Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
That’s what they say, but that old phrase always tends to leave out the dollar signs and decimal points.
You’re not going to do this for free, even if it’s your childhood dream—you deserve to make money for all the time you’ve poured into learning this difficult skill. Now you just have to learn how much to charge.
We’ve analyzed just about magician salary we could find.
It’s difficult to say for certain, because many magicians might operate as sole proprietors or LLCs that don’t report their income, but based off of what we could find, here’s what you need to know before you start charging for your services.
How Much on Average do Magicians Earn?
Here’s where we get into the nitty gritty. It’s what everyone wants to know.
Novice magicians who have a roster of predictable tricks, or don’t have a long list of available tricks, might find themselves on the bottom end of this list.
You could end up at the federal minimum wage, which as of writing this article, is $7.25 an hour. That’s not great, but it’s also not the end of the world, because everybody has to start somewhere.
The bottom 90% of magicians make somewhere between $21,000 per year and $45,000 per year, on average.
Since you’re here reading this, I take it that you don’t want to be on the bottom 90%. It’s not a bad place to be, but it’s also not where you see yourself being happy, and that’s okay.
The top 10% of magicians make around $49,000 per year and up. For a lot of us, that’s pretty good – it average out to be $24.50 per hour, for a 40-hour workweek, accounting for two days of vacationing every year.
Now it’s time to talk about the tip of the magician salary pyramid. Previously, I stated that the top-earning magicians make $49K per year and up, and the upside is pretty great.
In cities like Boston, and most of the state of New Jersey, magicians can make about $34.00 per hour, or $68,000 per year.
There are people graduating college with a four-year degree that hit the entry-level job track at maybe $50,000 annually, so you’re not looking too shabby here.
But now it’s time to talk about the elite level of magician earnings.
You might be surprised to find out that Illinois is actually the highest-paying state for magicians (it’s impossible to tell exactly what Vegas shows pay out when you hit the big league, it’s a negotiation at that point).
You can average $44.50 per hour, which equates to $89,000 per year. Again, that’s fifty weeks with two for vacations, working a 40-hour workweek.
Who says you have to stop there? With any of these brackets, you’re going to get out of it what you put into it.
There are personal business expenses to consider if you’re going to go the solo route, but if you can get employed in the trifecta of Illinois cities—which are Chicago, Naperville, and Joliet—then you’ll be able to live comfortably without having to work more than a standard week.
Factors That Affect Your Earnings as a Magician
Personal Business Expenses
If you’re attending private parties, birthday parties, and one-off gigs, then you’re basically a sole proprietor.
This means that there’s no compensation; you put the wear-and-tear on your car to get from A to B, you pay for gas, props, clothing, and branding assets like business cards.
Thankfully, mileage and business expenses can be write-offs on your taxes, so you won’t have to pay as much each year.
Like we talked about above, the place that you decide to perform magic is going to take a huge toll (or give you a huge benefit) depending on your location.
That’s for standard wages, but even if you opt for street performing or private gigs only, the area could still impact those finances.
Performing street magic in a traditionally wealthy area is going to yield better tips than a less wealthy neighborhood.
Businesses have risen and fallen thanks to Yelp (which isn’t a good thing).
Online reviews hold a lot of merits when it comes to individual performers and entertainers, so it’s best to not only try your hardest even at low-paying or crummy gigs, but to leave a card and ask all clients to leave a review online if they enjoyed the experience.
I can really help your local credibility.
Las Vegas Shows
This is the big league, but we all have to dream, right?
Las Vegas shows aren’t just Criss Angel and David Copperfield.
There are plenty of up-and-coming venues in this land development-grab of a city, giving you plenty of options to apply to and audition at.
This doesn’t mean you’re going to be guaranteed a permanent spot like some of the greats, but it’s the most magic-friendly city in the world.
People literally fly here and spend thousands of dollars just to see awesome magic shows.
This gives you an unlimited roster of people to impress, or a high number of people to at least test out your act on.
Nobody is going to just write down what they want their act to be, and then execute it perfectly: you need hands-on practice with real spectators and guests.
Street magicians can also make some really good money, especially in places like Santa Monica, Las Vegas, and other big cities like Boston and Chicago (which usually have lenient, simple street performance permits).
It’s the best way to make some small money while also gaining experience.
One other street magic gig you might be able to get is at sidewalk festivals and carnivals that come to town for a few days or a week at a time.
These are certainly sparse and very niche, but if you’re a reputable local magician in the city they’re visiting, then you could have a shot. These tend to pay more than tips from normal street performances.
Private Party Magicians
Whether it’s a cocktail hour or a corporate event, a magician is a more friendly adult-oriented option than a clown.
You can get your foot in the door through private parties, which more often than not lead to word of mouth referrals.
Private party gigs give you a small space to work with, so you have to set up your stage (or just your workable area) and align the crowd in a way that they can’t see the back-end of your tricks, especially if you’re doing ones like the floating card trick or bending spoons.
How to Charge More as a Magician
Establish a presence. It doesn’t have to be massive, but it does have to be cohesive.
If you can establish an online presence, you have the potential for growth.
The more well-known you are and the more talented you are (number of tricks you can pull off successfully), the more you can charge.
The key to being able to charge whatever you want isn’t just about knowing what you’re worth, but about knowing that you don’t need the money.
Having a primary source of income through a structured job ensures that you won’t have to take gigs you don’t want just because you have to make rent. If an offer is too low, reject it.
Half the time, it’s just people trying to negotiate, and if they really want you as entertainment, they’ll be willing to pay the extra bit of money, and they’ll come back to you at your standard rate.
What Types of Magician Gigs are Out There?
In short, you have birthday parties, cocktail hours, carnivals, private parties, street performances where tip collecting is allowed, and small venues.
Eventually, if all goes well, you can work your way up to Vegas shows and make some really good money.
There are other opportunities as well that may come up, but you aren’t going to see those just advertised all willy nilly.
If you establish yourself online and gather a small following, you may be requested to attend unique parties, get-togethers, even perform at airports to welcome people home (it’s happened before).
There are well-known magic gigs, and then there are the unexpected.
Getting Your Foot in the Door
Now that you know the bottom line that you could have, it’s time to start getting serious about your pricing.
If you’re a magician because you’ve always wanted to be one, and you finally put the time and effort into becoming one, good on you.
Now don’t let it go to waste. Don’t let someone pay you less than what you’re worth (once you know what you’re worth, that is).
Stick to your guns, make sure that you’re able to get by without the money you make from being a magician, and let it steadily become your primary occupation over time.