The Plight of the Free Reading Requests

Bitstrips - Free Reading Please

So today I am going to talk about something no tarot reader has ever, ever talked about before. A novel topic, one not yet addressed by anyone. (Okay, truth: I am like the 39,458,323,492,345th tarot reader to talk about this issue. But I want to talk about it anyway.)

As a budding tarot practitioner, you will have done countless free tarot readings for folks, friend and stranger, before a light bulb goes off in your head and you realize you’re good at reading tarot and could go pro with it. So you do. Now you’re a professional tarot reader, or at least that’s what you’re telling yourself and everybody else. You have a price list up and you’ve sent out a press release or announcement notice to everyone you know that you’ve launched your own tarot business.

[Wait, hold up. “Press release? Announcement notice? What is this woman talking about?” I went on a bit about press releases in a previous post here. And here is a template announcement notice you can use to create your own to send to your contact list: SAMPLE ANNOUNCEMENT NOTICE FOR TAROT BUSINESS LAUNCH (PDF file).]

Okay, back to the topic at hand. As you can see in the sample announcement notice, assuming yours was something like it, you’ve clearly given out your pricing list and everyone knows you’re now a business. This isn’t just a hobby and your friends know that because you’ve told them. Complete strangers oughta know it, too, considering it’s clearly posted on your website.

Yet you would be a unicorn if you didn’t get any audacious requests for free tarot readings. It’s a plight every tarot reader deals with.

The Friend Who Wants You to Just Pull a Few Cards, Please, This is Important

Bitstrips - Friendly Request for Free Reading

Now that you’ve disseminated the announcement notice for your tarot business launch, the pro is lots of people are aware of your service and you are now on their radar. The con is at least a bunch of them are going to try to haggle a free reading out of you.

You’ll want to know what your own professional policy will be for handling such situations. Most professional tarot readers would probably advise you to say no and not step foot onto the slippery slope of giving out free readings. I would say it depends on how much free time you have, what makes you happy, and whether you have bills to pay.

If you say yes, then you’re enabling that person to come back to you again in the future for more free reading requests. And then what? What if you say yes for the first free reading and no for the second request? That friend will–whether she admits it or not–feel betrayed by you (because it’s basic psychology) and resent you for saying no because, after all, you said yes before. Now the appreciation for that first free reading is shot and your friend can’t believe you’re now saying no to her.

If you [very graciously!] say no the first time and establish a firm precedent, in the long run, you’re saving the friendship.

Hey _______________,

[Start by acknowledging the friend’s situation and showing sympathy.] I’m sorry for what you have to go through right now with [be as specific as the initial inquiry request the friend gave, e.g., if she told you it’s about her ex, Tom, then bring up Tom]. However, right now my work schedule is packed, and all open slots I have need to be reserved for paying clients. Keeping to that policy is how I can meet my quarterly business goals. I hope you can understand.

[End with a call to action and give the friend an incentive to book a paid reading with you.] What I can do is give you a 10% discount on your reading [or “give you a bonus oracle card reading”] and move you to the front of my waitlist and expedite your reading request. Let me know if that would work for you.

Thanks. Again, I really do feel for your situation and hope you’re able to understand mine.

Sincerely,

It may sound counter-intuitive, I know, but it’s the psychology of expectations. The first free reading set a precedent, and thus set certain expectations, even if it’s at a subconscious level in your friend. Even if she says she won’t expect a second free reading, inside, she still expects it, so when it’s not free, she’s disappointed, you didn’t meet her expectation, and you’re beginning the reading with disappointment.

Beware the Hypocrite Author. I don’t always do as I say. I get pushed over a lot and end up doing free readings for everyone and their mother, daughter, sister, brother-in-law, third cousin twice removed, and coworker. And I have to tell you, each time afterward, it’s a mixed feeling of good and shitty– good because, after all, you helped, and shitty because I sacrificed book-writing-time or family-time or even other-business-time to do this free reading and that’s precious time I can’t get back and won’t get comped for. Sure, people say they appreciate it, saying it with their mouths, but rest assured it’s basic human nature to not truly appreciate anything unless you’ve had to put your money where your mouth is. So no, they don’t really appreciate what you’ve done. If someone isn’t willing to pay or remunerate you, then I’m sorry, no, that person doesn’t genuinely appreciate your time or service.

Your Sister’s College Roommate from Two Decades Ago Has a Sister Who Has a Friend Who Has a Neighbor Who is Going Through Something Crazy and Will You Please Help by Giving Him a Reading? He Doesn’t Have Much Money.

Bitstrips - Neighbor Wants a reading

Also file this under why not to give free readings to friends. It’s always born out of good intentions, but if you give free readings, then the referrals that people give will be referrals for more free readings, not paid ones. Referrals for paid readings come from paid readings.

Yes, of course, giving out free sample readings is one way to drum up future business, but it’s not the most efficient or economical way to drum up business when you are a solo act (and most professional tarot readers are solo business acts). You’re really better off devoting that time you would have spent doing free readings to doing more aggressive marketing and promotion.

Note. I have another post planned, coming soon, on when free readings is smart marketing. Free quick tarot readings at huge, major public events that’s drawing crowds is great promotion, so long as you have a big stack of your business cards nearby and make sure every single person who sits down for a reading leaves with your contact info. But the individual, one-by-one free private e-mail readings is not smart marketing.

The Complete Stranger Who Requests a Free Sample Reading Before She Orders a Full Reading

Bitstrips - Free Reading Stranger

I wanted to add my perspective to the ongoing dialogue I read over at Theresa Reed’s post on the issue here. When you’re holding yourself out as a tarot reader, there will be complete strangers who will ask you to give them a free “sample reading” on some “on my honor” assurance they intend to then order a full reading from you. Please do not be so gullible as to believe that.

People who really intend on ordering a full reading from you will just do it. It’s only when they’re not sure yet and are questioning the risk of paying for a tarot reading from you that they become so bold as to request a free reading. I totes agree with Theresa about saying no to this.

Here’s how I might do it:

Dear ______________:

Thank you so much for reaching out to me for a reading.

I know it’s tough and risky to order a tarot reading blindly from someone you’ve never met over the Internet! That’s why I try to take out as many unknown variables as possible for my clients and prospective clients (and here’s to hoping I can add you to my list of clientele!).

You can check out some of the testimonials my past clients have shared here [it’s good business practice to post a handful of client testimonials on your website]. I also have a sample e-mail reading posted on my site [link to sample readings on your site so prospective clients get a sense of what they’ll be paying for] that will give you a good sense of what you can expect from me. If the content there resonates with you, then I really think we should go forward together for a session!

I don’t give free readings or pull cards outside a booked request because I reserve all of my intuitive energies, concentration, focus, and devotion to my clients. We can start with a low-risk $10 for a 15-minute or 200-word reading that, in all honesty, will probably suffice in answering your question. If you then have subsequent specific sub-questions, you can immediately order an additional reading that would compound on top of the initial reading so that you might have a complete picture of the situation. A full listing of my rates are posted here [link or in the alternative, list out your rates directly into the e-mail].

I would love the opportunity to do a reading for you, so I hope you will consider ordering one!

Sincerely,

Now, about what I said in the above template reply: sample e-mail readings. Provide them, especially if you’re a newbie. (Old fart pros do not have to do this because frankly, they have nothing to prove to you. When you’re a newbie, though, check your ego– you’ve still got stuff to prove.) These can be actual readings you’ve done with names and identities redacted or just make up a hypothetical and answer your own hypothetical. The reading write-up that you share on your website is intended to give prospective clients a sense of the word count, structure, format, specificity, and style of reading they can expect if they order one from you. They’re not looking for right or wrong, accurate or not, although marketing wise, it certainly helps if you can post an actual reading and also post that client’s positive feedback about that reading.

Another idea is to create an interactive sample reading page. The page would feature 3 or 4 (or however many you want) face down tarot cards that are hyperlinked. A reader can click on any one of the face down cards and get directed to a prepared 1-card reading for that card, with explanations on how that card might be applied in a reading about love, in a reading about career, etc. Such an interactive page can give a prospective client an idea of your style. I also believe that this little interactive exercise can help a prospective client determine whether there’s rapport between the two of you, and if there is, be what convinces that individual to order a paid reading.

Bitstrips - Free Reading Charity

When Free Readings are Appropriate

As a professional tarot reader, there are a few occasions I’d say that giving a free reading is appropriate.

If you could potentially land a lucrative reading event, like a company’s holiday party or a local socialite’s next big birthday bash, and the organizer of the event wants to hire a tarot reader but right now is only about 80% sold on the idea of hiring you, and you know you’ve already said everything you can say to pitch yourself and the mark is still at 80%, then give a free sample tarot reading to that organizer.

I really believe it helps.

During that free reading, you and the organizer establish a very personal connection. From a psychological perspective, if this reading is done in person, then there was probably a lot of direct eye contact, and you two have shared a moment, not to mention a moment focused on the organizer’s life (everyone likes it when the attention is on them). Even with a reading by phone or e-mail, now the organizer knows you’ve given up quite a bit of your personal time and effort. So at the very least, they like you. Most people in that organizer’s situation will not only feel motivated to hire you, but may even feel guilty if they don’t. By giving that organizer a free reading, you’ve made an ally out of someone otherwise on the “other side.” This is especially true when you’re trying to land a corporate gig. Now you have someone on the inside advocating to get you hired for the event.

What you have to lose is whatever time it took to do that free reading. (And that is just a part of the cost of doing business. Think real estate agents, salespeople, home improvement contractors who come to your house to give free quotes and estimates, or even lawyers and that free 30 minute initial consultation.) What you have to gain is not just a lucrative gig, but the opportunity to land an annual gig, where the company decides to hire you every subsequent year for their holiday party. Given those odds, you’d be a complete idiot to not give a free reading and try your luck. If the event is some rich person’s birthday bash, remember: rich people know rich people. Landing that socialite’s birthday bash means opportunities to land her friends’ and friends’ friends’ birthday bashes.

I also believe that a professional should contribute to the integrity of the profession by offering pro bono publico services. Every well regarded profession has this idea embedded into their ethical standards and tarot readers should be no exception. In law, lawyers are expected to devote a minimum of 10% of their professional time to pro bono cases. Consider adopting this ethical policy into your own practice as a tarot reader and carve out 10% of your tarot reading time for a non-profit fundraiser, a charity, or give out free readings to the least privileged members of our society.

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When people know you read tarot and–worse yet–know you’re good at it, you’re going to get requests for free tarot readings. They’ll come from friends and friends of friends, and they’ll come from complete strangers. Say no, but respond with grace, and don’t let this recurring issue get under your skin. Everyone always wants free help, and that’s not their fault. It’s on you to set clear boundaries and know what you will and will not do for others in your free time.

17 thoughts on “The Plight of the Free Reading Requests

  1. WORD! I have been giving free readings ever since I started my Tarot journey. And because people know I read for free they just like…. Suck the life out of me! Well not everyone but some people go crazy and ask me some really silly stupid questions. I mean like! ??
    Example: What is this so and so person who is in another part of the world doing right now and What is he thinking? I go like Whattt??? And since it’s free they questions are never ending.

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    1. Yes. The tarot reader comes from a very well-intentioned place when he or she wants to do the readings for free, but then you run a high, high risk of getting stepped all over. 😦

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      1. This happens to me all the time! It took me awhile to realize that my “friends” who would ask me for tarot readings over and over again were just stepping on me! I felt guilty asking them for money because they were my friends, and so they used that to their advantage and would come to me on the regular for readings about the same topics (usually some loser ex boyfriend) over and over, and then get upset with me when I didn’t deliver on the spot! One I had a female “friend” give me the silent treatment for a month because I didn’t give her a tarot reading about the same guy she had asked me about ten times right when she wanted it! I tried explaining that giving her readings was draining me, but she found a way to turn it back around on me saying “So what are you saying, you want me to pay you?” As if I was asking something terrible of her because she was a friend. The bottom line is, its OK to give free readings every now and again, but be careful about being used! Don’t be afraid to ask someone for money, even if they are a close friend or family member! At the end of the day, you are providing a service by giving a tarot reading and you can’t work for free, its not ethical or fair!

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        1. I’ve had the same thing happen to me. I said simply, “I don’t have the bandwidth to do free readings for you right now. Also, at this point I may be too close to the situation and have read for it so many times that I don’t know if I’m the right reader for you. You should call up ________” (and refer the friend to a fellow tarot reader who WILL charge that friend a fixed fee for the reading).

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    1. Totally agree and we ( Primal Magick) who joked we were the “Piss Poor Psychics ” as an alternative to “fluffy light rainbow unicorns” were becoming it literally, for all the free counselljng and no buying!

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  2. Ugh I must say I would’ve given a different perspective a while back, but now I’m really starting to agree with you… A while ago a I felt like I gave (for free by e-mail) a really flowing, positive, lengthy reading with lots of good advice and ya know, I just felt really proud of the reading and like it would help the girl who e-mailed me. All I got back was ”Thank you so much! But…Will he call me or text message me any time soon?!” And I just felt kind of used, when I has spent so much time on the reading. At that point I really felt like she would’ve valued it more if she had paid for it. Now when it was for free she could just look for her answer and when it wasn’t there just discard the reading like nothing, but when paying for something you don’t just throw it away even if it isn’t the exact thing you expected/wanted to get. Good post, Benebell!

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    1. I’m nodding emphatically to everything you’re saying. That used to be my experience, to the tee. I hate how predictable human nature is. It sucks. But really, people just don’t appreciate what’s received for free.

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  3. This is great advice from start to finish. I’m personally going to incorporate a sample reading into my website that I can refer people to pronto.

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  4. Excellent.
    Reminds me of a woman I saw at a festival years ago. She was asked to do the “free reading” and so she let the girl ask her quick question, and pulled the cards. She said the names of the cards and that was it. When the girl got upset she said “Answering the question is free. explanation of the answer is five dollars.” I’ve never seen someone get so much applause.

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  5. Thank you for posting this article. You give great advice on how to deal with these requests. My personal experience is that the people who requests readings for free don’t really value the advice that’s given or/and they keep coming back asking the same question over and over again – they don’t value your work or appreciate the time you put into it. It’s extremely draining. I can actually feel it sometimes – the lack of appreciation – and now, I tell them they have to pay. I keep telling myself: “The ones who want to pay the fee will pay the fee.” The rest of them will never want to pay , so why should I cater to them? And like other posts said – people value the service more if they have to pay for it. 🙂

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    1. So true. It’s human nature to want to give out as little as possible for as big of a return as possible. That’s why people try to haggle tarot readers for free readings, sadly. I say instead of griping about what’s just natural human nature, draw clear boundaries and keep to them! 🙂

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  6. I just stumbled across this article and it answered perfectly the question I had, which was how to respond to these requests (after receiving one today). Perfect for me, as I’m just starting to “go pro”. Following your blog now, thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

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