January 16, 2016

Left-hand Tarot #5: Taking Care of Business

... in which I discuss the attention spans of monkeys; people who can't read without using a little white book;  how to stalk your competition; being on social media; basics of selling online; the importance of being good at what you do; the value of customer service; completing work in a timely manner; the grave necessity of positive reviews; having the last word; dealing with negative reviews; giving refunds; how to write good ad copy; how to write search ads; the role of grammar and punctuation in communicating your services; taking your work seriously; promoting yourself on social media; using the lesser magic of good manners to attract clients; knowing when to change your strategy; setting and enforcing professional boundaries; firing your clients; managing your expectations; respecting your limits; and an unscripted discussion about selling Tarot in person.
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If you've got the attention span of a monkey,
then chances are Tarot is a the wrong hobby for you.
Photo by Frederic de Courcy.
Let's start this week's episode of Left-hand Tarot with an article I picked up from Fiona at Modern Fortune Teller intended to help Tarot readers with short attention spans. This little rant doesn't have a whole lot to do with this week's theme about taking care of business (and working overtime), but me being who I am, I just can't resist a satisfying rant.

Now, shame on me for being a grump, but if you've got a short attention span, then reading Tarot probably isn't a good hobby for you to take up. What'd I'd also add in my grumpiness about this article is that the tips offered by the author don't really have anything to do with having a short attention span, so much as they discuss how to do Tarot when you're strapped for time, in a hurry to get started learning the cards, or feeling like the learning strategy at your disposal isn't accessible. Again, nothing to do with having a short attention span, just advice on how to make the learning process more approachable.

One of the tips she offers is to use the little white book that came with your deck. And while this is certainly one way to do it, and gets you in the game very quickly, it's a crutch that I've seen Tarot readers keep long after they should have discarded it. No, this doesn't mean that I've met Tarot readers who are still using their little white books four years after getting their first deck, but it does mean that their crutch went from being a little white book that fits in the palm to being a big black book that sits on a shelf.

One memorable experience I had was with another man who told me that he reads Tarot cards. Out of good will, and to get some feedback on my reading style, I gave him two readings. Before giving the second reading, I said we should do a trade to keep things even. He agreed wholeheartedly, and when I asked him to give me a Celtic cross reading - since he said that's the only arrangement he uses because "it just works" - he shuffled the deck, laid down the cards, and said, "There you go." You can imagine my surprise when I asked him to actually read the cards for me - like I actually read his cards for him - and he said that he didn't read cards without the use of a reference book that he keeps at home. Well, fooled me there: I didn't realize that when he said he reads Tarot cards he actually meant that he reads books. 

Listen, folks: Satan demands study, not worship. If you think the Tarot is cool and interesting but you can't read the cards without repeating lines out of a book, then you're not studying the Tarot: you're worshiping the Tarot. There's a time and place for little white books (and even big black books), but the actual performance of a Tarot reading in front of paying clients is neither the time nor the place. Yes, use all available resources to learn and improve your Tarot practice, but at some point you have to separate yourself from the materials, internalize what you've learned, and become capable of using that knowledge to produce a unique, spontaneous message. If you can't do that, then you're not reading Tarot - you're just reading a book - and you'll never take care of business until you discard that crutch.

Whether you're a fat cat in a fine waistcoat, or a skinny kitty done up for show, you need to market yourself. Whether this marketing is active or passive is up to you, but you have to market yourself.
Photo by .J.J. Grandville.
In the theme of taking care of business, there was an article in my newsfeed this week from Theresa at The Tarot Lady in which she tackles four myths about what it takes to succeed as an online Tarot reader. Kudos to her for sparking a conversation on this week's episode, but if you believe everything she says then I've got a bridge to sell you. Let's talk about the things she says point by point.

Stalk your competition!

Theresa says this is a bad idea because it's wasting your time worrying about other people. In principle, I agree with her - the time you spend on somebody else is time you're not spending on yourself - but looking at the strategies they're using and trying to see how you can use them for yourself is an absolutely solid strategy.

Now, the important thing to remember is this: don't copy, okay? I'm not talking about copying content or cloning their websites - that's theft and if you get caught, the price you pay will be steep. No, what I'm talking about taking their strategies and applying them to your own practice. Just like novices study the techniques of the masters, so too can you study what works for other professionals in your industry and apply it to your own business.

Don't think of it as making a copy, but taking inspiration! Take what other people are doing and innovate to your heart's content until you've made their strategy your own, in a way that meshes with who you are as a business person, and syncs with your clients. After all: you probably learned Tarot from studying what others were doing, so why not also learn how to run your business the same way?

You need to be on social media or you won't have a business!

Now, this is an interesting example she provides and the reason why is the proof she cited. Her proof? A friend who says that she isn't present on any social media networks yet continues to thrive. Yeah, that's not an accurate picture that most of us can apply to ourselves.

If you click through to the link to learn about the lady in question, you'll find somebody who's had several books published by major publishing houses. You'll find a lady who's had her writing published on Time, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Newsweek and Lifehacker. You'll also find a lady whose website in question does not offer Tarot readings, which is awfully strange since she's used as an example of why Tarot readers can succeed without using social media.

The most important thing to recognize here is this lady's level of stratification and diversification. Speaking of diversity, she's not a professional Tarot reader in the sense that such a job is her only profession: she's also got revenue coming from non-Tarot books. And as for stratification? Well, it's important to remember that for most of us Tarot professionals, we don't use social media for hanging out with our friends: it's actually a method of advertising. This woman doesn't have to use social media to advertise because all her advertising is being done for her in other spheres of her life.

And, don't forget about her mailing list and other classes she teaches. She may not be on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, or Twitter, but she's definitely using the power of the Internet to connect with her audience. She is most certainly advertising, she's just not using social media platforms to do it.

Chances are, you're not a multi-published author with exposure on major online media outlets, and you're going to have to do  your own advertising. Chances are, social media is the cheapest way for you to do that. So if you thought you didn't need social media, chances are, you're wrong.

But for all the gripe I'm making, I agree with Theresa on at least two counts: you don't need a team of virtual assistants, and you don't need to give any free work or mini-readings to prove your worth.

If you fall for the trap of thinking that you need a team of virtual assistants, then I promise you'll only surround yourself with a team of people who have a different vision than yours. I promise you this will lead to conflict later down the road, as well as more than a few miscommunications. If you've got so many readings to do that you can't keep up with the rest of your work, then guess what? It's time to raise your prices.

And, for the most part, there's very little you can do to impress your clients more, and very lot you can do to impress your clients less. If they're browsing your website, or have sent you a message to ask about your services in more detail, that means only one thing: They're ready to buy. If you can't close the sale, then it's because you presented other objections to the close and you only have yourself to blame.
The 7 Secrets of Selling Online
It's time you learned how to swim.
Come on in, the water's fine.
Image by Jules Trousset.
  1. BE AWESOME: Deliver a great product. Your clients want pure awesome-sauce when they get a reading, and if you're not giving that, they'll go somewhere else. There's plenty of room for mediocre sellers on the Internet, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to be really good at what you do. If you're not really good at what you do, then you really need to get better.
  2. BE VERY NICE: Customer service. It sounds silly, but you have to make your customers believe that they're the most important people in the entire world. Communicate quickly and be charming - you have to make them feel special and important, because the truth is, they are: your livelihood depends on positive reviews and repeat customers. And while those of us with a Satanic perspective may have a darker view on how to handle customers with bad manners, it's important to understand that the bulk of your business will come from repeat clients. It's easier to make a repeat sale to an existing client than it is to make a new sale to a new client. If you don't use your lesser magic to charm your clients into coming back again and again, you're wasting your time. 
  3. FAST DELIVERY: All your customers will want to be priority #1. Obviously, you can't do that, so you need to have a system in place to provide some wiggle room for when you're sick or just having a really bad day. I deliver my readings as MP3 audio recordings and deliver them within a window of 24 hours. It's not the best delivery method - I would rather be doing live telephone or web chat readings - but with a 3-y/o daughter who's not yet in full-day school, it's not possible for me to make this time for live work. Because of that, I chose this method of delivery because it allows me to do my work, on my terms, on my schedule, in a way that works for me. You should evaluate who you are and how you work so that you can maintain a fast delivery time for your clients.
  4. POSITIVE REVIEWS ARE GOLD: Good reviews build confidence and make customers more likely to buy. Do everything possible to take care of your customers and earn their 100% positive reviews, and don't start buying or creating fake reviews. If your work's not outstanding, customers will see through the fake reviews and figure out that you're padding your own gigs.
  5. LAST WORD: Assuming that you're selling via a second party platform such as Etsy, Fiverr, Oranum, Kasamba, Bitwine, or Keen, then you're going to be collecting reviews from your clients. You won't have a choice in the matter: the customer's ability to rate your services is a built-in feature. And, depending on the service you use, you'll be able to leave unique feedback to every review. If so, don't neglect this part of your seller profile because your buyers will always read your reviews before they buy anything from you. This is your first chance to show them how you interact with your customers, and more importantly, how you'll interact with them.
  6. EVEN NEGATIVE REVIEWS ARE GOOD: Okay, well, negative reviews aren't good. You should do everything your ability to provide a totally awesome product and earn every gold star you can. But even if you get a review of less than five stars, you can make that work for you. Now, I'm not telling you to lie - telling fibs is bad, m'kay? - so this doesn't mean offer crap service and you'll come out looking fine. Because you won't: more than a few bad reviews, no matter how you handle them, and you'll find your sales dwindling. But, assuming that you've done everything in your power to be an awesome seller and your client just wasn't willing to give you a chance to make it right and left you a bad review, here's how to handle it: be nice, and be honest, but don't be a jerk. Bad reviews can work for you because although every client who visits your gigs will read the reviews, every client will specifically look for the bad reviews. This means that you're given an opportunity in your bad reviews to leave a message that EVERY new client will see. For example, a client recently left me a three-star review that took me down from 5.0 to 4.9. Not a big deal, but still - I'd rather have a perfect record. But that review was an opportunity for me to say, "Naturally I'm disappointed that I couldn't earn your five-star review. You ordered 5 minutes but I actually gave you 8 minutes to provide all the details I found in your short reading. Again, I'm sorry the answer wasn't what you were hoping for but I did my very best to work with the cards I pulled." See what I did there? I didn't attack the seller, I just explained how I over-delivered (more time than was ordered) and I showed my dedication to my client, regardless of how small a purchase she made. If you handle bad reviews correctly, you can make them work for you. But don't lie about things you didn't do, and don't be a jerk even if the customer deserves it: other customers will see this review and will be immediately put off by your aggressive attitude.
  7. MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE: It's easy to think that your clients are impulsive people with money to burn, but don't fall into the trap of thinking that your customers can be taken for granted. They don't want to risk money on a bad experience, and that's the challenge you have to overcome with every new customer you meet. I promise my customers that I'll respect their money and if I can't make their order right, then I'll give them a refund. If you're making your sales directly without a second party, then you can choose if you'll offer a refund. If not, I encourage you to have some kind of satisfaction-guarantee because maintaining your existing clients is the key to long-term success. Also, depending on your selling platform, a mutual cancellation is a lot better than a negative review. If a money-back guarantee makes you nervous, just remember that in any commercial setting there's always going to some amount of shrink from shoplifting, returns, damaged products, and so on. As it happens, I lose less than 1% of my sales to refunds, but I think that as long as you're not losing more than 5% of your business in refunds, then that's still quite good.
The 6 Secrets to Writing Ad Copy
So you say you can read Tarot cards; but you can write ad copy?
You'd better learn how.
Image by Lewis Carroll.
  1. WRITE A GREAT TITLE: One of the best tools you can use to improve your chances of getting noticed and making sales is meta-analysis, and what this means is doing an analysis of multiple analyses. For example, look at other sellers in the industry or on the same website where you list your services to see who has a lot of success. How are those sellers' titles written? Look at the keywords in the title and think about why they're there. Then, do the same for another successful seller in your industry or on your website. And another, and so on, until you start to see patterns emerge. If you want to do this the easy way, you can use an online word-cloud generator to aggregate all the titles of big sellers in your category. You will see patterns emerge. There is a reason certain words are chosen.
  2. WRITE A GREAT DESCRIPTION: Now do the same for the description of your services that you did for the title. What words appear most frequently among a dozen or more successful sellers? These sellers aren't working together, but a meta-analysis will show that they all have some things in common. There's a reason for this. And don't just steal another seller's ad copy, because that's theft. A DMCA take-down notice will not only get your listing taken down, but can potentially also get it removed from Google's search index, and you really don't want that to happen.
  3. PARAGRAPHS & BULLETS: This is simple: People like lists, and there's a reason good writers and successful sellers create small blocks of text that focus on one thing at a time.
  4. GRAMMAR, SPELLING & PUNCTUATION: Remember the importance of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all those other goodies that create a professional appearance. Your buyers may not be grammar nerds, but they know poorly written ad copy when they see it. 
  5. START ON THE RIGHT FOOT: When you decide to take the leap and start promoting and selling your services to strangers in the greater Tarot marketplace, you need to make a good first impression. It's really tempting to put out the proverbial shingle and see who knocks on your door, but speaking from my own experience I can tell you that this does nothing except instantly inform potential clients that you're an amatuer. Like it or not, developing confidence in your clients is a really big part of what you do, and half-way measures to promote yourself utterly scream a lack of confidence and professionalism. When you decide to start selling as a professional, you need to get your entire package of branded media and promotional content ready for launch all at the same time. If you're using a second party platform to process your sales, make sure you write all your ad copy, select all the preview photos, create your display banner, record an introductory video on YouTube, write a couple PDF files to display samples of your work, pick your key-words and meta-tags, and settle on your extra up-sell items ahead of time so that you'll hit the ground running. You only get one chance to make a first impression: don't waste it because you chose to not be prepared.
  6. CHANGE IS GOOD. To coin a phrase, "the work will teach you how to do it." If you're not getting any orders, chances are good the reason is because there's something to do with your ad copy and other promotional material. Play around with the title of your listings, change your video previews, re-write the description. Whatever you do, just pay attention to what works and do more of the same. My experience has been that when I fix something that's not working, I'll see a difference within a day or two - and that's quite fast. If you're not getting strong results, don't sit around and wait for it to get better on its own: change it today and you'll get the reward tomorrow.
The 5 Secrets of Self Promotion
Get good at navigating online social interactions,
and people will buy anything you want to sell including your shadow.
Photo by Edouard Charton.
  1. PROMOTE YOURSELF: If you're a writer, start a blog and use it to promote yourself. If you don't like to write and enjoy speaking, start a podcast. Or if you enjoy video, do regular Google Hangouts and make use of your YouTube channel. Focus on having fun, being personable, and creating or sharing fun content. If you're only using these platforms to sell, you'll get ignored really fast. The key is to understand who you are from your customer's perspective.
  2. SOCIAL MEDIA: The customers that come to me from outside my sales platform are the result of social interactions on my platform of choice: Google+. This doesn't mean it's better or worse than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., it's just my preference. But the point is, the customers I met there never actually saw an ad or heard a sales pitch because I used social networking for just that: to be social and friendly. Trust me: people will want to know who you are, and they will troll your profile to learn more. If you fill out your profile information with links to your pitch page, traffic will follow.
  3. IT'S STILL THE INTERNET: On the subject of social marketing, it's worth saying that you need to grow a thick skin. People will say stuff that you don't like and don't agree with. Deal with it.
  4. MISOGYNY DOESN'T SELL. Listen up, men: objectifying women is an expensive mistake. This is especially important for Tarot readers because - like it or not - the bulk of your clients will be women. Be aware that female customers are voting with their dollars and taking their business to sellers who respect a woman for more than her physical appearance.
  5. NO FREE WORK. I refuse to do free work. It's really easy in an online, social setting to think that giving out five minutes of your time here and there is a good way to build a client base, but I promise you you're not building anything: you're just volunteering your time to people who probably had no intention of paying anything for your services in the first place. I don't care if my customer wants a one-card pull as some sort of psychic test, I'm not doing it because I'm the seller and I set the terms of engagement. If this customer is going to bully me for free content without a purchase, I can be sure the customer is going to bully me for free content after the purchase, and that's a relationship I don't want. When somebody asks for free work, I refer them to my listing that has PDF files demonstrating the work I do. If they can't make a decision based on that information, then there's nothing else I can do to help them.
The 4 Secrets Behind the Scenes
Your audience may think you've done a good show on the stage,
but it counts for nothing if you're a mess behind the curtain.
Photo by J. Godwin.
  1. RETURN TO SENDER. Buyers won't think twice about sending you follow-up questions and asking for more work than was originally offered. So it follows that you shouldn't think twice about asking your buyer as many times as needed to clarify what he or she wants. I deliver a better reading based on the more information the buyer provides. When clients buy a reading from me, I've set up my sales platform to require customers to submit specific requests. Most do, but some don't, and in these situations I send the instructions back to my customers for more information. Practically speaking, this results in a better product and a happier customer, and those are both good for me.
  2. TAKE BACK. Once upon a time in my life, I sold cars in Jacksonville, North Carolina. One of the tools I learned as a salesperson is the "take back," and that's when you tell the customer you don't want to sell to him or her anymore. The reason to use the take-back is when the customer is beating you up on price or keeps asking for extras and additional services that aren't included in the original sale. Same thing online, when you get a client who wants to haggle you down to bottom dollar and then keeps asking for immediate delivery and extra services outside of what they're willing to pay, you use the take-back: request a mutual cancellation and send a message along the lines of, "It breaks my heart, Mr. Smith, but I'm refunding your order. You don't seem certain about what you want, and twice you've asked for work beyond what we agreed. For these reasons I think it would be best if you found another seller to complete your order." At this point, one of two things will happen: Either your buyer will accept the cancellation and go away, or the buyer will give up being problematic and get with the program. Nothing hurts a buyer more than saying "I don't want your money," so if you're going to use the take-back, be sure it's for a good reason.
  3. BIG PAYCHECKS? How much do you want to earn doing online work? How much will you earn doing online work? These things aren't the same. If you're frustrated, remember that the competition is probably pushing prices down and customer expectations up, so adjust accordingly. Most Tarot readers do online work as a part-time, freelance lifestyle, not a full-time job. Even though reading Tarot online (and in person at my store) is my full-time job, it wasn't always this way, and it's taken a lot of effort to develop my client base. Remember, too, that customers are willing to pay higher prices for sellers with higher reviews. Build a strong portfolio of positive reviews and your ability to charge higher prices will rise accordingly.
  4. GO TO BED, SLEEPY HEAD. Customers love getting their readings really fast, and I know I've been in the position where I check my email one last time before I go to bed just to find a couple orders in my mailbox. Which is great - I love getting orders - but I learned from personal experience that the only thing customers love more than getting their readings fast is getting a good reading, period. If you're tired and up past your bedtime, the quality of your work is going to suffer. Unless your customer is a jerk (and there's nothing you can do to fix that except fire the customer), he or she will understand that you had to go to sleep so you could finish their work while you're alert and refreshed. If you deliver bad work in the name of fast delivery, you're going to lose a potential return customer and might even get a bad review on the order. Respect your limits and remember that there's a time to work, and then, there's a time to sleep.