This Woman Built an Unconventional Side Business — and Now Makes $175 an Hour From Home
When you picture a psychic, do you think of a mysterious old woman bent over a crystal ball? Or a creepy infomercial for a 1-800 number that promises to tell your future?
It’s time to rethink psychics. You probably interact with telepathic people on a regular basis.
Kate Sitka is one of them. She says she’s been able to talk with animals since she was a kid. While psychic abilities have run in her family for generations, Sitka says she didn’t think that communicating with animals would be much of a career path.
“I figured it wouldn’t be a job until I was really old,” she explained.
But, after training for a nursing career and working in finance in Toronto, Sitka needed a change. She and her partner headed to Tofino, British Columbia, where they opened and operated a coffee roastery for a few years.
When they sold the business in 2012, Sitka was uncertain of her next career move. In the meantime, she started an anonymous blog where she explored her experiences communicating with animals, and started studying the human-spirit side of being a medium. She tested her skills by performing psychic readings for friends.
That’s when Sitka got the idea to set up a side hustle. Now, she has a roster of clients who seek her help to communicate with departed family and friends. She also performs pet readings to provide insight into the personality and behavior of clients’ living pets.
How a Psychic Gets Clients
Sitka built her customer base through word-of-mouth. She offered pet psychic readings, priced at $50 during a fundraiser for a local animal rescue, and quickly raised $1,000.
“It showed me I actually can make money doing this, and it’s OK to ask for it,” Sitka recalled.
She said 80% of her clients are repeat customers, and she expects that rate to surpass 90% in the next few years. Her client base is evenly split between human-focused and pet-focused work, but she admits she loves working with animals.
“They’re not as emotionally complicated as people,” she explained.
Setting Rates as a Psychic
Sitka quickly learned that her rates had to convey value for both her and her client. When she first started and charged $20 a session, people wouldn’t even show up.
“There was no respect for $20,” she laughed.
Raising her session rate to $100 per hour overnight ensured clients would attend their appointments.
But Sitka soon realized that rate didn’t truly cover her own time and energy. So she raised her hourly rate by $25 each year, settling on her current rate of $175 per hour. She’s happy with it, which she considers to be a middle rate for psychics.
“As your reputation increases and your demand increases, then your price increases, and part of that [adjustment] is putting the brakes on your demand,” she said.
By charging more, Sitka books fewer clients each week, creating work-life balance while still bringing in a considerable side income.
Sitka typically works with three clients per week. If she never took time off, seeing three clients each week at $175 each could earn her more than $27,000 per year.
And that’s on top of what she brings home from her other job. Sitka works 30 hours a week at a small local hospital, where she manages supply budgets and ordering, instrument processing and several other tasks.
She takes time off to travel and plan her business, but knowing how much you could make each week taking client appointments has to be a motivator for solopreneurs like Sitka.
How Sitka Built Her Brand
As a psychic, Sitka talks a lot. While she has experimented with writing and guest blogging, it’s probably no surprise she’s found podcasting to be a valuable marketing tactic for her business.
“I wanted people to be able to hear my voice and know how I talk, how I operate,” Sitka said, “To be able to feel the enthusiasm about these topics and how much I care about these things.”
She can better communicate that enthusiasm vocally, so potential clients can imagine themselves on a call with Sitka before they ever book.
“People are really vulnerable,” Sitka said of her clients. “There’s a lot of emotional stuff” that gets covered in her sessions.
“They’re trusting you, they don’t know what to expect. But the better your reputation, the more safe people feel coming to you, and they feel better paying higher rates.”
What it Costs to Be a Psychic
One of the perks of offering services as a psychic or spirit medium: You don’t need any expensive licenses or certifications. But you still need to set yourself up for business success.
“Cover your legal basis about psychic advice not being a substitute for legal, medical, veterinary advice or psychological counseling,” Sitka advised. “I say it is for entertainment and spiritual enrichment.”
While working with most clients over the phone keeps Sitka’s business overhead low, there are still some investments she’s had to make.
First was replacing her laptop and handheld devices. “The biggest expense is technology,” she said.
But those tools help her build her brand, keep up with her blog and produce her podcast.
When she raised her rate and started to see more clients, she hired a housecleaning service to take care of energy-sucking chores.
Another investment is Edgar, a social media automation service that costs $49 per month. Edgar compiles a library of Sitka’s online content, and continuously promotes her most popular blog posts and podcast episodes on social media.
“I set it and I’ll forget it for six months at a time,” she said. She may only be able to intermittently release new podcasts or blog posts, but investing in social media automation “allows me to ensure I’m still present,” Sitka said.
“When people search the hashtag ‘psychic’ on Twitter, I want to be there. I want to be there every day.”
But sometimes seemingly unrelated business elements can make or break a side hustle.
When they first moved to British Columbia from Ontario, Sitka and her partner shared a house with several other people and pets -- which didn’t work well when she started taking more client calls.
The pair recently moved to their own house outside Tofino, where Sitka has her own office and plenty of peace and quiet.
But there was a tradeoff: Moving further out of town required buying a car to get around. That investment was the most recent turning point for her business.
“That was a huge leap of faith in myself, taking out the car loan that I know I’m going to be paying with my business money,” Sitka said. “That was a line that I crossed with my business. But now I have an office!” She dropped her housecleaning service to make up for the cost of her new wheels.
Although she typically hosts three client sessions per week, Sitka has built time into her schedule to finish up a workshop to help people recognize and hone their own telepathic skills.
“You hit the point where dollars per hour isn’t enough, but you need additional income,” she said.
Rather than counsel individual clients, creating a self-paced classroom experience will help her reach more people at once.
Is Her Side Hustle Worth It?
“I know what it’s like to be a full-time entrepreneur, and I don’t want to do that again,” Sitka said of her coffee-roastery years.
But with 30 hours per week at the hospital, she’s got to be strategic to fit psychic readings into her schedule.
Sitka is busy, but exudes excitement when she talks about working as a spirit medium.
“I could have stayed in finance. I had it good in Toronto, but I was unhappy with my lifestyle,” she said. By making small changes over a longer period of time, she was able to set up a unique career that works for her.
“People say they wish they could do what (I) did, but you can. Make sure your choices are moving you toward that,” she said.
What’s the next big business move for Sitka? Investing in a La-Z-Boy recliner.
“When you sit and talk on the phone all day, you’ve got to be comfortable,” she said.
Your Turn: Have an interesting skill you’ve turned into a side hustle? Tell us about it!
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor and podcaster based in Baltimore.