Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?
My name is Rory, and I’ve spent nearly a decade writing magic tricks for TV shows worldwide. The new company I launched this year is Book A Magician. It’s an online directory of professional magicians, which will someday become a full-feature booking platform.
The core goal of the site is to make it easier to find and hire professional magicians to perform at weddings, birthday and Christmas parties, and any other private events. The key differentiator is that our platform is built specifically for magicians and with a high-quality threshold. We only book great gigs for great performers.
Our customers are professional magicians making $26k+ annually performing at corporate events and private parties. These magicians would usually get most of their gigs via referrals.
Still, having looked at the Google search data, I believe this could be because there is currently no easy way to find and hire a magician online.
The platform launched three months ago. We currently feature 103 magicians on the platform in countries worldwide. There’s an annual fee of $299; we take zero commission on gigs.
What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?
My background is in TV writing for comedy, and entertainment shows like Magic For Humans on Netflix. Over the years, I’ve worked with more and more magicians. During the pandemic, few television projects were in production, so I began writing a newsletter for magicians called One Ahead on Substack.
The project eventually grew big enough to spin off as its independent paid publication at oneahead.com with over 15,000 monthly readers.
Since writing the newsletter, I’ve kept an open mind for good upsells like trick tutorials, online seminars, and unique magic props. The focus is always to find complementary Saas product ideas for professional magicians or enthusiastic hobbyists, which customers pay for as a subscription
I was at a convention earlier this year in January when a few website designer friends were making jokes about the poor quality of magician websites. They were right; most magicians have terrible websites. I’d even watched TV talent bookers get frustrated trying to hire magicians for big TV shows in the past – they would complain that most of these magicians didn’t even list their location on their websites. From an SEO perspective, most of their sites were large and slow to load, without good accessibility, and lacking in UX that inspires conversions.
I decided to take a leap, and at 2 AM at the convention, I spent $1,500 on the domain name bookamagician.com. There were better domains based on the most-searched terms, but this domain was keyword strong and, more importantly, inspired a call to action. Nonetheless, I’d bought it, and now I had no choice but to build it without any more money and fast to make my money back.
The lesson is that people will not value your product if you don’t. While getting anyone to sign up for free was challenging, getting people to pay to join the site was surprisingly easy.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
I started with a cheap Webflow template for real estate websites. It would have transferable features like categorizing CMS items and searching and presenting them on their dedicated pages. It was a good decision, but I wish I spent longer looking for better templates. The version of the site I ended up with has changed a lot.
The product, as it stands, is the very definition of an MVP. There’s no fancy back end or even an account page. When a magician joins, they get taken to an Airtable form which they use to upload their profile. I then go in manually and copy everything over to Webflow. I do this mainly to optimize everything for SEO; I add alt text to images, compress them, and fix the primary copy on profiles where necessary.
The site is a reasonably simple sitemap with profiles, backlinks, and contact buttons. You can organize the magicians by location, performance style, and event types. When there are more magicians on the platform, I’ll shift focus to filters and search tools, but currently, most people search by location only.
The template costs maybe $50, and then all I pay for is Webflow each month, so it’s a very affordable business to run. Currently, I’m dedicating about one day a week, with the primary goal of getting the entire site to a great spot regarding basic features and SEO. It’s taken longer than expected, but it’ll get there.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch of this business is a fascinating story. Well, there’s an interesting takeaway from it. I shared the site at the bottom of my newsletter for four months while it climbed the search rankings. It was free to join during this time, and a handful of people did so. A handful is a meagre number considering the number of readers I have on my newsletter.
But I kept building and tweaking the site, knowing I’d need to make back at least the money I’d invested in the domain. And then, I soft-launched and offered a lifetime fee of $99 for early adopters. To my surprise, 50 people joined the site and paid. The lesson is that people will not value your product if you don’t – or perhaps they’ll value it as much as you do. While getting anyone to sign up for free was challenging, getting people to pay to join the site was surprisingly easy.
There’s no product page or landing page, tap any join button, and you’ll get sent directly to a Stripe checkout page. This was done in the spirit of MVP, but this, plus the high annual rate (you can’t pay monthly), has proven to be a barrier to entry for low-quality profiles. The only profiles on the site belong to magicians who view a $299 annual fee as worthwhile and affordable for their business. This is also why the business model is based on a yearly fee and not booking commissions.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
This is the hardest part of running a business like this. This year will be a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario. The best way to convert subscribers will be to get them gigs. If the average magician on the platform receives five gigs per year, then the $299 annual fee is a no-brainer. But I cannot say this because the website went live a few months back and is still climbing the Google search results.
At this stage, I’d say that the best selling point is to stress the backlink's value. Backlinks are links from one website to another. These links signal to Google that the site you're linking to gets your stamp of approval and can be trusted. Backlinks are hugely valuable and worth pursuing if you want your business to get more organic search views. You should target high-value trusted domains.
The only reason I’m spending my evening writing this case study for Starter Story is that I’ll get a powerful backlink from their domain to mine, like this (magicians near me). Of course, backlinks tend to be more subtle, like the ones earlier in this case study.
Magicians can get a special verified badge on their profile if they backlink from their site to it. This has been a fun way to organically grow the number of backlinks. I also heavily rely on backlinking between my other projects.
The best way to grow your backlink profile is to write content for other people; you save them a lot of time, so it’s a win-win. I wrote this entire blog post, and it provides value to Starter Story; they’re able to say they’ve got one more case study on their site, and I get a great backlink.
Anyway! The main reason for magicians to join Book A Magician at this early stage is a backlink on their profile pointing towards their website. This means that simply by joining the platform, they’ll get a backlink, and their website’s search rankings should be boosted. This proved a great selling point, with many magicians saying over email it was the only reason they joined.
Early discounts and grandfathered subscription fees are the only other two main drivers of conversions. Now comes the hard work because if the site is not successful at getting people bookings, it’s unlikely most of them will retain it next year. Wish me luck.
Dream big and focus on things that scale. I only invest my time in business projects that look the same in my workload if the business generates $1,000 or $1,000,000.
How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?
Today, the site is number one for the term “book a magician” on many searches in the USA. This is primarily due to that expensive domain name. But the site's ranking and visitor counts are growing significantly, and we’ve overtaken some legacy sites. The key focus is enhancing the rankings of the country and city-specific pages on the website to capture searches for terms like “magician London.”
Regarding profit margins, Webflow costs $350 annually, and domain hosting costs about $17 annually. Everything after that (minus Stripe processing fees) is profit. I intend to run the business as a solopreneur. I’ve seen it done with sites like Nomadlist and flightconnections.com (I met the founder of flight connections at a coliving spot, and he’s excellent – I live a digital nomad remotely).
I know it will take time to build myself, and I appreciate that I’ll likely need to hire a consultant to fine-tune the SEO and website design. But I’m confident I can do it all for the next twelve months. I’m lucky to have the newsletter, which can act as a funnel when I send out updates on the Book A Magician project every few months with a new special sign-up deal.
The long-term dream is that magicians can connect their calendars, and the platform will negotiate, finalize and book their gigs on auto-pilot for them. Perhaps at this stage, I can white label the booking process for a price so magicians can use it on their website too. But alas, first, I must build the thing.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The idea for this business was exciting because of how few tools were necessary.
I also use the free version of Ahrefs to ensure that my website is set up correctly with alt text and working links.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There’s a blog called Newsletter Operator which was super helpful in growing and optimizing my main newsletter for magicians. In terms of SEO, I’ve learned a lot from fee resources on websites like Ahrefs. If you need SEO advice, Google it because whoever comes out on top is doing something right.
I also really enjoyed the interviews I caught with Peter Askew. He specializes in buying domain names and building businesses around them. Some have failed, which he’s open about, and others have found tremendous success. I appreciate his mindset regarding work/life balance and experience in this arena.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to start or are just starting?
Get started. Believe in yourself and make small bets you can afford. You’ll learn something every time and build on your skillset. Even if you just build a website for a friend or create a product on Gumroad – get on with it and get going.
Trust your instincts and remember that getting someone to pay for it before it's built is a good start. I don’t know if Book A Magician will succeed yet, but I’ve structured it so that I will be okay if it fails. The running cost is $30 per month plus time, and in theory, I could have 1,000 magicians generating $300,000 a year in revenue for the platform – that’s quite a good return on that $30.
Dream big and focus on things that scale and include subscription payments. I only invest my time in business projects that look the same in my workload if the business generates $1,000 or $1,000,000. Good luck.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Not at the moment, but feel free to cold email us if you see any low-hanging fruit to improve the business overnight.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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