A Year of Stories: “Faking Confidence”
“Dad, I want to quit McDonald’s. This summer I’m going to work as a magician instead.”
I was 17 and taking the first steps towards this wonderful and crazy life that I am so blessed to lead.
For many who want to pursue magic as a full or part-time job, and assuming you already have the skills as a magician, the first and most important question is: where do I find paying gigs?
The most common answer is that you find a local restaurant that is willing to pay you for a weekly tableside magic gig. The benefits of restaurant magic are immense, particularly to someone just getting started in the field.
First, you actually get paid. Not much, but hey – any time you can get paid to do card tricks is a win.
Second, you get a chance to meet lots of people from around town and hand out your business card. These people might be in charge of organizing private house parties, company events, or know someone who is. The restaurant essentially pays you to advertise for yourself.
Learn Everything You Can
So I hit the Internet hard to find out how to pitch a restaurant. In my teenage years the Internet did not yet resemble the sleek system we know it as today. It existed, for sure, but so did the phrase: “Get off the Internet I need to make a phone call!”
Searching around a popular forum for magicians I found plenty of advice on how to get a meeting with the owner or GM of a restaurant, and how to sell them if/when you do.
I started calling local establishments, and very quickly found myself heading into our local Applebees to have a chat with a manager. I didn’t know that national corporate chain restaurants are notoriously difficult to get into. If I did I might never have called them, and none of this would have happened.
Youth and inexperience sometimes create results, in the same way that an amateur card player can win a few hands against a professional simply by being completely unpredictable, i.e. not knowing at all what he’s doing.
Implement What You Learned
I put on the most professional clothes I could find in my closet: khaki pants and a short-sleeve golf polo. I looked ridiculous, neither like a magician nor myself.
The manager greeted me with a big smile and a handshake. In retrospect he must have been smiling at the gall of what was clearly a child who conned his way into this meeting.
I gave him my business card (designed at home on Microsoft Word and printed by VistaPrint – hey, they’re still around!) and proceeded to explain how I work in restaurants. I talked as if I had done it bunches of times with great success.
Basically I just parroted the words of veteran magicians I had read on the Internet forum. I talked about how I approach tables after the order has been taken but before the meal arrives. I went on about how I enhance the ambience of the restaurant, and how having a magician would help set him apart from other establishments.
He asked to see a trick and, against all the advice of the magicians online, I pulled out my cards and showed him something simple.
It must have at least impressed him that I had talent, and so he agreed to try me out on Monday nights: “Magic Mondays”. We agreed to a price that was, even in retrospect, very reasonable for somebody just starting out, and I walked out with purpose.
When I got back in the car I completely freaked out. I was so proud of myself and couldn’t wait to tell my Dad that I was going to be a professional magician. Sure, I’d done a couple of parties here and there for a few bucks, but this was a proper gig.
What I learned from that experience has guided much of my professional life, and in truth my personal life as well.
Lesson: Take the leap and try it. Whatever it is that excites you but you’re afraid to try, go for it!
Don’t leap blindly, of course. I did my research before pitching the restaurant. But no matter how much you prepare for a situation you’ve never been in, you can never be fully ready.
If you try to wait until you’re 100% prepared for a new situation, you’ll spend your whole life waiting.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Leap, and the net will appear.
Lacking confidence? That’s okay. Sometimes you have to fake it to gain it.
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Connect with Brian!
- A Year of Stories: “Faking Confidence” July 24, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Professional Courtesy” July 17, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Be Patient” July 10, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Just Ask” a.k.a. How I Got Sponsored July 3, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Meeting Kristen Schaal” June 26, 2016