“Money for nothing and your pips for free” (with apologies to Mark Knopfler).
A professional is anyone who performs services for pay and hopefully makes a living at it. A tarot reader who accepts payment for readings is by definition a professional. A tarot reader who reads on-line while still in pajamas could be called a semi-professional. (Just kidding there.) A tarot reader in some States is considered an “entertainer” rather than a professional consultant. The main thing that keeps many tarot readers from turning professional is fear of inadequacy, along with fear of starvation.
There is nothing “magical” about becoming a professional tarot reader. All you need is the cards, the skills, the self-confidence, the stamina, the imagination, the vocabulary and the opportunity. (Oh, and a “Plan B” to keep the wolf from the door.) Of those prerequisites, the opportunity has always been the hardest to come by. Most of us aren’t constitutionally suited to sitting on street corners or in noisy cafes playing “gypsy fortune-teller.” We need an agreeable venue of some kind, the quieter and more private the better. Even then, the stream of clients isn’t exactly a flood unless you’re high on the food chain.
I read at a local New Age shop. I could invite clients into my home, but I prefer not to. I could read on-line as well, but I choose not to do that either. Tarot is an interactive art form, a dialogue not a monologue. I also like to look my clients in the eye while I take their money. I read face-to-face for the fun of it; I don’t really need the cash except to buy an occasional new deck or two. I also read publicly to help my friendly shop-keeper stay in business. Some people experience total exhaustion after doing a series of public readings; I experience exhilaration (and thirst). It hardly feels like work, more like spinning colorful and entertaining yarns for a rapt audience. The cards are eloquent in my hands, and they speak fluently to my clients with little cerebral jostling from me. I just open my mouth and out comes wisdom. Or so my sitters seem to think. I wouldn’t know, I’m just enjoying the mutual voyage of discovery.
I was recently involved in a discussion about whether tarot for most practitioners is a hobby, a calling or a career. I’m done with “career” and I have too much energy and focus to be a hobbyist, so reading professionally is more a calling for me. As such, I don’t get jaded and I don’t get cynical (or at least no more than usual for any attentive student of human nature) because I learn something new about the interaction between the client and the cards almost every time I read for someone, even after doing it off-and-on for over 40 years.