The business of tarot: Going pro. Or, when should you be charging for readings?

Tarot Reader“How much should I charge for a tarot reading?” 

For anyone who reads tarot – or serves up any divinatory art to others – the question about how to place monetary value on your services is very important.

And it’s a question that comes my way fairly often.

Sometimes, it comes up prematurely. I have heard it several times in my beginners’ tarot classes, even from a few people who had only had their tarot decks for a few weeks.

Which, in my opinion, is way too soon to even be thinking about charging for readings.

So, I started to reframe the question. Instead of wondering how much to charge for readings, how about, “When should I start charging for tarot readings?”

I don’t believe there is a hard and fast answer to this. There is no specific timeline that will magically transform you into a tarot reader. Some people will come to it sooner than others, yes.

But ideally, anyone who goes pro with tarot – or any other form of divination or healing – won’t still be in the student stages.

I took a long time to turn professional with my readings. I had never started out with the idea that I would read professionally, and so there was never an end goal that I was hurrying towards.

But I remember the urgency I felt when I was in journalism school in my early 20s, and how badly I wanted to be out in the world, working as a full-time writer.

Even though my relationship with tarot started off as something more personal, I can completely relate to anyone who feels that tarot is their calling, and that this is what they want to do professionally.

But because I didn’t have that drive with tarot at first, I took my time with it. Like, really took my time. In fact, I spent a good eight years learning, practicing, and reading about tarot. I took classes, went to meetup groups, and offered to read for free for friends and strangers, as a learning experience.

For all that time, I was working 9-5 in the non-profit industry. I learned so much from that time in my life. Even though it wasn’t the right path for me in the end, it put me into positions where I was learning about things like mental health, cancer care, and more. It gave me an education that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

And gaining life experience is good for tarot readers. If you’re at a job that you’re not happy with right now, don’t dismiss it. It is shaping your future self, even if you can’t see it right now.

One of the learning curves in this work is in understanding how far your experiences can take you, as well as where you might be limited in terms of how you serve, or whom.

Tarot reading is more than memorizing card meanings. It’s about understanding how to put them in your own words and bringing them to life in a way that others can relate to.

Along the way, I also realized that I wouldn’t have been as ready if I had tried to go pro sooner than I did. Even though eight years is a long time, I everything I experienced then was leading me up to that decision. It was all a lesson to bring me to that moment when I could say yes to tarot.

Again, everyone will come to this path in their own way, and their own time. In my opinion, that’s part of the journey: Tarot will do its work on you first. It will transform your life in its own way, and in its own timing.

Coming into tarot as a profession is different from taking a college course or getting a degree. (And let’s be honest: Even then, paths are rarely so linear, or cut and dry. With anything worthwhile, you will have to put your time in, do the work, and do it well. There are no guarantees that it will happen overnight.)

Sure, there are courses and certifications that you can get in tarot, but the truth is, no one can turn you into a tarot reader. You have to put in the practice and dedication to make that happen.

I’m not out to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for tarot. But when I have students who expect to take a few classes with me and then start charging for readings, I do talk to them about the importance of patience.

If you can’t do a reading without looking up the meanings of the cards, you are not ready to charge someone for a reading.

If you can’t adequately describe or explain the meaning behind a tarot card that you pull at random, on the spot, you are not ready to charge someone for a reading.

If you haven’t done very many practice readings, if any, you are not ready to charge someone for a reading.

If you have just completed a beginners’ tarot class, or are just in the process of taking lessons and are still very new to tarot, you are not ready to charge someone for a reading.  

If you have never read a book about tarot, or have only learned from a single source – be it a teacher, website, book, or otherwise – diversify first. Not all tarot teachings are the same, and some sources give erroneous information, or share techniques that don’t work for you. Learn more, take what you like, and leave the rest.

Tarot is not a one-size-fits-all thing. There is no standardized way of doing it, which is why it’s good to spend some time exploring so that you can get a bigger picture of what it’s all about.

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And be discerning. Discernment on any spiritual path is extremely important, but it can also come with time and experience. Because at first, you might not have a lot of experiences to compare your teachers to.

There is a teacher local to me who, I have been told, will often tell their students to start charging for readings when they are still in the learning stages.

As their students practice in class, I am told they say, “Look, you’re reading that cards. You should be charging for this.” And these are beginners’ classes.

I have had two of this person’s students approach me, talking about wanting to charge for readings. “Aren’t you still in the beginner’s class?” I asked. When I talked to them about whether they felt they were actually ready to take on clients, they stopped and said, “No, actually.”

Don’t be afraid to challenge any teacher who promises you professional skills right away, or who tells you to start charging when you are still just grasping the concept of reading cards. Personally, I don’t think that any beginner class should include topics about marketing your skills. It should be purely focused on learning tarot.

It also doesn’t help the tarot community at large to hurry to go pro. It takes a lot of work to dispel the stubborn perceptions out there that tarot readers are flakey scam artists. If you want to be taken seriously, then take your time and do tarot right.

If you do have a teacher who is pushing the business side of things prematurely, ask yourself:

What kind of integrity do you want to uphold?
What kind of style and skill do you want to start off with?
What responsibility do you feel you have in any kind of work that you do, tarot or otherwise?

It is dangerous for tarot teachers to push their students too soon. Not only can it be detrimental to the aspiring reader, who will start out with a faulty foundation, but it can be damaging for their clients.

One thing I have learned is that when you offer readings, people will hang on to your every word. You have to be very careful what you to tell someone, because they may be placing a lot of hope and trust in you at that time.

Reading tarot is a major responsibility. When you are a professional, people will come to you with expectations that you know what you are doing.

You don’t want to be figuring it out as you go along.

When you turn professional, you are also opening yourself up for some very challenging discussions. Tarot is therapeutic for many people, and you need to be ready to hold space for someone. You never know what they are bringing to the table, or what their emotional triggers may be.

Which is also why time, practice, and maturity are important in this process. There are things tarot teachers and books can’t teach you, like how to continue a session when someone is in tears.

Or how to help someone whose partner is terminally ill, and you have just turned over their cards and all you see is Death, the Ten of Swords, and the Tower.

Those are things we learn to deal with over time, just by being here, and being human. But they are also things that you may want to consider learning, too, through a counselling class or workshop.

Tarot is also something that you can never truly master. Which is why I stress diversifying your learning. If you take just one class and think the learning stops there, you might be stunting your growth as a tarot reader.

Because in this practice, the learning never stops. There are always more layers to uncover in tarot. And every conversation that comes up in a client session will be unique.

Let yourself explore, and remember that patience will help you, not hold you back.

Tarot Reader HandSome tarot readers set goals for themselves before they go pro. For example, I remember meeting a woman at a class once who had challenged herself to give 100 tarot readings – for free – before going pro.

She said that that felt like a good number because she knew that people would ask her how much experience she had as a reader. “One-hundred sounded like a good number to start off with,” this woman said. “I also knew that if I could read for 100 people, and still enjoy it, I would be on the right path.”

And that’s another thing: You might not want to do this for a living once you learn it. Think about how many people go to college with a specific plan in mind, only to come out and realize their chosen career paths weren’t a good fit.

Learning tarot is like learning anything: It all seems interesting from the outside, but you don’t really know how it feels until you’ve tried it on for a while.

Remember, too, that people don’t owe you a living. Just because you want to be a tarot reader doesn’t mean you will be, or that you should be. You have to be able to offer a solid, valuable experience to the people you want to serve.

What would you prefer to buy a reading from: A tarot reader who just bought their deck last month, or a tarot reader who can tell you that they have solid experience?

So ask yourself:

What would constitute a tarot professional in your eyes?
How would you want to demonstrate your own professionalism to a potential client?
What do you think will help someone decide to buy a reading from you?
What would your ideal milestones be in order to go pro?

Perhaps it is doing a certain number of readings, like the woman I mentioned above. Perhaps it’s spending a certain number of years learning and practicing.

Perhaps it’s starting out by reading at parties or charity events – for free.

For me, doing free parties was a big part of my own development as a tarot reader. Nothing will sharpen your skills – and deliver major tarot lessons – more than throwing yourself into a room full of strangers and letting their questions and cards fly.

Whatever you decide, my main advice is this: Don’t rush it.

Give yourself time to figure out what your value can really be as a tarot reader. Let the cards speak to you, and let yourself get really comfortable with reading them before you even think about charging a fee.

Time will only make you better. And when you get there, it will be worth it.

Until next time,

Liz xo

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