Guest Post by Renee Randall of .
If I could start my massage career over today, knowing what I know now, I would do these things differently.
Go to a cadaver lab. I have been told you learn so much more about how the muscles attach and where they are.
I would ask to learn more self care. Such as stretches and the like. I have had to learn on my own for the most part and am paying for it now!
I would take more specialty classes before I got so busy it is hard to take off now and I don’t have any close by.
Guest Post by Felicia Brown of Spalutions.
If I could start my massage career over today, knowing what I know now, I would do these things differently.
Guest Post by Laura Norman of Laura Norman Reflexology.
If I could start my massage career over today, knowing what I know now, I would do these things differently.
Laura Norman is a world-renowned authority in Reflexology, and an educator with 3 Masters degrees in education. She is the author of the best-selling book, Feet First: A Guide to Foot Reflexology, which has sold nearly half a million copies, and is published in several languages. In addition to being a Nationally Certified Reflexologist, Laura is also a Licensed Massage Therapist, Esthetician and Life Wellness Coach.
Laura and her certified instructors have trained thousands of reflexologists in 22 cities around the U.S., and her students come from around the world to study her unique multi-faceted approach that spans the scientific, psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of wellness.
There is a real difference in being a massage therapist who works for someone else and one who owns their own practice. And what separates those who are successful in their private practice is they start with a clear business mindset.
Do You Have the Right Mindset for Business?
Letʼs start by examining your personal business mindset.
What does the term “business” mean to you? What are your biases and stereotypes of a business? Do you think that businesses will do anything for a profit? Does business conjure up the image of car sales?
You might have had these ideas in the past, but the truth of the matter is a business is really any endeavor where you provide a service or a product for a fee that hopefully creates profit – that is the goal anyway.
So if we take away the stereotypes of business, we can see that a business exists to provide a service for a fee. Simple, right?
As massage therapists, we need to start thinking about ourselves as a business people, valuing what we do so that we can make a profit and donʼt give away our expertise. Of course, we want to balance the idea of profit with compassion, care and flexibility so we can help those in need.
Massage is a part of health care. And health care is a business. BIG Business, in fact. I heard that the day after the health care reform bill passed the stocks of insurance companies and hospitals went up. Why? Because people are betting they will be profitable.
As a massage therapist you are part of the business of health care, whether you like it or not. I offer that we need to become business minded. This awareness will empower us to develop sound businesses that allow us to do the work that we love, support people in need and feel in control of our future in these times of change.
Take some time this week to discover what “business” means to you and if you need to change your mindset. I would love to hear your thoughts so please share in the comments.
When I ask people that are getting started in their massage practice why they chose to start a new business the answer is usually the same. They want to make more money, get rich, buy a new house or a car or to be able to help people. These are all valid reasons to start a new business, but they will not help you become successful in business. No, to be successful, you must first create your “why”.
Creating your “why” entails creating a specific statement that represents why you are starting your massage business. Your “why” will specifically state what you want to achieve. Your why has to be extremely specific, quantifiable, achievable, and of course, relevant.
A famous “why” by one of my mentors, Jay Kubassek, is “To Create 100 Millionaires by 2012”. This in turn became the mission statement of his company. Another example, if you are in the fitness industry, would be, “Helping 100 People Lose 100+ pounds.”
Creating your why takes some thinking on your part and really narrowing your focus. It took me awhile to really grasp my “why”. I love marketing, business, entrepreneurship, education, self development health and fitness. So, I had no idea when I first started what my “why” was. I had to find a way to combine all the things that I loved. So based on my previous experiences and the things that I enjoy in life, I was able to create my “why”. My “why” is to “Help 100 People Create Their Best Life”. I give you this as an example so that you will be able to create your “why”.
Once I created my “why” my business flourished! Now take some time to create your “why”.
As a Feng Shui practitioner (not practicing anymore), I hate clutter. Clutter creates confusion. We have clutter in all areas of our life from people, stuff we donʼt use any more, emails that are piled up in our inbox, to newsletters that donʼt serve us anymore.
1. Emails. Cyber clutter is just as bad as physical clutter. I cleared out all of the emails that I no longer need or that I have already read and answered.
Do you keep all of your emails? If you havenʼt read them by now, chances are youʼre not going to. My recommendation: file them only if you think they are important (hopefully past emails of this newsletter make the list ;0) and let go of the rest. Hit the delete button. If you delete something from someone who needed a response, chances are they will be back in touch.
2. Newsletter Lists. I unsubscribed to several email newsletters that no longer serve me. Either I just wanted to have their free report or they are sending me too many emails. I think once a week is usually plenty and perhaps the odd extra email with time sensitive material or a holiday message or something that is of a time-sentitive nature.
3. Belongings. Although Iʼm in Costa Rica for almost 3 months, I have still managed to collect a little bit of clutter (i.e. papers). However, when I get home, I will go through my closets and get rid of clothing that I not longer wear or doesnʼt fit, as well as anything else that I no longer use or love.
4. Social Media. I had to unfriend/unfollow a few people on Facebook and Twitter because I donʼt want to be subject to the kind of posts and negativity. You are as successful as the people you hang around.
Clearing this confusion will brings clarity as well as good things into you life. Now take some time to create space, but first get rid of the junk.
Guest Post by Jess Weagle of Deep Relief Massage Therapy.
If I started my massage therapy business over, what I would do differently…Sometimes I think back to the days as a new therapist and I shutter at the thought at the things I have done and said to clients and employers.
When I first got out of school in 2001 I was all gun ho about working for a chiropractor, working in a spa was beneath the skills I had learned in massage school. I was a very ego driven 21 year old when I got out of school.
I was never able to even get an interview at a chiropractors office so I was forced to apply to all my area spas. And I will never forget this interview.
So my potential employer and I are sitting chatting about the job and she asks what’s your ideal work environment? And without even thinking about the words that where about to come out of my mouth I said
“Working in a chiropractors office is my ideal place a spa is not my first choice”
Need less to say I didn’t get that job. And lesson learned never tell a potential employer that there are not your first choice.
This is a funny story about how I did not know how to make up a table when I got out of school. While I was in school my only real experience with making up the table was during hands on class. So for those of you who don’t know in massage school hands on is done in one big class room and you put the bottom sheet on the table and you get undress and wrap the top sheet around you like a toga. Than you get on the table with the sheet wrapped around you.
Well this was the way I have been taught for 12 months. I had no clue that you where so post to put the top sheet on the table.
Fast forward to getting out in the working world. I laugh at the thought that I would have my clients get undressed in the bathroom walk out in public with the sheet wrapped around them and them get on the table in the massage room. Know wonder clients looked at me funny & no wonder a lot never came back. And no one ever question why I was having clients undress in the bathroom.
Than one day I had a client name Ruth come in, God bless her soul, she question me ! Ruth says in a nice way, “Why the heck are you having me undress in the bathroom?”
And I said “Because that is what I had always done in school”
And Ruth fires back ” This is the real world Honey that is not how you get a client on the table”
Then Ruth shows me how to make up a table the proper way.
My first of many lessons learned by one of my clients.
And my last big mistake was not opening my own place sooner. I work for other people from 2001 – 2009 and those where very unhappy working years for me. One of the biggest reason I wanted to be a massage therapist was so I could be my own boss and somehow I got stuck in this rut that I needed to work for other people. When I was working for other people I didn’t feel like I couldn’t be the type of therapist I knew I wanted to be. I always felt like I was being held back. And it wasn’t until I had a huge falling out with a former employer that I finally had the courage to open my own place. That falling out was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Jess Weagle has been a massage therapist since 2001 and she owns her own private practice Deep Relief Massage Therapy located in West Boylston, MA. She also helps teach solo massage therapists grow their practice on limited funds over at Solo Massage Therapist Business Guide
Guest Post by Gary Blackden of GTS Therapeutics
I began my massage adventure early in ‘massage as a career’ timeline. Alternative medicine wasn’t as common as it is today, and early on I often found myself explaining benefits of massage to someone who was looking at me like I had three heads. If I had it to do over again, much of what I would do differently has to do with planning and long term career growth.
1. I would develop a strong network of peers right out of the gate. Part of finding satisfaction on a career path is having others around you, who are on a similar path. I was in the field for several years before I met my massage therapist wife and we started our first private practice in Northern Virginia. We surrounded ourselves with other bodywork professionals, and have kept in touch with them over the years as well. We were all able to share experiences with clients, new developments in the area and industry, insights about classes we took, as well as ideas for professional development. Social media helps to make this type of interaction and exchange available to even the new kids on the block. Through social media, in addition to camaraderie, we are able to see how others are really moving our profession into growth and development. Interacting about marketing, business skills and creative approaches to old issues in our field is truly one of the most amazing aspects to social media.
2. Approaching my plan for professional development would be another key I would like to have started earlier. After leaving massage school, there are so many options for continuing education. If I could start over, I would make a plan for the specific classes I wanted to incorporate into my developing skill set. I took some classes that were not as applicable to the market I best serve, and have worked with for years now. Had I laid out my plan for the market or issues that I wanted to address thoroughly, I could have applied my time and money to additional classes that would give me tools to help that population sooner.
3. Last, but not least, I would have found a business mentor sooner. Filling my business toolbox, with assistance from a successful business owner, not necessarily in massage therapy, would have saved me time and money in the beginning. It is important to understand how to run a massage business. There are many important industry specific pitfalls, particularly in marketing, but many skills necessary to run a successful and profitable business cross industry lines. When you understand how to start and run a profitable and sustainable business, that skill set can be applied across many different industries.
Gary Blackden and his wife have started and sold three businesses, including two multi-therapist massage practices. He has been in the massage field since 1995, serving individuals in chronic pain and those who wish to enhance their athletic performance. Gary can be found on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, chatting it up.
Guest Post by Julie Onofrio of Downtown Seattle Massage
If I were to start my massage career over today, I would do these three things differently….
There are so many things that I wish I had done differently. Most things though really have to do with the many tools and resources that are available today – Websites, Facebook, online scheduling, Twitter that were not available in 1989 when I started my business! Basically there was nothing at that time – not many books, no coaches and had never heard of Supervision. I learned by talking to my friends who I connected with – we learned many things together by doing and failing or doing and getting clients.
I guess the main thing though is how I think about my massage business. It took me until about 10 years ago that I really saw that it was a business. In the beginning I lived simply and didn’t need a lot to live on. I didn’t care about making money really since I didn’t need much but I wasn’t putting anything away for retirement or savings. I also was caught up in the idea that “It isn’t about the money”. After 25 years, I am working to dispel that myth for massage therapists. It is about the money! You need money to be able to pay the bills, take nice vacations and save for retirement! It isn’t about greed and sales and living out of integrity. You can have a very lucrative massage business and care about clients! You are paid for your time – your time away from your life and family. The caring is free!
I would get a Supervisior/Mentor to help right from the start. I found the process of Supervision about 10 years ago. Through that process, it has really helped me get in touch with the reasons why I always felt like I needed to help. The ‘helping’ was at the expense of my retirement account! I had lower than usual fees, didn’t charge for no shows or cancellations and things like that. I thought it would look like I was not caring if I did those things. The process of supervision is working one on one with a more experienced massage therapist to help look at issues like that that come up on a daily basis and throughout your career. You can use it to address any and all concerns and issues – everything from honing your techniques, learning to maintain your boundaries in difficult situations like working with insurance companies and things like that. The more you are able to create boundaries and enforce them, the easier your practice will go. With that also goes learning that you don’t have to and actually should not work on every one that calls! Creating a vision of what your ideal client looks like and learning to attract that person to your business is also part of this. Your ideal client is someone who is nurturing (for yourself) to work with. When you work with less than your ideal client – you will feel drained and often eventually resentful.
My other passion is having a website. It has to be a search engine optimized and content rich website. That way you can easily attract ‘your ideal client’. It has to show up on the top of the first page of Google results. Once it does, then it also has to get people to click on the link. There are simple things that you can do to make that happen. Once they get to your website, it needs to tell them what you are going to do for them. So often sites start out with things like the old benefits of massage or massage has been around for 5000 years or something about the Massage Therapist. People don’t really care about any of that! They only care about what is in it for them! Your website needs about 50-100 pages of content – information about what massage does and how it works on various conditions and how different techniques work. The only think I do to market myself is use my website. I also have it fitted with a Twitter feed that tells clients when I have an opening and it works like a charm to fill openings each week and last minute cancellations. I write about websites and how to create them because I really believe if people put the time into making one that works – one that gets you new clients everyday – you won’t have to do much else!!!
Is that 3? I get carried away!
Julie Onofrio, LMP has been a self employed massage therapist since 1987 and has also created many websites for the massage profession to help people start and run a successful business, find higher paying jobs and learn about careers in massage. The Bodyworker is basically my notes from massage school to help students with their studies. Massage Career Guides provides information for people looking into careers in massage as well as help for finding higher paying jobs and starting and running a business. I also have a busy Facebook page where people are welcome to ask questions for me and all the followers to answer!
Guest Post by Susan Epperly of Tiger Lily Studios
|“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” ~Vernon Law|
“If I could start over again, I would do these 3 things differently (OK, 4 things…)”
Generally speaking, I’m really not a fan of dwelling on what I call “Shoulda, coulda, wouldas.” And I try to bite my tongue whenever I hear myself starting to say, “I wish I had…,” “If only I hadn’t…,” or “Why didn’t I…” The so-called mistakes that my husband and business partner, Shane, and I have made in our massage therapy careers have paved the (admittedly, sometimes pothole-filled) path to the thriving private practice that we now enjoy.
While I do believe that getting mired down in the regrets of the past is a big, fat waste of time, I also realize that honest reflection and a constructive evaluation of our past can not only help us direct our own futures, but also help others, who may just be starting out on the route that we’ve already traveled. And it’s a good feeling to be able to drop a few “breadcrumbs” along the way for those who may be coming along behind us.
So, in the interest of playing “Karmic tour guide,” and hopefully helping some folks who may be making their way down the path behind us, I’ve suspended my distain for “shoulda, couldas, wouldas,” and compiled a handful of thoughts on some things that I wish I had known before we embarked upon our adventures in massage therapy.
1. I wish I had known that my life as a Massage Therapist would, in no way, resemble that of Phoebe’s on “Friends.” This sounds dumb, I know, but let me explain. When I enrolled in massage school, I was looking forward to a low-stress, easy-going lifestyle and work environment. The reality is that while it is relatively low-stress and easy going, it’ ain’t easy. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. I love my life. But Shane & I work really hard. We work all the time. We’ve worked harder in this industry than we’ve worked in any other industry with which we’ve been involved. Unlike Phoebe, we spend precious little time sitting in coffee shops chatting with friends, drinking lattes, and leisurely writing goofy folk songs and strumming on our guitars. Part of this, admittedly, is due to the fact that we are, by nature, hyperactive, over-achieving, über-particular workaholics (more like Monica, really), and even becoming Massage Therapists could not squelch that inherent tendency. But we’ve also discovered that being successful private practitioners in a world of corporately-owned chains requires an unparalleled level of commitment to quality, customer care, and professionalism (which means long hours, and significant and consistent investments in our practice of time, energy, and money). But, to borrow the Peace Corps’ slogan, I still believe that being a Massage Therapist is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Don’t, for even a moment, think that being a successful private practitioner will be easy, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.
2. I wish I had understood earlier the enormous role that technology and social media would play in operating a successful private practice. I remember when Shane and I attended one of the first classes of our Massage Therapy program, the instructor had asked us all to introduce ourselves and share our reasons for being there. I remember saying something about the fact that I had been looking for a career that was more organically-driven, rather than technologically-driven. While, as Massage Therapists, most of our attention is focused on the organic nature of human bodies, and the foundation of our practice is manual therapy, Shane and I have realized that incorporating technology into our treatment rooms has not only expanded our ability to resolve our clients’ pain complaints more quickly, more efficiently, and often more comfortably, but also allowed us to work more hours, see more clients, increase our income, and protect the longevity of our careers. And technology has also played an enormous role in the cultivation of our practice, in terms of our business and our “brand culture.” Social media engagement, e-mail marketing, website design and management, the utilization of an online booking system, the implementation of online social buying sites, and an endless list of other internet-based technologies have allowed us to acquire new clients, maintain a dialogue with existing clients, and nourish our brand culture. Don’t underestimate the necessity of embracing technology and social media. Stubbornly turning your back on technological advancements will do nothing but leave you in a plume of dust created by the practitioners who are charging into the new reality of conducting business.
3. I wish I had incorporated all of my talents into my massage therapy endeavors much sooner. If you want to cultivate not only a successful private practice, but also a fulfilling one, don’t neglect your other passions. Instead, invite them into your massage therapy endeavors. My first loves are art, crafting, writing, decorating, and anything else that revolves around creativity. Shane is a photographer, and loves still photography, videography, film, graphic design, and photo & video editing. It took us a little while to figure out that these activities deserved a significant role in our new life as Massage Therapists – not as mere hobbies that would provide us with something to do during our down time, but as talents that would give us an edge in our massage therapy practice. Instead of denying ourselves the joy of engaging in these creative passions on a regular basis, we’ve made a conscientious decision to make these loves and talents an integral component of our massage practice. Not just something that we’ve “tacked on” to the larger “body of work” that is our practice (excuse the pun), but rather a core element that is actually woven throughout the fabric of all of our endeavors. My artwork, writing, and crafting skills and Shane’s photo and video talents have become the backbone of our signature marketing materials. The catchy slogans that we use; the creative “bulletin board” style promotional posters that are displayed in our lobby; the hand-made fizzing bath bombs that our clients take home with them after their appointments; our client e-mail newsletters, filled with original articles and other content; the seasonal promotional favors that we distribute; the vlogs and educational videos that we produce; the original paintings, collages, and photos that hang on our clinic walls – they are all key elements of the brand culture that we have cultivated, and they all rely on skills that might seem “irrelevant” to massage therapy. But that’s just it – whatever your “special purpose” may be (please contain your giggles, Steve Martin fans), regardless of how little it may seem to have in common with massage, you will realize an exponential level of success if you make a conscious decision to bring those talents in from the cold and integrate them into your practice. Sometimes it can take some unconventional thinking to figure out how, exactly, those talents can play a meaningful role in your massage therapy endeavors, but remember that, as a private practitioner, you are not only selling your therapeutic abilities, but yourself – your personality, your nature, your character. If that “self” includes a passion for marching bands, banzai trees, Boston Terriers, astronomy, Harleys, or whatever, embracing that and unabashedly incorporating those interests into your business will make for a more authentic brand culture and a more successful practice. Don’t sequester your passions from one another. Let them interact and comingle, and they’ll all become more fully realized as a result.
4. I wish I had understood the degree to which our former professional incarnations would contribute to and inform our massage therapy endeavors. Don’t rely (exclusively) on the massage therapy industry to provide you with leadership in the area of business. In other words, cast a wider net when it comes to fishing for business guidance. An article need not have the word “massage” in the title in order to be relevant or helpful to your business (and, in fact, in many cases, it shouldn’t). Shane and I have been married for seventeen years now, and we’ve been self-employed and have worked together in various industries throughout the entirety of our time together. We’ve operated an historic movie theater in the Pacific Northwest; we’ve taught English as a foreign language and worked as freelance newspaper writers and photographers in Asia; we’ve designed websites and logos from the comfort of our Airstream trailer, which, at the time, was criss-crossing its way across the continental United States (about seven times, in total!). Believe it or not, we’ve managed to draw invaluable lessons, tips, and insight from each and every one of these experiences, which we’ve subsequently been able to apply to our most recent incarnation as Massage Therapists. And however long, short, varied, or limited your job history and list of life experiences may be, I suggest that you do the same. But in addition to drawing on your own past experiences in other jobs and industries, I also can’t understate the importance of looking to industries with which you have no experience, and which also may have no apparent relevance to massage therapy, and harvesting those industries for insight that will help you grow your business. Shane and I have found ourselves investigating and analyzing the intricacies of all manner of previously unfamiliar industries in order to optimize our own massage therapy practice. Reading massage industry magazines is, no doubt, important and can be tremendously helpful. Reading “how-to” books by Massage Therapists that are intended to help you build your business can, indeed, provide beneficial insight. But don’t stop there. Don’t take those authors’ words as The Gospel. Be sure to expand your business acumen by reading articles, books, and blogs that have been written with all types of entrepreneurs in mind, and think creatively about how the lessons offered by thought leaders in other industries can be applied to your own situation. Don’t take only classes that will provide you with continuing education credit. See if your city has a small business development group that offers classes. Take business classes at your local community college, whether you’ll get CE credit for it or not. Don’t do it out of obligation. Do it out of a desire to excel as a business person. Doing so will not only help you create an exceptionally successful practice, but may also lead you to becoming a well-informed thought leader in your own industry.
So there you have them: a few bread crumbs that I hope will make your journey a little easier. Thanks, Linda, for asking me to toss them out.
Susan Epperly and her husband, Shane Epperly, have been practicing massage since 2006 and have a private Clinical Massage Therapy practice in the fabulously funky “SoCo” District of Austin, Texas. They specialize in pain relief through Clinical Massage Therapy. They are also both Licensed Massage Therapy Instructors, and Co-Owners of Tiger Lily Studios, through which they produce and distribute top-notch educational products for health & wellness practitioners. Their collection currently includes instructional videos on Spray & Stretch muscular release techniques and Chinese Negative Pressure Facial Cupping, as well as an audio book on using “daily deal” sites such as Groupon to promote one’s massage therapy or other wellness practice. More information on Susan & Shane’s practice and products can be obtained at http://www.TigerLilyStudios.com.