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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Being asked to perform for free (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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RMoreland
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When is it good and when is it bad to do a free performance? Seriously Smile
BrianMillerMagic
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There are probably hundreds of threads on this issue. Let me sum up the chaos that's about to erupt:

1) NEVER DO FREE SHOWS. Reasoning: free shows only lead to more free shows. If you're serious about your career, don't accept free work. Your time is valuable and accepting free work lets people know that you don't value your own time, so why should they?

2) SOMETIMES DO FREE SHOWS. Reasoning: Occasionally doing a free show for charity is good for business because it gets your name in front of a lot of people for giving back to the community.

3) ALWAYS DO FREE SHOWS. Reasoning: You're not trying to make a living at this, so you may as well use your talents simply to put smiles on people's faces. This is a the least commonly held opinion.

I'm in Camp 1, as are the majority of full time pros. Most guys on the Café (including some full time pros) are in Camp 2, and their Mantra is "Well it all depends on the situation and we can't possibly answer this question without knowing more about your work, your goals, and the event in question." Very few seem to be in Camp 3, and if they are, there's an entire section of the Café dedicated to free shows.

Best, Brian
bobn3
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The answer to that question lies with you. I say that as you will either agree or disagree with what anyone says.

Bob Phillips
tacrowl
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Good - when you benefit in some way - i.e. - talent buyer showcase, you honestly support the charity/function, you really want to do it.
Bad - when they tell you you will get plenty of publicity, when you are merely background noise, when you will be treated as free entertainment, when everyone else is being paid...

There are other reasons, but those are my top.
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misterillusion
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I used to do free shows, thinking that they would lead to paid shows. They never did. You would think I would have learned my lesson, but recently I did a series of twenty free shows for some service clubs. I did a twenty minute presentation and handed out brochures, cards and other promotional materials--plus I sold some BOR like my book. I had some comments from members saying they would book me someday. Out of all those freebies I only got one paid gig. So, in my estimation, the return on my investment of time was pretty low. I get a better ROI on direct marketing (phone and mail).

I did experiment once with a heavily discounted show where I did 15 minute low priced "teaser shows" for day-cares. That yielded some business--more than doing the free shows. The problem, I think, is that you make an impression, but you are soon forgotten, and not remembered when needed. Marketing seems to rely on large volumes of contacting and on-going repetition. I am by no means a marketing expert, but this has been my experience. There are others on the Café who can give you some better advice I am sure.

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RMoreland
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Quote:
On 2013-10-31 09:12, bobn3 wrote:
The answer to that question lies with you. I say that as you will either agree or disagree with what anyone says.

Bob Phillips


No disagreement Bob. Just interested in others perspectives is all. I was recently asked to do a free performance. I am a full time professional. I can honestly say magic pays my bills and I love what I do. But when you are full time, a day off is pricless. So it frustrates me to no end when people ask me to work for free. They try to seduce you with all these promotion promises, but at the end of the day they are standing there smiling and you are going home with nothing to show for it.
BrianMillerMagic
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Quote:
On 2013-10-31 09:29, RMoreland wrote:
Quote:
On 2013-10-31 09:12, bobn3 wrote:
The answer to that question lies with you. I say that as you will either agree or disagree with what anyone says.

Bob Phillips


No disagreement Bob. Just interested in others perspectives is all. I was recently asked to do a free performance. I am a full time professional. I can honestly say magic pays my bills and I love what I do. But when you are full time, a day off is pricless. So it frustrates me to no end when people ask me to work for free. They try to seduce you with all these promotion promises, but at the end of the day they are standing there smiling and you are going home with nothing to show for it.


If it's a charity or non-profit, offer then your "non-profit discount rate" and otherwise politely decline. If they argue, it's your chance to defend that what you do is valuable and your time is worth something. But I would *not* take a free show in your position. I value a day off the same way you do. It's very rare.

Brian
Mindpro
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The really quick answer is there is never any such thing as FREE. Free in it's truest form rarely exists. While you can decide to perform for no fee, you should never perform for free. There is a difference.

As a professional or even semi-professional you are providing something of value which is your performance. The typical view of this is what are you getting paid? But in reality payment is only one such benefit that a performer can receive. If someone chooses to provide a performance for no pay, I strongly suggest you receive some other form of benefit other than payment.

This can be in the form of publicity, a guaranteed signed letter of endorsement or testimonial, the agreement or contract of another related or future event from the client, direct contacts or mailing lists from attendees of the event, the ability to do your own mailing list sign-up at the event, professional photos or video from the event from their (or your own) resources, direct contacts to event sponsors or supporters, and endorsed mailing from the client or charity, be included as part of the advance promotion through media resources...I could go on and on as there are literally dozens maybe even a hundred different such benefits and types of compensation other than cash or check.

It should be viewed as an overall opportunity. These can often be great networking events or showcase events in which you personally invite your potential or VIP clients, etc.

My point is there can always be many other and additional benefits that can be beneficial to your business which can or may play a factor in such decisions. Too often performers just look at the surface deal and immediately say no, when in reality there could be many residual benefits.

I once participated in a newly developed school conference. I was asked to participate but they could't pay me or my expenses as I'd have to fly myself and pay for my own lodging. At a glance it was a "no-way" deal. After much consideration I decided to do the event anyways after suggesting many of the things mentioned above. While at the event I met one school contact that I talked with who by the end of the three day event came back and said he wanted to book me for their school event. I charged $1500. That school was in a medium size community that included four other high schools. After that first booking I did, I received calls from a second, and a third additional area school. They all wanted to book me for next years event all on consecutive days. The third year I added a fourth school and a couple of years later a new fifth school. So I earned $1500 the first year, the next year it grew to $4500 and then eventually to $6000 for the five day run.

I am proud to say that this will be tenth year of doing this run of dates which is now regularly on my annual calendar. That's over $55,000 I've earned (at that's before merch and BOR at each event) that came from doing one single non-paid event where I had to pay my own expenses just to be there. Often it's seeing the potential bigger picture, and creating a win-win deal that may not include direct financial payment.
RMoreland
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Quote:
On 2013-10-31 10:51, Mindpro wrote:
The really quick answer is there is never any such thing as FREE. Free in it's truest form rarely exists. While you can decide to perform for no fee, you should never perform for free. There is a difference.

As a professional or even semi-professional you are providing something of value which is your performance. The typical view of this is what are you getting paid? But in reality payment is only one such benefit that a performer can receive. If someone chooses to provide a performance for no pay, I strongly suggest you receive some other form of benefit other than payment.

This can be in the form of publicity, a guaranteed signed letter of endorsement or testimonial, the agreement or contract of another related or future event from the client, direct contacts or mailing lists from attendees of the event, the ability to do your own mailing list sign-up at the event, professional photos or video from the event from their (or your own) resources, direct contacts to event sponsors or supporters, and endorsed mailing from the client or charity, be included as part of the advance promotion through media resources...I could go on and on as there are literally dozens maybe even a hundred different such benefits and types of compensation other than cash or check.

It should be viewed as an overall opportunity. These can often be great networking events or showcase events in which you personally invite your potential or VIP clients, etc.

My point is there can always be many other and additional benefits that can be beneficial to your business which can or may play a factor in such decisions. Too often performers just look at the surface deal and immediately say no, when in reality there could be many residual benefits.

I once participated in a newly developed school conference. I was asked to participate but they could't pay me or my expenses as I'd have to fly myself and pay for my own lodging. At a glance it was a "no-way" deal. After much consideration I decided to do the event anyways after suggesting many of the things mentioned above. While at the event I met one school contact that I talked with who by the end of the three day event came back and said he wanted to book me for their school event. I charged $1500. That school was in a medium size community that included four other high schools. After that first booking I did, I received calls from a second, and a third additional area school. They all wanted to book me for next years event all on consecutive days. The third year I added a fourth school and a couple of years later a new fifth school. So I earned $1500 the first year, the next year it grew to $4500 and then eventually to $6000 for the five day run.

I am proud to say that this will be tenth year of doing this run of dates which is now regularly on my annual calendar. That's over $55,000 I've earned (at that's before merch and BOR at each event) that came from doing one single non-paid event where I had to pay my own expenses just to be there. Often it's seeing the potential bigger picture, and creating a win-win deal that may not include direct financial payment.


Thanks for the insight. Can you reccomend any good books on self promotion?
David Thiel
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Mindpro's right. If you tell a client it's "free" -- it has no value. ('Free' really is 'the f word' for performers.)

I only perform at no cost when it's a charity I choose to support. I have three that fall into this category. My honest reason for performing is never the expectation that I'll get more bookings out of it...although sometimes there are some. I simply want to use my skills to support groups that I believe in.

Having said that...many of them will be able to provide a tax receipt for the value of the performance -- which comes in very handy around tax season and costs the charity nothing. But this would not be a condition of doing the show.

The summary of all the wisdom in this thread is summarized in Mindpro's statement: "Often it's seeing the potential bigger picture, and creating a win-win deal that may not include direct financial payment." It has to work for everyone.

David
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RMoreland
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Quote:
On 2013-10-31 11:40, David Thiel wrote:
Mindpro's right. If you tell a client it's "free" -- it has no value. ('Free' really is 'the f word' for performers.)

I only perform at no cost when it's a charity I choose to support. I have three that fall into this category. My honest reason for performing is never the expectation that I'll get more bookings out of it...although sometimes there are some. I simply want to use my skills to support groups that I believe in.

Having said that...many of them will be able to provide a tax receipt for the value of the performance -- which comes in very handy around tax season and costs the charity nothing. But this would not be a condition of doing the show.

The summary of all the wisdom in this thread is summarized in Mindpro's statement: "Often it's seeing the potential bigger picture, and creating a win-win deal that may not include direct financial payment." It has to work for everyone.

David


Totally agreed. Is there a specific form they send you that you can use for the tax benifits?
David Thiel
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In Canada, they give you a tax receipt...the same thing you'd get if you donated that amount of money. In effect, that's what you're doing. They may be asked to show that the amount on the receipt is a fair market value (ie: what you really charge for your show) -- so keep it honest.

David
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Robin4Kids
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http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......um=199&3
There's another thread on doing charity work that I have referenced two great articles in the latest online issue of Vanish Magazine. Check it out!
george1953
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If its for charity I always charge expenses, then later when I do the gig, if it really turns out to be a charity event, I then donate my fee. This way you ser not working free, but kindly made a donation. If on the other hand,as has often happened, I see the organisers having a slap up meal and free drinks which they term as axpenses, then I keep my fee.
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gothike
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Depends on what you get out of it. If its a true NonProfit look at their 990 statement.

If its a charity gig full of high end clients and celebrities, it might be worth your time.

If its a small venue and the client being cheap, I wouldn't do it. I actually offered prospects $800 to perform an illusion show in my living room. So far no takers.

A few times, I asked if they need helping planning the event and I made more with lighting and catering.
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Paddy
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The ONLY "free show" I do is for Make A Wish kids. My wife & I both have lost siblings so this is important to us. Any other charity that asks for a freebie gets quoted my special charity rate of $5000 a show. They don't ask for freebies again.
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dearwiseone
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Non-profits don't get a special deal from me, in fact, I charge a small fee for processing any paperwork they want me to fill out. Non profits still pay their employees salaries...and that's all I'm collecting. I'm not an organization trying to post a quarterly profit, I'm just like anyone who works for their organization full time and collects a salary.

For example, according to the department of labor, the average clergyperson made just under $48,000 last year. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's the same as you or I, working to take home a salary. Even though they may work for a "non-profit."

RMoreland - To answer your question, the only time I would perform for free is when you're just starting out in magic, for family, and for causes that I care so deeply about I'm willing to donate my time and effort.

Especially here in Portland, everyone and their dog has a charity. That means nothing. It just means they've filled out paperwork that allows them to collect donations. People still get paid, they still buy things.

If you value your show as free, that's exactly the value clients will assign to it, and you'll only make it harder for yourself and other entertainers to raise prices later on. Mindpro's advice is great, re-read that.

Hope that helps!
Kevni
Kameron Messmer
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I have gone back and forth. If it's a big event that other people are OBVIOUSLY getting paid for (DJ, caterers, etc) I say no. I do some free stuff for my local library and have got several paid stuff from other library events and they pass my name to others in the community they know. We have a good relationship now. If you are smart about which shows to pass on, and what shows to do for free it might, underline MIGHT get a paid gig. But Free gigs most often lead to more free gigs...
Karen Climer
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Regarding the tax benefit, you cannot deduct the value of a service. Even if it is a service you charge for. If you donate a service, the IRS considers that volunteering, not donating. You can deduct your actual expenses for materials or mileage. I'm not an accountant, though, so get advice from a professional.

With charities, regardless of the size of the organization, they will always ask you to donate the show. Even if the have a huge budget for it, they will first ask you to donate your show. That's their job. If you say no, and tell them your price, they might pay it. If they are really interested, and it's not in their budget, they can find someone to pay for you. They have sponsors and donors that they can ask to pay for it.

I don't give discounts to the large charities. (I like Paddy's charity price idea) If a charity is making more money in one day than I make in a year, they can pay my fee.

If it's a smaller charity, I rarely do it but there are certain unusual situations where I will. If they contact me early enough and I think it will be beneficial, I might trade for advertising. (not their nebulous idea of "exposure" but if they are paying for advertising for the event) I have a contract where my fee is $1 (there has to be some money for the contract to be enforceable). The contract says that they will include my name in all advertising for the event (my name, not just "a magic show"). Then I say, "If this does not happen, an additional $XX (whatever your regular fee is) is due at the performance." I guess you could also say, "If this doesn't happen, I won't perform." That will guarantee that it will get done.

My last thought about dealing with charities. If you don't want to do it, just say no and shut up. You don't have to justify yourself to some person whom you've probably never met. I just say, "No, I can't do that, but good luck with the event. I hope it goes well." As soon as you try to explain, they will go into all the reasons you should do this.
TomBoleware
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Well said Karen.

Trying to trick the IRS can be very tricky. If you do a "Free" show there is nothing to deduct. Smile (Other than maybe the actual expenses.)

If you charge and then turn around and donate it back, (like some suggest) then it's a wash and you haven't gained a thing.
If anything, having to increase your total income will only cost you money in the end.

The only way you can deduct your time is to prove that you actually lost money by giving up 'that' period of time.
Time that you would had otherwise been sitting on the couch is worth nothing to the IRS. It's very hard to claim time lost.

Yes, always talk to a professional tax person before claiming something you not sure about.


Tom
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