When I think of a true tarot professional, Christiana Gaudet is one of the first people that comes to mind. She’s been at her game for almost thirty years – and knows the industry inside and out. Which is why I am an enthusiastic champion of her book, Fortune Stellar – What Every Professional Tarot Reader Needs to Know. This book lays it out clearly with no fluff, no unicorns, and no false promises of “easy money.” (Those of us who have been at this work a long time know it’s not easy at all.) Fortune Stellar is an honest take on the biz – and one that every aspiring tarot pro should read.
I talked to Christiana about professionalism on my Tarot Bytes podcast this week but found I had more questions! She was gracioius enough to answer a few more here.
Q: First of all, this is a great book. You lay everything out so clearly. What inspired you to write Fortune Stellar?
Christiana: Thank you! It’s a wild story. I share some of the story in the new edition preface, but here’s the detailed version. I was writing a column for Tarot World Magazine, which was a short-lived paper publication that put out a few issues about a decade ago. The editor was also envisioning a tarot book instruction series, with each short book providing lessons in a stage of tarot development, starting with absolute beginner and ending with professional tarotist.
The editor had tapped Winter Wren to write the pro-level book originally.
I don’t know if you knew Winter Wren, she and I had worked briefly on an unrelated project a few years prior. Sadly, when she became terminally ill she was unable to begin the project, and so the editor asked me to step in.
Then, just as I had finished the project, Tarot World Magazine folded.
After that, I was thrilled to find a publisher for the manuscript, and happy that, at the last moment, I came up with a clever title for it, rather than the assigned title, which was simply “What Every Professional Tarot Reader Needs to Know”.
The new editor was a fabulous developmental editor, and really taught me a bunch about writing. However, she was a lousy line editor, and so the first edition of Fortune Stellar was full of crazy typos. When she went out of business, I saw it first at an opportunity to publish a new edition simply to clean up the typos. Then I realized just how much had changed in the industry and realized more substantial updates were necessary.
It’s interesting that my path with this book included two folded publishers and the death of a great tarotist. You can understand, perhaps, the motivation to self-publish after all that, as well as my surprise and delight that the book lives, despite all the sadness and chaos it, and I, had to push through to make it happen.
As poorly edited and formatted as it was, the first edition was quite popular. I hear that it even became a textbook in a college business class, because of its unique perspective about microbusiness.
Q: This is the second edition. What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the industry since your first edition?
Christiana: There are two significant changes. First are changes in technology, which include social media, digital communication, money transfer apps, and, basically, the fact that we all carry computers in our pockets. This has changed the way we give readings, and how we market ourselves. The internet has also turned a lot more people on to tarot; we have more tarot decks, tarot students, tarot pros and tarot clients than ever before!
The second is what has become known as the “sharing economy.” Although the Great Recession happened in 2008 and Fortune Stellar came out in 2010, I didn’t see how the economic changes had truly reshaped the ways we could do business until 2013 or so. We have much greater flexibility now in where and how we can find space to offer in-person readings and classes.
Q: I love how you advise readers to keep business cards even though many coaches are advising against it. Care to say more about that – and why we shouldn’t be so quick to abandon the old skool business practices in the modern age?
Christiana: I think there is always a tendency to want to throw out old ways in favor of new ways. When old ways are oppressive, cumbersome or unenlightened, I’m all for embracing change. But the classic business card is in no way offensive, and there is no substitute for it.
To create your business card, and to hand it to someone with intent, is in itself a magical act. Why wouldn’t we want to use that sort of magic to grow our success?
I think, too, there is a sad new trend in society and business that de-emphasizes and even ridicules kindness, courtesy, and respect. I see this everywhere, and unfortunately amongst tarotists. I can tell you for sure that our clients appreciate old-fashioned customer care now, just as they did back in the day.
Basically, things that aren’t broken don’t need to be fixed. Often, we fail to see the value of time-honored practices until we try working without them. At the same time, I often see older people resist positive new changes, and that can be just as bad!
Q: In the section on business ethics, you mention that everyone should be responsible for their own code. Can you tell me how you created your own ethics?
Christiana: My ethics always felt like common sense to me and are based on the Golden Rule I learned in Sunday School as a child. Treat others as you want to be treated. That pretty much covers the basics. But, in tarot there are specific quandaries that aren’t issues in the rest of life.
As an example, the hardest ethical question of my career came about early on, when I was asked to do a reading for a man with intellectual disabilities. Could a person with intellectual limitations really understand what a tarot reading is and isn’t? Was I taking advantage of him? Might he think I had some superhuman powers?
In the end, I decided that if I denied him a reading based on his disability I would be guilty of discrimination, and that felt worse.
After the reading his social worker called me to tell me what a difference I had made for his client. That social worker and his family became my clients as well, based on that referral.
Regarding some other hot-button ethics issues specific to tarot, such as third-party reading, or predictions, my ethics are based on what feels right and makes sense to me. It’s that simple.
Q: My favorite section in the book is chapter 4: Difficult Clients, Questions and Cards. I wish I had this advice when I started out! What are some of the types of difficult clients a tarot professional might encounter online – and what’s your advice on how to deal with them?
Christiana: I think the most difficult client in any venue is the person who believes that the future is completely set and predictable, and that he or she has no ability or responsibility to create his or her own outcome.
With such a client, I really try hard to look to the past rather than the future, and get the client to see how, in the past, they did indeed create what happened next, for better or worse. I might say “Well, before we look at the future, let’s look to the past” and do a reading on their past behaviors and the results of those behaviors. If I can lay that out for the client, they often have to admit they had more control than they realized. Once they understand that, they can often change the way they perceive their role in creating their future.
Sometimes clients can be very demanding and can perceive their small traumas as earth-shattering. When I am working to help a bereaved mother find comfort in the loss of her child it is hard to work up that same kind of compassion for the client who is distraught over their botched manicure. The fix for this is two-fold. First is to remember that at my tarot table there is always an unlimited supply of compassion. Next is to remember that sometimes our job is to de-escalate, de-catastrophize and help the client figure out why they are stuck in such drama and trauma.
Another difficult client for me is the client who can’t seem to extrapolate what I am saying in a way that makes sense to them. If I lay out a specific scenario correctly, but thought it happened on a Wednesday, the client may think I am full of crap because it really happened on a Tuesday. Here, the key is to gently and patiently call them back to the important part, which is what actually happened. For me, it is about staying out of my ego self who hates to be told I was wrong when I was really mostly right!
There is also the client who wants to stay stuck in their false or destructive story. “He beat me regularly, but I know he’s really a good man and we could work it out!” or “I will never find another love like the one I lost!” There, the key is to simply do the reading, and each time the client makes their story statement, gently but firmly use logic to disabuse them of it. Sometimes we can even educate them about the power of the stories we tell ourselves, and give them new stories, or new affirmations, to say instead.
Q: What are the three main things you think every tarot reader who wants to go into business should know?
• You really have to love reading for people, and you have to be really good at it.
• No matter how much you love it, work is work, and work is a job, not a hobby. Take it seriously and treat it like a job.
• The majority of all new businesses fail in the first five years. This means luck will rarely be in your favor. You have to be completely dedicated and completely believe in yourself and what you are doing, without question.
Q: Lastly, what was the biggest stumbling block you needed to overcome in your career?
Christiana: There are two. One I did overcome, the other I am still working on.
The one I overcame was a bit of social anxiety and stage fright. I had to really get over myself in order to be willing to get on a stage to do a gallery or get on the radio to do live on-air readings. Walking into cafes to propose an evening of tarot to the owner nauseated me. Basically, I had to tell my inner Queen of Cups to sit down and shut up and let my inner Queen of Wands take the reins.
The one I am still working on is basic organization. I have a really hard time keeping orderly files, getting my paperwork done, stuff like that. I think I will finally solve this one by hiring an administrative assistant!
What’s next for Christiana: Two more self-published books coming out soon. One is the gently-revised second edition of Tarot Tour Guide. The next is Project X, a brand-new book of tarot goodness. Chrisiana says: “I am loving self-publishing, by the way. To be able to publish to my own high-quality specifications rather than a publisher’s, and to be completely responsible for my project and my team is wonderful. That said, I will tell you I am also beginning talks with a major publisher whose quality products I really admire, so, there may be some news on that front eventually, too.”
Get into the fabulous world of Christiana Gaudet:
Grab your copy of Fortune Stellar – What Every Professional Tarot Reader Needs to Know. You’ll be glad you did!
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2018
image from Christiana Gaudet[sc:opt-in]