Mail bag question: What’s the best way to book more shows?

This week I’ve got a question from the mailbag. Billy asks…

I’m trying to get more shows but nothing seems to be working. What’s the best way to go about booking more shows?

My reply:

I imagine that whenever I get this question it’s because they’re looking at their calendar and thinking “I wish I had more shows, this month is kinda slow.” But whenever I hear that I always imagine the same quote:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

What does that have to do with booking shows? Well, the best time to book a show is 6 months ago. The second best time to book shows is today.

That isn’t the full answer though. There isn’t really a technique that I know of for getting more bookings today. It’s all about planting the seeds so that the bookings come in tomorrow.

How to get more bookings tomorrow

  1. I believe that the easiest and most effective way to get bookings is to perform as often as possible. When people see you at an event, they’ll imagine events for which they could book you. They’ll have that “Ah-ha!” moment when they imagine you performing at their kid’s birthday party, their upcoming fundraiser, or corporate event. These people are great to sell your services to because they’ve seen what your persona and your magic is like.
  2. Perform magic in your day-to-day life. Perform magic for your waitress, or the store clerk. At the end of your performance hand out a business card.
  3. Considering donating your services to charity events if you’re just getting started. I wrote about that in an article titled Why You Should Work For Free, but really it should be called When You Should Work For Free.
  4. Attend business networking events. I wrote an entire article on it previously. Make sure you follow up with the contacts you make.
  5. Attend showcases and conferences. I haven’t done much of this but others have used it to great success. In certain markets this is the major way of getting bookings.
  6. If you have zero bookings, no business, and nobody knows who you are; work for tips in a restaurant. There’s a lot of differing opinion on what you ‘should’ do regarding tips or getting paid. I say, do whatever you think is fair. I worked tables when I was younger for tips and a free meal and I got tons of paid work out of it. I hope you have a birthday party show ready – because you’ll get asked to perform at a lot of birthdays.
  7. Another way to get more clients is to mine your customer database. Follow-up with previous clients. Look back in your calendar and find out who you performed for around this time of year in previous years. You can go back several years and send out a quick email or make a phone call to see if they are organizing their event again this year.
  8. Send out a newsletter letting people know that you have dates available. This information keeps you “top of mind”. This is a great approach because these people know what your services are like. And more importantly you know that they are ready, willing, and able to spend the money to hire you.
  9. Have a better show. Improve your act by performing as often as possible. Hire a director or script writer to help you. Work with a video camera and make changes to your show.
  10. This is a long term strategy, but one way of keeping your calendar full is by working annual markets. This could include summer festivals, school shows, or theater tours. With these types of bookings it’s people that are going to hire you year after year. It takes a long time to develop, but if you can “get into” these markets you can develop a lasting career. Create a marketing calender and stick to it.
  11. Are you offering a show that people want or need? Try offering other types of show options such as fundraisers if you don’t already. If you only have a close-up show, you’re going to be more limited than someone who does close-up, platform, or stage. There’s a good reason that most people start off by doing birthday party shows – It’s because there’s a huge market for birthday parties! Depending on your business plan (you have one of those, right?) you can either broaden your services, or niche your services down. You don’t need to be able to perform at all kinds of events, but if you don’t you should be specializing in one specific type of magic and find people that can hire that act. Generally you’ll need to do more traveling the more specific you get.
  12. Get more aggressive with your marketing. If you need more bookings, start asking people! Pick up the phone and make calls to potential clients. Scour the interwebs and find emails of people organizing events and send them a personalized email message. Make sure that you aren’t sending spam to potential clients though.
  13. Provide a better service to your customers. Reply to their emails and phone calls faster. Include free giveaways with your show. Be easy to work with. Send thank you cards.

As you get new bookings it should be because of the groundwork you laid in the past. New bookings won’t just magically appear out of the ether. Consciously setup your business and implement strategies for getting more work in the future. As you implement these ideas always tweak and adjust as you move forward. Eventually there will be a point where it becomes automatic that you generate new bookings.

I hope that helps Billy.

If anyone has any other tips, please leave a comment below. As always, don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘share’ this post with others.