Hello again, everyone! We got a dusting of snow here in Portland Oregon last night, and so of course we're snowed in for the day (my husband's work was canceled!). This is so foreign to me since I remember having to trudge to school through snow up to my waist in Norway. But it is nice to have some days where we're forced to stay home due to icy roads. The best is of course that everyone stays safe!
Today I thought I would share the transcript of a talk I did for the Shelter Animal Reiki Association last year. I had the wonderful honor of giving a talk about having clear boundaries, ways to shift our perception of charging money for our work, and also ways in which we can become more balanced as opposed to drained from doing this work. I wanted to share the transcript here, for students of mine, and for others who are developing, whether they do reiki or mediumship or any other kind of spiritual work.
First I want to say that with blog-post, my goal is not to tell anyone what to do around charging for their services or tell people they have to raise their prices or anything like that. If you do readings for free for people and that feels balanced for you and is working great, then that is awesome, I wouldn't want you to change anything. This talk is more for people who are afraid to charge for their spiritual services, when they actually would like to make their spiritual work their livelihood and have it be a job that can support them.
I bet most people reading this have believed at some point or another that spiritual services, such as psychic readings, or healings, or even classes on spiritual topics, should be offered for free. I've heard it many times before, from others and also in my own head. I run up against these beliefs all the time, since I also teach others how to do the work that I do. I know that there can be a lot of layers as to why we don't feel comfortable taking payment for our services, or to be compensated for our time, but I will try to unpack it all as best as I can here, and give you some shifts in perspective on the topic, and share my own advice. I will be talking about setting healthy boundaries with clients around money and time in relation to your spiritual services, such as intuitive readings or healing.
Our spiritual work does not exist in its own spiritual bubble. We are all human beings as well, who have real-world obligations. Let's first get clear on the simple realities around offering spiritual services.
Reality – Money
Because we are human beings, we have all sorts of financial obligations. The money we make through the work that we do is what pays our rent, food, bills, taking care of our families, etc. I have two kids. Even if you don't have a family, maybe you have animal companions, or health issues that you need to spend time and money on. If you take on a full-time job in the “real-world” to pay those bills, you have a lot less time and energy to do the spiritual services that you have a gift for doing or that lights you up. For example, if I was to take on a normal 9-5 job, I would probably only have time and energy to do my spiritual work one day a week, versus what I do now which is 5 days a week. I personally feel that I can be of better service to the world if I can dedicate myself to this work, which means that this work also has to bring in an income.
There are also financial costs to offering our spiritual services: the rent for the space you use to do the sessions, website fees, business cards, travel expenses if you do sessions at people's homes, and so on and so forth. And of course, we also have to pay taxes, so we need to make sure that whatever is left over after fees and taxes are deducted, that that amount can still support us. These are all things that need to be factored into the cost of doing sessions.
Reality – Time
In addition to the time and energy it takes to do the readings, or healing sessions, or teach classes, there's also a lot of time that goes towards answering emails, you probably do your own book-keeping, writing all your own teaching materials, and preparing for your sessions and classes. Then there's all the energy it takes to do a great reading! There are limits to have many readings I can do a week without exhausting myself or hitting a wall. No matter what kind of spiritual services you offer, there are probably limits to how many sessions you can do in a day and still feel good and energized. This is generally not the type of work that we can do from 9-5, 5 days a week. It takes a lot of energy.
Reality – Time/Money/effort of learning your skills
And then we have all the time, effort, and money you've put in, to learn and hone your skills to be of the highest service that you can be. You've probably used a lot of time studying, taking classes, and practicing! And all that time, money, and effort has produced the things you can now offer to others.
You know, whenever you pay a counselor for a session, for example, you're not just paying them for their time. You're also paying them for their education and their expertise. There are so many things that go into a session, other than that 1 hour you spend with your client.
Now for me, being a great medium and animal communicator, also means living a life that supports my work and keeps my work of the highest quality. This means I have an extensive spiritual practice that includes daily meditation, and other things that help me do the work that I do best. And I bet that many of you also have some sort of spiritual practice that supports your work.
Most of us are pretty clear on these realities. These are not the more difficult things to understand around whether or not we should charge for our services.
Where we often come up against blocks is in our perspective on the spiritual versus the material.
A really common belief is that anything spiritual should always be offered for free because it is a gift from the divine. But you have to ask yourself, aren't all talents or skills gifts from the Divine? And yet we don't have the same expectation of free work from designers, teachers, leaders, chefs, farmers, doctors etc. So spiritual gifts aren't really any more gifts from the Divine than other skills or talents.
A lot of us also walk around with this romantic idea of ancient times, when every village had a wise-person who offered their gifts freely to the rest of the village. This is actually not a very accurate idea of what it was like in the past, because in most cases, you were still expected to offer a gift in return for the healer's services. So that is basically the same thing we do today, except we usually pay money instead of exchanging goods for services.
Even priests and pastors have their needs met by the churches they work for or by donations from their followers. They are able to work "for free", because someone else is paying for their rent and for their food, and for their needs.
I believe we have a deeper collective societal belief that the spiritual should be separate from the material. That anything that belongs to the mundane world of things and money and our day-to-day lives should be separated from the spiritual. This is a belief we find often in religious traditions. But we, as spiritual practitioners usually learn in our work that everything is energy, even solid material objects around us are energy. The physical and the spiritual are in fact intimately intertwined and part of the same fabric of energy. They couldn't be separated if we tried. So the belief that asking for money somehow taints your spiritual service, that belief becomes irrelevant because money is just energy, just like a mediumship reading is dealing with just energy. You are simply exchanging different kinds of energy. One is not better or worse than the other. They are just tools for different things.
Then we come to this question of whether or not it is ethical to charge for your services.
Let's say you're a reiki healer. You are not the only one who does energy healing, or even reiki healing. If you were claiming to be the only one in the world who could do healings, and you charged exhorbitant prices for it, that would probably NOT be ethical. But you are NOT the only one who does reiki. So you know that if a person comes to your website and sees your prices for your services, and they can't afford it, there is probably someone else out there in the world offering services that they can afford.
We also know that what you offer is also not the only way a client can solve the problem they have that they would like the healing session for. There are so many different therapies out there, so by charging fair prices for your sessions, you are not with-holding help from someone, because you are not the only one out there that can help them. So there's nothing really unethical about asking for fair compensation for your services.
Another area we tend to come up against blocks when it comes to money boundaries, are around you valuing what you have to offer, which is intimately connected to your self-esteem.
I will go on a little bit of a tangent here, but bear with me, and I promise it will tie in with boundaries again. You may have heard the quote: "We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience." This essentially just means that we are spirits within bodies. We are not our bodies. We just have bodies in order to experience life. We are actually much more than our bodies. Just imagine: if we are spirit, there is probably so much more to us than we can even fathom. And as spirit, we are all connected, and we are all facets of the Divine. (I write more about this in another blog-post here).
No matter what your skills are, or how good or bad of a practitioner you are, you are so much more than your abilities. So questions of whether or not you are worthy of fair payment becomes irrelevant, because you are beyond worthy. You are literally the essence of all that is, and you are complete perfection. You are beyond worthy, and so is everyone else. You are as worthy of abundance as everyone else is.
Boundaries essentially come from a strong belief in your own worth. Because you are also a part of the divine, you have a right to compensation for your time and energy and abilities. You have a right to free-time spent doing things that you love to do. You have a right to refill your cup.
What our goal is with creating boundaries around money and time is ultimately to create more balance in your life.
Undercharging for your services does not create balance. Giving too much of your time to others does not create balance. Those things tend to deplete you. And the more depleted you are, the less energy you have to help others.
My first suggestion for creating balance and boundaries is getting clear on what your priorities are. And I mean, what YOUR priorities are, not what others feel your priorities should be.
Let's say someone emails you, looking for a free intuitive reading, and they probably could afford to pay for the session if they chose to. So you look in your schedule and you see you have some free time that you could potentially use to do a free session. That free time in your schedule is not just free time. It's time that could be spent doing other things as well, things that might be more important to you than doing free sessions. What I am hoping to do with this blog-post is help you shift your perspective, where you begin to see yourself as equally worthy of all good things, as much as anyone else in the world, as much as the person who just emailed you. My priorities are such that the time I am not spending doing work that brings in an income to support me and my family, I want to be spending that other time with my family or doing other things that I am passionate about.
So you want to get clear on what your priorities are with your time and energy.
If you give too much of your free time without balanced compensation, then you will probably hit a wall fast and hard, or begin to feel resentful or exhausted from the work you do.
So how do you say no to the people that ask you for free services? I think a lot of us are afraid to tell people “No” because we are afraid of coming off as mean. But you can be warm and nice and still say no. The two are not mutually exclusive. A great book I would recommend for this point in particular is "Playing Big" by Tara Mohr.
Whenever someone emails me, asking for a free reading, I usually respond with something like this:
Hey there, I am so sorry to hear about your situation. You can schedule a session with me via my website www.theahealer.com . I unfortunately don't have the time or energy to do readings outside of that. I hope you have a wonderful week. Warmly, Thea
In an email like this I am being warm and understanding, but also explaining my situation, and then allowing them to decide if they would like to schedule a proper session with me or not, and that's completely up to them.
If the person emailing can't afford a session because they're struggling financially, I might not have the time or energy to give them a free session, but I might briefly send them some sort of helpful resources for their situation.
For example, I often have people emailing me because their pet passed away tragically or suddenly, and they just want to know that they're OK, or they want their pet to know that they love them. I don't have energy to do a reading for them, but I can share with them quickly a couple insights, such as that in my experience, every animal I've talked to who has passed away is always more than OK. Or I might say that when our pets pass away, they can still hear us as they are still close by. You don't need me to tell your pets that you love them. I might send them to a blog-post I've written on the topic.
That way, in sharing this briefly with the person, I am sending them something to work with, that might help them, but it also takes me very little energy as compared to doing a free reading for them.
In a reiki situation, maybe a person can't afford a healing session, but their pet is going through some horrible health issues. You might for example offer to put the pets name under a charged reiki crystal or candle. You might briefly explain how the owner can support the animal, such as how they can manage their own stress so as not to make the animal's stress worse, or maybe suggest some other things the owner can do to help. These things are pretty quick and easy to write out in an email, and you are still helping them out without draining yourself.
As healers, we often have this impulse to help and heal everyone else. Except it's not really your responsibility to heal everyone else. Even when it comes to animals, an animal's human companion is the one responsible for their healing or well-being. This impulse we have to help and heal everyone, is often linked with ideas of self-worth again. We tie our worth up in how useful we can be to other people. But your worth is inherent. Back to what I was saying before, you are beyond worthy, whether or not you help someone heal. You are part of the divine, and nothing you do or say or feel changes that worth.
There is a difference between feeling responsible for healing or helping everyone else, and being able to help others from a space of balance and content. It's kind of along the same lines as the advice of putting on your own oxygen mask first, before helping someone else put on theirs. You help others the best if you first make sure you've taken care of yourself and you're in a space of balance.
If charities and paying it forward are important for you and part of your priorities in life, then find some ways in which you can do that in a way that feels good and balanced to you, and not draining. What is balanced and nourishing is going to be different for everybody because we all live different lives. I know some people who donate one session a month to someone who needs it, and others who donate one session a week to someone who needs it. I know some people who volunteer at shelters a couple times a week. I personally have a few ways in which I can give back with my work.
When I teach a class, if I am able, I always try to reserve one spot for a partial or full scholarship for someone who is having a hard time financially. I have been very blessed in my life with many generous teachers, and so I try to pay it forward in this way.
I also do mediumship audience readings with other mediums, where all the proceeds go to a local charity.
I might do Facebook lives where I do free mini-readings for those watching.
The thing with these ways in which I give back, is that I still feel like I receive something from them. There is still this exchange of energy. With the audience readings, and facebook lives, though I make nothing from those events, they do function like advertisement for my business. I have brought in a bunch of new clients from them, but even if I wasn't, I would still see these as opportunities to get some more practice in and just spread the word, so they would still feel balanced to me. With the scholarships for my classes, if I have an empty spot, I don't usually feel like it takes me any more energy to add that extra student. So these are ways in which I give back or provide services for free that feels balanced to me, and I am not drained, and I am doing them on my own terms.
So what I would recommend is to create a structure for the way you give back, meaning YOU decide the ways in which you want to give back, YOU decide how much time you want to give towards that every month, and then you stick to that plan. That way you know that you've got your giving covered, and then you won't feel as compelled to just give give give to anyone or everyone all the time outside of that plan.
Even if you didn't do any charity work: you receiving money for your services still empowers you to help others. When you have a stronger flow of income, you have more to give as well. The money that you spend on other people's services goes back into the economy, supporting other families. Also, when you have more, you also have more to donate to causes that are important to you. Making money from your services is not inherently evil. You are supported so that you can also support others.
Competition with this field?
When I started out, I remember being afraid that my prices would be too high for people so that they'd maybe not want to schedule sessions with me. That can be a paralysing fear for some of us, that if we set these boundaries, that we're then going to drive people away. That we have to always be accomodating to everyone who is interested in a session with us. Or we get caught up in competition with other practitioners around us, feeling like we have to cut our prices in order to get any clients. Let's delve into why that is an irrational fear.
I personally do not believe in competition in spiritual fields of work, for 2 reasons.
1. There really is no shortage of people needing help. Or people who want help with their animals. Or people who want guidance. Truly, there is plenty to go around. Just think about the statistics. If we take animal reiki as an example: how many people have pets? And then consider that maybe half those people are open to energy healing for their pets. That's still many many more people than there are reiki healers.
2. The second reason I don't believe in competition, is that I know I am not the right healer or psychic for everyone. The right people will be drawn to me. The wrong people won't. That's OK. It's actually ideal.
That there are a lot of people who offer similar services to you is actually a good thing. Firstly, because more people can be helped. Secondly, because even if you happen to offer the same services that someone else does, what you offer in your sessions is probably not an exact copy. You and your services are likely totally unique, because you are totally unique. You have your own unique combination of experiences and teachings that you've accumulated and that you draw on in your sessions. No body can truly emulate you.
And that also means that you are probably not the right fit for many people out there, just as I am not the right fit for many people out there. I am glad that there are others out there offering similar services to what I do, because that means that we can each focus on the groups of people that do fit us and that we can actually be of service to. I don't want everyone to come to me, because I know that many of the people out there are not going to jive well with me and what I do.
I also trust that what is meant for me is mine. I know the universe has a way of bringing the right people to me when the time is right. I trust, that if we are meant to work together, then it will work out in some way. And if it's not meant to be, then it's not meant to be. I do not have to change my boundaries or bend over backwards to fit someone into my schedule or accommodate for them in ways that become stressful for me, because if we are meant to work together, then it will happen. If we're not meant to work together, then it won't. That's OK.
I would also recommend, in order to avoid negotiation on your prices and time, put your fees out there for people see, so that they can then decide if you're the right fit for their budget. There are plenty of people out there that could use your services, that would also be willing to pay for those services. You don't want the clients who feel like your services aren't worth it. From experience, I have learned that when you expect compensation, you attract clients that expect to compensate you and are happy to do so.
Many of us also tend to have this impulse to do more. We want to help more, we want to heal more.
Maybe a client purchases a half hour session from you and you end up adding on an extra free half hour because you are afraid that the first half hour isn't enough. Or maybe you end up adding lots of additional help and support via email to a client, because you are afraid that what you already offered wasn't enough. Maybe we feel that we are simply not enough, so we keep wanting to add more value to our offerings.
What I find helpful in situations like this, is to make sure that you are very clear to your clients about what to expect from your offering. You can put that on your website, or tell them before you start the session, letting the client know what to expect during the session and what effects they can expect after the session. That way you won't feel compelled to have to out-perform those expectations. Knowing that they are on the same page as you takes a lot of the pressure off.
I am a big believer in putting all information on a website, because it's often in one-on-one conversations or emails that we feel compelled to negotiate. If you put all the information up on your website, you cut out a good part of the people who aren't a good fit for you and your boundaries, and you can attract those who are a good fit. Clear communication is so key to keeping strong boundaries and balance in your life. That's why I recommend putting it all out there, and then letting potential clients to decide if they want to work with you or go to someone else.
It's kind of like letting people know that “This is me, this is what I do, this is what I charge for those services, this is what you can expect from those services, and this is my available schedule.” Then it's up to the potential clients to decide if that suits them.
So to recap briefly:
With this blog-post, I don't mean to pressure anyone to raise their prices or stop giving freely of their time. But I want to present to you a different perspective, that you have a right to thrive from doing this sacred work, and you have a right to balance in your life. I also want to show you that you can charge for your services and your time, and also give back in other ways that feel nourishing to you instead of draining. And you can say no and still be nice and warm.
What you do in the world, when you are doing your best, always has value, no matter what it is!
Sending you all lots of love,
Welcome! I am a 30-something Medium and Animal Communicator. I am originally from Norway, but am currently living in Oregon, USA. This blog is to give you some insight into my life and work, as well as share tips, and some of my photography. Enjoy!