Christiana Gaudet, January, 2011, at a health fair at a chiropractic office.
One of the biggest questions I hear from new tarot professionals is “How can I attract more clients to my business?” This question is often accompanied by wailing about frustration with online marketing.
For many readers it seems that making memes, posting online specials and doing free readings online isn’t translating into paying clients the way they hoped it would.
Whether your focus is building local business or online business, the important thing to remember is that your entire thrust must be to build relationships. Building pretty graphics is great, and graphics might get you noticed, and might even go viral, but memes don’t create relationships.
I believe that, in 2016, the best way to build a tarot business is to let your online efforts and your local efforts support each other. I also believe that what was true when I started my business prior to the advent of social media is still true now. That is, the best way to build a tarot business and attract clients is by building relationships, and the best way to do that is by holding and participating in events.
Local (IRL) events can be classes, fairs, expos, charity functions, parties, meetups, workshops and presentations. Online events can be webinars, podcasts, hangouts, blog hops and focused online study groups. In both cases, the more your events look like marketing efforts, the less successful your events will be.
The purpose of holding events, and participating in events, is not to make sales. The purpose of holding events is to build relationships. Your events are an opportunity for you to showcase your particular skills and passions to real people, and to let people get to know and trust you.
Local events can involve giving readings for free, for tips or for a set fee. They can also involve classes and workshops.
There are two theories around creating and participating in local events. One is to participate in events that draw people that are already identified as potential clients. That is, people who enjoy tarot, spirituality and psychic work. The second theory is to bring your services to people who are not necessarily aficionados of your trade. That is, to introduce yourself and your business to the public at large.
It is that second kind of gig that I want to focus on in this post, and for two reasons. First, because making new friends, not only for me but also for tarot, has been the single biggest business-builder of my career. The second reason is more obviously practical. If you pay big bucks to showcase yourself at the local New Age expo, you will be competing with a lot of other readers for a finite number of customers, most of whom already have their favorite readers. On the other hand, if you set up at a bridal expo, or a home expo, for instance, you are likely to be the only reader present, and you can usually work a co-promotion deal with the event organizers.
While some events at which we read or teach tarot can be very lucrative, I have made it a practice not to focus on making income at events. For me, the purpose of events is marketing – that is, relationship building. When I do work an expo with other readers I always chuckle at their anxiety. “Are you making your money?” They ask each other with nervously. My answer is always the same. “I will make my money in the months that follow this event, when the people I’ve met here call me for parties and private readings”.
It’s fairly easy to find your local psychic fairs, New Age expos and shops. There is obvious value to working these sorts of venues. The question I want to answer today is this.
Where can a local tarotist find or create gigs that will help build their tarot business?
The easy answer is: Wherever you are!
That’s right. My first gig, other than psychic fairs, was in a laundromat. Why a laundromat? Because I had a three-year-old and no laundry facilities in my apartment building. My son and I spent a lot of time at the local laundromat, where he would play in the toy area with the other kids, and I would talk with the captive audience of adults. Eventually talking turned into pulling a few cards, and my business was born. I read for the owner of the laundromat a few times, and soon she was arranging readings during my laundry time. I started receiving phone calls from my friends at the laundromat.
So, when you are ready to start your local business, simply look at your town and think about the places you already frequent. Is there a way to incorporate your tarot cards into that venue, either officially or on the sly?
I mention “on the sly” for this reason. When I first started, I lived in a small apartment and didn’t have a reading room. I met my clients at the local diner. For the price of a cup of coffee, I had office space. A year later, when I opened my first office, I discovered through the local grapevine that, while the owners of the local diner appreciated the business I brought them, they weren’t really fans of tarot. However, they never made a move to discourage me from using their restaurant as my meeting room. Had I been more obvious about setting up shop in their diner, they may have had to ask me to stop.
Two other helpful venues for me early on were a flea market, and an AM radio station. The flea market was my first official reading space, every Sunday afternoon at Risom Mill in Danielson, CT.
Gary Osbrey of WINY in Putnam, CT, said I could come on the air and read for callers until people stopped calling. Thus began our lengthy cooperative relationship, and the beginning of my radio career.
I went to the local nightclub (Guido Murphy’s, now The Courthouse in Putnam) to see if I would be welcome to set up and read for folks a few nights a week. That worked out well, too.
I have to tell you, there were some venues I tried that didn’t go well. One cute café didn’t want to be associated with tarot. A bookstore owner appeared wishy-washy, but then welcomed another reader when I didn’t pursue them quickly enough.
The thing is, the ones that worked, worked well enough to get me on my way.
Another great venue for me, earlier in my career, was adult education. I taught a class called “Tarot for Fun” for many years, through a variety of adult education programs. Many of the people I met there remain my friends, clients and students to this day.
Many civic groups hold arts and crafts fairs, and will welcome the art and craft of tarot reading for a small entry fee. Rural areas hold county fairs that can be both lucrative and good exposure for a tarot reader. Nightclubs are often willing to let a reader set up and read for patrons, and often the DJ will be happy to announce your presence.
Over the years I’ve done street fairs, Chamber of Commerce meet and greets, drum circles, Relay for Life, and more. The list is long, including the shops and business of my clients. When I have an opportunity to read in a client’s flower shop and meet her clients, my client list grows.
These days, I spend a lot of time presenting tarot at local libraries, who are always happy to welcome interesting programming.
Another option is to consider holding an event of your own. Over the years, I’ve held Tarot Picnics, Skill Share events, Psychic Food-raisers and a Tarot Pot Luck Dinner. Each event has been fun and memorable, and has helped me build my business.
Most of the time, you need to take responsibility for promoting your events, even if the event organizers are promoting them as well. This is where social media becomes super important. And, the pictures you post on social media after the fact help you build your brand and bring even more people to you.
Basically, whether you are building your business online, locally, or both, two things remain true. First, building a business is all about building relationships. Second, if you try to market only to a pre-identified demographic (for instance, people who already know they like tarot readings) you will be competing with a huge field for the attention of a limited number of people.
Market to the people around you. Don’t worry about the naysayers, or those who don’t approve. Work on building relationships and winning new friends for tarot, and your business will grow.
Remember this, too. People need to hear your name three times before they will make a purchase. Sometimes it’s hard to know which of your events is responsible for generating the most clients. If you get a lot of phone calls that say “I met you at Relay for Life and I would like to book a reading”, then, of course, you know that was a successful event for you. On the other hand, many of those people may have seen you, or heard your name, a few times before.
As tarot readers, it is often true that our very best advertising happens when we let people see us in action. The more opportunities we create to showcase ourselves, the more successful we will be.