For all the time spent perfecting tricks and developing a persona, many magicians don’t invest the same energy in treating their craft as a business. If you want to make magic your career, then it’s time to readjust your thinking.
Marketing isn’t a bad thing to do, and it doesn’t have to be smarmy or interfere with your artistic expression. Marketing is simply a way to get you in front of an audience. Getting an audience is how you get paid.
Fortunately, the business side of magic is like any other impressive trick: once you know how it’s done, it’s not so hard.
So gather ‘round, students. Class is in session. Our first lesson is about your website and the five common mistakes it's probably making.
1. It Doesn’t Exist
If you want to get gigs, you need a website. Sure, Instagram or Facebook might be great for helping to build your fan base, but in order to do business, you’ll want to have a place that’s literally your own domain.
Websites are a must for establishing yourself as a professional. It’s standard practice for any business and magic is your business. Even if you’re only a part-time or hobby magician, if you want to get hired, you should have a website. It’s the place where you present all the information a possible client might want to know, from clips of your act to glowing testimonials to services available. It’s likely the first thing somebody will seek out when they look you up. If you don’t have a website that sells them on your skills, they’ll probably hire somebody else.
Even if the website creation is free, there are a few costs to account for. First, you’ll need to buy a domain name. Second, you’ll need a hosting service. Again, there are lots of options and many of them are low (or no) cost. Some of them are bundled into the website creation services. As you establish yourself and get more interest from clients, you may find you want to spend more on extra frills, but it is possible to keep your annual website maintenance budget around $20 if you go the bare-bones route.
There’s no excuse not to have one. Just do it.
2. It Exists, But Hasn’t Been Updated Since 1997
In terms of Internet trustworthiness, a website with comic sans font and design cues taken from Geocities might as well not exist. There’s a reason you don’t see sites that look like this anymore. The styles from the early days of the web look cheesy at best and amateurish at worst to a contemporary viewer, who'll find it challenging to take you seriously if that's how you present yourself digitally. This is true whether you’re just breaking into the field or whether you’ve been steadily landing jobs since 1997.
Again, you don’t need to be an ace hacker or graphic designer to keep your website up to date. Most platforms for managing a website have easy options for changing both the presentation and the content.
If you need inspiration for the latest looks in website design, check out a few advertising agencies’ websites. Agencies exist to make themselves and others look good, and you can learn a lot from their presentation choices. For instance, Droga5 is simple and elegant, Ogilvy is more old-school, and 72andSunny is all about the bold images.
When it comes to the content, just set aside 15 minutes every few months, or every few weeks if you’re very active, to make sure all of your website’s information is current. That’s especially important when it comes to show and tour dates. If the most recent show you have listed was back in 2016, people will likely assume you haven’t done anything since then. That’s not the kind of unintentional testimonial you want to present to the world.
3. It Doesn’t Have Photos
Humans are visual creatures. You already know that if you’re a magician; you probably exploit that knowledge frequently in your act. A compelling visual is just as important to landing gigs as it is to misdirecting your audience.
Photos set expectations for your potential clients. They can immediately give a sense of your personality and your approach to magic. Plus it’s a perfect chance to show off how delighted audiences are by your act. And once you land the gig, you’ll also need shots to share with press. Whether it’s a local newspaper, a theater, or the online home for magic and deception, the press wants to show you in action in our coverage.
Remember, your website might be the first impression you make on someone thinking of hiring you. Put your best face forward; nothing blurry or washed out by stage lights. Ideally, post photographs that are at least 600 pixels wide. Many magicians opt to have an entire section of their website dedicated to media, with both photo and video examples of their work. That is a great strategy.
The photos can come from an on stage performance or from a studio. They can come from a professional photographer or a friend with a nice smartphone camera. They can be as serious or silly as you are. But they should definitely exist.
4. It’s Missing Contact Information
Congratulations, someone wants to hire you! But your website just links to your Facebook Page and that’s the only way they can get in touch. No gig for you.
First things first: get yourself a work email address. Considering how much preliminary back and forth can be involved with landing a new client, most people will likely reach out by email. It lets them communicate on their own schedule, plus you’ll always have a written log of what you’ve discussed. Gmail is the world’s standard email provider, and it’s very simple to set up an account. Just go with your name, maybe with the word “magic” or “magician” attached, and hey presto, you have a place for all your business communication.
Or, if you want to look extra fancy, many of the companies that provide your website domain can also make you a companion email address. For instance, if your website was JaneDoeMagic.com, you could have an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. Squarespace and WordPress are two options offering that service.
Make sure you put your new contact information on your site. Put it somewhere obvious, either directly on the home page or under a tab titled “Contact.” Your website is about making it as easy as possible to hire you, so don’t bury the most important details in that process.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t include your social profiles. Quite the contrary. In addition to both your professional email address and work phone number, have links to your relevant social media accounts. If you only use Facebook to keep in touch with family members or LinkedIn is just about your day job, don’t bother to include them. But any social presence you have that focuses on magic and performance should absolutely be included.
5. It Breaks On Mobile
Are you reading this article on a smartphone? Odds are good that you are, because those tiny pocket-sized computers are where many people now spend hours of their screen time. Especially if you have a strong following on a mobile-focused platform like YouTube or Twitter, most your website visits are probably happening on a phone. If your site takes more than a minute to load, or simply doesn’t display well on that smaller screen, you won’t get many repeat visitors. That means fewer chances for clients.
Once again, leaning on a full-service website company makes this a moot point. They can take care of making sure your information looks good at any size. If you’re going the DIY route, look for language like “Mobile-friendly” or “Responsive Layout” in your website theme. And whenever you make updates to the site, double-check that everything is displaying properly on both a laptop and a mobile device.