When you get to the stage that you think you are good enough to perform for real people for real money, it is time to start thinking. Up until now, magic will have been fairly straightforward; you buy a book and cards, practice for months, and can do magic. It begins to get harder here - you need to market yourself accurately yet in the most positive manner possible.
This is by no means a definitive guide to how to market yourself for magic, but it is how I started my magic career at the age of 15, as well as some other ideas from other people. My story isn't a fascinating story - I'm not a stage magician, I don't really do street magic, and I haven't been on TV. However, this hasn't been from failure, this is simply because I made a decision early on that magic would not be a full time career for me. The advice I will give you could help you on your way, as I was certainly on my way, to a magic career; alternatively you can learn from my mistakes and know what not to do!
If you are young and have little money to spend on advertising, a simple thing you can do is create a professional looking sign out of some paint and wood, and place it in your house window, in the garden or anywhere else you can think of. My first sign was very simple, and most likely very tacky, but it did the trick, and cost nothing! I initially had about five words on it, “CHILDREN'S ENTERTAINER, YOUNG, CHEAP, FUN" or something like that, and my phone number. That is something, when looking back, that I would have changed. “Cheap" is not a word used much in marketting - when was the last time you watched an advert for a supermarket and they described themselves as cheap? However, it got me my first show, so who's complaining!
What I would recommend would be to make your sign, ideally on your computer (just to make stencils to paint the wood, or laminate it, or whatever, but don't make it look tacky), like this: “AFFORDABLE CHILDREN'S ENTERTAINER", and then in smaller text, something like “Joe Bloggs is a young children's entertainer who prides himself on his fun yet affordable shows, leaving all the children with a smile on their face" or something like that. Mention balloon models if you can, juggling or whatever.
Once that's done, you may strike gold, or you may get nothing. Either way, this is by no means the end. The next thing to do is make up some flyers - half the size of A4 (or Letter, for you Americans!) is perfect - there's enough space for your name (remember, you are selling yourself, so your name needs to be reasonably dominant), what you do (i. e. Children's Entertainer - initially this should be bigger than your name as your name won't mean anything), some catch phrases (i. e. balloon modelling, every child involved, fun for all, parties included etc. ), your contact details (I wouldn't recommend your address for privacy issues) and then a little bit about yourself so that they know who to expect. There's absolutely no point in trying to come across as a 40yr old magician if you are actually 15, because as soon as you open the door, your client may have huge second thoughts. Honest is the best policy, and being young never affected me.
These flyers can then be put up in your local post office, youth groups, nurseries/kindergartens, primary schools and so forth. However, something that I found reasonably successful was door-to-door mailing, simply stuffing the flyer through the door of every door in my neighbourhood (having said that, it did rule out a career of a post man for me - lots of scraped hands going through the letter-box, scary dogs, and even an imitation dog barked at me!)
In this modern age, a website is a very good addition to your marketting repertoire. I can recommend RapidSites (www.rapidsites.co.uk) for a quick site, costing about £4/month (you'll need to buy your domain name though, which costs about $5 a year). This should contain more details about you and what you've done, ideally some quotes from happy families, what's in your repertoire, what types of show you can accomodate (i. e. children's, adults, cabaret, stage, close-up, full parties etc. . . )
At this stage you should be getting some shows, probably not many, but certainly enough to give you a confidence boost. Now comes the important stage of marketting. In my case, I did a show to 20 kids, who I actually thought of as 20 potential clients. This means they all have to love it, have a great time and equally important, return to their parents with my phone number! This doesn't mean you give a kid your business card, or your number on the back of a napkin! This means you make your own merchandise!! With a little imagination and the power of your computer and printer, you can come up with some reasonable give-aways. The classic is fake money with your signature and phone number/website/email address. What I liked to do was teach the kids linking paper clips, and provide paper clips for them all so they could take the note (with my number) and the paper clips to show Mummy & Daddy! Badges are also effective - just use your imagination.
One idea that I haven't actually seen elsewhere that I used was to write a very short, very easy magic book (well, more accurately, leaflet!) It simply consisted of about 5 very easy classic tricks that a 6yr old could perform to his/her family. Naturally the front page was a photo of me, my name and my phone number! I gave this to every child, who hopefully took it home in their party bag and tried a few of the tricks, before chucking it on their bookcase for their parents to notice every so often. . .
Word of mouth is by far the best way to get more shows - networking is a tool you will use throughout pretty much any career. Talk to the parents after the show, offer your services and ask if they have anything coming up - noting ventured, nothing gained.
With a bit of that kind of experience, you can see if you can get the interest of local venues, for example restaurants. Some places like to provide entertainment. Find a place that has live music (preferably not band music, quiet piano/singing or whatever) as that implies there is money in the entertainment business, and tell them what you can do. Take a pack of cards or whatever along and make sure you have a top notch 3-5 minute performance to show the managers. You could even offer to show some of the diners your magic so the managers can see their reaction to you. I was lucky enough to get a job throughout school on Sunday lunches for a couple of years in a local restaurant. In just the same way as at kids parties, I treated everyone, sometimes including the staff, as possible clients! Tricks with signing business cards are great as it leaves the diners with a gift that just happens to have your number on it! Through this I got more shows and more offers for “residency".
At this stage A-level exams took over and magic became reserved for friends and family. However, this was a conscious decision that I made myself. From that point though, if I had decided to make it a career, I would have joined magic societies just to get advice from other magicians who have been where I was many years before. Make a promotional video of yourself, which you could even try to sell to TV channels if you are good enough, develop your website so it really sells you well, and perhaps most importantly, have fun! Enjoy what you are doing and people will enjoy watching you. If you get stuck doing 5 tricks for an afternoon every week, you'll easily get bored, so learn more tricks, vary your patter, try harder sleights and so on.
The world really is your oyster, and magic can be your magic carpet that takes you to places you could never go to! Alternatively, in my case, it could be a great thing to make you stand out and help in job interviews for a “real" job. What you do is up to you - magic is something you will never regret doing, just make sure you keep enjoying it, because as soon as it becomes a job, the magic is over!
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