There are plenty of people making a good living as a magician, but how much do they make, how many hours do they work and could you make a living doing your dream job?
It is definitely possible to make a living as a professional magician. There are no official statistics, but the Magic Circle has around 1500 members and you don’t have to be a member to be professional, so there are probably many more.
Making a living as a magician is a very enjoyable. You will meet hundreds of nice people and it can pay a very good salary. Most professional magicians in the UK charge around £400 to £600 to perform for two hours. That sounds like an incredible hourly rate. 50 times national minimum wage and higher than a doctor or a lawyer, but remember, professional magicians are sole traders and small businesses have lots of overheads to pay for out of that income. That is income, not profit.
Of course, money isn’t everything. Sure, you need to pay the mortgage, but there are other perks that come with being a professional magician. You might be invited to exclusive parties or flown to another country to perform. There may be celebrities or royalty or heads of state. The organisers may allow you to help yourself to posh food or free drinks. For some people this lifestyle is better than a regular steady income or high salary. I’ve heard lots of magicians say they live like a millionaire but they will never be one!
Remember, although the hourly rate is high, you might not be working that many hours during the week, or weeks during the year. The average office worker may do a 40-hour week. A magician may only do two or three gigs. The wedding season in the UK runs roughly from April to September. You need to make enough and budget, plan and save to cover months with little or no work.
Magic's Dirty Secret
Everything I have told you is true, but remember every magician boasts about their income, what happened at gigs and how well they performed.
The vast majority of your time as a magician is going to be spent running a business. Dealing with customers, admin, updating accounts and above all else – marketing. You won’t make a penny as a magician if you don’t have gigs. How do you get gigs? Well, thankfully nowadays there are lots of ways to get your name in front of the people that matter. A good-looking website is must plus engaging social updates and great YouTube videos. You could even get an agent. Unfortunately, all these things cost money and are not always very effective. So, do you want to know a little secret? Magicians drop their prices! That’s right, they may say they won’t perform the invisible deck for less than £500 but believe me, if their mortgage is due and their next gig is week away, they are desperate for work. You know what? You should drop your prices as well.
The Best Possible Marketing
Forget your YouTube videos and your social updates. The very best way to get booked is recommendations – word of mouth. Get good at performing magic and go out and perform as much as you can. For free if you have to. Fill your diary to bursting. The more gigs you do, the more people will talk to their friends about you and the more opportunities will come your way. Once you are working hard, step up your prices a little. Don’t double your price. Part of your success was that you were giving a good service at a great price. You risk upsetting a potential client if they know you worked last week for half as much as you are asking for from them.
Diversify to Survive
If you want to make a living as a magician good idea is to diversify. Supplement your performing income by selling a book, offering workshops or even selling a trick. Many magicians start their careers performing close up but slowly evolve into making their living selling effects, or even setting up a shop (like me!). For some people, having lots of different “careers” stops the monotony of one job, helps alleviate boredom and burn out and gives them a richer, more diversified skill set and interests.
While I have been a professional magician I have also worked as a film extra, builder, wedding videographer and blogger (you are reading it).
Could YOU make a living as a magician?
Your circumstances are unique so it is impossible for me to say if you have what it takes to turn your hobby into a lucrative career. You may have few outgoings, living at home with no car to run, or you may have children and a mortgage. You need to weigh up the risk of trying to make a living as a magician. If you have dependants and outgoings, make sure you can cover these while you build up magician income. Fill your diary BEFORE you leave the security of a full-time income. Remember to factor in other full-time perks like your lease car, child tax credits, holiday and sickness pay and your pension. You’ll have to take car of all these expenses from now on. It goes without saying that in a full-time job you probably pay taxes through PAYE. Now you are self employed you will need to keep accounts and expenses and either file your own tax return or pay someone to do it for you.
From personal experience, I have earned quite a fair income in the five years I have been a “professional”. I put “professional” in quotes because people paid me to perform magic but I was never full time. The costs of running a business, like insurance, petrol + running a car, website, advertising, tax, and tricks and most importantly getting the work nearly took all of that of income. I have made very little profit over those years so I have had other jobs to maintain my lifestyle. Have I enjoyed working as a magician? Hell yeah. I have been a guest at many couple’s weddings, I have worked in the busiest restaurants in town, I have met lots of wonderful people and I have enjoyed the challenge of running a business and learning to perform and entertain. Have I made a living? Nope. Not yet.
If you want to be a professional magician, it might be best to decide what kind of lifestyle you’d like before thinking about an income. Do you like performing magic for kids or adults, at trade shows or weddings, on cruise ships or on YouTube?
Are you happy working unsocial hours – evening and weekends? How does that fit into your partner’s and/or kids routines? Can you deal with drunk spectators giving you “banter” (abuse) or spoiling your routines? Are you happy to work in hot, busy, cramped restaurants or at parties with music so loud you can’t hear yourself think? Can you do the same routine 20 times and keep it fresh?
If you are working on a cruise ship you may be away from home for long periods of time. If you love kids magic your hourly rate will be lower but you’ll have endless gigs. To make a living you’ll need lots of dedication, you’ll need to be good at running a business, you’ll need to be relentless and clever with promotion. You’ll have to be a people person. Oh, and did I mention you have to be a good magician as well!
About the Author
Chris Campos is a professional magician and amateur juggler. He performs close up magic at hundreds of weddings and parties every year in Essex in the UK.
Chris has also worked as an extra on films such as Bond, BFG, Black Widow, Star Wars and Batman.
Magic runs in his blood so not content with performing magic he also opened an online magic shop, the fastest-growing magic shop in the world!