With a quality massage chair and your imagination, you can expand your practice, build clientele, make extra money and support clients’ health. Here, three experts share their tips for chair massage success.
1. Use a chair massage as a marketing tool—or your primary means of income.
“[It’s] a way to build a table practice, or to create a chair practice that’s part of a table practice,” says David Palmer, founder of Touchpro International and developer of the first massage chair. “And some people choose to make chair massage their primary, exclusive way to [provide] skilled touch in the world.”
Depending on your personality, you may prefer to build longer-term relationships with clients; or you may value the chance to meet lots of new people and make an improvement in their day, meaning you would take your massage chair to many different locations.
“Some therapists enjoy [chair massage] for the variety,” says Dan Melmed, L.M.T., owner of Body Well Mobile Massage Professionals. “The money can definitely add up, because in a lot of cases, we’ll be going for several hours of guaranteed work. I know many therapists, myself included, appreciate the opportunity to be able to have a positive impact on so many people, in such a short period of time.”
Also, Melmed adds, “there’s no laundry involved!”
While you may not be able to effect long-term health benefits from a single chair massage session, you will help that client feel better right there, right then. “It’s an instant attitude adjustment,” says Palmer. “It does make people feel better immediately thanks to oxytocin and a couple of other hormones that get released as soon as positive touch is encountered.”
Ralph R. Stephens, L.M.T., C.N.R.T., founder of Ralph Stephens Seminars and creator of the video series Seated Therapeutic Massage, says, “There is a therapeutic paradigm for the chair. I’ve found that even if I was in a relaxation setting, like out in public somewhere, almost everybody that got in the chair had some specific complaint.”
“Instead of selling [massage] in the negative, sell it in the positive. [It’s] health promotion, not just stress reduction,” Palmer says. “Everybody is comfortable with the concept of health promotion: I want better health.”
When you’re marketing in-office chair massage to corporate clients, make sure you explain how chair massage techniques will help their bottom line—by improving employee morale, reducing stress, decreasing the chances of injury, and other benefits. Stephens says, “Approach employers with how this is going to benefit [their] company, not just cost [their] company.”
According to Palmer, “We really don’t find the customer. The customers for chair massage in the workplace find us. When people want chair massage, they’ll type it into their browser … and it pops up in their geographical location.”
Keep in touch with managers who have booked your chair massage services, even if they change jobs. “We’ve many times seen where a manager who’s brought in chair massage at one company leaves, goes to another company and then brings it in over there,” Palmer says.
Check with the person who hired you to do chair massage, and make sure it’s OK to have business cards or brochures available. One short seated session might be someone’s first massage—and might convince that person to get table massage on a regular basis.
Stephens recommends carrying business cards with you at all times, even when you are not doing massage. “Don’t go to the grocery store without cards; don’t go to the gas station without cards, because everybody needs a massage. They just don’t know it yet.”
Palmer recommends disinfecting wipes, face cradle covers, and elastic bands for clients with long hair. You should also make sure there’s a small trash can nearby to throw away disposable items.
Make sure the client understands whether you are charging per minute or per session, and what types of payment you accept. In a corporate setting, says Melmed, a good method is to charge a guaranteed set hourly rate, and agree on the number of hours you’ll be available to provide massage. “That way we know what we’re going to be making and we can also guarantee [that] for the therapists performing the services.”
Melmed feels there’s less gender discrimination surrounding chair massage. “For male therapists looking to get more work, I’ve always recommended chair massage because most of our corporate clients are really not as concerned with gender. If we’re sending a team of therapists, they’ll often request some balance of male and female.”
Have a conversation with the manager who booked your services, explaining what you will need to do your best work possible, or even provide a list in writing. Discuss details such as how long you will work, when you will need bathroom, lunch or stretch breaks, and how many clients you will see. “There can be misunderstandings, because the person coordinating it at the company may not fully respect the therapist’s needs or how hard they’re working, and the fact that they actually need a break,” Melmed says.
Generally, says Melmed, you don’t need permits for events that take place on private property, such as within a company’s offices, but you may need a permit to provide massage at festivals or other outdoor venues. Some places, such as public parks, may also require proof of insurance.
“You want to find places with people who can afford you,” says Stephens. He also recommends watching your overhead, especially in places where you rent a kiosk, like malls or airports. “Make sure that space isn’t so expensive that you wind up not making much money.”
“Don’t fold your chair up every time you bring it back to your office,” says Stephens. “If somebody comes in [with] very acute back pain, one of the most painful things for them to do is lie down on the table and get back up off of it. You can have them straddle that chair, sit down and calm that low back down in the first 10 or 15 minutes of your treatment, and either move on to the table or maybe you can resolve their complaint in the chair.”
“Making sure that the expectations of the customer are in alignment with the intention of the practitioner is crucially important to the massage transaction,” says Palmer. “If they think you’re doing therapy, and you’re only doing relaxation massage, you might have a problem.”
That’s why Palmer always makes chair massage clients a promise he can keep: “No matter what you feel like when you sit down in the chair, you’ll feel better by the time you get up. I think that’s a very powerful and appropriate guarantee.”
About the Author
Allison Payne is associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and managing editor of futureLMT.com, MASSAGE’s publication for student and beginning massage therapists. She wrote “The Top 3 Ways to Make Money with Your Massage Chair” for MASSAGE Magazine’s November 2015 issue.