It is hard to strike the right balance between what a client wants a reading to be about and what you know is helpful, good, and kind. So, it ushers a question: What is your philosophy of reading for others?
Do you feel that if the customer is paying then it is your job to supply them with whatever information they want? Do you feel that you have no right to determine what should be read for and what shouldn’t be? This is a fair stance. I mean, who the hell do we think we are, anyway?
But, do you ever feel icky when you have read for someone and their question?
And whoo boy, don’t even get me started if it is a reading they don’t want to hear. It is so easy to ignore what comes through, or to even blame the reader. Only time will tell but often these people will rarely come back to let you know how spot-on the information was.
As a reader you have to hold to your ‘divinatory guns’ even while the person is shaking their head and telling you how absolutely wrong you are. This takes a tremendous amount of confidence and a very thick skin. As a business person, this can have real impact on your work especially so in this day and age of insta-rage reviews.
You are front row and center of whatever reactions they will have if they are not getting what they want from you. No wonder readers have a high burn out rate. The emotional labor of our work (not even counting the act of reading but rather the interpersonal stuff) is daunting to say the least
One of the problems is that the larger cultural zeitgeist has reduced tarot to its most shallow constituent parts. This has a huge role to play in why there is a disconnect between what some people want readings to be and what readings actually are. The cultural shift is changing and I am so hopeful for that, but we have a long way to go.
But because of the disconnect, many people don’t know that tarot largely IS like a therapy session wherein there is the premise of healing, of breaking one’s delusions, and a realistic divinatory message that is based in real-time actions. You know, actions-consequences, even tarot cannot escape that.
Perhaps these dismayed clients have avoided therapy because they don’t want to do the kind of introspective work it requires and just want to be told what to do and how everything will be ok. And some readers prey upon this.
Bad readers like anxious clients because they are vulnerable and hurt people ripe for exploitation. These readers feel good to some clients because they are feeding the ego of the client while absolutely ignoring their spiritual and personal growth. Their false and crappy readings are junk food- they feel good in the moment but they offer nothing of sustenance and will actively harm the person over time.
My personal experience has introduced me to countless clients who see those kinds of readers. These readers tell them that that abusive narcissist is their “soul mate” or “twin flame”. Invariably, these victimized people continue to open themselves to abuse because they have been led to believe that the Universe has preordained this terrible union. Blech. In my opinion, these kinds of predatory practices should see some jail time.
Sure, we are in control of the question-but how that is (or isn’t) answered is not up to us. Just because we demand to know in what month will Mr.Wrong will propose to us doesn’t mean that the Universe will answer back exactly in the way we expect. Huff! The hubris!
While we are attempting a connection with Spirit these messages are relayed via frail mortal people. These people have their own philosophies, emotions, and backgrounds. Some will read for any question without any issues. Some will say whatever it is that will make more money. And some want to use divination as a tool for self-improvement and spiritual growth.
Trust me when I say that the third option is by far the hardest.
I am not “Zoltan” don’t give me a coin while I spit out an inane fortune. I am a perceptive and intuitive reader who does this work because I truly believe in helping people get to their best selves. This is my mission. But I am also human-first and foremost I am that.
So if a client wants me to read about the guy who left a year ago, was physically abusive and a compulsive liar, I won’t do it. I will not contribute to the reinforcement of the drama triangle. I refuse to be a co-conspirator to self-destruction. I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning if I did.
Within the intuitive industry I find that there are not enough conversations about how to navigate interpersonal quandaries. So often we are siloed alone in our homes or offices trying to navigate these things on our own. It is a very isolating career choice and there isn’t yet an international professional body that exists to support intuitive workers.
When up against difficult readings that sometimes have bad consequences for you as the reader, where do you go to normalize yourself? Where are you fed, bolstered, empowered and mentored? What kind of conversations are you having with yourself and others about the kind of reader you want to be?
How to identify, isolate, and evade takers, ‘brain pickers’, and manipulation makers
About half of these consultations do not lead to a partnership. This is due to various reasons such as my approach and philosophy not working for them, or them needing something I cannot offer. Sometimes, they are not ready, and a conversation helps them to determine that.
Honestly, I appreciate the fifty percent conversion rate. A good coach does not take every person who crosses their proverbial door, and this consultation is exceedingly important in the process.
However, I’ve had a recent experience that truly flabbergasted me. I saw that someone made an appointment for one of these free business coaching informational chats. It was the same day that they subscribed to my newsletters. They had never been on my radar before. This is quite unusual as there is typically a dance that happens where people check me out, maybe come to a Zoom session, or get a reading before reaching out to me for business coaching. Usually, they are on my radar.
This person decided to book themselves for my last slot of the evening: 8:30–9pm. This is a precious and highly sought-after time slot because that is when kids are asleep, the workday is done, and people have time for a session. It also is a big sacrifice for me because working evenings also means I do not see my family, or friends who work 9–5. I only offer them two or three times a week.
At the appointed time, we connect, and she immediately launches into a story with her background before even introducing herself kind of as an afterthought. She was gushing about the things she had read about me and how great they were. But, then came the true request: “I am not interested in coaching. Maybe later. But can you help me with this aspect of business? I have looked everywhere on Google and cannot find anything.”
I felt my skin flush because it literally did not compute that someone would even think to cross a boundary like this. And honestly? I let her know, “If you had no intention of getting coaching, then why did you book this session with me?”
“I know, I am so sorry. But I saw that it was available and so I took it.” She said.
“But…don’t you know that when you take a slot like this, especially this kind of time slot, you prevented a client the opportunity to book?” I asked.
She was contrite. She apologized profusely. And, I think (hope) she learned as valuable a lesson as I did. I mean, she certainly inspired me to write this. So, lady that booked me for a session when you just wanted free advice, I thank you.
What you thought was just a friendly outing (and boy, do you need one, right? Entrepreneurialship can be lonely, thirsty work,) you are dismayed to see, wasn’t a social call it all. It had an agenda.
You will find people come out of the woodwork: old friends, acquaintances, other readers who “befriend” you, and with it comes the open hand, expecting that you will just give, “Because we are friends.” Usually, the moment you place a boundary and ask for them to pay for your time, they are as silent as the first snow in winter.
Either that or they will say they would love to pay you or they will pay you or they will consider paying you…later. Always later. Because, they are not thinking about you. They are only thinking about themselves. They do not understand that their “goodly intention” is actually robbing you. Robbing you of time. Robbing you of respect. Robbing you of genuine friendship and camaraderie.
Because, the thing is, is that you are probably a very generous person at heart. If these people had just asked and offered to pay you, you would have said, “That’s ok” and given them a few pointers because that is just what you do. Because I know that you care.
In the beginning I used to agonize over putting my boundaries in place. It made me feel like a bad person. But what I learned (the hard way) is that feeding these “hungry ghosts” will make them only demand more. You are rewarding them for bad behavior and training them to expect that relationship to continue.
So, let me spell it out with some pointers that will help you easily discern if the person coming your way is a hungry ghost:
The Ambush: They corner you and try to use your social niceness against you in order to get what they want. Maybe they will brazenly do what that person who inspired this post did and actually book a session to put you on the spot. They might invite you to lunch without telling you the agenda ahead of time and corner you at your favorite Mexican joint (shame on them, ’cause who doesn’t want to focus on their enchilada?).
They might find you at a conference or call you out on social media and corner you there, where you would look like a “bad person” or maybe a “miserly person” for not giving them what they want. Remember, the surprise attack here is key. You are not being asked, you are not being offered a choice. Moreover, they are definitely not saying that they want to compensate you for your time.
The Butter Up: These people will seem like they are your biggest fans, and they will use that as leverage. They sing your praises from here to the high heavens, but those praises come with strings attached-long emails or DMs asking you for your time and expertise. Because, they just love you! Why can’t you help? Aren’t you a good person like they thought you were?!
The Slippery Sloper: They start off with an innocent request of your time. It isn’t much, really. You could totally help out, and you want to. It’ll only take a minute. This tactic reminds me of that a crappy high school date at the movies: first comes the hand on the arm, then the yawn and fake-out boob graze, and the next thing you know, you have a tongue jammed down your throat. Usually, there is no consent asked for, and it is a slow, meticulous evolution into much longer requests, and even entitled demands on your time.
Debtor’s Prison: These hungry ghosts start off with telling you that they totally did something for you: like sent so many clients your way or gave you exposure on their platform. Then they will ask for a favor in return.
You are put in an incredibly difficult spot, right? It is so tricky to use gratitude and guilt to gain an advantage. This typically goes hand-in-hand with people who are well-trained in Victim Complex, “Well, I did this and this for you, and you can’t even do that for me?” (sad face).
The Ties that Bind: These are family, friends, and people connected to your partners who will take advantage of you and use emotional ties to do so. “But we are cousins! Remember that time when we had that Jell-O fight?! Come on, man, you know me! Help me out!”
These are typically the most entitled because they know you as the friend or as the brother’s girlfriend. They have hung out with you. They know you. They like you. Of course, you will help them, ’cause they would help you! You would be a monster to charge your own family member. How could you possibly do that, right?
Gee, I guess it’s “all business now, isn’t it?” they might say with a condescending snort. They might even pull the, “I guess you are just too good for me (us, this place, our relationship, etc.)”
RUN, my friend, RUN
And, when you inform them about their transgression, it is a chance for them to learn. Maybe they didn’t know, haven’t figured it out, or are panicking. Perhaps your firm boundary is the thing they needed to really get all of this, and so you have done them a tremendous favor.
On the other hand, some people are just takers. They know exactly what they are doing. It is a tactic that has worked for them for a long time. The sooner you identify these hungry ghosts and mitigate their hold on you, the more you will be able to focus on those who DO value you, who RESPECT you, who are a JOY to work with.
As a result, many of these creators decide to put everything behind a paywall, or they just stop giving: such a loss to the community they contribute in.
What a damn shame.
Personally, I offer a lot of free content and low-cost content. I have written extremely comprehensive books, all quite affordable. I could have put it all behind a pay wall and extracted even more. I chose not to take that route. I offer a free, monthly meeting for Spiritual Entrepreneurs — no strings attached. I write weekly fortunes, not to mention content like this to help others.
And because I offer free content in ways that bring me joy, I am confident in the boundaries I have in place everywhere else. I am a naturally very giving person so I want to honor that about myself. But I need to help others in a way that is sustainable for me. Because to do anything else would mean burn-out, bitterness, and resentment towards the takers. I stay in control of the situation, and I do it in a way that makes me happy.
Then, with the space you have built for yourself with all of these luscious boundaries you have made, you can give back in ways that feel true and good to you. If you were socialized as a female, this can be especially hard, as it goes against all of the social lessons you have learned. It is hard for women to say, “No. Absolutely Not. Get The F*** Out Of Here With That Nonsense.”
Because we don’t want to make people mad. Because we are afraid of confrontation. To that, I say, “Psst, hey friend, I have a secret: the more you do it, the easier this gets.” And with takers? If you have made them mad, that usually means you are not giving them what they want. It means you are doing good!
Entitlement is one helluva drug. Some people were raised without learning boundaries. But the better you are with your boundaries, the more you can invite into your life people who will offer as much (if not more) than they get. See the takers out, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya
I want to leave you with a good story because there are amazing people all over the place.. Recently, I had a pro reader sign up for one of my classes. When I asked her why she was taking it (as it is more of a tarot 101 class) she said, “You give so much for free, I wanted to give something back.”
It made me cry.
Find these people. Hold them close. They are worth their weight in gold. These are the ones who deserve your time.
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!
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M.S. in Organizational Psychology and Leadership