal breaker.

    I knew kids who, when growing up with them, had dads who were truck drivers and were gone most of the time. I'm not going to be "that guy", so I've decided to hold off starting the family until I feel more confident that I've got things settled down a bit in my career.

    Delusional what you have to understand is what people like Benji do, and for that matter people like Benji are rare. They are usually the exceptions to the rules. Benji is a shark. He's a business savvy entrepreneur who will do anything to get the job done, and more importantly paid. People like Benji are money motivated, and very confident in their abilities. The character Alec Baldwin played in Glen Garry Glenn Ross (just youtube Glenn Gary Glenn Ross speech to see what I mean) is a good Hollywood illustration of the kind of mentality sharks like Benji have. Sometimes their confidence can infringe upon the boundaries of hubris vanity, but that's the nature of their game. If their ethics are out of place, people like this can be quite dangerous in the corporate world, as the backs they climb to the top over remain sore for sometime afterwords. Don't get me wrong Benji, I have nothing but respect for what you do, provided you're on the level about it. I'm just saying you're a special case.


    Being your own boss, making thousands of dollars each week, traveling to exotic locations, all that corporate America polished pipe dream stuff is very hard world, as I'm sure Benji will tell you. That playing the game on that level isn't for everyone, and unless you know for a fact that you're cut out for that kind of commitment, that world and the sharks that run it will eat you alive.

    Let's get real about this... CAN you make a living like Benji does? Yes. You can do anything so long as you have the knowledge, the dedication, and the right people in your corner to help you succeed. Is it a nice goal to have? Sure. But the reality is that kind of life style isn't going to apply to most people. I'm sure even Benji is working his rear off trying to establish himself as a motivational corporate America "big dog" in the field of magic. Something of the next Joel Bauer I imagine judging from his push to advertise his free marketing blogs, all his marketing oriented advice, sales advise, and the constant effort to cultivate that motivational coach image. If he's not faking it until he makes it, then I'd say he's off to a good start. There's a hell of a lot of cash in the motivational movement, but as I said, that isn't a reality that will work for most of us. Most of us have 9-5 jobs they use, or loved ones they depend upon for supplemental income. Why do you think artists sell so much stuff? It's because the residual monthly checks help along side the lecture fees, and performance gigs, etc. I would consider myself a part time magician. I work a 9 to 5 as an actor at a movie studio in Hollywood (which might I say I have the best job in the world!), and if I'm not here at work, then I'm usually out doing shows or marketing myself. However if it weren't for my wife who has the real job... None of what I do could be possible. I have no college education, nor do I have a degree to fall back on. Hence my advice to 'stay in school.'

    It wouldn't kill you to take some business management classes, or business law as suggested. A few marketing classes wouldn't be bad either. A theater major will help you understand how to produce quality stage shows which you could utilize in your magic endevors, and it gives you a fall back should things in magic not go your way.

    Not everyone is going to be famous like Criss Angel. There are a lot of workers out there today who make $300,000 dollars a year, and you've never heard of them! As my dear friend Paul Draper has said You can either be rich, or you can be famous. What do YOU want out of magic?

    Let me answer your questions from my experience.

    -What are my options to make money as a magician?
    Your options are either book out to private parties/ events, sell your act to a cruise line, work through an event planner, street performance, or four wall a venue and recoup the losses out of ticket sales. That's a very down and dirty over view, and yes I've left some things out, but that's the bulk of the work force right there.

    -What is the average yearly salary of a magician?
    I can't answer this question, most magicians I know don't really talk about their personal statistics. Even Benji above didn't quote numbers, only giving a vague reply leaving you to fill in the blanks.

    -Will I be able to provide for my family by doing magic?
    There's an old joke I'll use here... What can a large pizza do that a magician can't? Feed a family of four! Again I'm talking about reality here, no pipe dreams. CAN you support a family? Sure... but you'll need to work up to it. Pay your dues, not in time but in blood, sweat, and tears. Minimal time investment is about 5 years before people start to have a clue who you are. During that time you'll be building your network of clients, book of business, etc.

    -Will I need to have another job outside of magic, to help provide for my family?
    More than likely yes. And especially during the period of time it takes you to get established. If you have a clear cut idea of what it is you want out of magic, what kind of venues you want to work, and how you're going to get there, that time may be reduced. But almost everyone I know (unless they had a rich family) has a second job.
  13. Great post Draven and I would love to hear more thoughts from some of our other veterans out there? Hoping Reality One will check in on this thread as I know he has a wife and kids.
  14. One thing I would suggest is that before you start thinking you are ready to do this professionally, is to go to the local Children's Hospital and road test your material on them. You won't be getting paid for it, but you will be getting experience and you'll quickly know what works and what doesn't work.
  15. Rick,

    Having a family, etc etc is all the more reason why you should run your own business. People who run their own business have much more time to spend with family than someone with a 9-5 job.

    There is a guy from Canada named Scott Burton who just decided to quit his job and perform full time. He had a wife and a "backup plan"...he just went for it. And now he is doing what he loves for a living (it was a lot of work)

    An entrepreneur has a different mentality than everyone else. Most people will look at a big company and say, "I would love to work in that building." The entrepreneur will look at the same building and say, "I'm going to own a building just like that."
  16. What Benji isn't telling you is that 80% of all new businesses fail within the first five years. This was shown in a study done by Inc. magazine and the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA).

    This does include any magic based business. Why is the numbers so high? No one really has any solid answers. However here's an article I found in the New York Times that addresses this issue.

    Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail

    One of the least understood aspects of entrepreneurship is why small businesses fail, and there’s a simple reason for the confusion: Most of the evidence comes from the entrepreneurs themselves.

    I have had a close-up view of numerous business failures —
    including a few start-ups of my own. And from my observation, the reasons for failure cited by the owners are frequently off point, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. If the owners really knew what they were doing wrong, they might have been able to fix the problem. Often, it’s simply a matter of denial or of not knowing what you don’t know.

    In many cases, the customers — or, I should say, ex-customers — have a better understanding than the owners of what wasn’t working. The usual suspects that the owners tend to blame are the bank, the government or the idiot partner. Rarely does the owner’s finger point at the owner. Of course, there are cases where something out of the owner’s control has gone terribly wrong, but I have found those instances to be in the minority. What follows, based on my own experiences and observations, are the top 10 reasons small businesses fail. The list is not pretty, it is not simple, and it does not contain any of those usual suspects (although they might come in at Nos. 11, 12 and 13).

    1. The math just doesn’t work. There is not enough demand for the product or service at a price that will produce a profit for the company. This, for example, would include a start-up trying to compete against Best Buy and its economies of scale.

    2. Owners who cannot get out of their own way. They may be stubborn, risk averse, conflict averse — meaning they need to be liked by everyone (even employees and vendors who can’t do their jobs). They may be perfectionist, greedy, self-righteous, paranoid, indignant or insecure. You get the idea. Sometimes, you can even tell these owners the problem, and they will recognize that you are right — but continue to make the same mistakes over and over.

    3. Out-of-control growth. This one might be the saddest of all reasons for failure — a successful business that is ruined by over-expansion. This would include moving into markets that are not as profitable, experiencing growing pains that damage the business, or borrowing too much money in an attempt to keep growth at a particular rate. Sometimes less is more.

    4. Poor accounting. You cannot be in control of a business if you don’t know what is going on. With bad numbers, or no numbers, a company is flying blind, and it happens all of the time. Why? For one thing, it is a common — and disastrous — misconception that an outside accounting firm hired primarily to do the taxes will keep watch over the business. In reality, that is the job of the chief financial officer, one of the many hats an entrepreneur has to wear until a real one is hired.

    5. Lack of a cash cushion. If we have learned anything from this recession (I know it’s “over” but my customers don’t seem to have gotten the memo), it’s that business is cyclical and that bad things can and will happen over time — the loss of an important customer or critical employee, the arrival of a new competitor, the filing of a lawsuit. These things can all stress the finances of a company. If that company is already out of cash (and borrowing potential), it may not be able to recover.

    6. Operational mediocrity. I have never met a business owner who described his or her operation as mediocre. But we can’t all be above average. Repeat and referral business is critical for most businesses, as is some degree of marketing (depending on the business).

    7. Operational inefficiencies. Paying too much for rent, labor, and materials. Now more than ever, the lean companies are at an advantage. Not having the tenacity or stomach to negotiate terms that are reflective of today’s economy may leave a company uncompetitive.

    8. Dysfunctional management. Lack of focus, vision, planning, standards and everything else that goes into good management. Throw fighting partners or unhappy relatives into the mix and you have a disaster.

    9. The lack of a succession plan. We’re talking nepotism, power struggles, significant players being replaced by people who are in over their heads — all reasons many family businesses do not make it to the next generation.

    10. A declining market. Book stores, music stores, printing businesses and many others are dealing with changes in technology, consumer demand, and competition from huge companies with more buying power and advertising dollars.

    In life, you may have forgiving friends and relatives, but entrepreneurship is rarely forgiving. Eventually, everything shows up in the soup. If people don’t like the soup, employees stop working for you, and customers stop doing business with you. And that is why businesses fail.

    Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.
  17. That doesn't mean you shouldn't start a business.

    I'm a firm believer in one thing...if you're scared to do something then you don't deserve the results.

    I would rather try something and fail than not try it at all.
  18. #18 William Draven, Nov 17, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 17, 2011
    There is also a stark difference between trying something you've been well informed of, and have done your research in, and running into it blindfolded, and uneducated.

    If I'm going to gamble Benji, especially with my savings, or time (which all start up businesses require start up capital) then I may as well do what ever I can to put most of the odds in my favor.
  19. There is tons of great insight on here! I have a question relating to things being said here.
    Benji, you said you charge no less for 1,000$ a gig and won't turn back, I know that Rick does primarily kid's shows, where 1,000$ seems more than not out of the question.
    So my question is, what is the best route to take if you are going to take magic as a career, or at least a second job as opposed to "something on the side." Corporate or kid's shows? My first few experiences with kids has not been the best, and I'm really debating if I should continue in kid's magic and plan a birthday party show, or if I should begin to focus on older clients. Obviously since I'm just starting out, I can't charge a whole lot because my act isn't completely fine tuned, but once it is, I doubt I could get away with a ton more simply because that kind of market doesn't really allow for the parents to do a lot of spending, except in certain circumstances. A single mom with 3 kids can't really shell out as much as a business can.
    Would doing both be too much to take on? Like if I work at a more family oriented restaurant (like I do now) on the weekends, but then on other days I'm at places where it's people higher up on the financial ladder. It seems like targeting both would lead to generating more gigs potentially, right?

    I just don't see kid's shows being super profitable longer down the road, that's my main concern. Plus all the kid's I've had so far have been terribly difficult.
  20. I'd say that there is also a lot of luck in getting where you need to be to get booked, but you do also make your own luck. A good friend of mine went down to Torquay (a town in Devon, UK) as part of a UK talent competition that had its final there. He didn't win, but was spotted by an agency. This agency sent him on a round the country trip for 6 weeks. Thats what you would call lucky, but if he hadn't gone to the final which was on the complete other side of the country to where he lived he wouldn't have been spotted. He had the motivation and drive to go across the country to potentially win less money than it took him to get there. Risks are a good thing, but it all depends on whether you can afford to. I know my friend was 16 at the time and living at home (he's 22 now) and so had family support to get down there.

    Benji I think that remark about being scared is a bit harsh. I personally am hoping to be a full time performer this time next year. I have built up contacts in the industries I wish to work in with potential to make more which will evolve into more. These contacts will pay me good money as I am a good act. But you know something? I'm scared about it. It's a massive jump to suddenly have no 'plan to the day' as it were. To having so much free time to make good use of. I'm pretty sure I'll do ok, but just the fact that this time next year I'll either be happy or worrying about how I'm going to pay rent, for food, and especially this time of year Christmas . I think it's good to be scared, to have that fear to push you on to make you do what you have to do to make money. I think that without being worried about how your going to pay your way one month you could potentially become complacent. Another friend of mine had a really good year in 2010 but came into 2011 dead with no bookings for 3 months. His money had mostly disappeared the year before and so he was scraping the barrel with whatever gig he could get. I do respect you Benji, and I do wish you the very best in your business (Hell, I'd love to be you sometimes!) but saying that being scared is bad I think is an odd thing to say...


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