Becoming an Astrologer
Becoming an Astrologer
by Bob Mulligan
This article is a reformulation of my contribution “How to Fulfill your OWN Career as a Professional Astrologer” that was printed in Noel Tyl’s book “How to Use Vocational Astrology for Success in the Workplace,” printed in 1992. I received so much praise for this material from so many places in the world, I thought I would edit it, update it a bit, and share it with the membership.
A fulfilling career means you are personally happy and look forward to your work each day; you earn enough money to meet responsibilities in the material world; and you feel successful while contributing something of value to your field. In this sense, I have been successful as an astrologer. Further, I have worked professionally with many other astrologers to help them make their careers more rewarding. I have trained professional astrologers with my classes, correspondence school, and a series of testing and consulting sessions, and for years, I have donated many hours every month to the Organization for Professional Astrology, OPA. The ideas presented here are a consolidation of exactly what has worked in bringing practical results.
I want to share a five-step process that comes from years of talking to professional astrologers and comparing notes with astrologers all over the world. The five stages are: Preparation, Apprenticeship, Getting Started, Building Your Practice, Sharing Your Knowledge. Each is very important in its own right. Before embarking on a career in astrology, you can use these steps as an indispensable road map. If you as an astrologer have difficulty in your career, the problem can be traced, diagnosed and treated by carefully examining how you approached and dealt with each of these five benchmark points. These demarcations are five prominent aspects or facets of one continuous process. Each step affects and colors profoundly the other four significantly.
After the description of this process, I give you a discussion on money and the astrologer’s place in society. These two additional topics are necessary in order to have a rounded picture of how an astrologer achieves a personal sense of success in career.
For our purposes here, I define an astrologer as someone who uses some standard astrological techniques to talk to clients about their lives. They are paid to read charts. Further, the money so earned forms the majority of personal income. If you don’t fit these criteria, you will have a different set of considerations powering your career decisions. This puts you clearly on a different career path and the comments here will be less significant, and maybe even tangential.
First of all, is this what you want to do?
Most astrologers remember the moment when their relationship with astrology began. We have charts for practically everything and, if you are lucky enough to remember the exact moment that a professional astrologer told you that you would become an astrologer, you can set up your personal “Astrological Conception Chart.” Regardless of whether or not you can remember the exact time and day, this moment is quite important in your life. This was astrology reaching out and selecting you. An important rite of initiation takes places when an astrologer suggests you will become an astrologer also. Just as the moment of birth foretells you the history of the soul in this incarnation, how and when you enter astrology (just as how anything begins) will tell you how you will perform as an astrologer. The moment an established astrologer predicts you can or will become an astrologer, your “Astrological Conception Chart” is put in motion. This is the field calling and choosing you.
This basic acceptance is necessary for you to feel at home in astrology and among astrologers. If this hasn’t happened, i.e., if you have not heard or felt the “calling”, seek out an established astrologer’s professional opinion. Can you make it as a professional astrologer? If you really want to be an astrologer (or are an astrologer) and this hasn’t happened for you, the “swim upstream” to become a successful astrologer can be “against the current” of collective astrological thought. You may not make it because you will unconsciously feel that all other astrologers are wrong. You may end up sentencing yourself to be yet another isolated critic on astrology’s sidelines, unaccepted by your peers, unable to build a practice and eventually proving everyone else right, i.e. you can’t make it as an astrologer. Like Excalibur knighting King Arthur, astrology selects and initiates its own, regardless of the personalities in your environment.
If you can’t get an established astrologer to say your chart indicates that you will become an astrologer, you are probably having some inner resistance to this career move. This will be shown in your chart. This pattern of resistance is manifesting through your environment when you aren’t able to “hook up” with someone who will affirm your desire to be an astrologer.
Since astrology is the study of the structure of the universe considered as time, astrology can be a faithful ally in every line of work. Many of my corporate clients have gone on to be fine “astrologers” (or users of astrology) from behind the scenes, using it to plan personnel work, dividend and investment strategies, changes in organizational structure, and hundreds of daily decisions, without talking to anyone about their charts. The same is true for stock brokers using astrology, medical personnel, historians, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and police and on and on. Actually, even most astrologers would be surprised at the number of people in our society who use astrology as a tool while being in a different career.
Ask yourself this vital question: “Is this what I want to do with my life?” Do you want to interact with clients over specific concerns that come up in their daily lives? This is to say, you love astrology, but, do you love people? Just like being a dentist, counselor, or social worker, a career in astrology means a lifetime of working with people. Be certain that you really find other peoples’ lives interesting enough to be involved with them all the time, that you receive some deep satisfaction in helping others. If you love astrology but aren’t that crazy about people, consider using your astrological interest for a different type of career other than astrology.
Next, it is important for you to evaluate how astrologers earn a living. What is it that astrologers do for money? We talk to people about their lives. We give information; we render opinions.
Astrologers have an insatiable curiosity about people and life and the universe and everything. Without this burning desire to know, forget trying to earn a living as an astrologer. I guarantee, you won’t make it without this. Further, you had better love talking to people about their lives. If you don’t enjoy helping people with issues in their lives, then forget this line of work. But if you love astrology, love knowledge in general, and love people and their lives, then perhaps this is a line of work for you.
Finally, to make it as an astrologer, you need to be able to be self-employed. This requires incredible self-discipline. Most people who try to be self-employed end up going back to work for someone else. This part of personal appraisal is critical. There are a few jobs available for people who can’t be self-employed and yet still want to be doing astrology. Most of these people are part-time astrologers and full-time something else.
In the Western world today, there are a number of entertainment, part-time astrology lines of work: doing cocktail parties, reading charts in restaurants, working on a 900 telephone line, etc. This has not been an interest of mine and the whole approach tends to give a bad image of astrology to society. Still, this lighthearted, fun orientation can be a legitimate way of honest practice in the field. While the astrologers who take this approach tend to “dead end” in their careers, one should examine its potentials.(1)
Sometimes, people involved in astrology who can’t or don’t want to be self-employed, end up working for other astrologers or an astrology company. These jobs usually boil down to occupations around astrology like working for a chart service company or being an assistant to an astrologer or an office manager. I have had several assistants work for me in the last 34 years; sometimes it was a natural transition point for a person deciding to get into the field. All of these people earn very good incomes today, except one who has chosen not to work. If you are not sure about your motivation or discipline, this type of position can work out nicely for you while you are deciding on whether to go forward into astrology or to use your astrological insight in a different way.
Next, We Have To Consider Education.
After years of conferring with successful, professional astrologers all over the world, one common property emerged in everyone’s conversation as to how they got to the position of feeling successful in their work: EDUCATION. Education seems to be important on three distinct levels: your own continuous process of personal education, teaching students, and educating your clients.
Because astrology is a path of knowledge, becoming an astrologer means being committed to a life of self-education. You will never reach a point of being finished with education. There will always be more to do. The more formal education that you have; the better your chances are of succeeding in the profession. This is so important that, although I teach a four-year correspondence school in astrology, having a college degree is necessary in order to graduate. You will find that astrology doesn’t happen in a vacuum and that knowledge of many other things is necessary for you to be of any real use in the world with your astrological knowledge.
High levels of mental determination and education are essential in order to become a professional astrologer. Study with everyone that you can. Take any local classes that you are able to take. Consider relocating to study with someone whose work you admire. Just as people grow up and go away to school, you may go away to astrology school. I have gone far and wide to get an astrological education, and it has always been worth the investment. I might add that the travel and study were always a great financial sacrifice, but dealing with limits organizes your priorities. Getting a good astrological education should be a top priority if you are going to be fulfilled as an astrologer.
So, get the best education that you can. Being an astrologer is very important to our society, yet how much time and money do we spend preparing to practice? Doctors go to medical school. Lawyers go to law school. Astrologers should go to astrology school! You need a B.A. degree to get into law school or medical school. Astrology school should be four years in length and require at least a four year college degree as a prerequisite. Doctors and lawyers spend more than $100,000 on education. How many astrologers spend this much on education?
As a profession, our first real coming-of-age will be to have a comprehensive, well organized educational procedure. We need a place where people can get a real astrological education. I had eight years of college, finishing an M.A. in philosophy and an assortment of astrology classes when I entered astrology in 1974. I was ill-prepared, poorly trained, and I knew it at the time. I was like an airline pilot getting training on the job by reading manuals and then attempting to fly a plane. For all of my ridiculousness, I was still more prepared and educationally fortified than most people entering the field.
The best way to get training right now is to take correspondence courses, attend local classes and private instruction under an astrologer you respect. Have your own chart done by at least ten different astrologers so that you can become familiar with what astrologers do. Take a series of astrology exams. There are many correspondence schools. In recent years it has been possible to enroll in Kepler College in Seattle Washington and to earn a BA in astrology, or to go to Gainesville Florida and get a two year degree from Avalon College.(2) Both of these colleges are worth looking into; they have very fine programs, and are new measurements within the field.
Local classes take place everywhere privately, through metaphysical and New Age type book stores. Adult education and university extension classes are successfully taught by some astrologers.(3) There are some-well meaning (mostly ideas at this stage of the game) “Schools” in England, Serbia, Netherlands, India, and Argentina. They are worth your time to search them out.(5) In the future, each of these places and others will be able to implement actual comprehensive four-year curricula. At least some of your study should be directly under the supervision of a professional astrologer who earns a decent income and whose work you respect.
Your education needs exposure to a number of astrologers’ work. This does two things; first, it helps you know yourself better through the use of the therapeutic modality you will actively encourage others (your clients) to use. You can tell your clients firsthand that astrology has value; second, this procedure gives you great exposure to several different styles and approaches so you will have more structural knowledge for what the field can become and what others are doing with the astrological tools.
It is important to take examinations, either self-administered, from a school, from ISAR (International Society for Astrological Research) or from NCGR (The National Council for Geocosmic Research), whichever is most convenient. This will build self-confidence. The examination process should include some consulting with another astrologer who comments on and critiques your interchange with clients. In my four year correspondence and online school of astrology, The Mastery of Astrology™, my students have homework and take a test after every class. This promotes confidences and accuracy in each student’s work.(4)
After your education is secure enough to start a practice, find someone under whom you can apprentice. I did not have this opportunity, so I worked on my own for six months, seeing five clients a day for free in order to gather experience and to see whether or not I could handle the load of work and the pace of life to practice astrology as my job in life; this is one way of getting practical experience. It was, however, hard, time-consuming and mistake-ridden. It is much better to have an astrologer whom you trust sit in on your readings and give you some supervision and comments; I had been in the field for years before I had this opportunity. Supervision is so important, and students today need this in their learning process.
A less formal apprenticeship is possible by getting permission from your clients to make a copy of the tapes from your sessions and share them with another astrologer who can provide supervision for you. This type of work is so valuable: I monitor sessions of all of my advanced and professional-level students to help them not make (and then repeat) costly mistakes; to help them find a consulting style that is appropriate to the way they wish to practice, to their personal resources and talents.
Elect a chart for turning professional. It is important that you select this chart yourself. Since you will be working for yourself, this self-initiation, this rite of passage is very important symbolically. It will help you to understand and believe in the integrity of your work.
Make sure when you start that you have your business procedures down cold; getting them right from the start will save a lot of grief later as you and your practice grow:
Setting Your Rates
Before you can charge clients for your work, you have to set rates for your services. How you set your rates is determined by what you feel your work is worth to others. If lots of people come to see you and pay you your fee, you were correct as to your worth. If no one comes to see you or just a few do, you have set your rates too low or too high. At least we know that your fees were not set appropriately.
I recommend that you do not use a sliding scale. A few astrologers use a sliding scale and make a very good living, but most astrologers who use a sliding scale have poor practices because they have an inaccurate picture of their self-worth. Not everyone on the planet is supposed to be able to afford your work. To believe so is to have feelings of inferiority and a messianic complex simultaneously. At any rate, your inaccurate self-picturing will make it difficult to earn a living in astrology.
Rather than adjusting your rate to meet a client’s financial needs, better see if you can heal your client’s pocketbook through your work. If money is their chief concern, then concentrate on helping them get more of it and handle it better. It is good to do work for free once in a while, to donate a certain amount of your time to volunteering your professional services. It is a sane principle and will possibly help others become familiar with good astrology and see the good that astrologers can do.
One way to set your rates is to ask your teacher to set them for you initially. Alternately, you can ask the people whose charts you have been doing for free or those whom you have been seeing under instruction of your teacher, how much your work would be worth to them. Take an average of the numbers given to you and let it be your rate. You can always adjust it later.
Some people can’t afford your work. Fine. There are plenty of people who can, and they need you as much as you need them. Don’t let the people whom you can’t help use up your time so that it is unavailable for those who you can help.
Make your policies having to do with money very clear to your clients. Do you take postdated checks? Don’t! Will you take partial payments? Don’t do it! Will you do a trade? Don’t, they are insulting and unnecessary. It’s better to just give your work away. Do you want deposits in advance? I don’t, but some astrologers have found this to be helpful in making sure that the client will show up. I deal with this through my no-cancellation policy and taking new clients only by referral. This ensures that time and money won’t be an issue between me and my clients. It also saves the extra accountancy hassle of having to record money twice for one appointment.(6)
Setting your rates, getting your time/money equation correct for your talent and your preferred way of working is very important. Until you know your own stride, keep your astrological reading light, short, and cheap. This will allow you to present an honest, sincere, and positive picture of yourself and your work. Further, you become affordable to a large client base. Charge $30 for 15 minute readings and you become an instant success. Everyone can afford you, and you can do 20 appointments a day! This requires some real work with the issue of boundaries and time, but this is one fast way to success. I have seen some astrologers do this and succeed. This is one winning formula.
Those of you who need more time than a fifteen-minute session can try working in thirty-minute or forty-five-minute or one-hour segments. You will need to charge enough for your work so that you will be able to survive, of course. Remember, however, if you have an interactive consulting style requiring sessions to last one or two hours, your practice will build more slowly. Your work will cost more because it requires more time and, by the nature of interactive dialogue, it will require more commitment from the client. It’s very important that you have a clear picture in mind as to what you want to achieve with your client and how you want to achieve it. There is a pitfall here.
Don’t forsake astrology and become a psychotherapist, thereby ignoring your best tools. This has been a mistake taken by some modern astrologers. See “Astrologers and Psychologists are Different.”(7) Also read “Diversified Profession: Astrological Consultant and Psychotherapist”(8) for a discussion as to how these to modalities of service can help each other.
Astrology is not legal everywhere, locally or internationally. In the United States, it is of different legal status in each state. The astrology organization AFAN (Association for Astrological Networking) publishes a legal aid kit for astrologers as well as a media package, which can be very helpful in making your young practice secure in the face of any local legal problem.
It is good to know exactly where you stand legally before you start practicing. Find out from other astrologers who practice in your area what their perspective and experiences are about. Many anti-astrology laws are very antiquated and unenforced; many are unconstitutional and actually unenforceable. Talk to others about this issue and stay in contact with other astrologers. We often represent a different point of view than the one expressed in the rest of the community. And it is helpful, when the time is right, to let everyone else know what astrology is and what it isn’t. Often we are lumped together with people who are not part of the community and who aren’t really involved in trying to improve life on the planet.
Today’s astrologers need certain equipment to have a cost-effective practice. As a minimum, you should have a digital recorder, computer, printer, answering machine, telephone, and maybe a fax machine. The financial sensibility of owning equipment as opposed to just renting, or using a service with the equipment, is a twofold proposition: accounting and time.
For accounting, there are simple formulas as to how long it will take you to amortize the cost of a piece of equipment and how much income is lost if you do not own the equipment. Renting or using a service may be helpful if you are not in frequent need of the equipment.
It takes time to learn how to use a new piece of software or a new computer. It may be very difficult for you to factor the time of learning a new system into your procedures. Talk to other owners of the same system to appraise how long it will take to learn reasonable proficiency. Even answering machines, tape-recorders, fax machines, and printers require some hours of learning to know the machine well enough to use correctly. Buying equipment without factoring in the learning time is a mistake people frequently make. If, for example, you see something on sale but won’t have time to work with it for several months, you are better off generally to wait until you do have the time; then look for a sale. Prices on all electronic equipment tend to go down in time. The longer you wait, the better deal you will get.
When you develop a Business Plan, be sure to include time and money each year for your continuing education. Your knowledge is what produces income in astrology. Your mind is your most valuable equipment; it is your factory, your means of production. Your knowledge base is not a static fixed asset. What you know goes down in effectiveness if you are not making some conscious effort to improve it on a daily basis.
Continuing education is required in every major profession and service occupation. Be willing to allot time and money for this process. The investment that you make in your own education before and during the practice of astrology is such an important investment that all other investments are insignificant in terms of time and money. Most successful astrologers will invest thousands of dollars in their initial education and several thousand more annually. Very few of us will ever invest this much in equipment or other factors.
Finding Your Spot
You make some type of investment in real estate. After all, you will have to see clients somewhere. You have four options: your home, your clients’ home or office, your office, another public or private space.
Of course, it is most important that your space be private. I was asked to do readings in a bookstore one time while traveling and the proprietor of the store wanted me to see clients in a public space. This wasn’t good for the type of work that I do, and it presented astrology to the public in such a casual way that people easily could get the feeling, “If you don’t take this stuff very seriously then why should I?” This is wrong. Astrology is too powerful to be played with. An entertainment-oriented, exhibitionist astrologer can inflict much damage onto a client reading in a casual setting. The most professional rule I can offer is never look at a person’s chart casually or make offhanded comments. You will certainly damage your credibility as an astrologer, but more importantly, you may do some real damage to the other person.
So, see people in a place that guarantees privacy. An office is nice, but you may want to operate out of your home if you have a room that is private and comfortable enough for both you and your client.(9) This is one way to avoid making a frivolous investment.
I work under all four circumstances: I have a home office, I have rented an office away from home in an office building, I have used other people’s homes and offices, and I use classrooms, hotel rooms, and even the park. An office in the home is my favorite because I have everything that I need at my fingertips and the environment can be decorated and organized to meet my moods easily.
In an office building, it is easy for your clients to picture you in the “I’m doing business” mode. In the home, it can become too casual if you do not go to lengths to keep it professional.
A personal informal survey I’ve made of astrologers through the years has shown that astrologers who earn the least and those who earn the most (more than $200,000 a year) practice astrology from their home. It may be that the astrologers who have little experience are forced to work from their home and the astrologers that are very well paid do so out of choice and close identification with their work.
Doubtless, in the future, astrologers will work in an office with other astrologers where there will be lots of shared resources, equipment, staff, space, journals, etcetera, just as doctors and lawyers work in clinics and firms. Astrologers will have some kind of collective enterprises that will benefit everyone.
BUILDING YOUR PRACTICE
The All-important Client Base
Treat every client with your full attention and patience. It will take a while to build a practice by word of mouth, but it is the only way to ensure the roots of your work go deep enough so that you will always have plenty of work. You must be the best listener you can be. The first five years of practice will be slow for most people, but as your work improves in quality you will get a higher and higher return rate of old clients.
Before I see a client for the first time, I ask them to go to my web site www.theastrologycompany.com, click on the tab “Personal Consultations” and read “General Information for My Clients”. It is good to put into print for your clients exactly what you do and what you do not do. This is very important because it screens out people who will only be troublesome. Further, this practice gives you some reasonable assurance that your time in session will be productive. Also, it leads the mind-set of your new clients toward your work in a manner that enables you to assist them in realizing their goals. Don’t let your time be wasted, repeating many times over the phone your policies and details of your practice. Put the information into print and give it to people.
Look for ways to make sure the people coming to see you are on the same wavelength as you are. If a person has unrealistic expectations about themselves, life, or you, know this in advance. It will make your life simpler. If potential clients expect you to magically change their life, let them know that it can change; only they must ultimately do the changing. Your job is to give advice and help them create a realistic and comprehensive vision of their future.
In order to grow in understanding, be sure that you have a fail-safe system to get feedback from your clients and do case histories every so often. I do case histories with my clients after they have seen me for a number of sessions and are committed to our work together. After our third session, the work starts taking on a new dimension. At this point, I do a case history matching and timing events to their chart. Some astrologers do this before they see a person for the first time. I find it helpful to wait until the client has committed to working on themselves in our relationship before I devote this kind of time and energy to their life.
Be very certain about what you do and what you do not do. Don’t ever say to a potential client, “Astrology can’t do what you ask.” Who can speak for all of astrology or even all astrologers? What you can honestly say to a client or potential client is, “I can do that” or “I don’t do what you are asking; please see so and so, or try someone else.” This is honest and to the point. All you do need to know on this topic is what you can do and further, what you like doing. Have a referral list for sending people to astrologers and non-astrologers who specialize in other areas.
When you are working, work. When you stop working, stop. This means, when clients meet you on the street, don’t talk to them about their chart or for that matter, anything professional. This is a very important way to set boundaries that will allow your client to respect your work, plus, help you maintain a psychological balance and perspective on your own life.
Everyone who sees you should see you again at least once a year, just for an update, which means that every new client will be a growth in your practice. Obviously, after about five years of practice, you will have more clients than you can possibly serve. You will end up referring most of the new people who call you to other astrologers. At this stage of your practice, you will start to specialize quite a bit, even if you, like me, are in a general type of practice, meaning that you do a bit of everything.
There are four specialty practices on which you can build a practice: horary astrology, relocational astrology, medical astrology, and financial astrology. Each of these specialties has its own career path, but both horary and relocational astrology are pretty straightforward and astrology-intensive without requiring special training in other fields. Medical and financial astrology are specialties that require extensive training in things non-astrological, e.g. health and finance.
If your memory is not excellent, you should take notes on every client and session, during the consultation or shortly thereafter. Written notes help you build an inner bridge to the person whose life you have become involved with and facilitates your work with this person again in the future.
Set up an annotated data base with the client’s address and birth information in your computer. This allows you to see when you last saw the person and review what you talked about. You can use the information to mail them a birthday card which will remind them that it is time to see you again. I personally write a note or email to each client within a month of seeing them. This lets them know I’m thinking about them. It reminds them of the things we talked about. Further, it helps me to organize my own thinking about our session together.
While in the process of working with your clients and building a client base, you will make at least one very bad mistake. This is an initiation rite-of-passage. It has been confessed to me so many times by other astrologers that I realize it is an archetypal principle of the practice. Even the very good astrologers pull back, sometimes for quite a while, when they make a big mistake. The great astrologers however, push through the mistakes. The gravity of their error acknowledged (to really understand is to heal), and they proceed. As I have said many times in my professional classes; show me an astrologer who has never hurt anyone, and I will show you an astrologer who has also never helped anyone. WE MAKE MISTAKES AND OTHER PEOPLE SUFFER. But hopefully, we also grow. And through our growth we become better astrologers. Better astrologers are going to make a better planet.
The best advertising is word of mouth. One satisfied client tells another. Take the time to write notes to your clients and keep them informed as to your intention and what you see for them. This can be just a simple reminder as to what you last talked about and what they might do now and when they should see you again.
Kathleen Burt has some thoughts on how she built her practice by writing thank-you notes. This is a novel approach and it boils down to learning how to acknowledge those people who are helping you build your practice.(10)
About 80% of my clients set up appointments again while they are with me. If they don’t do this they can’t usually get on my schedule and I am a schedule-driven person. If it isn’t on my schedule, it doesn’t exist. Further I have a no cancellation policy. If someone misses an appointment with me they pay me for the time and apologize. If someone does this twice they are an ex-client because I can’t allow anyone to steal my time. It is too valuable to waste. As an astrologer, the management of your time is important because it is ultimately the commodity for which your clients are paying.
Some astrologers have a listing in the telephone Yellow Pages and advertise on television or radio or in magazines. I have not done this because I feel that it is unnecessary and tends to present a less than professional image of astrology. If you have doubt about going it alone without advertising, read “How to Start, Maintain, and Expand an Astrological Practice” Chapter # 1 “Marketing and Building Your Practice” by Georgia Stathis. She outlines the pros and cons of advertising and how to go about it.
Money spent on display ads can be a real waste. On the other hand, high-quality brochures that you can put directly into people’s hands who have expressed a genuine interest in your work are always worth the money. The brochure should tell exactly what you do and how much you charge for doing so. (By all means, avoid flowery, overstated, inflammatory, and technical language.) This brochure can be a tremendous aid in helping establish a solid client base. A local copy shop or printer will help you achieve a visual image that conveys how you feel about yourself and your practice.
You can accomplish much the same goal by having a great website and a business card. A website is an expanded business card and can take the place of a brochure. You still need a business card so you have something to put in people’s hands.
Having a publicist and a media consultant is also helpful, but unnecessary. If you choose to use such specialists, be sure that they are very “in tune” with your work, that they understand it, AND support it philosophically. The second thing to do is to sit down with your accountant or business planner and make sure, very sure that the extra cost of having these people on board is worth it at the bottom line. It is best that you don’t hire a client to do this, and never, never trade your service for theirs. I promise you that it will not work out for you or them as a business deal. Trades breed poverty-consciousness and cloud your vision of what you are doing and what you are worth, what the universe will give you and what you need. If you want someone’s service, get the best people for the job and pay them real money. You are worth it and so are they; otherwise, why do it at all? Always make cost-effective business decisions when you are talking about business. This sounds very trite, but I mention it because most of us astrologers have deficient skills when it comes to making these kinds of business decisions.
Whenever you print up flyers for a workshop or for the newspaper, make sure that you save a copy of it in an advertising file. The art work and wording can save you a lot of time and expense if you want to have a starting point for doing the same workshop later. Further, this can be a great source of ideas and a helpful way to let sponsoring astrology groups know how to promote you when you are asked to speak for them. It is also very helpful to have good black-and-white photographs that can be used for publicity. This can be important when you are talking with anyone who can help you with your advertising.
Your advertising file should contain everything that you have done for the public. If you decide to run advertisements in the newspaper, phone book, etc. (which I have been advising against right along), then do be sure to keep notes about how much you spent on the ad, where it appeared, and what kind of a response you got. This allows your advertising dollar to be self-correcting over a period of several years. You may find some ad sellers who try to “educate” you as to the value of name-recognition type of advertising and the residual effect on your business over a long period of time. This actually doesn’t work for astrologers. It does work for Coca Cola, Macy’s, and other businesses selling a product by name recognition. It doesn’t work for astrologers, period!
Many astrologers have their own radio or television shows. Some of these shows can even be useful in terms of creating a better image of what astrology is about in our society. But, beware; these shows are usually not a way to build a local or even national client base. At least, this has been the experience of astrologers so far.
In one sense, everything you do with your life is advertising either positively or negatively for astrology in general and your practice in particular. In this vein, I might mention that normal business practices often bring new clients. The importance of making tapes of your sessions with clients can scarcely be overestimated. So many new clients through the years have come to me because they listened to a tape I made for another client. Further, many times clients have returned to see me because they were listening to an old tape and it perked their curiosity.
The Importance of Teaching
I taught my first astrology class in 1974, right after I started my practice. It was a great boon at three levels. First, it was a source of clients since every student became a client at some later date; second, it was a way of directing my own study of astrology to a deeper level. And third, it gave me a gathering point-of-focus for clients who have an interest in learning astrology.
Every astrologer with whom I have ever discussed this has told me that teaching was an important form of advertising for them. It got their name out before the public and created interest in their work. The continued source of income comes from new people coming into the classes every semester and those people becoming clients.
I have personally counseled a large number of professional astrologers and helped them improve their practices. The number one complaint that astrologers have when their career is floundering is that they aren’t seeing enough people to earn a living. (Once in a while the astrologer is actually seeing enough people, but is just not charging enough for their astrological service. This leads the astrologer back to working on issues of self-esteem.)
Teaching astrology not only expands your client base but allows you to continue your own study at a deeper level. If you have to explain something to others so they understand it – and make it interesting enough that it holds their attention – you will have to study the material at a level deep enough so you really understand it. This not only helps you build your practice through expertise, expand your understanding and clarify for yourself what it is that you do, but it also helps bring real astrology before the general public, something for which you can feel justifiably proud.
Recently, I was chairing a panel of professional astrologers on the issue of giving consultations to clients. People in attendance were practicing professionals as well. I asked the question, “What other kinds of knowledge do you think are essential besides astrological techniques for anyone making a living as a consulting astrologer?” Almost everyone in attendance wanted to say something! People suggested four years of college in humanities, business skills, computer skills, knowledge of advertising, scientific knowledge, history, psychology, philosophy; the list went on and on. Every practicing astrologer seemed in complete agreement that astrology requires the study of many things. To study real astrology is to study the whole universe and its inherent structure in time and space. To do astrology is to commit to the project that knowledge makes us better. After all, our very job implies that people’s lives will somehow be better through receiving information from us. In the words of Plato, “The Good is to Know.”
There are astrologers who have attracted some of their clients by becoming popular through their writing. Writing articles for magazines will not attract a client base for you but if you have written an astrology book and it becomes widely circulated it may attract some clients in your direction. Still, to write a bestselling book may be income for you immediately, but, it cannot be relied upon to attract a long-term, meaningful and income-producing clientele.
Most astrology books on the market are very poor. Most good professional astrologers are so busy that they don’t have writing time. Most astrologers who have written books in order to build a practice have suffered the hard lessons of putting the cart before the horse. Build a successful practice first, and then share your proven insights, techniques, and perspective with others. This is an operational principle that astrologers have to import from other professions.
If you are a good, natural writer by temperament, you may supplement your income in astrology if you were to write an article every month for a paying astrology magazine, but you will probably not get the amount of money for your time that you would seeing clients. Let’s say you write an article in two days and are paid $250 for it.
This is certainly not as much income as you could receive for the time seeing clients. It may be OK one day a month, but it will not take you over the hump of having to see clients most of the time in your workday, and, oddly enough, it will not attract new clients, even if you are writing for a local newspaper.
Still, writing always helps astrologers to sort out and clarify their thinking. Writing is part of any educational process. Instead of writing term papers, astrologers write articles. Since you are taking the time to write anyway, you might as well share your thoughts in print, and get paid for it.
Other People as Employees
Since my beginning days in the practice of astrology, I have always had people who worked for me. I paid them money to do so, and could not have had a practice without such assistance. Still, as I became more successful and started to pay higher salaries to employees, two things became very clear: first, the type of people in those jobs totally determined whether I was going to do well or not, and their income had to rise or fall as mine did; second, whenever these factors were ignored, I lost money. When these issues were correctly addressed I made money.
Be very sure that you need more people in your business and make very sure that the people you are hiring are making a very positive step in their career pathway. If these people are deeply committed to your work but still aren’t growing in their personal and professional lives (instead, are just looking for a place to retreat from the world for a while), you are in big trouble if you hire them.
Attaching people’s wages to your income can be done by percentages (best) and bonuses (next best). The way salaries are set is to examine the needs of everyone all around the business. If people working for you are in need or are dissatisfied with their work or disappointed in their personal life, your business will suffer. I have discovered that getting people who are growing personally is very important. Everyone’s job should change and grow today in our modern culture. There comes a time when employees will need to move on. Make sure that you thoroughly understand their job. I had a person working for me on a computer I purchased for them. I paid for their instruction on special computer software. I didn’t learn the system myself. When they left quite suddenly, I was left in bad shape. It took two years to straighten out my client files!
SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE
What it Means to be a Professional
In the process of giving to other astrologers, your insights and understandings of astrology, your own work moves to a higher level and a new dimension.
Treat other astrologers with respect. To the best of your ability, put aside political, economic, sociological, and public differences and do something for astrology. Be courteous and friendly and don’t put your colleagues on a pedestal even if they are very famous. This can stand in the way of you learning from them or them learning from you.
I had been doing astrology for about a year when I met Dane Rudhyar and Marc Edmund Jones for the first time. I had some professional questions for them, some technical issues that had been brewing in my mind from having read their books…I approached Rudhyar when I saw him at a reception and asked him some rather pointed, direct questions. Rudhyar answered me directly and clearly. I met M.E. Jones after one of his classes. I hadn’t understood something that he had lectured on and I hadn’t understood some of his points on the same subject when I read his books. We talked for a while. I didn’t understand his answer right away even though he was polite enough to keep explaining. He was a very nice person. My point here is that it never occurred to me not to ask them the questions on my mind. Why? Because it was and is every astrologer’s responsibility to build a better astrology. In this realm, who we are as people doesn’t matter; only that the discipline, the field of astrology, gets better. We have a duty to share our insights with others and to purify and clarify our own understanding.
The Importance of Networking and Organization
Joining an astrology organization can be a way of contributing to the growth and development of astrology. NCGR is the organization that has the most comprehensive materials for astrological education and research; ISAR is an organization of internationally known astrologers doing research; AFAN has the best information for astrologers on dealing with the media and with the legal issues surrounding astrology; OPA is the Organization for Professional Astrology. Belonging to these organizations can be an important way of staying in touch with other astrologers and perpetuating the field in general which will in turn help your practice. Astrological organizations help connect you to the larger astrological community and break you from a sense of isolation. This is very important for personal development as an astrologer.
MONEY: SOME STRAIGHT TALK
The need for money leads astrologers to charge their clients for their services. Although it is possible to earn a good living through astrology, I have never met a good astrologer who did astrology “for the money” in it. Generally speaking, the best astrologers could make more money quicker and with less effort by using astrology as an edge in other fields, like the stock market, or gambling, or sales, etc.
Still, it is important to address the issue of money. Today, astrologers charge anywhere from $35 to $500 for their work. Most appointment times are 1 to 2 hours. If you charge $100 per session and see 100 clients a month, you can work 5 days a week – have weekends off – seeing 5 clients a day. This lets you earn $100,000 a year and take 2 months off every year. I call this a regular middle-class income, allowing you a regular middle-class life style, just as any other professional. There are very good astrologers, because of other choices they have made, who earn much less than this. There are good astrologers who work harder and charge more who earn a lot more than this. I want you to see, becoming an astrologer is not necessarily a life of poverty and great restriction. But further, it is not a life of easy money. Astrologers are paid well, and they work much harder than most people.
In the seventies, many of my most talented students did not manage to make the transition from astrology as a hobby to astrology as a career. Earning a living as an astrologer is always tension-producing, especially for people with high security needs. If someone studying with me wants to be an astrologer, the preliminary questions I ask are:
Can you be self-employed? Can you live with the insecurity of a fluctuating income? Can you be focused enough to put your own life out of your mind while you are concentrating on being an astrologer for someone else? Developing a Business Plan does not have to be complicated but it is essential to ensure success as an astrologer. If you don’t have a vision of where you are going and how you are going to get there, it shouldn’t surprise you if you don’t get anywhere or don’t recognize where you are when you have arrived. If you don’t have a plan for your own life why should anyone pay you to help you plan theirs?
A Business Plan is simple. There are two parts, one philosophical and the other technical: “What is it that you want?”, “How do you plan to get what you want?” The philosophic question should be answered first. What DO you want to see in your life? What is it that you want to accomplish? Remember, as astrologers we can answer this question if we wish. For any life, including our own, becomes open through the chart. You can lay out the events and circumstances for a whole life, from cradle to grave, using a birth chart. You will make mistakes on your own chart just as you will with other peoples’ charts, but there will be learning, a growth in the process. Astrology is a path of mental growth. Here, as on so many other issues in astrology, getting another astrologer’s opinion is invaluable.
After you have established your philosophic framework (as to what you should or want to or will achieve in your life) focus on the technical dimension of your Business Plan. To do this, first figure out your expenses for a month and for a year. Project your income for a year. Refer to your chart. You will have ups and downs as any business does. Plan for the “down point” in the year. Next, break your income down into categories based on how you will earn your money.(11)
Plan time correctly. Plan time for business meetings with accountants, agents, office managers, anyone and everyone who is an integral part of your business.(12)
It is important for you to manage your time as well as your money.
Astrology is the study of time and astrologers need to live up to a higher standard than most people in terms of handling their time. Save time every day for yourself alone. Time spent alone is necessary in order to assimilate what you are learning. Make time to write clients in some fashion every day. Make time to study a bit each day.
(Astrology is my yoga. I do it as a discipline every morning when I get up. I think through the signs, houses, planets, and aspects. As a way to keep limber and in shape with their instrument and discipline, a musician practices the scales on the piano.)
And finally, make sure that you understand the tax laws and have your taxes paid. It is hard enough working in the field of astrology without having money issues with the government. Some astrologers don’t record all of their income and don’t report it honestly to the government. I have yet to find one astrologer living this way that does well and feels fulfilled in their practice of astrology. I always encourage people living outside the law to get right with the government. The profession of astrology can only be built on the shoulders of astrologers who act with integrity. Be honest.
THE ASTROLOGER’S PLACE IN SOCIETY
Why should society treat us with respect if we as astrologers don’t treat each other with respect? It is a sociological fact that a suppressed group tends to turn inward and repress itself. Members of the astrological community have unconsciously adopted society’s intellectual prejudices against astrology; while at the same time, we members of the astrological community have consciously believed in our own individual goodness. Consequently, we have tended to undermine each other’s effort and improvement of the field through narrow criticism. This has prevented us from working very closely. We have been slow to outgrow this negative quality; but education as well as honest and continuous reappraisal of our enterprise raises our standard. Gradually, an astrological community is developing.
As we get better at what we do, our craft will reshape society. What will happen to the insurance system when no one will buy it except people who really need it? What will happen to the stock market when investments are made by everyone based on clear and natural motions of cycles in nature? The material basis of fear and greed can be eliminated from our culture through right understanding. This will be the dawning of a new age. Think what role as astrologers we will play in this culture. We have now, and will have in the future, the place we deserve in society. The raising of social consciousness comes though the raising of individual consciousness, thus we build a better astrology and a better world.
(1) A good article representative of this approach is NCGR Memberletter, Vol. VIII, No. 6, “How to Make Astrology Pay from A-Z.” By AdZe MiXXe. The main point here is that if you take an entertainment approach to doing chart readings you will generally want to use this as a bridge to a more serious practice.
(2) Kepler College is www.kepler.edu
Avalon college is cosmic.patterns.com/avalonco.htm
(3) See “Our Chicago Conference” by Chris McRae in The Career Astrologer. Vol 2 No. 1. for an outline of how to get a job teaching astrology at your local College or University.
(4) to view my school go to my website www.theastrologycompany.com.
(5) This information changes so swiftly it is best to search the most recent information through the web. A Google search of “Astrology Schools” brought up 357,000 results.
(6)See chapter 2 “money” in my book “Between Astrologers and Their Clients” for an expanded discussion of this issue.
(7) Article by Jacob Schwartz in The Career Astrologer Vol.2 No. 2 pp.8-9.
(8) Article by Jacqueline Janes in The Career Astrologer Vol. 17 No. 2. pp 1,2,7.
(9) The “extra bedroom” profession. “Report on an Informal Survey” by Monica Dimino. The Career Astrologer Vol.2. No.1, p.5.
(10) “Building a Practice with Thank You Notes” The Career Astrologer Vol.1 August 1990. pp5-6. by Kathleen Burt
(11) I wrote a series of articles In “The Career Astrologer” to assist in constructing a plan of action. “Plan for Success, Then Achieve it!” Vol. 14 no. 1. “Writing Your Astrological Business Plan” Vol. 14 No. 2. and “Growing Your Astrological Business” Vol. 16 No. 1.
(12) There are many books and workshops on time management. If you have any difficulty in this area, address it immediately or this can be your “Achilles heel”. One that I found particularly useful is “First Things First” by Stephen Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill.