Shit, it’s almost seasonal. Every couple of years it comes round but -say this with me- the answer will never change. And once again, the argument has veered away from economics into the morality of whether you can judge spiritual products within a monetary system.
I’m going to dispense with the philosophy. Yes. Yes, you can. Just not very well, it turns out.
I resisted this rant for the better part of a week because this blog is newish. (Long time lurking, little time posting.)
I made a few comments on some awesome blog posts on the topic, thinking maybe that would be enough to stave off the rant.
But it wasn’t. Remember that scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Judge Doom starts tapping the first half of the line “shave and haircut” all over the diner? And Roger tries to resist but then bursts through the wall and shrieks “Two biiiiiiits!”
What follows are the Rune Soup Five Laws of Occult Economics. Plus a little bit of advice at the end.
1. Price moves to the marginal cost of production
In a competitive economy, price moves to the marginal cost of production. So if you have even a single competitor, you don’t get to determine your value. The market does. You can’t just decide one day that people need to give you money.
- Books. Anything you write I can find for free. Legally. Because it costs nothing to produce and price moves to the marginal cost of production. So, if the cost of producing occult texts is free, what does that tell you about your ability to make money from it? You’re going to need to precisely locate the value of your text in my life. Are you a world famous race car driver? Did you discover Atlantis? Did you impregnate the daughter of the former governor of Alaska? Because if you are just some guy then this is not your golden ticket.
- Being an Elder (?!). You want me to pay you money so you can talk at me? But that fat guy in the velvet cape on the other side of the festival is giving it away for free. I’ll have to think about it.
There is a lot of competition producing what is -in the eyes of the market- more or less the same thing. This is the textbook definition of a commodity. That means you are competing on price alone.
2. Market size is everything
That’s why all these ‘tradesmen analogies’ frustrate me. A US plumber’s market size is 300 million customers a year. And they are motivated customers. They are calling you at 3am because their basement has just filled with their own shit. In that situation, the plumber can name his fucking price. Just get over here and bring a big pipe.
A bored, double-divorcee who is thinking about your weekend course on ‘Celtic Storytelling’ is a tiny, unmotivated market. You can’t just name your price there. (You can, actually, but you have to be happy making zero dollars. If this is the case, then the whole blog post isn’t for you.)
Try and work out exactly how many potential customers there are in your market for your product. Like… Absolute maximum. Picture your DVDs and books being translated into Armenian if you think you have a good shot at going global. This is the digital age, I’ll believe you if you say so.
Then work out what a 5% market share of these customers amounts to. Some tips:
- 5% Market share is ludicrously ambitious for any start-up.
- What would it cost you to get to 5% market share? It will be more than you can make.
3. Demographics are also everything
Why scramble for a percentage of welfare cheques from a tiny bunch of weirdos who live in houses that have wheels on them and who jingle like a sleigh-ride when they walk under the weight of all that pewter jewellery? Go corporate. Trust me, I’m a freelancer. Go. Corporate.
Know what Share of Wallet is? It’s the percentage of your total after-tax income that you spend with a particular company. It’s used mostly by large retailers to work out what to stock and who to advertise to. Here’s why it’s useful.
To grow your profits by -say- 10% each year, you can either increase your share of wallet at the bottom of the market (low income, welfare, etc) by 15%. Or, you can increase the share of wallet at the top of the market by less than 0.5%.
Which sounds easier to you?
Go and find some rich people. It works for religions based on dead science fiction writers. It can work for you.
4. Nobody has a right to a business model
Your dreams are worth exactly zero dollars. If you believe your thoughts are worth something and the market doesn’t then you have two option:
- Shut your pie hole! Don’t ‘give away’ all that valuable wisdom and then turn around and say “oh, you have to pay for that.” That’s known as the Gypsy Jewellery Trick and gypsies play it on unsuspecting tourists here in London. (And Paris. And Barcelona. But not Berlin. Funny that.) If you believe you should be paid for the things you say then shutup until someone pays you.
- Adopt a freemium model. Watch the video for what this means.
All the prosperity spells in the world won’t help you ‘get paid for elder services’ because magic must have a manifestation pathway. You will have better luck spellcasting for a flying car because that has more chance of actually existing by the time your current incarnation ends.
5. Indy, you’re digging in the wrong place
Think about the freelancing model. Some things you do are going to be free. And you will do them because you like them. It was ever thus in the freelancing world.
Corporate gigs, on the other hand, are absurdly lucrative. (Five figures right out of the gate.)
Is there any way you can leverage your skills in this area? Because it means you get to strike a balance between doing free things you love (blogging about magic) and embarrassingly profitable things you don’t. (Eg writing up Mexican food recipes for one of the world’s leading broadcasters. Don’t ask. And please don’t google for it in case some of it is still up there).
Do you think I’m kidding about five figures for a single client project? I’m really not. As an example, I have been to some absurdly opulent media parties. There have been leopards in cages, fire breathers, Grammy winners on demand, Tarot card readers and other psychics. (As well as enough coke to make the mens bathroom look like Santa’s workshop. That stereotype is accurate.)
If you don’t want to be a dancing monkey then I have two words to say to you. Two words that are sometimes conflated down to a single word: life coaching.
Life Coaching is just being an elder to Type A finance people. You can probably squeeze them for more money for “occult services” further down the line. I know these people. They’ll love being able to tell their work friends that their “life coach is taking them out into the desert for a vision quest.”
Don’t like this idea? See the above Laws 1 through 4.
But is it all bad?
Oh my, no! In fact, we stand on the brink of the greatest economic opportunity since the invention of money. Watch the video below. It’s long but it will rock your world. And if you like it, then buy Chris’s book. See? Freemium.
Here is a list of other blog posts from around these internets on the same topic. All food for thought.
- Strategic Sorcery: Spirituality, Money and Magic
- Head For The Red: A Sense of Entitlement, Getting “Paid” for Magic, Teaching, Instruction and Writing
- Doing Magick: Teachers, Rant Amended
- Kenaz Filan: Paying For Services, Paying For Spirituality. (He’s got a bunch of them, actually.)
- A Mage’s Blog: The Problem With Patrons
- Postmodern Magic: Money
- Gleamings From The Dawn: Fees, Dues and Donations