1) Get some training:
Although you cannot teach someone to be talented, you can hone skills that are already ingrained. So with that, research schools or private lessons on the type of variety artist you want to be such as a magician, Acrobat, contortionist, etc. Their is no need to spend thousands on so called ‘performers colleges’. Some of the best performers I have worked with never attended a ‘mega school’ for the arts. Instead, they simply had a good trainer. Trainers tend to cost a fraction of what an arts college costs and they are much more personable.
2) Do some public speaking:
Get practice in front of crowds even if it is not performance art. In other words, volunteer at the next function their is that requires someone to make a speech in front of an audience. The reason is that you need to get used to being in front of crowds. If you are used to public work when you start your art you will be more focused on your work and less focused on being nervous.
3) Different routines, different times:
There are two main types of timed performance: ‘stage show’ and ‘walk about’.
A ‘Stage show’ is one routine that lasts anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. ‘Walk About’ involves you performing as you circulate through a crowd doing your act one on one with attendees or patrons. Corporate clients or private parties will either request a stage show or walk about. Casting directors who are auditioning you for a film or television gig just need a one minute bit. When you are opening for another act at a theatre or night club, the venue has a tendency to request a shorter “teaser” type act of around 5 minutes. Therefore, you will want to develop a good 30 minute act, a good 5 minute act and a good one minute act
4) Have a distinct look:
Nothing is more bland than an entertainer that is dressed like the audience members. Have a professional tailor make you a performance outfit from scratch.. If you are skilled at sewing, you can either make your performance outfit yourself or find the appropriate clothes at a thrift shop that can be altered to fit you. That’s right, I said ALTERED, if you are going to wear baggy ill-fitting outfits you might as well wear the jeans and t-shirt . You don’t necessarily need a loud costume that lights up, maybe just a nice suit or dress that has an extra flare to it will do. For example, if you’re a male, try a tailored suit with a bold colored tie or even a bow tie and if you’re a female, try a vintage dress.
5) Your promotional material:
Spend the extra bucks and get a full color business card with your picture on both sides. People that were drunk at the bar when you gave them your card will remember you better. Moreover, they will be likely to hang on to your business card if it has a picture of you. Color is not as expensive as it was 10 years ago, so get some quotes.
6) Sound like a professional via the telephone:
Have a very clear and succinct professional voice mail: short and to the point. Don’t try to tell jokes on your greeting message and never ever use a canned recording your cell phone provider gives for free. Return calls within 24 hours or someone else they called will and you will be out of a gig
7) Its hard to get hired without a demo reel:
No one wants to hire an act based on a business card alone. A demo reel is a video of your performance lasting at least 1 minute but no longer than 5 minutes. If you can’t sell the act in 1 minute, you probably cant sell it at all, and anything longer than 5 minutes gives too much way. Once your act is down pact, get permission from a venue you are performing at to let your friend sit up front and take a video of you. Make sure your friend uses a tripod. Make it clear to the venue manager that you will only be taping your act and not other acts and be sure to explain that the video you shoot is for you to be able to show to future clients. The demo tape is very important because it will get you twice as much work. Be sure your friend gets some crowd shots to show reactions to your performance. You then want to edit the video down to 1 to 5 minutes of the highlights and crowd reactions. Make copies of your video and have it at the ready when prospective clients inquire. Please invest in some professional labels at the office supply store as opposed to writing on the disk with a permanent marker.
Practice to the point to where its boring. Practice is also called work and work is a four letter word. for a reason. Things that people find interesting to watch who pay for the privilege tend to want to watch things that are complicated to learn.
9) So your ready to charge:
Finding work can be difficult, you may want to start with references from friends in the beginning. Be willing to work at first for free or tips only so long as the client promises to refer you if they like your act. Once you get enough referrals from pleased clients you can decide to start accepting money. For example, a starting magician should ask for $75 per hour. A starting acrobat or contortionist could ask for $350 per hour. When I say ‘hour’, that means either for one act or a whole hour. If you show up and are only required to perform for 5 minutes you should always get a one hour rate minimum whether its an hour or five minutes.
10) Get some representation:
You should have a minimum of one year of paid professional experience as a variety artist before you seek an agent. Find an entertainment agency and not a talent agency as talent agents only tend to deal with actors and models and not variety performers such as circus talent. Just because you get an agent does not mean you have to stop looking for work. Depending on the state you reside in, your agent only takes a percentage of what they find you and not what YOU find you.
Hope this was helpful!