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What to do if you have NOTHING and need to start your magic business.

The following conversation was between me and a friend on Facebook.

I've kept his name out of it, but thought it'd be good to share here - as this is the type of advice I generally give people in his situation of trying to get the ball rolling in this business of show.


10:21Facebook Friend

Hey C.J i sent you a email on Saturday with a question then i realized it was 4th of July weekend and I am an idiot


I didn't get an e-mail. I just checked my spam file too.

10:25amFacebook Friend

hmm, well my question was i just read more money more shows for the third time and I really like i learned so much .But I was wondering if you had an act but no money i am talking zero dollar what would be the first thing you would do.


I'd suggest taking inventory of what you do have.

10:27amFacebook Friend

okay no problem


Props. Contacts. Past clients (if any).

What market are you appropriate for?

Bootstrapping kids shows is much easier than trying it with high end corporate events.

Though you could do that with no props too - there are ways to create full shows with almost no props.


Day Cares, Senior Centers and similar places are always looking for entertainment. Take the cheap gigs and use the money from those to start with the necessities.

You can get business cards for FREE from a lot of different online publishers.

Put them everywhere. You never know when one will turn into a gig - besides - they're free.

Get several different cards from several different companies - use them with different designs and different markets targeted.

If you don't have money - you probably have time.

10:31amFacebook Friend



Use that time to get on the phone and call day cares. Call festivals. You can search for festivals in your state - call the sponsor and get booked there.

Sell balloon animals after the show to get more money out of each of those gigs.

Websites can be free.

You don't have to have printed materials anymore - you just need a website.

Free - websites are really going to be about 8 bucks a month.

But there's always a place to find 8 bucks a month.

Use the website as a sales tool - not an ego piece.

If you don't know how to make a site - BARTER with someone who does.

Maybe magic lessons, maybe a free show - maybe that old couch in the garage.

A motivated person can find a way to make things happen.

10:34amFacebook Friend

yes very true


Others sit around and talk about how slow things are - and those of us who work it are having the best year of our lives.

Be one of us.

10:34amFacebook Friend



Figure out what you want to do and then ask "HOW CAN I MAKE THIS HAPPEN".

When you ask HOW - your brain figures out ways to make it happen.

I've been there.

10:35amFacebook Friend

i need that sometimes ...motivation when everyone else is screaming at me get a real job !!!


This IS a real job - as long as you treat it that way.

10:36amFacebook Friend

yeah thats what i try to convey to them


If you just take shows that happen to come your way - then you need a real job. The real job is in FINDING the work.

Creating the work.

Letting people know that they need you.

There's no shame in having a real job too, if that's an end to your means.

I recommend that people do this crazy stuff for a living if they are certain that nothing else in life would give them that fulfillment that an applauding audience does.

10:38amFacebook Friend

yeah thats me


I know that was a lot of rhetorical talk - but seriously - take inventory of what you have right now - and I don't mean props. I mean the contacts, the people you went to school with that now own or manage businesses, the people your family knows, the people your kids go to school with.

Early in your career you need to be out there and working... A LOT.

Get a restaurant gig.


Ask for it.

If the first one says no.

Ask another.

If that one says no.

Ask another.

If that one says no - then keep asking others until someone says yes.

Not asking anyone won't get you a gig.

If you get out there and go to restaurants (which are a great way to create BOTH cash flow and clients) for a full day (not during lunch or dinner rush), by the end of the day you'll have a restaurant gig.

Don't go to the restaurant you really want to work first. Go to that one 4th or 5th so you can learn from the mistakes you make in the presentation from the first ones.

The clients from the restaurant turn into your clients too, as you do tricks with business cards and leave them with everyone. Plus you're getting paid to promote yourself and getting flight time as well.

10:42amFacebook Friend

that is a very good idea


When I needed work - I hit up the restaurants. I visited 15 of them and got a gig that lasted me 3 years.

15 years later, I still hear from some of the clients from that restaurant about their company meetings.

When I was broke I took a look at what was coming up on the calendar - it happened to be Easter. So I took inventory of what I had.

I needed money BADLY.

I called every Day Care in town and offered a magic show with the Easter Bunny. My wife dressed in a bunny costume (which we had) and I "assisted" her with the magic.


We booked 15 shows at $125 each (it was 15 years ago) and in a month where we weren't sure if we were going to be able to pay rent, we added almost 2K to our accounts - plus we kept booking most of those day cares with other types of shows.

Take inventory... What can YOU do today that's going to get you a gig?

There is something. Then don't play a video game, or watch a movie, or chat on Facebook - get out there and do that something that's going to make things happen for you.

End of rant.

Cut. Paste. Save.

10:49amFacebook Friend

yeah i just need to go back to basics before College i had a few restaurant gigs ...After college I got a job I hated and a fiancee that eventually broke up with me because i was miserable. I have a mentalism and hypnosis act that I have wriiten I just don't have the money to market it ...but i guess if i go back to the basics i will have the money to do what i want. I needed that kick in the ass ...thank you


I just saved this conversation. I may post it on my blog. I'd take your name out of it of course.

10:49amFacebook Friend

very cool


For Hypnosis - call fraternal groups - like Moose and Elks lodges.

Offer fund-raisers on a split of ticket sales.

And of course - I almost forgot - develop a relationship with every entertainment agency and agent that you can so that they are thinking of YOU when their phone rings. Don't be a pest - but do stay in contact.

Gotta run. Hope I was of some help.

10:51amFacebook Friend

i just was thinking backwards ...thinking that I had to have crazy color promotional materials and stuff before i booked any shows

and I guess you dont

thank you very much I am saving this too


I didn't.

Just gotta have the desire and the fire in the belly.

The crazy color promo came later. It's nice to have - but most people these days don't even look at it - they look online.

Don't tell anyone - magicians like to have a crappy online prescience.

Signing off now. Probably got better, more passionate advice from chat than from a thought out e-mail.




It's not what you know, it's who you know.

This is an old saying in life. It hints at elitism, but the more I think about this, the more it is true.

Most of the great "breaks" and great experiences I've gotten in business have come from people who I know, who I've become friends with and who I've kept in touch with.

Examples: (These are not ego strokes, they're real world examples of what I'm talking about.)

  • The client I've performed over 50 shows a year for over the past 15 years came to me because they saw a friend perform and asked if he had a big magic show (Illusion Show). He didn't, but he recommended me. I've grossed done well over a million dollars worth of work with that one client!
  • When I went on tour with Country Music Legends Brooks and Dunn, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley - they found out about me from a body paint artist who had a booth next to us at a trade show. I hadn't kept in touch, but my business partner had - the result - 39 concert dates over 4 months and an awesome summer.
  • Each June I perform at high schools throughout California - all of them booked by a good friend of mine who literally has more business than he can handle during that time.
  • My first high dollar corporate speaking gigs came from one of my best friends.
  • My first international shows came from people I knew and had ongoing friendships with.
  • My first National TV Appearance came as a result of dinner with my best friend and Teller.
  • My first Internet TV appearances (podcasts) were all the result of my friendships.

Here's the key...

Not one of those relationships that I mentioned above were in place to get business. I was a friend to each of the people involved FIRST - then business came as a result.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites are helping us keep in touch with each other easier and easier - but it's real life, personal relationships that pay off the most, and not  just in monetary ways.

The key to this NETWORKING is to honestly look out for others along the way. As a result, others will look out for you too. There's a saying that "What goes around, comes around" and I believe that to be mostly true - I even have an EXTREME personal example of this that I'll write about sometime soon.

Some tips on how to get the ball rolling in your own business:

1. Always help a potential client find what they need - even if you are not personally available for the event. They'll remember YOU the next time, and those who you refer them to will remember you as well. Also - be sure to capture that persons information so you can help them the next year - be sure to add them to your e-mail list!

2. Always pay a commission on referrals sent to you. If not in cash, then in some other meaningful way - a gift card for dinner out, a box of Omaha Steaks or a small gift. It's not required (in many cases), but I can tell you that I tend to think of the people who have "thanked" me before I think of those who haven't when I'm referring gigs.

3. To have a friend - BE a friend.

Finally, and I wish this went without saying, but if you are called in to cover an event for one of your friends clients - respect their relationship with that client in every way possible.

I have one magician that I send to cover my top client. If they ever call him directly he makes it clear that he was just filling in for me, and that before he can book anything with them, he needs to check with me. As a result - I know I can trust him and I send him 2-3 decent gigs a year.

I have a couple of hypnotists that I book regularly to cover my overflow of high school grad nights - they always refer the shows back to me - even if they get the calls directly.

This is the way that I personally treat people and I'm happy when I get the same treatment in return - your friends will appreciate it too.

I'd love to hear your comments - please leave them below.


1:00 a.m., March 22, 2010


Lessons from helping a friend

Story first - then the lessons learned.

New Years Day morning I got a call from my friend, we'll call him "Dave" (not necessarily his real name) who needs my help now! He says - "Bring any chains or winches you have".

I live in the country on 5 acres, he lives on about 25 acres. I don't have any chains or winches - I'm not that kind of a man, but I am certainly interested in what's going on and I'm always willing to help my friends - so I bring me, my son and my "moral support".

He had rented a Bobcat® (shown here for those who don't know what they are) for the week to do some clearing on his land. As he was driving it on damp ground, the wheels went across the top of a flat rock on an incline and the Bobcat® started to slide down the slant of the path towards a 12' drop off.

We'll call it a CLIFF for the sake of brevity & drama!

As the Bobcat® started to slide, he hit the power to try to get it to roll forward, but it just kept sliding towards the cliff. So he stopped the wheels altogether and it stopped sliding - the back left wheel propped precariously about 6 inches from the edge of the cliff supported from sliding further by only a small 6" round, 2" high cedar stump on the edge.

He slowly turned off the Bobcat®, eased his foot off of the controls, and jumped out. If the Bobcat® was going off the cliff and into the creek below... he wasn't going with it.

This is the part of the predicament where I come in - Bobcat® perched on the edge of a small cliff and everyone being smart enough to know that we didn't want to be in the driver's seat if it slipped further and off of the cliff.

Our first step was to put chains on the back of the Bobcat®  and attach them to a tree so that it couldn't slide any further and off the cliff. Safety first, safety last, safety always - that's my rule.

Next we hooked up the front of the Bobcat® to a 4 wheel drive 3/4 ton pick up truck about 50 feet away, and on semi solid, flat ground and tried to pull it out. This sounds easy enough, but to do this we had to turn on the Bobcat® , put it into neutral, raise the scoop, and jump off (we didn't want to be in the thing if it fell down the 12' cliff!).

We pulled with the truck and found that the ground was too wet for the truck to get enough traction to pull the 5000lb Bobcat® out of the ruts that it was in. The pick up was just sliding around on the slick ground with all 4 wheels spinning.

We stopped, took a look around and decided that in addition to pulling it with the truck, that Dave (a big, strong and very muscular guy) and me (an overweight, out of shape and not very strong guy) would push on the back of the Bobcat® while the truck pulled it. Dave's wife stood up the hill and signaled to us and the driver when to go since we couldn't see the truck from our position behind the Bobcat®. My 16 year old son, Peter, stood by with big, wedge shaped rocks to shove under the wheels anytime we gained any forward ground.

Signal. Engine revs. Wheels spin. Men push. I unknowingly shout words that would violate the TOS of my hosting company if I were to write them here. We gain 3 inches. Peter blocks the wheels. Truck is put into park. We are panting as we all gave 100% of our physical effort for that 3 inches. 100%.


Signal. Engine. Spin. Push. Scream. Blocks. Another 2 inches - we're almost out of the rut.

One more time.

Signal. Engine. Wheels grip. We push forward and keep going. I yell adult words again - this time in victory as we keep it rolling. The further we get out the of the rut, and the more speed (momentum) it picks up, the easier it is for us to keep it going. We don't stop until it's well out of harms way and in a position that Dave can get in it and drive it.

We give each other "high fives" all the way around. Throw the chains and "come along's" in the back of the pick up and drive back up from the back of Dave's property to his house with Dave and the Bobcat®  following us.

Success! Lesson learned about Bobcat's - and for me - metaphorically - about business.

Here's what I learned.

1. Don't give up the ground you've already gained. (chains) If you're exploring a new market, don't give up the markets that you are already in until the new market can support you completely. This goes for a day job too. Until you are able to completely support yourself and your family on what you make as an entertainer - keep those chains (a double metaphor in this case) on - make your living AND do your entertainment business until the time where it HAS to be one or the other.

2. Call in the Calvary. You're not alone in anything you do. You either know people who can assist you , or you can hire people to help you if you don't know the right people.

3. Use all available tools.  For business those tools are education (this website and other), your website, your coaches and mentors, your contact list, advertising, marketing, autoresponders, e-mail, newsletters, your Back of Room sales, high quality shows and more all add up to making you anentertainment beast!

4. Avoid ruts! It happens. We all get in mental and business ruts - places that we've dug ourselves into and that are hard to get out of. If an arrangement isn't working out for you or for your client, get out of it. If you find that something is holding you back, cut your ties, attack from a different angle - but do something. Continuing on the path that you're on and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity. If you want something to change, YOU are going to have to do something to cause that change.

5. Use your momentum. Once you're rolling it's much easier to keep rolling along. In the entertainment business, if you're in it long enough, and are good at what you do, then business will just seem to materialize out of nowhere. It's not really nowhere. It's the groundwork that you've laid for 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years that lays the work at your feet, but entertainment careers seem to build momentum for the truly talented people. When working colleges I tell programming boards that "there is no one more likely to attend your next event than the people who are at THIS event" and the same is true for us as entertainers. Once someone has either booked you, or raised their hand and expressed interest in booking you - you know that person is a QUALIFIED buyer of your services and it's your job to stay in touch with them.

6. Relationships. I was there to help my friend - and he'd be there to help me too.   I'll be writing an entire blog entry soon on relationships. Almost all of the big "breaks" in my career came because of someone that I knew - so I'll my talk about relationships until the next post - until then, just be sure that you build strong business relationships as well as strong personal relationships.

Epilogue - and additional lessons: Dave is a manager at a GIANT company that everyone knows and most people use every day! He used this experience during a sales meeting to stress the importance of the individual in a large company. Sometimes when you work for a company with tens of thousands of employees and products that virtually everyone uses you think "what difference can I, one person, make?"

Our project of getting the Bobcat®  off of the cliff was a big project, handled by 5 people - each of them absolutely essential to the success of our project. Without Peter there to block the wheels, the Bobcat®  would have slipped back those precious few inches that we gained. Without Dave's brute force pushing the pickup truck would have never gotten enough traction. Without Dave's wife giving the signals we wouldn't have been able to coordinate our efforts with Dan who was driving the truck. Without me there, and yelling my "encouragement" as well as pushing with all my might, the effort of pushing may have even been too much for the "man-chine" (part man, part machine) that is Dave.

We all did our part and ended up with exactly the outcome that we wanted - the Bobcat®  safely extracted from the edge of the cliff. Without any one of us the task couldn't have happened. Same goes for YOU at a large company. You are necessary. You are a part of the company's success.

I look forward to your comments below. RSS feeds are now set up to the top left of this page to make it super easy to keep up with all of my blog posts.


New Year's Resolutions?

It's early morning New Years Eve as I write this. This is the time of year that many people consider, possibly for the first time all year, the idea of setting goals. They may call them New Year's Resolutions (ie. I will lose weight, I'll stop smoking, I'll spend more time with my family, I'll increase my income in 2010), but they're heading the right direction as being goals.

Anything you want can be a goal, but not everything should be a goal! The mere act of setting a goal is as close to real MAGIC as I have ever experienced. To be clear, I am NOT saying that simply putting something out there to the collective consciousness of the world will magically make your dreams come true. I don't roll that way. Anything WORTH having is going to take some work and effort on your part. Setting goals will simply give you a game plan to make those big dreams you have a reality.

The difference between goals and dreams is that dreams can be anything. Goals, for the most part, should fit a certain pattern.

A popular way of teaching goals for the past 10 years or so is as SMART Goals. Each letter of S-M-A-R-T is the first letter of what a goal should be.

S - SPECIFIC - when writing your goals be as specific as possible. "Financially secure" is too vague. "Having 6 months of living expenses in the bank by January 31, 2011" is specific. Answer the 5 "W's" when writing a specific goal (Who, What, When, Where, Why) whenever possible.

M - Measurable - Is there a concrete way to measure you progress towards goal attainment? Measuring your progress helps you stay on track and gives you motivation as you get closer to accomplishing your goals. How much? How many? How will I know when I can cross this goal off of my list as accomplished? If you cannot answer these questions then go back to "SPECIFIC" and make the goal more specific so you can answer these questions.

A - Attainable - In order for a goal to be a goal it MUST be attainable. Otherwise it's a dream. Let's face it, not everyone can grow up to be President of the United States. In fact, only 44 people in the history of the US have been elected President, so honestly, very few can grow up to become President... but anyone (who meets the Constitutional requirements) can RUN for President. However, these days anyone (who is physically qualified) can be an astronaut if he has enough money to pay for the trip. In fact, a friend of mine recently was! So if you goal is to be an astronaut, it could be that the way to get there is to become a multi-millionaire so you can go.

R - Relevant or Realistic - You goals needs to be one that you are BOTH WILLING and ABLE to work towards. High goals are frequently EASIER to attain than smaller goals as lower goals exert less motivational power than the higher ones. Your goal is probably realistic if you TRULY believe that it can be accomplished. This is very similar to attainable, but it's very important.

T - Timely - If there's not a timetable on a goal then it's just a dream. It's one thing to say you want to lose 10 lbs. It's another thing completely to lose 10 lbs by February 28th. Setting a timeline sets your unconscious mind on a path to attainment.

So... get out the pad and paper or open a new Word document on your computer and get busy writing your goals.

For my entertainer friends, who are probably the only ones reading this blog anyway, if your goal is to make $150,000 this year, do the math and figure out how many shows you'll have to do to make that money.

# of shows performed





















86 (approx.)






67 (approx.)




















Take a look at the table above. Where do you fall in? If you are doing $125 birthday party shows (first of all raise your prices) then you'll have to do 1200 shows to make $150K. This is probably not physically possible, so this goal may not be reasonable.

If you are doing $15,000 speeches to the corporate market, and you ONLY want to make $150K then you'll only have to do one show a month, with two months off to make the same money. Though you'll probably have a higher goal that $150K, unless that's your goal for just ONE MARKET!

If you perform in several markets, then figure out what the potential is for each market and write your goals accordingly by making a map of how many shows, at what fee, you want to do in the coming year. Add those totals together for a final goal, then go about figuring out how you are going to attain those goals, in each market.

I hope you'll take an hour or two hours and map out where you're going in 2010, and I hope you'll do it this week. I know I already have.


Just added my favorite book to my inventory!

This book is the cornerstone of almost all modern financial planning.I just added "The Richest Man in Babylon" to this website. I can't hardly talk about business with anyone without referencing this book. It's not a business book, per se, it's about how to handle YOUR MONEY so that you don't have to depend on someone else and their money.

You can get it for only $1.00 (keep reading). Use the coupon code: BABYLON1BUCK (I suggest you cut and paste - credit will be applied when you check out) and get your copy for only $1.00 (plus shipping) when you order any other product off of this website.

No catches, no hitches. I just believe strongly in this book and have an extra 30 copies around. I guess, in order to have full disclosure, these books do have a sticker in the front of them that indicates they were given away at the 2008 TAOM Convention. I bought 300 copies and gave them to everyone who attended my lecture (no purchase needed then, there is one now). These are the copies that I still have left over, and they'll go fast. 

Remember this coupon does require a purchase of any other product from this website, but price does not matter. I assure you that you'll get value no matter what product you decide upon. Purchase a downloadable product and save even more on shipping!

Only 30 copies remain at this deal - so ACT NOW. The difference between successful people and those who do not succeed is that the successful consistently take action.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!