Tip #8 for Your Professional Psychic Business: The Costs of Being a Road Warrior
When people hear that my overhead is 50% at shows, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a huge show or a tiny one, they look at me goggle-eyed. FIFTY PERCENT? THAT’S HUGE! And yes it is, but I planned to put effort into being a road warrior the first decade or so of my full-time psychic life in order to be able to transmute that into more phone/Skype readings as I got older and travel got tougher on the older body.
If you think that travel is your favorite way to go, I say go for it — but know what it will cost you, if you want to do it for the long term, and I’m not just talking in cash. We’re talking:
- Booth fees
- Front salaries
- Hotel fees
- Gas and tolls and car wear and tear
- Energy and Time
There’s not much you can do about booth fees; they are set by the promoters. But the rest can be handled. Let’s take a look at how.
Front fees: You need to pay your front people fairly. We’ve gone over the ins and outs of using a booth assistant in Tip #4, but a reminder here for about their pay: I don’t believe in paying a flat fee with no incentive. Why? That’s like the government: you get a certain amount no matter what you do. So most people will do the least they can. I give my front people a daily base (here in the Northeast, $50 or thereabouts) but then they know that after a certain amount to cover basic costs — currently set at $1200-$1500 per show — they will receive 10% of the gross. Someone who knows that getting me ten extra readings will earn them somewhere between $50 and $90, depending on the reading prices at that venue, is going to hustle their bustle with a lot more alacrity than they would if all that extra money just gets pocketed by The Boss.
And don’t ever, ever tell them that because you didn’t make enough money they don’t get paid. I don’t care if you make ZIP at a show that cost you $1000 in overhead. If they have worked for you for two days, they have done so in good faith and to the best of their abilities. They did not sign up for the vagaries of working an expo; you did. So you fork over their base pay of $100. Because that’s what a Professional does, and that’s what’s fair. Keep your word to your front people no matter what: they’re the people who have your back.
Hotel fees: There are a couple of ways to go with this. Some people like to use Hotwire, Priceline or one of the other cut-rate hotel finding sites. These can be good, but often it’s a crapshoot, especially if you do the “bargain price but you don’t get to choose your hotel” option. If you are simply looking for the lowest price if you get to actually CHOOSE the hotel, be sure you read the TripAdvisor reviews on the property you’re considering before you sign on. Pay special attention to the negative reviews: are they recent, or from a while ago? If it’s not recent, perhaps they’ve made improvements. Are the bad reviews from couples, families, or business folks? You are most interested in the business reviews. And especially check for any mention of bedbugs! Once you bring them home from a bad hotel they’re hard to get rid of.
A second way to keep charges low is to choose one hotel chain (Hilton, Choice Hotels, Starwood properties, etc.) and stick with them as a frequent traveler. The points add up. I have been staying in Hiltons since 2009, and even though most of my stays are at their lower-priced properties, I’ve been a top-tier VIP for four years, and the extra perks and points come in handy. A hotel that may be $279 a night (way out of my price range) might come in at 40,000 points per night. Even if I use points for one night and pay $279 for a second, it cuts costs in half.
Gas, Tolls, Car Wear: Gas is very up and down these days, but you will know for certain that some states have lower gas costs than others. For instance, at the time of this writing gas in my New York-based home town is $2.55 per gallon; in New Jersey last weekend, I was easily able to get my tank filled for $2.09 a gallon. I made sure that I only had enough gas to get me across the NY/NJ border and then I filled up.
There are occasions you can set your GPS to get you from Here to There with fewer tolls, though more time. But tolls sometimes can’t be avoided, especially if the best route is an interstate. If there is a way to cut toll costs or make it more convenient, don’t hesitate to go for it, or sign up. For instance, in the Northeast we have something called E-Z-Pass that zips us through toll barriers and across bridges basically without stopping, because it connects to our bank account. I also get somewhere between a 15% – 30% discount because of the automation.
To mitigate car wear, love your vehicle like it’s your favorite pet. Change the oil, give her a good washing, listen for any clunks or rattles, and keep her brakes and tires in top shape. My beloved Nightbird (a 2008 Ford Fusion) is now at 207,000 miles and while she may have a bit of rust here and there from salty winter roads and gravel pings on her nose, she runs like a top. And if you get to choose a new car, I can’t say enough about seat warmers, especially if you’re in the North the way I am! You’ll be less tempted to let her idle to warm up (thereby wasting gas) if you can get warm yourself as soon as you get in.
Food: Food is fuel: lousy, processed, fast food is as bad as watered down gas in your car engine. You don’t have to do high-end steak every night, but you don’t have to do BurgerDeath, either. I find that making sure I have at least one hot meal a day means that I can get by on what I bring in a cooler for the other meals. If your hotel gives you a free breakfast and it isn’t just sugary doughnuts and coffee, that’s one way to manage it. Otherwise get something hot into you at dinner, even if it’s only a microwaved bowl of soup.
Speaking of which: it’s always great if there is a microwave and small refrigerator set-up in your hotel room. If not, pick up a Coleman cooler that you can plug into the wall that cools itself electronically so you don’t need ice. It will help you keep your food for the show in good shape from day to day. And remember that food you bring from the supermarket or from home is invariably fresher, cleaner and healthier — as well as less expensive — than a restaurant meal.
Energy and Time: It takes time to build up stamina. Pace yourself. Don’t start out doing the 150-booth, three day events with 8,000 people through the doors, and certainly don’t work every weekend! In the beginning, you need to see how much bounce-back time you need in the days following your show appearances. I would suggest no more than two shows per month for your first year or two. Also, if the show is more than two hours away, plan on staying overnight in the venue town the night before. You don’t want to get up at 3 am, drive four hours, set up and then have a full eight-hour show day. You will be beat to blazes before the doors even open!
It’s also important that you get a feel for your comfort level in terms of show size. I thrive at big shows; it just makes my energy that much bigger. But some people get the willies if a show has more than a couple of dozen booths. Remember that a show is a show, and small ones can be just as viable, real and professional as the larger ones. Find the ones that fit your comfort zone, and stay there until you get that gut feeling that you are ready to tackle the bigger extravaganzas.
Promoter Respect: Promoters are the people who create the space for you to have your business. They have put time, money and effort over the years into creating the best venue for you. There are certain professional behaviors that will be expected of you by the “A-list” promoters of the best shows — and those are the ones you want to get into. Again, remember: colleagues, not friends, even if you are friends with them outside the show hall. How you perform and how you act reflects directly on them.
If you are invited to participate in a fair by an unethical promoter who goes into an area a week or two prior to a fair that has long been established by another promoter, don’t be tempted to sign up. You may hear others say, “Well, that’s just business.” No, it’s not. It’s respect. It’s like dating two people at once when you’re supposed to be going steady. It waters down the attendance at both shows, which means you will actually be paying twice as much to likely read the same number of people as you would at one show. And it’s simply unethical, no matter how much you convince yourself it isn’t.
If you are not able to go to a show you’ve signed up for, let the promoter know as soon as possible so your spot can be filled. Empty booths disrupt the energy and attendees will question “what’s wrong with this show that they can’t get vendors and readers?” Additionally, there might have been a reader who was very eager to get into the show, and was turned away because YOU agreed to be there.
To drop a show at the last minute and give as your reason an excuse that has no validity is not a path you should take. Honesty is definitely the best policy. Don’t call up and say you are sick when you’re not, or that a close friend or relative has passed away when they are still alive. Trust me, you WILL be found out and the promoters will take note of your lack of honesty.
Don’t give out literature or promote others who did not rent a booth at the fair. That is unfair to both the promoter and other exhibitors at the show who paid for their space and are now competing with someone who has not rented a booth. It’s one thing if someone specifically needs an animal communicator or medical intuitive and there isn’t anyone at the show that fits the bill. But if your show has seven mediums it is NOT fair to say “well she’s not here, but Tallula Sparkleplenty is a really good medium and you should see her.”
Pay close attention to your promoter’s preferences. Be sure to be at your booth set up and ready to roll at least 15 minutes ahead of the time the doors open. That shows them that you have a professional mindset, and that’s always valuable. Make sure that you know what the rules are in terms of “who gets in the room first.” Some promoters don’t mind if their vendors are in before they are on a show morning. Others are more strict: my Canadian promoters have a clause in their insurance that says if ANYONE other than hotel staff enters the room before they do on a show day, their insurance is null and void. Clearly, we all toe the line on that one! Equally, make sure you are finished with your last reading about five minutes before the show hall closes. You may be willing to stay an extra 15-20 minutes after the end of the show to complete a reading, but that’s an imposition on your promoters and the venue maintenance staff who have to clean and prep the room for the next day.
Politics: Ah, this is what I cheerfully, wryly call “bitchcraft.” Folks, it’s there, it’s part of the landscape, and the best you can do is to stay out of its way. While it would be lovely to think that we are all brothers and sisters and altruistic and generous and all that, the truth is that some people are still into scarcity thinking and the idea that “if someone else gets, I don’t.”
Remember that people who do the show with you aren’t your friends — they are your colleagues. A couple of them might become friends in the long run, but to immediately romp in and assume you can trust absolutely everybody is asking for trouble. When you are the new kid in a show hall, it’s wise to come in, set up, stay as Professional and courteous as possible with the promoters and your booth neighbors, but remember that you are there to WORK, not socialize. Booth etiquette also means that you don’t just sashay into someone’s space to chat. It’s like walking into their home without knocking on the door and waiting to be invited in. And you have every right to set up your space the same way.
Check the rules regarding lit candles and incense. Many places will not allow lit candles at all; those who do require an enclosed container so no one can inadvertently spill the flame and start a fire. Also, with as many asthma and allergy sufferers as we have today, use of perfumes or incense or sage is considered impolite at best and dangerous at worst. It’s one thing to use those items in your own home, but in a public spot, it’s a no go.
Lastly — do I really need to say it? NO gossip. No talking about whether this psychic or that is bad, or off-target, or really doesn’t belong there. There are always a few readers at shows where I am that I wouldn’t recommend. But unless they are downright dangerous (sexually harassing, making predictions about death and curses, etc.) it’s not mine to judge. If there are serious problems, you go right to the promoters with it and let them handle it.
Next up: how to best take care of YOU, not just the energies you deal with, to keep your career on track.