Tarot is an unregulated practice. That means it is up to you to uphold standards of excellence and ethics. Truly the first step in professional conduct is establishing good boundaries with your clients. You can solve most other problems in advance by setting a professional tone and sticking to it diligently.
Boundaries define relationships. How far a relationship goes in this or that direction depends on the terms you establish. The more successful you are as a Tarot reader, the more relationships you will have. So it’s important to be appropriate, clear, and consistent with your clients. And it helps to get a few things straight in advance.
Clients Are Not Friends
You’ll meet some interesting people reading cards, but it’s up to you to maintain a professional demeanor. Your clients are paying you money and you are delivering a service. Setting this precedent by using professional etiquette enables you to establish successful client relationships. Clients will come back to you for this because they’ll feel secure, and you’ll save yourself a lot of confusion if you don’t muck everything up by trying to become friends.
An opening spiel is very helpful in setting a professional tone. If it’s a first time client, tell them what to expect, and go over some pointers for getting the most out of your time together. This communicates to them that you are an authority, you know what you’re doing, and you’re there to help them. It should segue seamlessly into the reading itself. Don’t worry about preplanning your spiel; you will naturally develop one over time.
Some readers like to give their clients a hug or some kind of reassuring physical touch at the end of a session. It’s up to you how familiar you are, as long as it’s natural to your temperament and respectful of professionalism.
Occasionally a client will overstep and try to initiate a social relationship outside of the reading room. Be firm with your boundaries. Try these responses:
- Thank you for the invitation, but we have a very positive client-reader relationship, and I think it’s better for everyone if we keep it that way.
- Thank you, but I have a very busy schedule with other clients. Please feel free to pop in when you’re ready for another reading!
- That’s very kind of you. I prefer to keep my personal time private, but I look forward to seeing you on Friday at our next session.
Words like schedule, session, client, personal, and private, gently remind the client that this is your job. Usually, they will take this reminder gracefully.
Don’t Sleep With Your Clients
It’s easy for a client to fall in love with their reader, because a good reading opens up some vulnerable places and makes them feel seen for who they are. Be aware of this, and don’t take advantage of it. That’s just good ethics.
Becoming friends or lovers with your client means they lose a good reader, and that’s not fair to them. Be friendly, but not friends. Be loving, but not a lover. If you do redefine a client relationship, especially by engaging romantically or sexually with them, be honest and refer them to another reader. Your neutrality has been compromised.
Honor the Clock
Even the best-intentioned clients sometimes try to squeeze a little bit more out of a session than the timeframe allows. If you have another client booked in right away, say so. If not, invite the client to extend their session.
The clock is there to protect you. It sets a boundary that you and the client can both agree upon in advance. When the reading is over, it’s over. Don’t allow extra questions. If you read at a bookstore, defer to their authority. Blame the management, even if you’re the manager. Citing store policy is an effective way to hold the boundary that you read cards only during scheduled sessions. Again, most clients will respect this and appreciate it in the long run.
Readings can be very intimate, so at the end come back to professional language. An end spiel can help ease the client out of the intimacy of the reading and back into waking life. Start your end spiel about five minutes before the end of the session. It should include thanking the client, and inviting them to return.
When a session is over, it’s over for you, too. Wash your hands and forget about it. You did a good job, there’s nothing more you can do, and frankly it’s none of your business to be thinking about other people’s personal problems on your own time. It takes excellent mental control to detach and get on with your day when the job is done.
Professional Boundaries Are Your Friends
The next post in this series will explore detachment as an important and effective tool in conducting yourself as a professional Tarot reader.
For now, practice setting and maintaining good boundaries with clients. This will make all the difference in your life, and it’s a prerequisite to establishing a successful practice. Remember that it’s not the client’s job to set the tone and parameters of the relationship–that’s part of what a professional Tarot reader does.