To complement “The Top 9 Tips for Launching Your Practice” in the July 2016 print edition of MASSAGE Magazine.
Some massage therapists are choosing to forego a traditional practice space and specialize in on-site massage, bringing their services to clients’ homes and offices, while many other therapists augment their practice with on-site services.
One such massage therapist, Tracey Silber, L.M.T., of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, owns Hands of Heart Massage, which provides on-site massage to private and corporate clients. Here, Silber offers tips for launching this type of practice.
1. Work for Someone Else First
“Nobody should come right out of school and start their own business,” said Silber. “Gain a couple years of experience working for a chiropractor, or working at a spa.”
Based on her own experience, Silber recommends working for a chiropractor. “You get repeat clients, and you get to see your work in progress,” she said. “And you have a doctor [of whom you can] ask questions.”
She also suggests working in various environments to find out what you like and don’t like about each, and get an idea of what kind of practice you would like to run. This is especially important if you don’t have any experience in business. Working for someone else, you can pick up a lot of business knowledge—as well as find out what not to do.
2. Be Flexible
Your idea of your ideal practice may change once you’re out of school, so stay open to new ideas and pursue a specialty that interests you.
Because she came from a horseback riding background, Silber planned to specialize in equine massage once she graduated from massage school, but soon discovered it wasn’t right for her. “I decided I couldn’t talk to the horses and I’d rather talk to people,” she said.
3. Identify a Mentor
“Your mentors are your key,” said Silber.
When you work for an employer, finding a mentor should be simple—it should be someone with more experience than you have, and who’s good at what he or she does. If your goal is to run your own business, choose someone who participates in the management of your workplace.
4. Minimize Overhead Costs
Overhead—the amount of money it costs to run your business—can cost you your business, if you can’t earn enough to cover it and still make a profit. “In massage there really isn’t that much overhead, unless you’re thinking about opening a spa,” Silber said. She worked in a traditional office space for a while, but decided it was not worth the overhead costs that cut into her profits; so, she changed her business model.
“I ended up in a fabulous situation with corporate accounts, there’s no overhead,” she said. With one of her clients, a large accounting firm, she has a massage room at each of the company’s offices. The employees there pay half her rate, while the company pays the other half.
Silber provides corporate clients both chair and table massage, and has recently started offering an on-site body mechanics class for office workers, many of whom sit at desks all day; she calls it a “chair movement class.”
“It teaches you how to sit in your chair, how to move in your chair,” she said.
5. Think Hard About Your Rates
First, research your competition, Silber said. “Make phone calls; find out what [other practices] are paying, are they hiring … that type of thing. What do they charge?” This information will help you set a rate that’s competitive, but not too low, as well as keep you from charging a rate that’s higher than all of your competitors’ prices.
Then, set a reasonable price and see what happens. Silber said she has been charging $100 per hour for the past 16 years. Due to competition and economic factors, she noted, sometimes that price was higher than average, and sometimes not.
6. Rely on Referrals
In an on-site massage practice, one disadvantage is that many times, you end up alone with a client you’ve never met. For that reason, Silber prefers referrals from current clients.
“That’s always your safest, and in massage we have to think about safety,” she said.
She also recommends finding new clients via social media, but only within your network of friends.
7. Know When It’s Time to Launch
Once you have worked in some different environments and gotten experience, you will start to develop your own ideas about how a business should run—what you could do better, what you can offer the market that’s unique.
Silber said, “That’s when it’s time to launch your own business.”