There are not many professions that are as exciting as being a magician; for many people, career satisfaction comes before fame or fortune. Magicians are regarded as born entertainers; their tricks can appear nothing short of miraculous, especially if they are exceptionally talented.
To pursue this career path, it takes a lot of hard work. Like many careers in entertainment, the road to success is tricky to navigate and hard to master. This article will walk you through the process of becoming a magician: from choosing the type of magician you want to be to honing your craft and marketing yourself to maximise your chances of succeeding in this profession.
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There are many different types of magicians, and if you are aspiring to enter this industry, it’s worth reading about and determining what kind of performer you want to be. Certain types of magicians are better suited for those who are starting out while others require mastering specific skills and attaining more experience.
- Illusionist: Illusionists often perform in front of large groups of people such as on a stage or at a show. They use large-scale tricks, sets, and misdirection to perform magic, and might have an assistant or team to help them.
- Bizzarist: Bizzarists specialise in wordplay. They rely less on props, stagecraft, and ‘fluff’, preferring to use storytelling and narrative for their tricks. This creates a mysterious, more serious type of magic act.
- Comedy magician: Comedy magicians are in some ways the opposite of bizzarists. They want to use magic to promote laughter and surrealism as much as wonder.
- Escapologist: Escapologists’ tricks are focused on them breaking free from some form of inescapable situation, such as boxes, chains, or locked rooms.
- Mentalist: Mentalists use tricks of the mind to create magic. By doing this, they can present the illusion of extraordinary recall or mental ability to amaze their audiences. Mentalists can be further broken down into clairvoyants, mind readers, or hypnotists.
- Street magician: Street magicians interact with crowds on streets, performing simple and swift tricks to captivate passers-by. Often, street magic is how magicians get started in their career as it can generate easy and free publicity.
- Animal magician: Animal magicians use various animals to perform magic, such as the common trick of producing doves. Other animal magicians work with larger creatures, such as Siegfried and Roy’s tiger acts. They can be the subject to heavy scrutiny due to the risk or perception of cruelty to animals.
- Card magician: Card magicians use playing cards to perform tricks. These tricks might fall into other categories, such as street magic or illusions. Contrary to popular belief, card tricks are not always simple; some are incredibly ingenious and require considerable skill.
- Children’s magician: Some magicians might specialise in a more universal, child-friendly form of magic. Children’s magicians frequently perform at kids’ parties or other events where there will be a junior audience.
- Virtual magician: Virtual magicians conduct magic tricks online. They might also upload tricks to video-sharing websites or set up interactive illusions online for people to enjoy.
Taking the step from an amateur magician, where you might impress you partner or parents with tricks over the dinner table, to professional magician takes careful planning. Indeed, it can be a competitive scene, and you need to ensure you are prepared for a long and hard climb to the top.
Of course, learning and mastering magic tricks is also an important part of becoming a successful magician, but these steps will help you get started.
1. Research the profession
Budding magicians should take time to read up on what life as a professional magician would be like. Magic as a career is quite unpredictable, and, like many entertainment jobs, requires a tricky slog to turn it into a rewarding and profitable career.
Researching common pitfalls and advice, as well as talking to established magicians, could demystify what this profession entails. It is better to find out everything that this career involves at the beginning stage, rather than after you’ve made several changes to your life to embark on this career only to find out it is not right for you.
2. Create a persona
Every magician has a persona, and it’s never too early to start working on yours. Think about what you want the audience to feel as they watch you perform and your style, values and approach makes you feel the most comfortable. Use these elements into your personal brand to create a name and even an outfit style based on them.
3. Join magic societies
Joining magic societies will help you connect with peers.
The Magic Circle is widely regarded as the preeminent society devoted to magic and magicians. Being a member of this organisation is essentially acts as your accreditation as a competent and professional magician.
Joining The Magic Circle, however, is not easy. You first need to apply with a proposer and a seconder who are both existing members and have known you for a year. There follows a practical interview, and then a live performance examination, both of which are designed to evaluate your skills.
4. Network with other magicians
Networking with other magicians isn’t just good for research; having a close-knit network of peers is particularly useful for such a niche profession. It could comprise of people who are at the same career stage as you as well as more established and experienced performers.
Networking will enable you to seek out advice when you need it, and it might also help you improve your skills. Finally, being acquainted with fellow magicians is essential for your own induction in this field.
5. Practise performing in front of people
It goes without saying that to make it big as a magician, you will have to perform in front of large crowds. This means you will need to master carrying out tricks with confidence, even when you are in front of tough audiences and hecklers. You will also have to face the reality that sometimes the occasional trick might not work and learn how to bounce back from that while on stage.
Having confidence while being in front of a crowd is essential and will only come through practice. Start by performing in front of friends and family, learn from your mistakes and develop competence, as well as your style as you go.
6. Work on your presentation skills
Having confidence while performing in front of an audience is only half the battle. Magicians need to have excellent stagecraft and presentation skills and this requires excellent communication as well as natural charisma.
Your stage presence is a critical skill; performing magic tricks on stage often require careful movements, clear instructions, and good timing. So, the more you practise on your ability to present, the better performer you will become.
7. Work on your business acumen
Finally, you must set the foundations for when your fledgling magic business starts to take off.
As you begin to accept bookings, and start to earn money, you will simultaneously need to operate as a business. As you will likely be a self-employed professional, you will need to learn basic accounting procedures, marketing techniques and customer service skills. You can start by learning the basics online and build on your knowledge through hands-on experience.
For magicians, learning news tricks mastering your existing repertoire is a big part of the fun of this career. Magic is a profession which is technical, creative, and all about the performance. Here are five things you can do to hone your skills:
1. Practice makes perfect
The best way to improve your magic skills is simply through frequent practice. Performing magic isn’t just a case of getting up on stage after an hour’s work. It is the result of hours and hours of practice, and this is a core part of the job. The best magicians will practise their existing trick while also learning new ones, to ensure they are perfectly executed in front of audiences.
2. Learn from experience
As is the case with any entertainer, there will always be good days and bad days. Tricks require skill as well as persuasion, and all it takes is a simple fumble of the hand or a wise guy in the audience to ruin the trick.
Rise above these setbacks and learn from them. Think about what you could have done better to avoid similar mishaps in the future and push forward.
3. Create routines
The best magicians turn their tricks into exciting, structured routines. This could be by starting with smaller, easier tricks, and gradually building up to larger and more complex illusions.
The art of storytelling goes hand in hand with stagecraft. It creates anticipation, makes a ‘show’, and will certainly build on your reputation. Structuring your material will also help you organise yourself better, freeing up more mental time and effort for perfecting each part of your art.
4. Watch other magicians
Take the time to visit other magicians’ shows or watch their performances online. This is the best way to keep abreast of trends, new tricks, and techniques. You don’t have to copy other people but staying in sync with other magicians’ work will keep you inspired, and maybe help you enhance and leverage your own material.
5. Develop a unique selling point
If you have your persona nailed down, then it is time to think about what else makes you unique. Give a reason to your audience to talk about your act, follow you online, or visit your shows. Study other magicians and try to pinpoint what you can offer the audience that no one else does. This will become your USP, and if it’s a good one, then this will be like gold dust.
Like all entertainers, the way for magicians to get noticed is by effectively marketing themselves and creating a brand strategy. After all, being a great magician with unparalleled skill and a wide repertoire of tricks is not enough if no one knows who you are.
Here are five tips for marketing your craft effectively:
1. Create an online presence
Today, having an online presence is essential so you should consider setting up professional accounts on common social media platforms. Some of them, such as YouTube and Instagram, lend themselves better to visual arts.
Having a presence across different channels will enable you to reach a wider audience create interest for your next performance through promotion. Moreover, you will be able to build a virtual following and establish yourself as a magician more effectively.
2. Create marketing material
You should always carry business cards, flyers and posters that advertise your services. You never know when you might need them.
Business cards work well as these can be left in many different places with little effort. Take time to make marketing materials look professional and consider investing money in doing so. This is a big part of your visual identity, and you want it to be as professional as you are.
3. Perform in public
If you want to market yourself then get out there and perform! For new magicians, this might be daunting at first, but it’s a sure-fire way to get people to know who you are. Starting as a street magician and posting videos of yourself online offer you an easy audience. Don’t forget to bring your marketing material, such as your business cards, so people have a way to contact you if they want to hire you for a gig.
4. Seize unpaid opportunities
Many magicians will have to get started the hard way; making money is never a quick process, and certainly not guaranteed. If you are asked to perform for free, or to support other acts or performances, then this could be an opportunity to promote your craft to a wider audience.
Many entertainers have had to start will start out this way, so before you turn down a gig that won’t pay, first consider in what other ways it could benefit your career. For instance, it could bring you in contact with other magicians you admire.
5. Look for ways to get free publicity
There are other easy ways to get free publicity; performing in public will certainly help but you can take this to the next level.
These days, going viral on social media is a great way to become a household name. There are ways to ‘engineer’ viral videos such as performing a particularly mind-blowing, original, or outrageous trick which might generate serious attention. However, remember that the key to great publicity is to be regarded as distinguishable, engaging, and talented by others.
It goes without saying that there is no shortcut to becoming a successful magician. Even performing in local shows takes hard work, practice, and a lot of networking. Therefore, being a masterful magician will require more than a few tricks up your sleeve, such as good marketing and presentation skills.
Whereas a lot of the skill involved in becoming a great magician is just that – skills, and therefore learnable, a lot of importance must be placed on a performer’s inherent charisma and natural ability. Practicing what you do is essential, as well as adopting an attitude of continuous learning. This takes time and energy, but the satisfaction of captivating audiences with your magic will make it worth it.
Start a conversation! Are you an aspiring magician? What excites you about this career path? Let us know in the comments section below.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 20 May 2015.