This guest post comes to us via Beth Maiden, She’s a tarot reader, writer and facilitator based on a little boat in Manchester, UK. She helps people to develop their own unique approach to tarot, build their card-slinging confidence and explore themselves through those 78 cards. She’s the creator of the Alternative Tarot Course and the Alternative Tarot Network.
When I started my blog nearly five years ago, I had no idea that people out there would even want to read it, let alone invite me into their homes. But a few months ago, that’s exactly what they did! I spent two whole months Greyhounding around the US from Portland OR to New York, meeting and geeking out with a bunch of awesome people who share my interests.
A little background. My name’s Beth Maiden, and my blog and business is Little Red Tarot. It’s a resource for anyone curious about tarot, from total newbies to experienced readers, with a really strong focus on alternative perspectives on a craft that is steeped in often bewildering traditions. My income comes from different sources including one-to-one tarot readings, the Alternative Tarot Course, and my little online shop - but it’s all fueled by my blog.
As readership has grown over the years and my business has developed, I’ve seen some really awesome stuff happening in the periphery. Firstly, in the comments - where more and more people are piping up with their own ideas, and offering each other, and me, support and love.
Secondly, in my inbox, where I now receive a whole bunch of emails every week from people thanking me for ‘creating this space’, or replying to thoughts I share with my mailing list. And thirdly, on Twitter, where I get to geek out with fellow tarot-lovers and discuss card meanings, new decks and so on.
This is all very nice indeed, of course! Most bloggers want to create this kind of buzz around their work, and I think many of us are excited about the online communities we’re active in. I wondered if it was possible to take that sense of community and explore it in real life.
Here’s how I took my blog from a simple website to a network of enthusiastic tarot geeks, and eventually wound up couch-surfing across the USA.
1. Make your online friends into offline friends by helping them out
My blog is chatty, down to earth and accessible. The emails I get from my readers let me know that they find a load of helpful resources here where they’ve found other tarot sites to be intimidating. I regularly ask Little Red Tarot readers what they like to talk about and how I can help them, and then provide content that answers these needs. It’s fun for me to know I’m being genuinely useful, and it makes readers feel listened to.
2. Make offline friends by keeping it real + personal
There’s a load of information out there about how to get fewer emails, how to prevent people from contacting you. I’ve taken the opposite approach. I actively encourage folks to get in touch with me and tell me what they’re up to or what they’re struggling with and reply to everyone. Sure, it takes time, but without personal relationships, my business is nothing.
I also send out friendly emails to my bits and bobs list, letting people know what’s happening in my life and in the tarot world. Sometimes these get really personal, like when I moved house or when my dog died, I found a lot of support through people replying to my emails and sending warm wishes. People feel like they’re part of a community - it’s not just a one-way process.
3. Strengthen your friendships by playing with online/IRL boundaries
Almost my entire business and community interaction takes place online. That’s great ’n’ all, but I really wanted to know how my relationship with a regular blog commenter or Twitter friend would work in real life.
I put out a note in an email to my list, asking if anyone would be up for hanging out. I got so many replies! I got a big map of the US and started putting pins in, somehow putting together a route. And then I just did it!
But it’s not just about meeting up in person. I still consider many of my readers my IRL friends because of the quality of our interactions. Talking tarot over a glass of wine with you is one of the greatest pleasures in my life, but it’s also amazing to talk over email.
4. Do the things that bring you joy and be prepared for change
When you start an online business, you read so much information about all the different things you need to do, the best ways to market yourself, which social media platform is the one you need, how to be ridiculously productive, how to make six goddam figures in your first ten minutes and all the rest of it.
All that really matters is that you do what you love and what feels right for your life and business. Earlier this year I knew I had had enough of sitting behind a screen, even though my community was awesome and I got so much joy from my online interactions. I wanted to know want these people looked like in real life, how they spoke, how they did tarot. I wanted to move! To talk over a brew or a glass of wine rather than via my blog. More than anything, I wanted to connect.
So I did it. I asked people, they said yes, and what else was there to do? I headed off and had a grand old time - I went to the launch party of a super cool new queer tarot deck, camped out in a trailer, went sailing in New Orleans, created a truly transformative new moon ritual in a woodland cabin, met one of my first ever internet friends, did a comedy run through of a new tarot deck with one of my most prolific commenters, went to the best queer festival in the world ever, read cards on the road for strangers and loads more.
As soon as I got back, I launched a social network. It was so clear that my growing community of tarot people is special and amazing and needs a special amazing place to hang out. It’s no replacement for online interaction, but it brings people together so we can all feel part of something. And that is the best way I can think of to do joyful, sustaining, sustainable business.
Where am I going with this? I’m not suggesting everyone reading this heads off on a road-trip and meets their blog followers… though hell, why not? It’s this more general thing about community. If you have a bunch of people around your blog, and they like you and what you do, nurture them. Talk to them. Invite them in. You never know where they might take you.
Have any of you organized on offline meetup for your readers or clients? If you have, tell us all about it in the comments!
P.S. The Network of Nice is a great, free way to make friends online, test your offerings, or get feedback. If you’d like to be involved, take a look through some of our previous editions and if feels like the right fit for you, email me at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org with 100-ish words with your non-promotional, un-Google-able hookup offer or request! (Hookups can’t contain any live links or business names.)