Why I Left the Big City to Become a Tarot Reader

Here's an update from my sister, Jessica Dore. I still think what she’s doing is really inspiring, especially for those of us whose lives and careers don't move in a straight line.

At the end of last year, I quit my full-time job in publishing and moved to the Caribbean for six months to launch my freelance career and find myself. While the low cost of living in Kingston afforded me the luxury of being choosy about which projects to take on and allowed ample time for soul-searching, life back home in the Bay Area was a different story.

While in Kingston, I began reading tarot cards for friends. I’d been studying the cards and reading for myself for years, but had never considered reading tarot professionally until I experienced how natural it felt and how useful it could be for people. It wasn’t long before I began to gain confidence in reading, set up a blog to start sharing weekly readings, and began to require a cash or trade exchange for my services.

By this time, my freelance workload had picked up to nearly full-time. I’d also come to the ultimate realization that what I deeply wanted was to eventually have a full-time tarot reading and writing practice. I knew that between writing quality blog content, getting referrals, and continuing to develop my skills as a reader, I’d need to hold myself back from taking a full-time workload of client projects so I could reserve at least a few hours per week to build my own business.

Even if it meant turning down a well-paying project, I knew that if I was seriously committed to building a business doing what I love, I’d need to budget the time to give my business the same treatment and quality of care I give to my clients.

Committing Fully to My Vision: The Decision to Move

Once I determined building my business would require reserving a set number of hours each week and working forty billable hours would not be possible, I knew it was time to start tweaking my budget to make it work.

I cook almost all of my meals at home; rarely buy clothes; and maintain a relatively minimalist lifestyle. But there was one monthly payment sucking up a disproportionately large share of my income. You guessed it: Rent.

I love Oakland, but in the case of helping me accomplish my goals, Oakland really wasn’t loving me back. In a city where cheaper living conditions are virtually nonexistent, I was faced with a simple choice: Work more for paying clients, or move somewhere cheaper.

Working more would mean sacrificing the time and energy to build my own business. Moving would mean leaving my friends, community, and the comfort of the home that I’d grown to love in spite of the massive toll it took on my bank account each month.

Ultimately, I chose to leave Oakland and move to Nashville. Rent would be half of what it was in Oakland, and I’d be closer to family and East Coast clients. Plus, because the city is smaller, I’d have a better shot at building a client base than I did in the oversaturated Bay Area healing arts market.

Leaving Oakland was a difficult choice but it has been a beneficial one. Aside from the inherently rewarding process of taking tangible steps toward your highest goals, there have been some other built-in bonuses, as well.

Moving usually means getting rid of stuff, and purging possessions you don’t need is an opportunity to make some extra cash.

When you move, you realize owning stuff costs money. Shipping boxes is very expensive, not to mention time-consuming and stressful. If the purpose of your move is to save money, it’s safe to say the last thing you want to do is shell out hundreds, or even thousands of dollars just to keep dragging around all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years.

I’ll cut to the chase: I made over $800 selling things I no longer needed. I sold clothes, shoes, handbags, furniture, books, and a bicycle; all of which would have cost me money if I’d hung onto them. I liked, even loved, a lot of what I sold. But just like my relationship to my beloved Oakland, loving something doesn’t have to mean allowing it to stand in the way what truly matters.

I may not live in my favorite city, but living in Nashville means I can afford to travel more, grow my business and tap into multiple markets.

Because I can read tarot virtually anywhere, I knew that being able to afford to travel more would be beneficial to my business. With contacts and friends spread across the US and the Caribbean, I knew I wanted my business model to include traveling to other cities to connect with and learn from other readers, shop owners, and creatives, all the while tapping into potential client markets that I might otherwise miss out on.  

Travel has always been important to me and it’s a priority for me to have access to environments that challenge and inspire me to see things through different cultural lenses and angles. I believe these kinds of experiences not only help me to become a better, kinder person, but they also inspire and inform my work, build empathy, and establish competence in working with a wide range of populations.

Needless to say, I would have had to work much more than I budgeted for to travel every few months and still live in Oakland. Living in a smaller, less expensive city, on the other hand, means that taking a few trips a year is totally feasible.

I can afford to work less than 40 billable hours per week while I build my client base, and take real steps toward building my business.

Unfortunately, turning down clients to do the unglamorous ground work of building a business from scratch in hopes of some long run payoff is simply not an option for the vast majority of us.

For some, this is due to reasons that are simply beyond our control, such as family responsibilities or student loans. For others, it boils down to the choices we make about the lifestyle we want to live and about what we deem worth shelling out for.

In my case, living in Oakland was a choice. As a single, childless 30-year-old woman with healthy parents who don’t rely on me for financial support, I can say—not with pride but humility—that I am privileged enough to have actually chosen to take on the financial burden of paying high rent in a trendy, cutting-edge city.

When I started to look at things in this way, I realized I was the only thing standing in the way of my financial goals. Living in a less expensive city means I can afford to work ten hours a week on my own business projects like blogging, digital marketing, and studying to learn new skills.

And because I can afford to fit those things into my work week, I have the evenings and weekends to do leisurely things; like foraging for wild sumac to make homemade skin care products, or spending an entire afternoon digging through crates at local record shops.

The decision to build a business involves a shift in priorities, which often calls for lifestyle changes and letting go of old ways of doing things in service of a new vision. Ultimately, the choice to move came down to clarifying what I most wanted to accomplish during this next phase of life, and then to taking the necessary steps to uphold my commitment to those goals.

Living in a big city is an incredible experience, but it’s important to remember there are other options. For me, leaving was the right choice. If you’re not convinced a smaller city could work for you, it may be worth it to try going somewhere cheaper temporarily in order to focus on launching your business. Who knows, you may find (like I did) that life outside of a big city isn’t so bad, after all.

Girl with sage and tarot cards in room

Jessica Dore is a tarot reader, blogger, and digital marketing freelancer who works with clients in the clinical psychology field. When she’s not building her business or helping others build theirs, she’s practicing yoga, DJing, or baking delicious seasonal tarts. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Discussions — 7 Responses

  • Jax November 14, 2016 on 5:40 pm

    Living in a low cost of living city makes a ton of sense. Good for you for braving the unknown to further your goals. I know very little about tarot and I never knew that it was something you could make a living doing. I am fascinated!

  • Stefanie OConnell November 15, 2016 on 7:53 am

    Yes, when you keep your costs low, it definitely affords you the opportunity to take bigger risks. For me, I never left NYC. But I got creative in hacking my rent, which definitely meant some lifestyle trade offs. But knowing it was temporary, really helped me follow through!

  • Pauline November 15, 2016 on 8:49 am

    That is a really cool job! Good for you for being frugal as well, and being willing to sacrifice on a few things so you can have a more comfortable buffer. Cheap rent + travel money sounds better than just rent.

  • Graham @ Reverse The Crush November 15, 2016 on 10:59 am

    This is a really motivational read! It sounds like a really cool job that you are passionate about. I think you made the right choice with the cheaper rent so that you can travel and build your business. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Catherine Alford November 15, 2016 on 11:04 am

    That’s such a cool hustle!! Do you read cards for Kate?

  • Dominique November 22, 2016 on 2:37 am

    What an interesting career choice! Great read.

  • Joe @ Retire by 40 December 21, 2016 on 9:49 am

    Wow, that’s really interesting. It’s awesome that you took a chance to find your own path in life. Keep at it. 🙂


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