I've made it a point to offer a "free" show to a church of my choice every year. This is something I've done for the last four years. The reason I call it a "free" show is because it costs the church nothing. However, you're still being paid through a cover charge, and free-will donation.
Here's how these shows work. First, it's necessary to find a church that you think deserves a "free" show. Once you've done that, call them up and ask for the administrative or senior minister. You'll want to schedule a meeting with this person. This is not to say that they will be able to give you the authority to do the show. Many times, they will have to talk to the church council to okay the details. But they are your first step.
You'll want to explain what you want to do for their church. Which simply is supplying them a show for no charge. Explain that you want to have a reduced cover charge (as a special gift to the church) as well as a free-will offering, which is to be collected at the end of the show. You will cover the cost for all promotion and advertising of the event. You'll also want to explain how they will benefit from this special offer. First, they get a high quality show for nothing. Second, they get free promotion and advertising for their church. Now, the way you benefit (which you don't need to explain to the minister) is that you get to present a show without having to rent out a facility, and you end up making a nice profit, as well as gain exposure.
I've found that most churches are interested, but you must remember to offer this show early. Churches do book up quickly with different events, and you want to make sure you get a good date or to be fit in at all. Sometimes, you won't be able to be scheduled on the day that you were looking at. But they will usually be able to squeeze you in sometime. You just want to make sure that you try to schedule this as early as possible. This way, the church will have time to discuss the idea, and fit you in.
Sometimes, the minister will direct you to other people that you will need to talk to. This is alright, and just go along with it. Other times, the minister will have to get back to you after a council meeting. It's always a good idea to call a couple of weeks later to just give a check up on how everything is going. They will usually get back to you in a timely manner though.
Once you've gotten the show, make sure that it's a clean show. You want to make sure that it's family appropriate. Also, keep religion out of it. It's best to avoid the topic all together. You don't want to offend anyone. But that also doesn't mean you have to have a G rated show. Just don't go too crazy. Use common sense. As you will end up getting additional work, if you have a quality family show (as families will be the ones who will most likely be coming to a show like this). The church may even end up hiring you for additional events, and churches have a non-ending supply of events throughout the year.
The other thing I want to mention in this essay are magic kits. Now, the type of magic kit I'm talking about is more like an emergency magic kit. This simply is a magic case that you keep in your vehicle at all times. Inside of it are the props you need to perform an entire show at a moments notice. I believe Andrew Mayne also talks about using a kit like this.
I've found that these magic kits can be very helpful. For instance, on Monday I decided that I would go to a local hotel and drop in on a business gathering there. I mingled with a couple of groups of people, and ended up steering the conversation to magic. I performed a little comedy magic with sponge balls and had great reactions. So much so that one of the groups ended up introducing me to another group of people which included the owner of the company, and the person who was in charge of the entertainment for that particular event. They requested that I did a little magic for them, and I did so. They were amazed by what I did, and asked if I would stay around and perform at the end of the night. Since I had my magic kit in my car, I was able to accept the gig, and do a show for them. I'm now working out a contract with this company to do a couple of additional shows. So having a kit like this can be very beneficial, as you're always prepared to perform.
Now, if you only do large scale illusions, this isn't going to work. But for those who can pack small, but play big, this is a great idea. I've utilized this kit countless times, and have had great results. I just just fill it up with the props I need, and throw it in the back of my car.
To finish up this essay, I want to discuss one last thing. Beware when you go on magic forums. Yes, there are some great ones out there, but others are filled with people who have huge egos. For a beginner magician, frequenting one of those forums will do you no good. And even for younger magician (age wise), you have a high chance of being attacked if you try to offer any advice. Which is sad, because many younger magicians can give out great advice, but are being stifled because of arrogant magicians. Now, I have found that the PenguinMagic forum is a great place to be. It's the one I've frequented for the longest. There are a lot of young magicians there who basically spam, and don't know what they are talking about. But there also some magicians there who are very well informed, and are more than willing to help and listen. Those people more than make up for the faults of the young magicians there. I've also found that TheMagicWoods, even though some of the members are a little protective, offers another great forum. They have frequent big name guests there. And they have a lot of good information. However, I would say beware of TheMagicCafe. Yes, there is a lot of great information there. But there are also a lot of members there who have overinflated egos, and have a tendency to attack anyone who is younger, or disagrees with them. The negative there outweighs and positive that they offer. So I say that it's not even worth going there.
That's it for this essay. Next week I will talk more about restaurant magic. Until then, take care,