Can that idea just die, please?
There is an oft-repeated drumbeat in the tarot community that goes like this: “You shouldn’t charge for your gifts.” The reasoning behind this statement varies but it usually boils down to two arguments:
The first is spiritual in nature. The idea is that if you have been given the spiritual gift of reading tarot, then you should not monetize it. Your tarot reading should be freely given because your spiritual ability has been freely given to you.
The second argument usually has to do with accessibility. Many readers find it a hard square being caring healer with a pay wall.
I am going to respond to both.
The Spiritual Argument
No one really knows where this whole ‘you shouldn’t charge for your gifts’ thing comes from. But I suspect that it has Judeo-Christian origins. Jesus walked into church one day and cast out the money changers. He made it clear that commerce and spiritual activity are kept separate.
Most churches are free to attend and there is typically a legacy of charitable works for the poor. That being said, I don’t know any full time religious figure that doesn’t get paid. While nuns take a vow of poverty, they are also fed, clothed, have generous health insurance plans, and are taken care of in their retirement years. Same goes for Rabbis, Priests, Imans, and Buddist monks. By tithe, charity, food in a begging bowl, or by contributions all of these people who do spiritual work are paid. They should be paid. They should be taken care of as they care for others. To expect that a spiritual worker just labor for free seems like we don’t really want them to be taken care of in. The days of Manna falling from Heaven ended a long time ago.
Lets talk about the “gifts” aspect of the argument. Say that you are an incredible psychic. You are able to find buried treasure and speak the name of future kings. But what makes you different than having the gift of mathematical ability, or the gift of a great literary mind? What if your gift is that you kick a ball really well? Do we not as a society pay people who have these varied talents? Then why would those who have an ephemeral ability be any different?
Why do we shroud intuitive abilities behind a wall of superstition and rules that actually binds our hands from serving more people?
Here is the fear: that if you do monetize your intuitive talents, then some force (you know the Force out there, somewhere) will take it away from you. Where does this superstition come from? I am not sure, but it is old. And it isn’t true. It is just another random old superstition that isn’t based on anything real, or even helpful. It is operating from a (usually) uninformed and un-examined belief that the Universe has some kind of score card wherein some abilities are ok to charge for, but not these.
I ask you, why?
The second argument usually comes from people who feel squeamish about charging money for their services. Often, they have a background in education or nursing where they were not experiencing the direct transaction of money for their efforts.
They taught (or took blood pressure or whatever) people and those people were helped but almost mystically they saw a deposit in their bank account every two weeks. They often have a disconnect with the economic machine underpinning all of that to make it happen.
Let me just add that I know that person well, because I was once that person.
This lovely person who decides to build a tarot business feels at odds with charging people directly. The guilt is usually tied to underlying and often un-examined feelings around money, access and privilege. They assuage that guilt by creating systems such as sliding scale payments, or charging so low that they cannot support themselves with the work. They don’t want to “read for rich people.” They want to be a friend and helper to all.
This sentiment does not square well, however, if you are trying to become a full time reader so it boils down to this essential question: Do you want your readings to financially support you, or do you want your readings to be charitable contributions? Of course there are shades of nuance here but this is essentially a philosophical reflection. It is challenging to hold both arguments and make them work. Here is why:
As a self-employed person I have to ensure that each reading is priced so that I am able to pay my bills, my health insurance and my retirement contributions in addition to the business expenses that go into running a business. Oh, also I pay twice the amount of taxes, yay self-employment!
While I may only be paid for the actual hour I am reading, it has to be enough to cover all the other things that I am doing to keep the business afloat (writing this article, bookkeeping, emails, newsletters, class creation and so on). This is a different economic standpoint and often one not understood by people in muggle (your standard wage earning) jobs. The economics of direct service self-employment looks nothing like a salary or even an hourly wage earners.
So every month I need a minimum amount to keep my business and my life afloat. But also, (caveat here-every reader is different) I have a finite number of reading sessions in me each week. Once I cross over that number my accuracy, compassion, and insightfulness begin to tank. I do not want to give bad readings because I am exhausted so I have to throttle the amount of readings I can do.
Therefore, it is a dance between what I am physically capable of, what I need to live, and business costs. These calculations directly inform what I charge in an hour and also how many hours I will schedule in a week.
If I add sliding scale payments that essentially means that I will make wealthier people pay a higher amount to cover the lower cost of the person who cannot. Or, I have to read for more hours to make up for discounted sessions.
Honestly, I do not feel comfortable being the person who makes that economic determination for others. I do not want to politicize my work in this way.
Because I only have a finite amount of readings in a week I need all of them to pay my bills. But charitable contributions I do give. I give financially monthly to nonprofits that do work that I believe in. I volunteer for a local wildlife rehabilitation center and I also volunteer weekly for Meals of Wheels. I volunteer in ways that allow me to give back, don’t contribute to reader burn-out, and as a bonus, I gain new perspectives because I am giving in different ways. I am only able to give like this because of the career I have. Just like anyone else who has a muggle job and volunteers in their spare time.
I think there is no real direct correlation between your special aptitudes and those being the aptitudes you need to give away. In fact, the time you spend volunteering by using skill sets in other areas will only enhance what you have monetized. I am a better reader when I spend some time outside of the tarot booth doing other things that feed my heart and help others.
There is more than one way to give.
In conclusion, I think it is such a beautiful sentiment in the tarot and intuitive communities that so many struggle with the idea of monetizing their time and capabilities. We are labeled as flim-flam con artists and people of the worse repute when in actuality, most of us want to give and be of service.
I think this is the right problem to have because it speaks to an underlying ethical and moral code that is needed in this world. But, I also think there are ways to examine how we want to read, who we want to read for, and whether we actually want to make a living doing it.
Hey, still here? Cool! You might be interested in this:
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Thanks for reading!
This is an excerpt from my recently published book, Have Tarot Will Party. E Book and paperback are both available at Amazon
Someone wants to hire you to read tarot for their upcoming party! You know how to read tarot, but how the heck does one book parties?
How much should you charge? What kind of paperwork do you need? How do you handle guests who want to test your skills? How do you read tarot under ten minutes when the guest won’t stop talking?!
Don’t panic! You have everything you need to navigate party readings right here.
Have Tarot Will Party is a fully comprehensive business resource for professional tarot practitioners.
Have Tarot Will Party includes real stories to highlight aspects of the party experience, and includes topics such as: how to find parties that will book you, how to negotiate a price that respects your worth, how to work with the host to ensure you are busy and safe, as well as template samples of paperwork like contracts and disclaimers.
House parties are where most public readers get started. There are two types of house party: hosted and non-hosted. In a hosted party, the host is paying you directly at a per-hour rate, and the guests are not paying anything. A non-hosted party is one where the host is supplying the place for the party, but each guest is paying you individually for their reading.
Even though a house party is fairly casual, you still need to give it professional treatment. You need a contract and should consider including disclosures for everyone to sign before you begin reading. It’s a crazy litigious world out there, so I want to cover my risks as much as I possibly can. In my day practice, all guests must read and agree to my disclaimer as part of the on-boarding process. I also have business liability insurance. I will talk more about this later, and I have a sample document that you are free to use for your own events.
Once you have agreed with your host, and the negotiations are over, I recommend a deposit to hold the time slot. Every time I’ve not requested a deposit, I have come to regret it. It’s no fun to have a huge Halloween party cancel on you one week before Halloween and you are left scrambling to find a replacement after turning down ten other invitations. As much as you may feel a spiritual purpose in doing this work, always remember that money talks! What if that cancellation means you couldn’t take another job? There goes the rent! It’s no biggie to them, but it could potentially be a huge deal for you.
Make sure to tell your host that the time and date is not reserved until you have a deposit in your hot, little hands. The deposit can vary. I usually only require a fifty-dollar deposit which is refundable up to two weeks prior to the event. But for fall events the deposit is a nonrefundable fifty percent of the ticket. I only accept cash, debit or credit, or payment through the app of my choice. I don’t accept private checks. Some readers I know also accept Money Orders or Certified Checks for private events. This is a smart move because like cash, once it is in your hand, it is yours. For non-hosted events, the host can either put that money towards her reading, or she will have it reimbursed to her on the day of the party, provided that the number of guests and everything you agreed upon is still in place.
A non-hosted party is a gig situation where the host is not paying you for readings but rather acts as coordinator. She is lining up her guests and providing the space, but each individual you read for will be paying for their own time with you. A non-hosted party is often the choice for readers who are within their first year and are trying to build their client base. A non-hosted party is tricky because no one is paying you for in-between time, and you can easily find yourself with a loss of thirty minutes or more because no one is in a rush to see you!
Another challenge is that the host does not feel pressure to make sure that the number of guests you both agreed on will be there when you show up. Let’s say you agreed to read for fifteen people over three hours, but once you arrive it’s a different story. Perhaps the host says that she couldn’t get fifteen, and that she only has six people, but she still expects you to stay and read for them. Tell the hostess to agree on a minimum guarantee to book. If she is unable to hit that minimum on the day of the party, then she is still responsible for covering the amount you both agreed upon. With her money on the table, believe me, this is the motivation she needs to ensure that the number of guests you agreed on will be there!
Some hosts are solicitous. They will stop by a number of times to ensure your drink is filled or offer you something to eat. Others will invite you to stay and enjoy the party. Good hosts will be mindful of the guests coming to your table and will pay you promptly when your time is up. I love these wonderful, thoughtful hosts: may they live a long and happy life!
As friendly and welcoming as a good host might be, never lose sight that you are under their employ and are working (not attending) their party. While a host might offer you cocktails, a plate of food, or an offer to stay and enjoy, it’s usually a bad idea to accept. For one, I never have time to eat while I’m reading at a party, and if I did, it looks devastatingly unprofessional to eat a platter at your reading table. For obvious reasons, you don’t want to enjoy those cocktails.
Finally, if you hang around at the house after you’re done, it can be awkward. Perhaps you talked about a guest’s divorce or a recent job change, and now you are clinking glasses with them? Trust me, it never goes well. The intimacy of the tarot table does not easily translate to any other intimacy. People will feel uncomfortable about the new role you are now playing, especially if they divulged something intimate with you before! Work to maintain that sense of safety with them. Stay in your lane.
This has become an often-enough phenomena that I’ve come to expect it. Usually, a host is so busy that they won’t have time, to get a reading from you. As the host stops by to pay you at the end of your time, they will mention how they never had a chance to get a reading. This is the only occasion that I will go over my allotted time without compensation. If the host who hired me didn’t get a reading, I want to make sure that she gets one. Hosts are going to be your biggest supporters and believers, and they will often hire you for other parties. So, you want to keep them happy. Remember, this is the exception to the rule — so only one freebie allowed. After that, make a quick exit if you can or negotiate a rate to stay.
Have Tarot Will Party is 180 pages full of my own best practices (including some stories of my own epic mistakes). Immediately downloadable on Amazon but the paperback is great, too, for quick reference. If you have ever thought to read tarot at parties as a side-hustle, to supplement your retirement income, or as a home-based business. This guide is for you!
Welcome to part III, if you missed the others, here is part I and part II...
As you might've guessed, running a long term practice is less about the nuts and bolts of running a business and really more about the kind of attitude you need, the attitude you need for you as well as towards others. Here, I outline the rest of what I consider to be huge factors in having a successful business as a tarot practitioner. Thank you so much for reading!
Create Strong, Loving Boundaries
You do not want people who expect you to drop everything and read for them right now. You do not want people who blow up your phone at 3am. You do not want people who are unable or unwilling to go through your business procedures. You do not want people, "who will gladly pay you Tuesday for a reading today." Those people will be convincing, as to why they needed to ignore your boundaries. They will trigger the healer within you, they will appeal to the part of you who wants to help.
People who are unable to respect your boundaries are often takers. You cannot build or have a business that will sustain you unless it is a relationship, and taking is not a relationship. Psychic vampires exist; there are people who will suck and slurp and take and grab and want and need and want and need until YOU have nothing left to give. Often, it is not conscious but rather a way someone learned to live in the world. A low-vibrational, dysfunctional way of living in the world.
Now, every bad review I have is from someone who took exception to my boundaries. Every review I have that is negative is because I told someone, "no, I cannot do it. No, this is not a good fit. No, I cannot read for you in this way." People really dislike being told, “no” and you can see their inner saboteur being triggered and having a good old fashioned temper tantrum after hitting your boundaries. This is good practice and an important lesson for them. Even if we do not read for someone, they are getting karmic lessons about why.
You are not here to please everyone. You are not here to make everyone like you. You are not here to enable. Please do not let people run roughshod over you. This can be hard when we learned messages as children about our worth. How you hold your boundaries is a direct relationship to your true beliefs about what you really think you deserve.
Professionals have rules for engagement. You need them and you need to enforce them. As a reader, this may be some of the hardest moments you have to undertake, but trust me, your long term viability depends on you being able to guard your health, your sanity, your energy and your gift. Trust me, more boundaries doesn't mean all your clients will go away, just the takers.
Trust your Own Guardianship.
There is No One Right Way
Sometimes tarot practitioners ask me, “How did YOU do it?” Well… the thing is, each tarot practitioner can give only examples, guidelines, and best practices. Your journey is your own, this building of a tarot business is a deeply spiritual practice. What I have learned is, that whatever personality strengths I have, whatever psychological hang-ups I have will all show up, loud and bright in my business style, approach, vision, and operations. I truly believe that drilling down to our core person hood and amplifying it, is what having a practice does. You will be in a house of mirrors, all reflecting back upon you, the truth of you. To own a business is to learn how to manage this Selfhood of yours.
Because your business identity is unique, there is no one right way to build it. Do not confuse best practices (which you can learn) with business identity. Do not a lemming be; otherwise you will find yourself gasping as you swing from one thing to another. There are so many bright and shiny things that come to the market for business owners, but the first question you must ask is, "Is this...me?" Watch the people you admire, take up pieces and see if they fit, it they feel right, if they are you. But what you offer is limitless and priceless, do not get too hung up on how other people do things, fads come and go. Be you. Just start already.
Have a High Risk Tolerance
Piggybacking on the last point, you are going to have to figure things out for yourself. You are going to try things and they won’t work. You are going to abandon things. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to hold on too long to things that don't work. You are going to appear foolish and naive, You are going to burn bridges that you will regret. You are going to question yourself, and this, and are you crazy? Good news!This means you are an entrepreneur! Welcome to the tea party, you mad hatter!
The point is, is that you need to take risks, be okay with risks, you will have to tweak and discover, strive, and fail before your handmade business is humming along. If you are afraid of failure or even taking a risk, then you will limit your practice and yourself. If you wait until it's perfect to launch, you will never launch. Remember, growth is outside the comfort zone and you will learn as much from your failures as you will from your success (actually, more.)
The great thing about owning your own business is that , guess what? no one can fire you! Encouraging mistakes runs anathema to how we are trained as employees, working in organizations we are taught to hide mistakes, we get punished for mistakes, but as an entrepreneur you need mistakes, they will make you grow. Watch for the Saboteur, he is usually very loud and insistent when we are about to risk. Perfectionism and shame are particularly good weapons that the saboteur uses to control you, watch for them.
Trust the Leap
You Only Need to Know the First Two Steps
One of the nastiest tricks of our inner Saboteur is to convince us that we need to know all 50 steps, all parts of the how-to, to begin. But that is not true. All you need to know are the first two steps, the rest will be revealed in turn. In fact, its better if you don’t know all 50 steps because that knowing will actually limit your decision tree; you will cling to the plan, so busy looking at your map that you are not seeing what is actually surrounding you. You need to learn to feel your way, this is imperative. Get used to not having a map but making it as you go along, if this makes you anxious, that is your saboteur. Learning to feel your way makes you flexible, lets you learn how to trust your intuition, allows you to cultivate the present focus you need to make each step well thought out.
It’s kind of like that friend who just broke up with her boyfriend and now wants you to read tarot on her future husband. You can tell from the cards (who are not answering her question anyway) that the NOW moment, so ambiguously precious is what she needs right now. That the liminal point of not knowing means our unconscious selves are doing the number crunching right now. If you told your friend about her future husband, that only serves to feed the ego and she will be looking for him instead of doing the heavy spiritual work of the now. Same for you and your business; you really do know, you know. Just not the awake part of you.
Again, trust your selves
Comparison is a Thief, but Collaboration is a Joy
Finally, as you begin to become successful, you will start to compare yourself to other practitioners. Oh wow, look how many followers she has. Look at how nice his website is, (jeez I suck). KNOCK IT OFF. Again, you will do this your way, not their way. Do not peek onto any other reader’s stuff if you know your saboteur will use it as ammo. Rather, engage in your guide, reach out to other readers who make you feel something good, and work with them, partner with them. Create and be part of tarot communities that support you.
Though, be diligent, too. As you become successful you will begin attracting bottom feeders. People who want what you have, who will copy what you make, who want you to teach them, mentor them, and they will use you up and spit you out. Be very discerning about who gets your light and your attention. Again, refer to loving boundaries. Say no to the sudden friends who want to pick your brains over lunch or lurking at your edges, you know sneaky when you feel it.
Trust your Gut.
Thank you again for reading my little listicle here and thanks for stopping by!
If you liked what you read, you can always subscribe to my blog, and email me with any questions and yes, I do mentor tarot practitioners. Here's to the rising tide, and the wonderful Spirit of Tarot that makes it so...
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