Navigating the road blocks to getting started with a Tarot business

A few weeks ago, I shared a guest post which focused on a major issue for people who run their own spiritual businesses: that of the feeling that money is ‘bad’, or that it’s wrong to charge for spiritual services like tarot reading. Theresa argued that for many of us, these attitudes present a major block to financial sustainability, and that ‘getting out of our own way’ would be beneficial.

As someone who has personally experienced those blocks, I agree with Theresa’s words and think there is value there for many readers of this blog. However, it doesn’t (and couldn’t) tell a complete story. For many, it’s not as simple as a change of attitude, and society is not set up in such a way as to provide everybody with an even playing field.. As some readers pointed out in the comments, there are other potential blocks in the way to creating an abundant business, some of which – like mental health disability – can actually be exacerbated by talk of ‘taking a positive attitude’ and so on.

I promised to explore this in more detail, and present other perspectives on this topic. I hope that over the coming months we’ll be able to take this conversation further and discuss the many different issues people face when it comes to entrepreneurship and ‘lifestyle creation’.

The first essay comes from one of the commenters on the original post, SJ, who is currently navigating the path of creating a sustainable business whilst also dealing with mental and physical disability.


Making your own way down the bumpy road less traveled: Navigating the road blocks to getting started with a Tarot business

oldWhoAmI-Tarot

When I was younger, I dreamed that I’d marry some rich old guy who just wanted to dote on me and give me the money to do whatever I wanted. Let’s be real: I still fantasize about that sometimes. With so many lifestyle blogs of women who share their beautiful lives with us, I’m always sighing and wondering “how does she do it?” Then I remember that for a large chunk of society, life’s journey for a woman is go to college, have a job for a few years, get married, have kids, stay home and let your husband support you and your interests while you raise the kids. Hey, wait! They’re living my dream!

Okay, but, actually, I’m not interested in marriage, especially not a heteronormative one, and not at all okay with kids. What do I do? Go to college and then get a job so I have enough money to support myself by myself.

Okay, but, actually, in this day and age, getting your degree doesn’t mean you’ll get a job you love, unless you’re one of the lucky few or willing to slave yourself to something unimportant to you. Add in some more barriers: since I already talked about being a woman, there’s one. Being queer is another. Are you healthy? I’ve heard that many people don’t wake up and wonder whether or not their body and mind are going to work for or against them today. I’m not one of them, which hinders my ability to work sometimes. I’m privileged to be white, but there are more barriers faced by people of color.

Yet I want to live my dreams, too, and work just enough to be satisfied, and not too much that my body revolts and I can’t get out of bed for a week.

I don’t quite have enough health problems to qualify for disability benefits, and if I did, it would barely make me enough money to survive. (The day I looked up disability benefits from the U.S. federal government is the day I completely understood why we have a homeless problem…) I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that my parents support me financially while I figure out how to manage all that’s wrong with me. On the other hand, why is it so much worse to rely on one’s parents than a committed partner? They love me, too, and they have the resources to support me.

Peppercatandsprouts

Since graduating from college in 2011, I’ve grappled with the insecurity and self-doubt that accompanies every liberal arts major who doesn’t land a dream job right away. I’ve bounced from unemployment to retail to shitty, scam sales jobs to working temp with a part-time ushering job on the weekends, because I didn’t feel valuable unless I had some kind of income. Through it all I’ve volunteered and become a grassroots activist with a local environmental grassroots organization, going from quiet, shy, and studious, to very intentionally developing the social skills to organize and manage people. I’m finally at a point where I don’t equate my value as a human being to the amount of money I make, but it took a long journey with quite a few setbacks.

Last October, I started two jobs, one full- and one part-time, and tried to sustain both of them and my activism. It didn’t work. A wind blew really disgusting, polluted air into my city in December, people wearing strong perfume walked by me, and my asthma control plummeted. My primary doctor didn’t know what to do with me, and I went to a university asthma specialist who put me on an extremely strict regimen to get me back to control. Then I immediately went back to overdoing it, working two jobs and not giving myself time to heal. That didn’t end well.

justworkingfromthefloor

This series of illness has forced me to come to the conclusion that I can’t work at the speed my brain does.

I finally imposed a break on myself last August, took off from all paying commitments, because none of them made me feel good about ME, and slept, and ate, and watched TV, and hung out with friends. Now, for the first time in a year, I can say my asthma is well controlled, though I need to continue to investigate a host of other health problems so that I can feel like a person again, instead of trapped in a body. And while I’m doggedly going after doctor appointments, I’m contemplating what I want my life to look like, and it does not look like society’s ideal at all.

I’m tired of the 40-hour work week. Working the way I do, with bursts of productivity in between wanting to go for a walk, take a nap, bake some biscuits, etc., the “norm” just does not work for me. It’s not sustainable, either: if I’m forced to go somewhere for 8 to 9 hours a day, I’m much more likely to be exposed to asthma, allergy, or migraine triggers. I work fast, so I get much more done than the average office worker in the time I am there, so I don’t understand why I need to be there for that specific chunk of time.

Instead, I want to build my life out of things that are meaningful to me.

Tarot is meaningful to me. Blogging is meaningful to me. Understanding herbs, crystals, and aromatherapy is meaningful to me. So how do I turn my life into an anti-capitalist-but-still-fulfilling my needs kind of life, where I have enough money to eat well, take my medications, keep myself sheltered, and have a bit left over for some frippery and glitter? Whenever I see articles and posts about monetizing your blog, none of it reads as helpful. I’ve spent years in agony before realizing that “the power of positive thinking” posts are one of my triggers for my depression and anxiety. I don’t want to use ad space instead of selling things I make. I want to be valued for the same things I value, and getting paid to do my Tarot readings is a great way to start, but how DO I start? I’m making connections with people, practicing reading Tarot, getting my blog base set up. What’s next? I’m hoping to hear from others about how they stand out.

HalloweenTarot

I’m lucky right now. My parents are more than willing to help me pay for my basic needs as well as a few extras right now, as long as my first priority is figuring out all of my health issues. I absolutely would not be able to deal with the health issues I’m facing while working full time (I tried, I failed). I have a very hard time balancing all of my other needs while working full time (which includes my activism, my introversion, seeing my beautiful friends a few times a week, developing my Tarot and coding skills). So I’m thankful to have this time to focus very specifically on what my body needs and secondly figuring out what’s next for me, that I don’t get trapped in what my culture’s ideals say I should do, but continue to find creative, meaningful work that honors me, my body, and my community. I am pretty sure Tarot will be a big part of it, and making lotions and potions, and exuding warmth and glitter. I don’t know yet how to turn this into a sustainable way for me to live, but I’m going to try my best!


stephanieAbout the author

SJ is a creative person constrained by brain demons (aka depression and anxiety). Disabled, cis-by-default (though enjoys gender-neutral pronouns), obsessed with Tarot and fairies, and a witchling in flight, working toward a sustainable and joyful future.

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10 comments

  1. Mara says:

    I definitely feel this post. I’ve never been able to work, having been mentally ill since childhood and developing a personality disorder once I reached adulthood. I’ve had to rely completely on my partner for the last 10 years and had to give up activist work completely. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life working on anti-racist education and instead had to mourn what effectively felt like the “death” of my adult life.

    I’ve been thinking about where to go from here. I’m never going to be able to leave my house, like other people, or have the support network/friends/chosen family I probably need. But tarot, tarot feels like homecoming. Tarot speaks to the part of me that wants only to help people, especially other QPOC, and make them feel safe and included and listened to. I especially admire someone like Alexis from Worts and Cunning who combines so many of my interests (queer mixed kid identity, herbalism, and tarot) into work that inspires.

    Capitalism doesn’t determine your self-worth or your humanity. Coming to grips with one’s limits and the realities of disability/disabling illness is always rough. I hope, SJ, that you find your way and that way makes you feel whole and satisfied. I am rooting for you.

    • SJ says:

      It’s so strange to come to terms with your reality when it goes against the larger cultural narrative, isn’t it? I always assumed I would be able to work when I grew up. But even when I have glowing references and work myself sick, it’s not like I’ve been offered a job in a field that satisfies me. I have the worst economy for liberal arts grads against me, too.

      Anyway, thank you so much for this comment, and my fingers are crossed for the road ahead!

  2. Like others here, I could relate to much of your post! My degree, my personality, and my depression and anxiety do not “play well” with traditional ideas of what I’m supposed to do. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks there’s got to be some other way :)

  3. Casanna says:

    Hi SJ, Beth, and all Little Red Tarot people

    You can’t imagine how I’ve felt identified with you!! (although I’m not queer, we are all people, aren’t we?) I also have health problems that limit my life at about a 40%, and I’m trying to make my way through tarot online, as a way to do something I like at the same time I get income to live life comfortably… while I’m waiting for a trial resolution to get a disability benefit and make my rights shine (I’ve been working for 22 years, paying my taxes, carrying out with my duties and getting some rights, and now I’m bound to go to courts to benefit from them! ????). I rely I’m winning the trial, and in the meantime, I’m getting a subside, so I can breathe and pay out all my bills, but it’s taking from me a lot of time and energy (something that I haven’t in a huge amount precisely…)

    But all this mess of health and life is getting me close to myself, my true self, I must admit it. It is making me grow and find who I am, what I want, what I’ve done, and how illness came to me nearly 4 years ago from now to make me stop a life and a persona that were taking me to a kind of deppression and un-tunning from myself, and to tiredness of life without realizing it. That’s a big present, isn’t it?????

    I literally fell and broke down on March 2013 and a year later, I was diagnosed with CFS/ME. I spent nearly a year 20 hours in bed, and with my head really heavy, foggy, slow… Me!! The super intelligent, multitasker, brilliant, successful woman who had nearly everything in life, a good job, a good salary, travelling, going out with friends, doing lots and lots of things… That “me” was killing ME and I wasn’t being conscious till I got myself borderline and burst out…

    Wait!!: Had nearly everything? Oh, no, no, no…. This last years I’ve been working really hard on me, on loving me, on recognizing me, on taking care of me, on being conscious of who was I becoming… And I’ve realized I didn’t like the life I was living (although I thought I was happy, and proud of it)

    Then, I connected with what really mattered to me and made me vibrate: making soaps and natural cosmetics, herbs, tarot, music and health… I had done some street markets selling my soaps, had a blog… so maybe it coud be my life earning. I could make my soaps and go to bed, and make more stuff, and go to bed again… And then, lots of people tired of chemicals would be wishing to get my beautiful products…-I crashed against a wall…- My energy wasn’t enough to produce in an amount enough to get a significant income. And besides, I had to go out to sell and make myself known. I couldn’t. That was the truth. And the legal requirements are not sustainable to a crafter (I attended a course on legal issues, and appart from getting my head burst, it was clear that I couldn’t afford such investment and energy to recover it and live from it, my day has about 8 -9 hours at a slow-slow path)

    Well, I went to therapy, and in hipnosis it came out another thing that made me tinkle and happy: reading tarot. How didn’t I think it before? I really enjoyed it, and the question that day in therapy was: is there anything you would do even without being payed? Oh gosh!!, it was. In fact, I had been doing it from about 20 years. And people got happy with my readings, and they said they helped them, and they took to surface lots of things that made sense an light for them. Even, 2 years before (I didn’t like my work and was looking for alternatives) I began recording some youtube videos as short tarot tutorials, and had had some success… I wanted to be a youtubber, but I hadn’t time enough while I was in my job, and, -oh!- it was so well paid… -But it was taking my health and it was all against my ideal lifestyle… -But I had a mortgage, lived in the middle of nowhere in a really beautiful home at the country, and needed the car and all its expenses… -But could it be possible to live a more relaxed and satisfying life?-, but… Crashhhh, clink, booommmm!!!. I can’t move, my head is dizzy, I need to hang on to walls to go to the bathroom, I’m loosing my head, get dizzy at going to the front door, at speaking for a while with people, my muscles feel really weak, I can’t read… day by day, month by month, and (…) I’m not telling you all the medical odissey, I guess you who are dealing with disabiliting heatlh issues know it well. I’m not boring you with it

    So I decided to take benefit from my tarot love, made a web and was predisposed to charge a small amount for some videos while I left other free. And I was offering my services as a tarot reader online, not for divination, but for self knowing and analysis of situations and for helping people understanding them better and their lives… I felt excited with it, and made me feel I wanted to do anything at last. I made 2 skype readings and I couldn’t with it. I spent several weeks in bed after them. My thing would be mail readings, to take my time and do it well without damaging myself…

    This has been my proyect these last 2 and a half years, but my head doesn’t follow me, I concentrate for small periods of time, get extra tired form reading for a while and at the computer… I’ve completed my web, recorded some more videos, I’ve started a blog… And people like my free videos and write to me thanking for them, but don’t spend a cent on my payment ones, even with 50% offers (although I also include guidance to getting used to tarot, relating each video subject). I didn’t make money enough to pay the hosting and the .com address… I know!, if you don’t spend time and dedication, it can’t work… You may spend them and it is not for sure it is going to work… But I had to try the way I was able to…

    “Ok, my marketing ideas are wrong, I must go and learn something about it in the internet, lots of blogs of successful girls who live their dreamed life, work only a bit, and enjoy the benefits of their wonderful products, and offer their “secrets” to make it possible to you…”. But my head gets tired and I don’t understand well lots of things, and don’t have the energy to manage all, and I don’t do anything else that day…

    So, I’ve decided to wait till the trial’s resolution, praying I’m winnig it, and selling my home and moving to another place I can afford with little money, making my life simpler… And my tarot proyect would be at the background of my life, only when I feel like it… And if I don’t win (I don’t even want to think of it), I would invest my savings in paying somebody to make my very small business work enough to sustain me in an affordable way to my health, as you say in your post. But I feel insecure about if I’m really able to manage all…

    I’m quoting you, SJ ????:

    “So how do I turn my life into an anti-capitalist-but-still-fulfilling my needs kind of life, where I have enough money to eat well, take my medications, keep myself sheltered, and have a bit left over for some frippery and glitter? ”

    And at the same time I feel lucky, I’m getting enough from gobernment payments to sustain myself and my context while my situation gets stable, and I’m feeling fullfilled by myself for the first time in my life, I guess, more ME… I’m dedicating all this in-between time to me, to nourish me, to hear me, to give myself what I need, to do what my body lets me instead of pretending to do all I would be supposed to do… And I know I’ve found this tarot place for some reason, and thank you and life for it

    That’s my experience

    All my best wishings for you SJ, for all of you who are managing with disabilities, for your projects and dreams to be true
    Thanks for sharing
    A big hug to all
    Carmen

    P.S.: if you feel curious about my proyects, I leave my webs (they are in Spanish, eh?) casanna.wordpress.com
    casannatarot.wordpress.com
    http://cibercarmens.wixsite.com/casanna-tarot

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