Magicians have been with us for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Historians date the first usage of the word as early as the 14th century, and trace its etymological origins to the magus, a type of ancient Persian priest, and cognate maghdim, a Chaldean term for “wisdom and philosophy.” Fast-forward a handful of centuries later, and the word’s basic connotations still apply, at least to modern-day magician John Rizen, a Canadian-born magic master and mogul currently based in Vancouver, BC. For the past six years, Rizen had managed to carve out a career path doing what he loves, through hard work, self-defined hustle, and of course — and please forgive the mandatory pun — a little magic.
(Photo Credit: Antony Mayfield/Flickr)
Name: John Rizen
Length of Employment: 6 years
Hometown/Current Location: Vancouver, BC
PayScale: What do you do, and what makes it your dream job?
Rizen: I’m a freelance magician. I’ve always loved magic, ever since I first watched a David Blaine street magic video. In my early days, I would perform for random people on the street, even though I was terrible – and still made mistakes, ha ha. I just enjoyed the few times that a trick worked perfectly, and the reactions I would get from the audience. On the side, I teach magic and build websites as well. My biggest magic website is www.rebelmagic.com. I like sharing popular tricks and sharing my opinion of them.
PayScale: How did you end up here? What interesting or unexpected jobs or experiences have you had along the way?
Rizen: I’m a really introverted type of person, so I’m still surprised at myself that I chose magic as a profession. Magicians have to be able to perform and communicate with humans clearly in order to magnify the effects of their tricks. A lot of people have the misconception that to be a magician, you have to be an extrovert and love talking to people. I hate being the center of attention, but I absolutely love it ONLY when I’m performing a trick. I love sharing my craft, and I love seeing the expressions on people’s faces at the end of a trick. If you love magic, you’ll realize that it’s not about being funny or trying too hard to put on a good show. If you truly love what you do, it’ll naturally show in your act.
PayScale: What’s an average day on the job look like for you?
Rizen: I don’t perform much. There are other freelance magicians I know who try to book gigs every single day of the week. They need to because they charge so little. I decided early on that that’s not the path I wanted to go down. I do one to two gigs a week, and charge enough where that’s enough. I encourage all magicians to go down this route.
Of course, I do other work as well. On an average day, I’m constantly practicing and improving my arsenal of tricks. And I also blog, and participate in a lot of communities, especially locally. This is absolutely crucial. You need to network with people, and position yourself as a top-class magician. That’s how I get the majority of my gigs.
PayScale: Describe your workspace.
Rizen: I work from home. I have a separate room where I keep all my equipment and normally like to practice.
PayScale: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Rizen: For one, I love being able to freelance and just work from home. I’ve tried the normal 9-5 jobs and found they weren’t for me. I have no interest in climbing a corporate ladder. The other part is, obviously, that I’m able to do what I love and get paid for it! There’s nothing better than that. I love magic, and to be able to make a living from it is awesome.
PayScale: Did you go to college? If so, how did school prepare or not prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Rizen: I went to college for two years. There are magic schools, but to make it at a professional level, you really need to do the work yourself. Magicians are like musicians or artists. It’s up to you to make a name for yourself in the business. You just need the talent, and dedication to practice. And of course, you need the hustle! You need to network and get your name out there in order to start landing your first gigs.
PayScale: What’s the earning potential for a magician?
Rizen: As a freelance magician, you can make anywhere between $1,000-$20,000 per month. Nothing’s really set in stone and it all depends on how you position yourself, and how well you can network. Like any profession, your rates will increase as you gain more experience. At first, it’s all about improving your craft, making connections, and building up that network.
PayScale: Is there any advice you’d give someone who wanted to follow the same path as you?
Rizen: Magic is not a dead-end job. If you are able to practice enough to get your skills to a high-class level, then it’s easy to make a full-time income. The best part is, there are a lot of mediums you can use to grow. It doesn’t need to stop at freelancing. I recommend is squeezing as much as you can out of your talents. For instance, I run Rebel Magic and a few other magic websites. They’re fun to make since I just write about magic. They also make money for me and lead to the occasional high-paying gig. Other things you can do are create YouTube videos or share your tricks on platforms like Facebook. The opportunities are endless. There are a lot of freelance magicians who started a YouTube channel as a side-project and it became their main business. Magic is a pretty popular topic.
PayScale: What is next on the horizon for you?
Rizen: I’m currently working on creating my own training videos, which I will also use as another revenue stream to add to my business. This is the advantage that we have today. Technology is better than ever and everyone is on the web. You’re able to do a lot more with your craft than others in the past ever dreamed. We need to take advantage of that, and use it to its full potential.
Check out http://rebelmagic.com to learn more about John Rizen and his world of magic.
Photo, courtesy of John Rizen.
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