Magic as a Career

I performed professionally as a magician starting in my teens and for many years thereafter. I went on to have a non-performing career in mainstream show business, but I eventually decided to return to magic as a career. I really missed performing, and I am absolutely loving what I am doing now. It is really hard work though, and it was hard work when I did it when I was much younger.

To make magic a career you have to love it. A lot. The chances of getting rich from it are slim. It is a lot like acting, where most actors don’t make it, the ones with ongoing careers make an adequate living, and only a small percentage hit the jackpot with a series or movie stardom.

A magic career is not for everyone. If you want to go into magic because you see it as an easy and fun way to make a living, then you are in for a big disappointment. People will reasonably try to talk you out of it. They are probably right. Being a professional magician requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It is a lot more work than having a regular job.

I love performing more than anything, but it is only a small part of the business of magic. There is booking, transportation arrangements, keeping on top of paperwork, developing new routines, learning new moves, repairing, prototyping, dealing with costuming and so much more. You are running a business, and most of the work of running a business is not nearly as much fun as being in front of an audience.

There are a number qualities you need to succeed. Most importantly, you need determination. That comes from wanting a magic career more than anything else. Without that kind of passionate drive, your energy may dissipate. If you want it with all your heart, then you will find enough determination to give it everything you’ve got, even when it’s a tough day.

You also need to be willing to work very hard. Twelve and fourteen hour days are not unusual for anyone running their own business . Because you love what you are doing, and it gives you satisfaction, the hours don’t seem so bad, but you will also need to take care of yourself physically (so add getting enough rest and eating right to that.)

You should also be assertive. If you want something, go after it. If you find you are sometimes shy, work on getting out of your shell. I talk to all sorts of random people all the time. For me, learning to be gregarious and talk to everyone helped me be able to make that tough phone call to someone I’ve never met before, who just may need a magic show.

Which leads me to sales. Anything legitimate you can do in sales as a kid will help you later. When I say legitimate, I mean that there are plenty of people who will take advantage of you when it comes to sales. They may not pay you. They may be selling something shoddy. The could be criminals, even if they are very charming. So, first, before you agree to sell anything may sure you share all of the details with your parent or an adult you trust. I got a lot out of a magazine drive we did through our junior high school. My parents kind of hated it, because they aren’t performers or sales people, but they made sure it was legitimate so I didn’t get myself in trouble and boy, I sold a lot of magazines. (Hitting up my dentist was a stroke of genius, because after all I was a cute kid, his patient and he needed magazines for his waiting room.) Selling Girls Scout Cookies is another opportunity, I’ve seen out there, which seems well supervised and fun.

You also have to believe in yourself. Deep down Inside, no matter what happens, you must know that you will succeed. Only you can do that for yourself. True, there will be times when you get depressed and feel like you are getting nowhere, but you must have a deep faith that you can do it. There will be times when you get criticized, or get a bad review, or have a performance that bombs. Everyone has made mistakes in a show, and you certainly will. Don’t let the embarrassment over that stop you. Faith in yourself is what keeps you going during the hard times. You can’t wait for things to come to you. If you do, you may be waiting forever.

One technique people use to focus their energies is practicing positive affirmations. You can put a note on the mirror to remind you each morning about something you want to focus on. It might be something broad like, “I am talented and smart” or something specific like, “of course I can learn a double-lift.” It sounds silly, but saying what you want each day, out loud, really works.

Now that you know what it takes, what can you expect? Well, if you have ever looked for a regular job, then you know what being unemployed is like. Being a magician is sort of like perpetual unemployment, punctuated by brief periods of paying work. You do work all of the time, either on the act or on getting work, but you only get paid when you actually perform, because that’s when you are delivering the value to your clients. There are people who are fortunate enough to have bookings that last for years, but these are the exceptions, and eventually they too will be out of work. If you want stability and security, performing of any type is not the business to be in. I am reminded of a good friend of mine who is a famous actor. He said, he looks for work every day. He knows he has a good chance of getting a new role when he sees that he is solving someone’s problem. You’ll need to find those opportunities where you help someone look better in front of their friends, have fun, provide entertainment – in short what you are providing is very valuable, but very hard to describe and initially kind of hard to sell.

Please don’t assume you can just get an agent and they will keep you busy. To have an agent even consider you (and most don’t work with magicians), you already have to be a success. There are just no shortcuts.

You typically don’t have a regular and predictable flow of income, so you have to be a very good money manager. Even when you are making a lot of money, there are so many expenses. There is the cost of new equipment, maintenance (yourself and your props), publicity, travel, insurance. It takes a good amount of money just to break even, and you have to learn how to manage your money, instead of spending every nickle you have. Adults call this skill Financial Literacy, and you’ll want to start learning about it now. I did see a book called, “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Money: How to Make It, Save It, and Spend It” which might be a good book for you to check out. Building your skill set in Financial Literacy now will put you leaps and bounds ahead of many magicians as you start your career, so see what you can find out about it. (Hint: Librarians can be a great source for books and programs about this.)

Many magicians have other magic related income streams, in addition to performing. I had an advantage in that I had a partner who was a talented magician, and we booked ourselves as two separate acts rather than a partner act, because that way we got paid twice. We marketed original magic effects. I produced shows with other magicians. We went out and lectured. I published and edited a magic magazine and books.

Sure, you can make a living just doing shows, but there is a limit as to how many shows you can do. The ideal situation is to have a residency, like the terrific Jen Kramer, who appears Wednesday through Saturday at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort. Check out her website at her link (which is excellent) and you’ll see she does many other things as well. She works really hard, and she worked long and hard to get where she is now.

I would not trade my experiences as a professional magician for anything. There is no shame in being a part time pro, as many famous magicians really are. Just keep educating yourself, so you know what you are getting into and have a clear plan of what you want to do. That’s how you get where you want to go.

Magic Clubs

Being connected to the world of magic is so valuable and there is no better way than to belong to a magic club. They give you the opportunity to associate and learn from other magicians that you might otherwise never get to know. They are also a wonderful place to exchange information, ideas, and gossip. They also offer the opportunity to try out new material that is not quite ready to go into your show yet.

You can get a lot out of a magic club, but as with many other things, what you get out of it depends a lot on what you put into it. Clubs differ quite a bit in the ways that they are organized and in the people who make up the membership. Some clubs go out of their way to help young female magicians, whereas a few are more of an old man’s club. I’ve found that just being friendly and knowledgeable will open a lot of doors, (and hearts).

There was a time when most magic clubs did not allow women members. That is why an organization called the MagiGals was started in 1939 with their first president Geraldine Larsen. She was the first woman to have her own magic television series. She was also the very first magician to perform on television, (in San Francisco in 1939, when no one had TV sets yet). Her sons, Bill and Milt, created the Magic Castle. We have articles on Geri and the MagiGals in our history section.

The MagiGals grew over the years, but disbanded in 2001 for a very good reason. By then all magic clubs welcomed women members.

There are two major national magic associations in this country that organize individual clubs. The International Brotherhood of Magicians has its Rings (and yes, while brotherhood may not feel all that inclusive, they had their first female president in 1987 – the fabulous June Horowitz), and the Society of American Magicians has its Assemblies, but each provides organized and structured clubs. The IBM and SAM tend to be my preference as they offer nationally recognized magazines with their memberships and have been around a long time. Both the IBM and SAM have memberships for young performers between the ages of 7 and 17, and they are cheaper than an adult membership.

There are also many independent magic clubs, some very structured and some rather informal. There are also clubs that are set up just for young magicians. The most famous of all is the Magic Castle Juniors, which has produced many top name performers, but requires that you to go to Hollywood so that you can attend the monthly meetings. It is open to young performers between the ages of 13 to 19. If you are under 20 and feel that you have developed strong skills as a magic performer and want to pursue magic seriously, get in touch with me through the Contact page on this site for more information about the Magic Castle’s Junior Magicians program and what you need to know to successfully audition. You can also e-mail them directly at

If you are 21 or over, there is a group that meets at the Magic Castle called the Women Magicians Association. One of the important things the WMA does is help women prepare for the Magic Castle audition process (which many people fail on their first attempt). They also provide fellowship, an opportunity to learn and grow, and great social and professional contacts. If you are interested in the WMA, go to the Contact page and drop me a line or find The Womens Magicians Association on Facebook. It’s a closed group, but if you follow the instructions and answer the questions, you can gain admittance, as I did. They are a great group. Even if you don’t live in the area, you can join and keep in touch online.

Check for local IBM and SAM groups on their web sites. If there is nothing close to you, try doing a Google search for your city and “magic clubs.” Major cities generally have clubs, but so do many smaller cities (although they can be harder to find.) Search for local magicians and contact them, or if there is a magic shop or even a magic show, head there to find local magicians who will know if there is a local club.

Some clubs are supportive of both young performers and women in magic. Hopefully, your local club will be like that. Some do not allow full membership for young performers (generally under 21 or 18). I believe that all members should have voting rights, but this is not always the case. When my husband was 15, he was in a club that elected him as Vice President and in another club where he had no voting rights.

Participation is the key to success in any club. Participation makes you an insider because you are involved. It also makes you more visible so people keep you in mind when opportunities come up. Perform for the members every chance you get. Volunteer to help out with special events, voice your opinion during the business meeting, become involved politically if you can. All of these things will benefit you, and you will get more out of the club.

Being involved on the political side of clubs can help get you noticed. One thing you can do if your club limits your political involvement because of your age is to get a special Youth Advisory position set up, and get yourself put on it. You would represent the younger members of the group, attend board meetings, and do things such as organize special events for the junior members or do outreach to young performers. I do not like to be involved in politics in organizations and would prefer to avoid it, but I consider myself a leader so it seems like I always wind up getting involved. Ultimately, having more young women involved is good for everyone. You do have to take the position seriously, and you will have to put in a lot of effort. Ultimately, though, it helps position you as a leader and grow your own career.

Like everything else, magic clubs do have some pitfalls that you should try to avoid. Ego problems are the most tiresome. I’ve seen them primarily surface in two ways. The first is the male magician who think he is God’s gift to the magic world. He will immediately start doing magic tricks for you and man-splaining things. Sometimes it takes them a moment to realize you are a real magician. Knowing your magic, (reading books is key) is the best way to keep these guys at bay. The second is that people will sometimes be mean because on some level they are both insecure and jealous. This crops up more the better you get at being a magician. It’s hard not to take it to heart when someone says something really mean, but normally it’s just because they can’t believe you’re that good. Never take it to heart. It’s their problem, not yours. Being gracious in these situations makes you look good (and kind of ironically, may really bother them when you don’t stoop to there level.) In a club, the problems happen when the man-splainers and the haters are the only ones who are active in the group. The best solution is when a club is run in such a way that all members are encouraged to participate. Raising your hand to help out, can stop this from happening.

You should avoid being a bragger yourself. Of course you are wonderful, but nobody wants to hear about it repeatedly. I would never discuss how much I make doing magic, but I do a lot of shows and when I have mentioned it, that hasn’t always gotten a great reaction. I have an MBA and tons of experience in negotiation so booking is not as hard for me as it is for many others. Saying this to other magicians in conversation, though, can come across as bragging, and no one wants that. The best way to get along is just ask people about themselves. They always love that.

Some people may see you as a potential girlfriend, rather then as a fellow magician. Magicians do date each other but be very selective with who you have one on one time with. They may be thinking about this differently than you are.

This brings us to the problem of cliques, groups of people who separate themselves from the rest of the group. They often see themselves as a select body and look upon everyone else in the club with disdain. If you are member of a clique, don’t fall into the bad habits they have developed. These include putting down other members, a fear of socializing with non-clique members, and being snobs. Get to know everyone in the club instead. With more friends in magic, you’ll have more people on your team as you grow in magic.

A killer of magic clubs is apathy. If people stop showing up at meetings, or don’t get involved, you don’t have a club anymore. It is definitely worthwhile to be an active member in a magic club. The key word is active. Find one near you and get involved. You will learn a lot from your fellow magicians. After all show business is a not just a “know how” business. It’s a, “know who” business. So, get to work on that.