To be, or not to be a professional magician, that is the question? So many of us who love the art of magic have often pondered the question of whether to become a professional magician or not. If you felt the thrill of presenting to a live audience, I’m sure you’ve questioned whether you could be a professional magician .
The deeper question is whether you could live the lifestyle of a professional magician. Whether you’re at the top of the game as a magician, or at the bottom of the ladder, keeping your position or advancing your position is always a lot of work. The question you should ask your self is, “Could I be happy doing anything else?” If the answer to this question is yes, I would suggest you consider a different field of work than a professional magician. Becoming a professional magician has very little to do with actually performing magic. If truth be known, most magicians who are professionals spend the majority of the day working on promotion, sales and marketing. Before considering a full-time career as a magician you should ask yourself this question. Would I be happy working a full-time sales and marketing position which only paid by commission? Being a professional magician is a 100% commission job. If you can’t effectively market and sell shows, then, your career will be short lived.
I won’t sugar coat it- the lifestyle of a professional entertainer is extremely difficult. It’s the life of a sales professional. You have to hustle to make a living- long hours and hard work. There are great highs and astounding lows both financially and emotionally. This is a roller coaster of a ride! I have had months where I have made more money in a month than I could’ve ever imagined before and I’ve also had months where I didn’t make anything. Of course the high of making a lot of money during a month is incredibly fun. You can’t imagine that someone would pay you so much money to perform. You feel like the King of the world during these periods, and it’s as though you could charge anything and people will pay it. On the other hand, there are months when no money is coming in but you can bet the bills still roll in one right after the other. During these times a feeling of desperation can set in and you feel like you would do any show that paid any price at that moment. Riding these highs and lows can be very difficult. You have to have tough skin to make it.
Considering a family? I have been married for 26 years now. I can tell you it’s still not easy for my wife and kids to say goodbye as I leave for days and weeks at a time. This is why it is very important to have an understanding spouse and children for what you do. It is never easy to say goodbye and while you’re gone I can assure you that everything at the house will break. If you’re a young magician considering marriage this is a very important issue to discuss with your future spouse. Life on the road and the highs and lows of this business can be very hard on the marriage. You and your spouse need to understand this before entering into this profession. I have been performing in one form or another almost all my life and professionally now for over 10 years. I can tell you with all honesty every year I evaluate whether I will stay in this profession or not. It isn’t that I don’t love it, it’s just hard at times to make a living and it is definitely very difficult on my family.
Do it because you love it not because you think you’ll be famous. There are hundreds of professional magicians in the country today. By that I mean those who are making their full-time profession at performing magic. There are only a few magicians we could consider to be truly famous. This can be a great profession but it is definitely not full of opportunities to become world famous. If your dream is to become an international star I hope you obtain this goal. But keep in mind that most magicians are regional entertainers. Even most of the big names in Las Vegas, Branson or other large tourist areas are regional names. Developing small niche markets and working within your region is usually how most full-time entertainers achieve their living. If your goal is to work on an international platform I would highly suggest that you hone your skills in your local market, and when they are perfected start moving into larger markets. The talent agents that book big venues are looking for polished, proven talent. Gather a track record, polish your performance and business skills so when an opportunity presents itself you will be able to take advantage of it. A true agent knows talent when they see it. And believe me, they seen a lot of talent the truly great performers stands out from the rest.
I currently focus on the state of Texas. I live in central Texas and I’m fortunate to have three of the largest cities in the United States within two hours of my residence. I found for myself that traveling outside of a three-hour circle just wasn’t very profitable. My feeling is if I’m going to spend time away from my family and office than I need the trip to be very profitable. At one time I covered the entire United States. I flew so much that I could have earned a companion pass with South West Airlines at one point. But in the end when I considered the cost of traveling- the wear and tear on myself and the lost time with my wife and kids, I decided to become a regional performer. This may not be a concern for you. I have several friends who work the comedy club circuit or the college circuit and travel every day, and they love it. For the most part these performers are young singles without many obligations.
If you want to work as an international performer I think this is the optimal position to be single or married with no children. When you view most of the performers at the very top of our profession, they are usually single or married with no children. I understand there are exceptions but the amount of time and dedication it takes to be an international celebrity in any performing profession leaves very little time for friends or family.
If you are a young magician looking at a career in magic, let me encourage you to consider the lifestyle that you would need to set up. First you would need to keep your bills and monthly obligations low. This helps you make it through the lean times. Performing is very much a seasonal business. If your monthly obligations are low and you have put away some money during the good times this will keep you from having to return to a normal 9 to 5 job when thing slow down. Start as a part-time professional and build your business slowly and steadily. When you feel that you have enough shows coming in on a regular basis to pay the bills this would be your chance to go Pro. If you want to become an international star, remember everyone started somewhere, so start from where you are now. Build your skills build your name and eventually you will get your opportunity.
If you are an older performer like me (I didn’t start full time until I was in my 40s) and you are married, consider the following. Have a serious discussion with your spouse about the lifestyle of an entertainer. Try to lower your monthly obligations as low as possible. If you’ve had a corporate job you may need to downsize your life and obligations. Going from a steady paycheck to the uncertainty of performance is quite a culture shock. This is not an easy task- you have probably been programmed to expect a steady paycheck. Walking away from your safety net, I assure you, will cause some sleepless nights. Make sure your vision is clear and your family is on board. Keep in mind you have built valuable skills while working for someone else. You know how to show up and work every day, and you have plenty of skills you’ve learned in the workforce that will transfer to your new business. Start part time while building confidence and marketing skills, and when the time is right, go full-time.