Time Bites: The Value of a Minute

Upon entering the ranks of the professional diviner, we inevitably encounter the question “How much is enough?” Time, that is, or effort expended for value received.I was once  advised that, in rural New England where I lived at the time, the going rate for a face-to-face tarot reading was a dollar a minute. This was obviously not universal, since I asked around the forums and found that $50 for a half-hour presentation is more typical in the United States. As a former amateur reader for friends and family, I always felt that the rule-of-thumb was “it takes whatever it takes” to tell the story in the cards. This naturally won’t do when reading “on the clock,” from the perspective of both the paying customer and the “service provider.”

When I was reading in a shop, I was constrained to 15-to-20-minute sessions for a $30 payment (later raised to $40) that was shared with the owner. While I was able to tailor my approach in both number of cards and narrative economy to fit within the envelope, I felt that I was only scratching the surface of the sitter’s tale (especially after my brief introductory remarks further compressed it). This was marginally acceptable to me as an honest person, even if I wasn’t making much money after the shopkeeper’s cut was taken out. I found it incomprehensible that people who perform readings at psychic fairs can do five-minute, one-card readings and offer any kind of meaningful insights to their customers. It seemed to me that such severely abbreviated testimony could only qualify as “for entertainment only,” and I know I would feel more than a little disingenuous in giving it. This is one of the main reasons I don’t do private parties, although I did once consider the idea of taking a flat fee of $200 for a series of readings at a small metaphysical gathering. When I parted ways with the shop, I decided to stay loosely within the “dollar-a-minute” framework since I was no longer sharing the proceeds, and expand my reading sessions to 30-to-45 minutes, give-or-take. This allows me to stretch out a bit without feeling that I’m gouging my clients or shortchanging myself, and results in a nominal “happy medium.”

The situation is much different when doing remote readings where we must crank out some kind of written record for our customers (unless we’re doing them over the phone or via Skype). What I can deliver orally in the course of a 30-to-45 minute, 10-card Celtic Cross reading takes me a solid four hours (at least) to write up, edit and send by email what is typically an 8-page, 10-paragraph analysis that includes a page or more of standard explanatory notes, and then I offer one “Q&A” email exchange at no extra cost to at least approximate a  face-to-face reading scenario. Although I don’t make a living at card-reading and perform it in public mostly for the experience and pleasure of doing it, it’s plain to see that the numbers don’t make sense when all the writing is factored in. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that there are people offering readings in online venues like eBay and Etsy for $5-to-$10, so I have to position myself within reach of the more thoughtful inquirer who still might be tempted to “go cheap.” But I myself am dead-serious about the value of competent divination and won’t lower my standards to compete with the “entertainment-only” crowd, regardless of whether I get any business. I did, however, recently raise my asking prices to acknowledge the time commitment. You could say that “time will tell” whether this is going to fly.

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