Some thoughts on teaching magic and where money fits into it all

Posted on March 28, 2014
Filed Under classes, Magic | 2 Comments


Recently I came across this post by Josephine McCarthy about Magic and Money. She had some interesting points to make about teaching classes on magic and how when money is brought into the equation it changes the dynamic. In particular she noted that some magicians try to make teaching classes their main income stream (which imo isn’t a very good business model as I’ll explain further below) and that the material they teach sometimes ends up being modified in order to please the student (a bad idea in my book) or modified to be more commercially viable.

I have started teaching weekend intensives, so when I read this post it gave me a lot to think about. I’m just starting out, designing my classes and putting a lot of thought into what I’ll teach and how I’ll teach it. Above all I’m mindful that what I teach is something that could have a deep effect on the people choosing to learn from me so I know I need to be prepared to guide them carefully, while also encouraging them to experiment (which is my preferred approach to magic). I’ve written a number of books on magic and I have taught smaller classes. I’ve even developed a correspondence course, which thus far has seemed to have been beneficial for all the people taking it. Still I know that as a teacher I’m taking on a responsibility to my students that is significant and must always be considered. I’m also taking on a responsibility to the material I’m teaching because its something which needs to be accurately conveyed.

I don’t think that teaching classes is the most effective business model out there, which is why it’s not my main stream of income (and likely never will be). Much like writing a book, the monetary return you get from teaching classes is not as significant as you might think. When you write a book, you have to factor in not only the time spend writing and promoting the book, but also the time spent researching for the book. The royalties you receive don’t even begin to cover the amount of time spent writing the book. This is why its really important to be clear on why you are writing the book. You are writing it because you feel that you have a message you want to share. You feel a calling to write that book and you realize its more important to write it than not to. You also recognize that unless it becomes a bestseller you’re unlikely to make back your investment of time and effort. The same applies to classes.

With a class you need to factor in time spent prepping class materials, as well as the cost of said materials. You also have to factor in the cost of the place you are renting, the cost of food and gas (and possibly lodging) the time spent traveling to and from the class, and the actual teaching of the class itself. And if you’re like me and you believe in providing actual follow up teleconferences free of charge so that people can ask questions and check in with you about their experiences, then that’s additional time that’s being provided. As such the actual cost of a class doesn’t necessarily net the amount of profit that you might think it would, especially if you also know that you can only teach to a certain class size and still effectively present the material. Of course there are ways to minimize some of these costs, especially with modern technology, but if you’re like me and you actually prefer to teach face to face and perhaps also know that some things can only be conveyed in such settings then you are less likely to use such means to teach your classes.

I feel called to teach the classes I’m teaching. I know my classes aren’t for everyone and that what I’m teaching will necessarily involve a certain level of experience on the part of potential students, especially with what I wish to teach. I know that I need to stay true to what I’m teaching because it’s something I want people to be able to use to change their lives and to evolve as spiritual and human beings. I do feel justified in charging for my classes because of all the costs I’ve mentioned. It’s not the best model for bringing in income, which is why I have a few other income streams, but what that income allows me to do is cover the costs of teaching the classes, presenting at conferences, and travel without dipping into my main income stream which goes toward paying bills. I believe that the cost is an equivalent exchange for my services, an energetic exchange if you will.

Teaching classes isn’t really about the money. The money covers the costs involved to go and teach those classes, but what teaching the classes is about is being able to share specific information, concepts, and practices with people that want to learn those practices. Of course they can pick my books up and read them, but at a certain point, if you want to go deeper it can be useful to have that face to face connection. I myself am taking classes from a spiritual mentor which I think is well worth the cost because what I am getting from the direct experience is something that is much deeper than just reading the books would have provided. It is important to me that I also provide that same depth to my students. I want to honor their needs, but also honor the teachings I share so that what they get is something which authentically conveys the deeper mysteries while also honoring their journey in this world and all others they touch.

Book Review: Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins

This is a collection of articles from Henry Jenkins, over the span of his career as a media academic. Some of the articles are good, others are less impressive, but overall he provides the reader some for thought about the evolution of pop culture studies and pop culture in general. This is a useful book for exploring some of what pop culture studies is about and providing some context as to how the academic study of pop culture has evolved as pop culture and technology have involved. It’s limitation beyond the fact that it’s a collection of articles, is that some of the material can already be found in the author’s other works in a more comprehensive form.



So I'm embarking on a career in Pagan stewardship, and these are very thinky thoughts to me.

I come from a business and technology background, so it's possible I've been fully indoctrinated into the capitalistic culture.  But what I understand is that we are essentially entrepreneurs.  And as such, we must set our own value on the market.  I can offer a weekend workshop for $100, but that will not only barely cover my cost, but it also doesn't convey that what I'm teaching is valuable.  If I gave the same workshop and charged $500, there is a subliminal expectation that what the student receives is "more".  

Thanks for the book review above.  Looks intriguing.

I also come from a fringe community background, specifically BDSM & polyamory.  The kink community is undergoing a dilemma with presenters, where folks who share knowledge (whatever their motivation) have to vie to be compensated (with money) for appearances.   The poly community presenters seem to do so less "professionally", and more as an outreach or service effort.   As I begin to cobble together my career, I sit with this.  Obviously speaking appearances help sell books, and get butts in seats for classes.  But if you're arguing that classes and workshops aren't viable as a primary revenue stream, then that means I'll have to further diversify.  As I understand any cultivation of a field becomes robust through the variety of life it supports. 

I also need to be able to give really clean, intentional, verdant and full energy to my projects.  If I'm trying to grow 1000 different varieties of wildflower, it's likely they won't all thrive.  If I put all my energy into 5 specific plants, chances are that those 5 plants will teach me richly, and each 5 will grow more lush and prosperous. 

Thank you for your thoughts.  I'd be interested in more, as you explore the balance.

Magicexperiment moderator

@MagdalenaKnight  Thanks for commenting. I'll be happy to share more thoughts on this topic as I continue to explore it. I also come from an entrepreneurial background (I own several other businesses) and I'll admit my own experiences strongly my take on this subject. I feel its better to have multiple streams of income. I also feel it's important to set value and know what that value will bring you. Most importantly, I feel that price is the lowest denominator of value...Price is what people will probably look at first, but if they are really conscientious about what they are buying then they will make smart choices accordingly based on the value promised with taking the class.

While I do think its important to have multiple streams of income, I also think you can only handle so many and your reason for doing any of them should be informed by how they enrich your life, with money coming in as important, but not as important as the service you offer to others or how what you do enriches you.