On-The-Job Tarot Training: Five Ways to Gain Reading Experience

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Yet another class of Magician’s Tools students is graduating today. One of the topics for discussion is where to go from here. My teacher encouraged me to start reading for clients immediately, and I do the same with my students. Are you almost ready to go pro as a tarot reader? There’s nothing better than on-the-job tarot training. Here are five ways to gain necessary reading experience.

John The Gray, Tarot Wizard busks for tips in Denver's 16th Street Mall with a sign that reads, Read Your Cards, Write Your Own Future, Make My Fortune. John The Gray, Tarot Wizard busks for tips in Denver's 16th Street Mall with a sign that reads, Read Your Cards, Write Your Own Future, Make My Fortune. Busking is just one of the many ways you can get on-the-job tarot training.
John The Gray, Tarot Wizard busks for tips in Denver’s 16th Street Mall with a sign that reads, Read Your Cards, Write Your Own Future, Make My Fortune. Busking is just one of the many ways you can get on-the-job tarot training.

Free Reading Services

This is my first recommendation to students because of the flexibility, unending supply of clients, and ability to do written (email) readings. When you join the American Tarot Association (ATA) or the Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI), each charges only a nominal annual fee, you can sign up for their free reading networks. Also, Biddy Tarot offers a free reading service that is available to the members of her community, which you can join for a monthly fee. I haven’t participated in any of these myself, but a number of my students have and speak very highly of the experiences. One of my students, Mrs. Godmother of Light of Tarot, participated in the ATA and Biddy Tarot community for a year, doing 200 readings for each organization. Four hundred readings in a year is a great way to gain experience and find your professional groove!

The free reading networks, I believe, focus on email readings. One of the advantages of this is that you can do the reading in your own time (within the deadline period) once you’ve received the question. This lets you take your time, do the reading when you feel ready, and then let it sit for a few hours or overnight and revisit it to see if you’ve missed anything. Eventually of course you’ll hit your stride and do these readings quickly, but when you first start, the opportunity to slow the process down and do it in your own time is freeing. Also, some of the free reading networks require that the client offer feedback in exchange for the reading. This can be invaluable to a beginning reader.


The first event I ever worked was a political fundraiser held at a metaphysical shop. I think there were about 4-6 of us readers outside on the porch of the building on a balmy fall evening. I honestly had no idea what I was doing, but I ended up performing several readings that night and getting some very good insight into the process, the cards, and how to read for others. One of the reasons fundraisers are a great way to get started is because you don’t have to worry about money. Either you’re collecting donations for the organization or people pay or donate an entrance fee but the readings and other events and services are free. This takes some of the stress off, including the ever-present worry that you’re not giving them their money’s worth–it’s for charity and your clients are there for fun and to help out.

 Coffee Shop or Bar Readings

This is a super-sneaky way to get experience–all you have to do is plop yourself down at a bistro table in your favorite coffee shop, or a barstool in a laid-back neighborhood watering hole and pull out your cards. Start reading for yourself or laying out cards to study them. Pretty soon someone will come over and ask what you’re doing. Strike up a conversation and next thing you know they’ll be pulling  up a chair for a reading.

Remember, we’re talking about doing free readings to get practice. If you plan to charge or even accept gratuities, the whole layout changes and you’ll need to get permission from the owner of the establishment and pay them a fair percentage or flat rate. If you’re not overtly advertising your services and if you’re offering readings for free (maybe in exchange for a cup of joe or a cold beverage), and you tip the barista/bartender well, you should be fine. I had a friend who used to read at a martini bar. She loved it–she got tons of experience and always drank for free.


Busking, or performing for tips, is regulated at the municipal level, so check your local city laws to find out what the rules are. In Denver, a permit is needed and costs $25/year according to one website. A friend of mine, John the Gray, Tarot Wizard, busked for three years on the 16th Street Mall. He said that street performing is allowed if you don’t charge any money for your service/performance, and only work for tips. He worked every day rain and shine, heat and cold, for three years and found it worthwhile. Some days he said he might only get $20 bucks. But one of his best days was when he was busking outside the Paramount Theatre and someone invited him up–Alice Cooper was performing that night and my friend read for everyone on his crew, including the shock rocker himself.

Part of my friend’s success was due to his talent as a performer. He wore a costume and had a very clever patter–he was a great entertainer in addition to be an excellent tarot reader. I’ve seen other tarot buskers on the mall with no costume, just sitting there quietly with their cards out. I don’t know if they do as well as my friend did or not. If you’re the outdoors type, don’t mind the weather, and love to strike up a conversation with strangers, this can be a fun and possibly lucrative way to gain experience. John confided that three years of this work was like getting an undergraduate degree in tarot reading.

Cheap Coupon Deals

My teacher encouraged me to put an ad in the Thrifty Nickel for $25 tarot readings. This was in 1991. It cost a couple bucks to place the ad, and I remember several clients I ended up reading for as a result. I did $25 for an hour, and either had people come to my apartment or I drove to their location. Again, this was great experience even if I wasn’t earning tons of money (although that $25 went a lot further in those days than it does now). An online variation of this would be doing something like Fiverr.

When I started my professional Reiki practice twenty years later in 2011, I offered a Weekly Plus deal — a one-hour Reiki session (value at that time was $80) for $25. Weekly Plus did all the advertising, and kept 50% of the money, so I was working for $12.50 per one-hour session. But 100 people bought the deal. Also, I was paid whether or not people booked their appointment. I had 65 people actually come in for their session. I was working about three to four sessions a day, three days a week and although I didn’t make any profit, it covered the rent on my office for about six months. But perhaps the most valuable part of the whole experience was being able to perform 65 full-length Reiki sessions. It allowed me to find my rhythm with my sessions and feel like a professional.

Convert Freebies to Clients

To get the most out of doing those 65 Reiki sessions for almost free, I did two things–I collected email addresses for my mailing list and offered some great deals for additional sessions. I had a lot of return clients! When each person arrived for their appointment, I had them fill out an intake form, including requesting their email address for my mailing list with a check-off saying they agreed to receive mailings from me, and gave them coupons for a follow-up Reiki session, a tarot reading, and a deal on a package of Reiki sessions. I ended up selling a number of follow-up Reiki sessions (still discounted, but not as much and now it was all mine) as well as a large number of tarot readings. Many of the clients I met this way ended up becoming regular clients or signed up for a Reiki class. I also got my first Yelp reviews from some of these clients.

When getting on-the-job tarot training, you can do it only for the practice and experience, or you can use it to grow your business. It might seem out-of-reach to think of doing a monthly newsletter, so you might be tempted to forego collecting contact info. But if you read for five or ten people and get their email addresses, the next time you do an event you can email those five or ten people and let them know where you’ll be. Maybe they’ll come back and bring friends! Then you’ll have ten or twenty email addresses.

Also, you can email your previous clients and offer them a special discount. If you’re not ready to charge $90/hour, email them and say all your readings are half off. Keep this “sale” going as long as you need to until you’re comfortable charging professional rates. Soon you’ll be booking full days at psychic fairs with a bevy of regular clients jostling to be the first to get a reading with you!

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

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