Becoming an Astrologer
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 OPA 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.<!--more-->
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.
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. 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.
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:
1. Know how to take and schedule appointments;
2. Get every client’s name, address, and telephone number recorded on a data base;
3. Know how to refuse work that you are not prepared for (the client’s needs are out of your range of expertise);
4. Have a quick way of screening and placing clients to determine the beginning level of your consulting work;
5. Devise a rapid and reliable way to have the materials that you need, including the client’s chart, ephemeris, graphic ephemeris, dials or whatever you use (either from your own computer and/or a chart service) up and ready, neat and organized, for efficient operation;
6. Have your office work space neat, comforting, and comfortable;
7. And, finally, make sure all the equipment and tools of the trade are in order and working.
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.
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 princ