Meet Joyce Mason - astrologer, author, baby boomer and all around awesome woman! Our friendship once again illustrates the power of networking to help create relationships with amazing people. Her story is a stellar example of finding your path to success by following your passion. I am proud to call her my friend. Meet Joyce Mason!
1. Joyce, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Joyce Mason, born and bred in Chicago—a ‘47 boomer, shocked that time flies so fast, I’ll be eligible for Medicare this year! After getting my BA in Social Work at the University of Wisconsin, I spent 4 years in the cold tundra of Green Bay starting my first career. I helped families whose children were born with developmental disabilities. I linked them with the resources they’d needed to help their kids have the best possible life. I loved the job and Green Bay, but when I’d enough of icicles for earrings, I moved to Sacramento in 1973. I’ve never regretted it! It has been home for 39 years and meets one of my biggest requirements—a place I can indulge my eclectic interests. I came here as one place I could get a master’s degree in any one of three subjects. (I couldn’t decide.) Instead, I got a government job, which evolved into a 31-year career, and an education on the side in something that always intrigued me, astrology.
2. Tell us about your business.
I’m a writer and astrologer—in that order. My blog is The Radical Virgo. Started three years ago, The Radical Virgo just celebrated its 200th post. Right off, I had five times more hits than on my other blog, Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. Encouraged that people were interested in reading what I write about astrology, I’ve also written and published three e-books on the subject with another in the works. My blog is tantamount to a living business brochure. Besides book sales, my blog also draws speaking opportunities—a three-city tour in Arizona last year, for example—and personal astrology consultations. Most of my clients are spread across the country and world. I work primarily by phone.
3. Why did you start your own business?
It was actually a restart. I had worked my astrology business part-time, in addition to my full-time job, since 1988. However, I went on a lengthy hiatus for most of the late ‘90s to 2000s in order to get other aspects of my life in order. I went from single to very married (see last question) and was wrapping up my government career. I was also getting older and wiser, unwilling to threaten myself with chronic exhaustion from my compulsion to try to do it all. I knew I could always come back to astrology, if the spirit moved … and it did! Once I retired in late 2005 from my government work, primarily in waste prevention and recycling programs, I knew I’d finally have time to focus on writing. I wrote a lot, including my baby boomer blog. It morphed in the second half of its active years to the topic of “spirited living,” about the cosmic hints all around us for guidance: intuition, inklings, and meaningful coincidences. (Little did I know then I was building the bridge to take me back to astrology.) I also wrote a memoir that was more therapeutic than ready for public consumption. It’s on the back burner for editing when the time is right. I finally “got” that I’d been successful in the past writing about astrology, which I’d done in various publications since the late 1980s. It occurred to me that I should go back and recapture my audience. That done, I hope my readers will follow me to new genres, including fiction. The practical reason: most baby boomers need more than a pension and Social Security in the long haul, especially in today’s economic climate. Aging and longevity are expensive. My husband has medical issues, and we feel those skyrocketing medical and age-related costs.
4. When I first met you, you were writing about baby boomers. Now it's astrology. That's quite a change! Why the switch? Why the interest in astrology?
They’re not as different as you might first think! Most of the people who see me for consultations are 55+, looking toward what they should do “in their next life.” I’m just a boomer who has been around long enough to share some wisdom with the help of a telescope. We grew up in an era where our lifespan was much shorter than it is now, currently pushing an average 80 years. Boomers are not ready for a hammock or rocking chair. They want to go out to do their life’s work, their vocation, to give back. I help them look at their potentials and the timing of when skills, passion and the stars align to make these new beginnings more likely to succeed with ease. Since ancient times, astrology has been used to connect heaven and earth, to help us see that what we experience below is a cycle of earth and sky in harmony. Some seasons are good for planting, some for reaping as it says in Ecclesiastes. (Some are good for relationships, some for solitude and learning more about yourself.) If you’re sowing when you should be reaping, trying to partner when you should be solo-ing, life is like pulling teeth. You’re off-cycle with the larger plan. Astrology shows the divine order in the cosmic clockworks and helps us understand our part in the turning gears of life.
I’ve always been a seeker. Astrology has been my road to find meaning and connection between my own body and spirit—and with others.
It helps me make sense of what we’re doing Down Here.
5. And you are also working on a book. Tell us more about that!
It’s my first novel, a humorous mystery:
Astrologer/longevity organization president teams with her ex-FBI beau to stop crime at a New Year’s costume gala. How will they figure out who’s the bad guy is under all those masks, the one threatening to kidnap or even kill for the “secret” of immortality? How will they protect family and friends, and keep this party the love-in craved by the Immortalists on Planet Earth Association? Wacky costumes, solutions and surprises. You’ll laugh way past Auld Lang Syne.
The book is done, and I’ll be working out the details this summer for getting it published. I’d love an autumn book launch.
6. What do you like most and least about being your own boss?
The commute just down the hall is cool! Sometimes my boss is a slave driver. (Friends say I work harder than anyone they know.) Now and then, she lets me get away with murder, but more often, she keeps me on task. (The most murder I get away with is writing murder mysteries.) The worst part is that I have no one to blame but myself when things don’t go well. That’s also the strength of the situation. I can do something different and change the outcome. From a practical standpoint, sometimes I tire of being a Joyce of All Trades—writer, publisher, astrologer, bookkeeper, promoter, webmaster, etc.
I can’t afford help at this point for most of these tasks, and the learning curve of constantly changing computer and internet tools to do these jobs is quite a challenge. It does keep my boomer brain exercised and in better working order, however! After three decades in government, I love the lack of red tape. I’m willing to take calculated risks and accept their consequences. I always said, if I could only have one t-shirt with one word on it, the word would be Gutsy. Courage doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. It just means you do it anyway.
7. What personality traits and skills are needed to run a business?
Following up on the last question, I’d say the biggest assets to successful business are courage, creativity and a knack for multi-tasking, especially at the beginning, until some of the diverse skills needed to succeed can be “farmed out.” If you’ve got plenty of money to hire from the get-go, no problem. If not, you’ll also need a handful of talents—among them the interpersonal skills to build trust, to communicate well, to market your product, and to handle your finances. As I mentioned previously, diverse computer skills and willingness to keep learning new ones is paramount in today’s increasingly virtual world. Until I wrote this, I hadn’t realized how my former life of three jobs at once—civil servant, writer and astrologer—helped me learn this juggling act. I think the biggest personality traits needed are optimism, caring—and a sense of humor. Being upbeat and able to laugh at yourself and life’s challenges keeps you going during the sometimes-slow start-up phase and any tough times. Caring is what draws, nurtures and keeps customers. Most of us “sages” still long for the same personal service we got in the corner store in the 1950s. The perceptive businessperson figures out a way to deliver that feeling of being well cared for, even amidst all the electronic tools that often bring more people to us in a day us than we used to meet in a year.
8. What has been the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur?
Dealing with the public can be challenging at times. In the type of personal service I give, people often expose their hearts and souls to me. To earn their trust, I have to be open about who I am and as vulnerable on the public wall, at some level, as they are during a consultation. Much of what I write is “astro-memoir,” sharing what I’ve learned in my own life about an astrological principle. When my clients and readers compare notes with me in this same way, we learn not just theory; we learn the folk wisdom for deep transformation. For the most part, how I present myself draws just the kind of clients I want to work with—people ready to take the tool of astrology combined with the resources I custom suggest for their situation—to work with them and grow from them. Being so “out there” on the Internet, I also draw the occasional difficult, angry, or needy person who wants services free or to drain my time and energy in some form, to take without a positive two-way exchange. I’m sure these individuals aren’t thinking about the fact that astrological education is an expensive, ongoing investment, as is the training for any profession—nor about the limits of my time, energy and giving—and my need to make a living, like everyone else.
I’ve had to learn a lot about setting boundaries. It’s difficult for a kind person to say no, but at almost 65, I’m finally becoming acquainted with the word. I struggle constantly with dominion over my time because of my giving nature. Yet, learning to draw those lines has led to great growth for me—and, hopefully, for the others involved in the process. All teaching is learning and vice-versa. It makes me smile at the perfect, interlocking way life works.
9. Do you have any resources you have used to build your business that you would recommend?
Blogging has been that “living brochure” and the best tool I’ve ever experienced for perfecting my writing and communication skills. In my case, it’s been the major platform for my business. Because I’m relationship oriented by nature, I’ve taken to social networking like stars to sky. I’ve not only made friends and sold books through Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’ve also found friends to help me with this or that new-fangled computer trick. Without these relationships, I’d still be trying to figure out how to automate my book sales, among other things.
10. Do you have any tips to share on promoting your business?
I do occasional fee-reduction sales that seem to bring people out of the woodwork for consultations. It also helps me get a boost in income at times when I could really use it. Word of mouth is still the best marketing technique for services. During my winter sale, one woman referred three other friends to me. I felt honored. She told one of them, her best friend, that I’m “the real deal.” Be yourself, take good care of your clients, and they’ll take good care of you by making your time together pleasant and by telling their friends about their positive experience. Lastly, I love Constant Contact. I do quarterly newsletters, occasionally in-between, and I offer special discounts and articles to the mailing list only. This is my subscribers’ reward for being willing to have two-way communication. You don’t get so much of that on a blog, except for the brave few that comment on a regular basis. I think Comments are still like getting up and making a speech for some people, though on my hottest article of all time, I finally had to cap the Comments at 101!
11. What other advice do you have for someone starting their own business?
Start small and build on your successes. Don’t try to do too much at once, especially at the beginning. Add patience to the qualities that make good entrepreneurs. My instant success on The Radical Virgo happened because I had laid the foundation many years ago. If you can leverage your relationships and skills from past work and weave them into a new package that better reflects your creativity and this phase of your life—go for it!
12. How can we contact you about your products and services?
13. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Reaching our goals in life often involves overcoming painful inner blockages. These are often psychological. That’s why my astrological specialty is Chiron, a composite asteroid/comet (technically called a centaur) discovered in 1977. Planets are named for mythological characters. Mythical Chiron was half-man, half-horse, thus the centaur name for the planetary classification. He’s known as “the wounded healer,” but he’s much more. Chiron in astrology also shows us our path to wholeness through overcoming these pains that linger. Ironically, our pain is our best teacher.
In my own case, my Chironic wound had to do with abandonment through adoption. My healing path was to find my birth families—and all my lost loves! I’m happy to report that I put on my Gutsy t-shirt and did just that. I enjoyed 15 years with my birth mom before she passed in 2001. I was her only child, and I found her a week before she had a lumpectomy for breast cancer. Our reunion healed us both. I followed this by finding the man I never got over—the same day he started looking for me! —and finally resolved that loss, too. Ten years later, I got an intuitive tap on the shoulder to find someone else. I did—my first love, ages 12-14. Tim and I married a year later and celebrate our 14th anniversary this summer.
I think writers are given lives that are stranger than fiction, personal stories that are meant to help others. I’ll be writing about mine for as long as I’m still breathing!
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