How I Left A Lucrative Job To Start A $12K/Month Magic Shows Business
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Daniel Chan and I am the founder of Dan Chan Presents, LLC. We are a unique company specializing in sophisticated magic entertainment that’s designed for savvy corporate audiences. Our shows feature world-class sleight of hand, playful pickpocketing, and thoughtful sleight of mind. I am known as The Billionaire’s Magician and have performed for many tech millionaires and Silicon Valley’s Elite.
In addition to reinvented classics, my company specializes in magic routines integrating tech such as smartphones and iPads to create unique, one-of-kind performances. My newest show, Magic of the Mind, is an unparalleled highly interactive virtual show that interweaves feats of telepathy and mind-reading. Using a combination of misdirection, theatrical trickery, and keen observation, I can reveal your innermost thoughts, the name you are considering for your unborn child, your phone or ATM passcode, and other secrets nobody else could know.
Last year the company made 160K performing live, in person, corporate shows. Due to the unprecedented situation with COVID-19, I quickly pivoted my in-person event strategy to suit the new virtual format. I am one of the first in the magic industry to fully pivot to Zoom, and was recently featured in The Hustle as well as twice in Business Insider. In a single month, I was able to take an industry that was best experienced in person, and turn it into a compelling virtual experience that people can enjoy at home. Not only have I brought magic into people’s homes, but I was able to expand my marketing reach performing internationally in Europe, Australia, Africa, and China, all from the comfort of my home office.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always had an interest in magic and with Google, YouTube, and the Internet not yet invented, I spent many hours as a youth slow motioning VCR tapes, poring over library books, and trying to decipher how all these seemingly impossible magic tricks were possible. It wasn’t until I met a magician named Gerald Joseph that my magic career truly began. After the party I asked him a few questions, Joseph revealed to me, one of the most astounding effects in magic - how to make a ring disappear and end up in his wallet, in a zippered compartment! He didn’t have to share how this effect worked, but he did and became one of my early friends in magic. Around the same time, I discovered Misdirections Magic Shop, and it’s owner Joe Pon, who, through his lecture series, introduced me to the most respected magicians in the industry.
Performing magic as a career involves more than just magic. Learning how to budget, market, finance, build a website, communicate effectively with others, and effectively run a business is a challenge of its own.
While I worked full time at Paypal pre-IPO, I started performing magic on the side. I would work on the weekends performing magic instead of watching movies or hanging out with friends, and would occasionally use my sick days to take lucrative performances. It was tough mostly working 7 days a week, during the day working my desk job, my evenings dedicated to honing my craft, and my weekends filled with performances. The real “aha!” a moment came several months later when I worked out the math and realized that I could quit my desk job and take on magic full time. This change was a huge risk as I knew I would be giving up a steady paycheck with many benefits. Still, I was confident I could fully transition to a business based on referrals, repeat customers, and, most importantly, rave reviews.
At the time, my goal was to have a gross six figures, 100K per year, performing magic. I calculated that if I could perform eight shows a week at $250 per show. This would amount to 2K a week and over 100K per year. It took quite a while to reach that 100K goal. After doing well over 5000 shows, my magic has become more refined and more sophisticated. As I matured, my strategy slowly evolved. I realized that to command top corporate dollars; clients couldn’t see me as a kid’s entertainer. It wasn’t until I decided to completely let go of the comfort and security of doing kids’ events that led to my corporate entertaining career taking off.
Today, our family now covers both markets with my 12-year-old son in charge of all the kid’s events. He can now garner up to $750 per show as he can confidently perform magic that will fool both kids and adults, juggle five balls, three flaming torches, and even picks pockets.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Unlike other professions, a career in magic is highly dependent on the style of magic you want to perform, the audience you’re targeting, and the effects you want to master. I initially started as a kid’s magician as it had the lowest barriers to entry, and the audience is very forgiving. I could efficiently run a large number of shows at a low cost performing simple magic effects. I started experimenting with stage magic, close up magic, mentalism, and pickpocketing. I also supplemented my shows with juggling, balloon twisting, and acrobatics I was labeled as “an intense three-ring circus rolled into one man”. From years of shows, I learned how to perform confidently in front of an audience, audience management, dealing with hecklers and unexpected occurrences on stage, and accepting failures as moments of invaluable learning.
As I continued my career, I realized that while I enjoyed “doing it all” that I got the most satisfaction from fooling the tough tech audiences. I analyzed what effects worked best to fool intellectual audiences. I continuously study what competitors are doing and developed unique routines that everyone else was not performing. I ultimately ended up focusing my career on targeting a very specific demographic: Silicon Valley’s Tech Elite. I could not have gotten to this point without having the experience I learned from all of those years of grinding out all of those kid’s shows. When it comes to magic, working stage experience is the most valuable asset you can get.
In addition to the performance aspect of my career, I spent many hours learning HTML, photo editing, and marketing to build my website. I took time learning copy editing, cold calling clients, and advertising my magic show. Everything, ranging from magic lectures, magic props, photographs, and Yellow Pages advertising was self-financed through my work at PayPal. I lived a minimalist lifestyle, even moving home in my mom’s basement to keep my rent costs low. Because I was handling so many aspects of my business myself, my initial costs were relatively small. However, it was a trade-off as I sacrificed all of my free time as I was still working full time while pursuing a magic career.
During this time, the biggest lesson I learned was to “let go”, hire people who had expertise that I lacked and be willing to outsource work. While I could do everything, including website designing, photo editing, and copywriting, I really couldn’t do it as well as those professionals. Eventually, being willing to outsource specific tasks helped me become more focused on magic. While it may have cost me financially, the long term benefits were worth it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the entertainment industry to find new and innovative ways to keep events going. Instead of canceling or postponing events, I began experimenting with performing magic in the virtual medium.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In the entertainment field, attracting new customers is something you have to focus on consistently. Asides from magicians, there are always other entertainment options available. I’ve learned you have to “position yourself as the only logical choice”. Things have significantly changed since my launch when having a website, cold calling, and occasionally putting an ad in the yellow pages was sufficient enough to get inquiries. In the beginning, I relied on many advertising channels, including Google AdWords, targeted Facebook Advertisements, web mailings, and social media posts. As I’m mainly performing in virtual environments, what works best now is getting featured in major national media outlets.
To get featured in media outlets, I’ve been pitching various news sites with my story on how I’ve been transitioning the magic entertainment field entirely to Zoom. Through these pitches, I’ve was featured on several business podcasts, national news broadcasts including prominent publications such as The Hustle, which went out to over 2 million inboxes, as well as Business Insider twice. These three articles had a massive impact on people wanting to learn more about and subsequently booking the show. As for retaining customers, because many now follow me on their Instagram and Facebook via the magic effects I show them, many past customers now follow my journey. Often these posts also remind them of the great performances they saw.
Being on top of search engines, especially Google, is crucial when it comes to advertising. Asides from paying for advertising, having a full SEO optimized website has been great for booking new shows. Almost all of my advertising leads back to my website, and peppered throughout my site are videos of performances for people to view. The more high-quality content of performance situations similar to their event, the more likely they are to book.
Photos, videos, and testimonials play a large part in closing a future booking. With this current crisis, almost everyone is now familiar with Zoom. This has allowed me to offer no-obligation demos easily. In this new virtual based performance medium, Zoom demos are currently the best way to close a potential booking. Through my website, email, and media blasts, I keep in contact with past clients. During the show, I also demonstrate several effects performed on social media on the guests’ smartphones. Individuals who participate in the show not only see a powerful effect but, at the same time, follow me on Instagram during the show!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Due to the unprecedented situation with COVID-19, I quickly pivoted my in-person event strategy to suit the new virtual format. I am one of the first in the magic industry to pivot to Zoom fully. In a single month, I was able to take an industry that was best experienced in person, and turn it into a compelling virtual experience that people can enjoy at home. Not only have I brought magic into people’s homes, but I was able to expand my marketing reach performing internationally in Europe, Australia, Africa, and China, all from the comfort of my home office.
While I’m making slightly less this time of year compared to last, I found that I’m making more per hour as my costs associated with setup and travel have greatly diminished. Time is utilized much more efficiently now as my “stage” is permanently set up, thus lessening set up time, and I don’t spend hours having to drive to my events.
I believe there will be a viable market for online performance as individuals and companies have experienced firsthand how effective zoom meetings can be.
Even after the pandemic is over, I plan on utilizing Zoom for visual online demos as opposed to trying to describe my act over the phone. I will hopefully continue performing online for audiences worldwide. As restrictions begin to ease, I’m hoping to launch a permanent physical venue for magic shows, similar to The Magic Castle, in the Bay Area.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Some of the most important lessons I learned along the way are always delivering more than what’s expected, connecting authentically with my clients as friends, and being adaptable to change. In the highly competitive market such as entertainment, it’s very easy to become complacent and not bring new and innovative material to clients as the old “tried and true” routines work. I found it’s important to always try to improve routines and deliver new and exciting material to my clients and deliver more value than what they’ve asked for.
Additionally, it’s essential to get to know and treat my clients as friends. My connections with my clients have gotten them to call me their friend authentically, and psychologically I’ve discovered it’s a compelling statement. Being regarded as a friend to specific clients has not only allowed me to network with potential new high-net-worth clients as a trusted source of quality entertainment but as an individual whom they want to see succeed as they have themselves.
Finally, being able to adapt to stressful situations is an absolute must. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the entertainment industry to find new and innovative ways to keep events going. Instead of canceling or postponing events, I began experimenting with performing magic in the virtual medium. It was a humbling experience starting by performing magic shows for kids and families for free again. Still, it allowed me to test out new material with forgiving audiences. From there, I was able to give free demos to previous trusted clients, thus securing virtual events bookings, and as usual, I delivered more than what they asked for.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For website hosting, I highly recommend GoDaddy as the hosting is consistent and there is minimal downtime. With my previous hosting site, I had many issues with my website getting stalled with maintenance issues on their side. GoDaddy offers reliable performance for both uptime and speed.
For credit card processing online, I highly recommend Square Processing. Square offers hassle-free credit card processing through my phone via an app, can be used for online payments, and is very initiative to use. I’ve used Square for several years now, and they offer a fast and easy way to process all my client’s credit card payments.
For online advertising, Google AdWords and Instream YouTube Ads have proven to be very useful in reaching my target audiences. Viewers can choose to skip the video ad after 5 seconds. If they decide not to skip the video ad. In that case, the YouTube video view count will be incremented when the viewer watches 30 seconds of the video ad (or the duration if it’s shorter than 30 seconds) or engages with your video, whichever comes first. Video interactions include clicks to visit your website, call-to-action overlays (CTAs), cards, and companion banners. If view counts on YouTube are a concern, it’s good to make videos at least 12 seconds long. YouTube analytics doesn’t track views for less than 10 seconds.
Finally, when it comes to virtual online meetings, Zoom has proven to be the most effective of the many platforms available. Many elements I need control over, such as spotlighting, selective muting, and screen and sound sharing, are easily controlled via Zoom compared to other platforms. There are only a few things I would like to change about Zoom, such as the inclusion of dual side-by-side screen spotlighting, but for the most part, it’s a very effective tool for virtual shows.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One of the most influential book series I’ve read was by Tim Ferris’s, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. His books, including The 4-Hour Workweek, Tools of Titans, Tribe of Mentor are peppered with valuable information and inspirational messages encouraging you to stop fearing change, but to embrace it instead. One of the biggest takeaways I got from his books was the art of the DEAL:
- Define what you want - motivation requires motive.
- Eliminate all but the non-critical to create time and space.
- Automate whatever is left.
- Liberate yourself physically and mentally.
I also enjoy reading business and tech news from The Hustle and business coaching from Join Up Dots Podcast. I find it inspiring to learn more about business from people who have been there, done that, and is now on a mission to show others how to achieve their goals.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The best advice I can give to anyone interested in furthering their magic career is to watch more live shows, perform with live spectators, the session with people who are passionate about magic, and, most importantly, find a mentor. One can only learn so much from watching videos, as many videos only showcase performances where things haven’t gone wrong. Seeing live performances allow you to see a full show with all of the unexpected and unscripted happening. Performing for live spectators allows you to perform and make mistakes. These performances also allow you to get useful feedback on what the spectator saw to improve your effects.
Sessions with other people as passionate as you are about magic will enable you to learn new effects, formulate patterns, and build a network that will allow you to perform larger effects. Finally, getting a mentor will help hone all of your skills. I also highly encourage aspiring magicians to stay in school and learn as much as they can. Performing magic as a career involves more than just magic. Learning how to budget, market, finance, build a website, communicate effectively with others, and effectively run a business is a challenge of its own.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m currently looking for an intern software developer to help create virtual postcards. I’m hoping to develop customized e-cards that will include embedded 15-60 second personalized magic videos. The content would be a templated video that would consist of a customized intro before “stock” video. I’m hoping that the video would be created seamlessly without video editing so that videos could be created, personalized, and sent without requiring heavy editing per emailed card. This would be a paid, contracted position, with possibilities of working on other digital magic projects.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Dan Chan Billionaire’s Magician - LinkedIn
- Instagram @danchanmagic
- Bay Area
- Airbnb Experiences
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Dan Chan Presents: Virtual Magic Shows has provided an update on their business!
7 months ago, we followed up with Dan Chan Presents: Virtual Magic Shows to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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