The Name of the Game

A question frequently asked by what we might call “journeyman” tarot readers is “How can I break into professional practice on a full-time basis?” In my case, I  backed into it part-time through the patronage of a metaphysical shop owner who, when she learned that I was a local diviner, invited me to work out of her shop for both on-call readings and occasional psychic fairs. Prior to that point, I had been a “semi-professional” reader for many years, taking a little money now and then but mainly working for free to hone my skills. This was well before the days of online reading, so the key factors in getting subjects (I couldn’t really call them “clients” at that point) were “location” and “exposure.” Until I connected with the shop, I had neither for a couple of decades, although I did try to gain recognition in my area from time-to-time through small group activities.

But I find it hard to call what I do a “practice” because repeat clients are so rare. Most querents leave a session, never to be seen or heard from again. Getting routine tarot readings is not at the top of most people’s list of frequent expenditures, so I don’t really expect return visits with any regularity. (Not to mention that I relocated and now have an entirely different set of circumstances.) That makes being a “full-time” tarot reader an unlikely occupation unless one can afford a storefront venue in a high-traffic area and is willing to sit there waiting for walk-in clients or advance reservations. Working for an established shopkeeper in an on-call capacity is often a better option because their customer relations are typically more robust and they will handle appointments and other logistics (and of course take a cut of the profits for their trouble). I would add that reading for one of the “psychic hotline” phone services is not the answer since, according to my sources,  it’s more like indentured servitude than freelance entrepreneurship.

Reading online as a professional is a different proposition. Gaining recognition is usually a matter of having a website through which inquiries can be received and readings initiated. However, one of the main challenges in making a go of it is that there are so many $5-a-pop online readers out there drastically undercutting any legitimate attempt to make a reasonable living; in most cases their strategy is volume over substance, and I strongly suspect that their offerings are computer-generated via an app rather than personally crafted. Although conventional wisdom suggests that we should not under-price ourselves if we want to be taken seriously, in practice the idly curious aren’t really looking for a comprehensive experience and therefore will (at least at first) opt for “cheap.” We may ultimately benefit from any residual interest they acquire through casual participation, but expecting them to follow the “bread-crumb-trail” to our doorstep may be too much to ask. The trick is to initially price ourselves for nominal affordability, not necessarily according to the true value of our service in time and effort, at least until we get a “buzz” going and can bump our rates. After offering readings on this blog for the past three years, I can honestly say I would starve if it were my only source of income. This is not what budding professionals want to hear, but unless they enjoy a “perfect storm” of location, exposure, “brand recognition” and pricing, the road to paid full-time reading as a career is a daunting one.

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