The reality behind the magic...
Some things are a no-brainer when choosing to become a professional entertainer, such as people skills, good personal hygiene and a passion for what you do.
I get asked at almost every event, how did I become a Magician or what inspired me along the way, to which I tend to tailor my answer depending on who is asking... (trying not to give away to many secrets to the muggles)
Having performed for over 13 years I have complied a few thoughts and tips for anyone looking to venture into the world of magic from my own personal experiences and general life, so enjoy:
Patience, Practice and Perseverance: With anything, you have to practice to become better. I tell people when they are learning a new trick or act how important the 4 P's are - Practice, practice and practice and once finished, practice some more. Sometimes it takes a while for it to click into place or for you to understand the reason behind what you are doing. But rest assured with enough time you will eventually be doing it as if it was second nature.
Social Skills: You wont be performing infront of a mirror for the rest of your life so get out there and meet people. I am naturally a people person, so walking into a room with a few hundred strangers to perform to is more of an excitement for me... However, it didn't start that way. You will get nervous and at times want to bail but you can only grow by trial and error. Some of my greatest moments happened outside my comfort zone and I implore you to do the same. Meet new people, be confident and trust in being yourself.
Personal Hygiene: I really shouldn't have to write this section, but this can be one of the major factors in getting repeat business, new work and most definitely not being known for bodily odours! Its as simple as making sure your brush your teeth, put on freshly washed and ironed clothes, clean your hands and fingernails and smell pleasant to whomever you are meeting or performing for. This goes a long way and people will remember you if you leave a good or bad first impression.
Always be prepared: The amount of times I've been caught out without having a business card or at least a few tricks on me early on in my career is no joke! You never know who your going to meet or where you will meet them. So always be mindful of having at least one or two tricks you can do in an instant that will WOW. They say less is more and being able to baffle someone with what little you have on you will leave them wanting more. I will always leave my house with business cards, deck of playing cards, a pen and one or two other items I personally use. Lastly get ready for a bombardment of "Go on, show me something then" which is a general occupational hazard by telling people what you do.
Competition: They say competition is healthy and this has been very true in my case. The market is saturated with not only Magicians but a plethora of weird and wonderful entertainment acts. Use this to find your niche and create something unique that makes you stand out. Also use competition to help your business by networking and creating a trusted group that can work with each other. This way when you can't do a gig you have someone to cover you and vice versa. But be careful, keep your secrets close/stay humble and focus on you.
Reputation: Building a reputation is not an overnight wonder. It takes years of graft, networking and a lot of free exposure events to get your name out there. Print a load of business cards and even offer to do events for free. This doubles up as not only exposure but practice as well. Utilise this time early on to perform without the pressure of being paid to do so. Hopefully you might meet famous people or someone films it and it goes viral! You never know until you're out there..
Learn how to adapt: Never enter a room with a preconception of what to expect or what you are going to perform. Anything can happen and change in a moments notice. A lot of successful people in the world have mastered dynamic range. By this I mean the ability to subtly recognise every situation and adapt to make it tailored to that exact moment. Magic is all in the performance around the tricks. You have to be proactive or reactive at will. My advise is enter every encounter with an open mind and gracefully take control by reading the audience.
Invest: Its fair to say, most gigs I did early on, the money I made would be spent buying playing cards and investing into new ideas and tricks. Many years later, I now have a beautiful collection of playing cards, books, dvd's and props to look back on and remember how far I have come. This is key to growth as you must continue to practice, learn and train. Also invest into your business. Advertise in local newspapers or magazines, utilise free social media platforms, create Youtube accounts to showcase what you do and even pay for advertising to target specific audiences. Do research on what avenues you want to go down and invest wisely.
Lastly, Stay focused: There will be challenging times on this road. It can sometimes be quiet or you may feel you have exhausted all avenues. Remind yourself why you love doing magic and stay true to your goals whether short or long term. The amount of times I have hit a road block which has challenged me to do something completely different has been astounding. To get something you have never had you must do something you have never done. I live by this mantra and as long as you are always moving forward that is what's important.