When you are building your business and eager for new clients, you have yet to experience the difficulty of balancing your work schedule with your personal life. Only when you begin to run out of options and appointments do you realize the constant effort it takes to manage your schedule.
New massage therapists stress over trying to get their schedule full. Experienced therapists stress over how to balance their life and business with a full schedule.
The illusion we create in our minds is that once our schedule is full, we can finally relax from the push to fill it and just work. The reality is you are constantly managing and fine-tuning your schedule. If you do not, it manages you.
The good news? If you set up your schedule to manage your business as you are starting out, you can then transition, maintaining flexibility in your schedule when you find yourself fully booked.
Thinking Ahead to Balance Your Massage Schedule
One of the mistakes new therapists make is to be overly flexible in their appointments in order to accommodate new clients. From the first moment you schedule a new client, your behavior is training your clientele. Being overly flexible and allowing your clients to pick any time they want is difficult to shift when you want to structure your business around your life.
Your goal is to have blocks of time that you work and to schedule your clients as closely together as possible to utilize your time efficiently. Take the time to realistically look at your life and decide where those blocks of time fit best, and then designate that as your time to work. I would go as far as to write out those days and times in a calendaring system. When clients contact you for an appointment, those are the times you offer—and preferably, you offer times that sit next to an appointment that is already filled.
Having healthy scheduling boundaries in the beginning of your business not only helps you achieve the number of clients you want to see each week, it keeps you from overworking—because when your week is full, it’s full. Adding more clients to each week will result in injury or burnout. You must know your limits and maintain them through your schedule for longevity in this career.
Once you start to hit capacity with your schedule, look at how you can apply this next concept into your life and business.
When I first started out in business, I was taught to not cancel booked appointments unless I had no other option. While that was solid business and customer-service advice, when I became a parent, children and sick days taught me that cancellations were going to be a constant part of my business. Learning to be efficient at canceling and rescheduling appointments became a necessity, and somewhat of an art form, to manage.
Being able to have flexibility within a full schedule is the best approach. How this works is hard to envision, considering that your goal for a successful business is to have appointments set up weeks in advance. The solution becomes having flexibility preplanned into your schedule.
To do this, think about reserving or holding one to two appointment slots each week to move your schedule around in. As advice to parents, the approach that worked best for me was to reserve an entire day during the week to move clients around as needed. That one full day gave me the flexibility to promptly reschedule the clients who needed massage and the ability to move others around to accommodate both of our scheduling needs.
If I did not use that day for personal needs, I would keep and use a cancellation list of clients wanting to schedule in. I would call in clients to take those times usually the day before if those appointments were still available. This was an extra workday for me, and the income from that day would also offset the days I had to cancel. This day became an opportunity of both time and income for my business and it allowed me to breathe and manage my life at the same time.
As my world settled, I learned to reserve one appointment in the beginning of each week and one appointment later on in the same week. This way I was able to maneuver my clients around when I needed to or they needed to. This solution has worked great for as-yet unbooked clients wanting an appointment as well.
As much as we want to see our schedule completely full and booked out two-to-three months in advance, it is not realistic to believe that you can manage that kind of schedule when life happens. The worst thing you can do is add more time into your already-full schedule to accommodate cancellations and think that won’t physically impact you.
Your schedule must have healthy boundaries that it maintains for you and that you also consistently manage. Setting up the best hours to work for your life, as well as planning for cancellations that inevitably occur, will reduce much unneeded stress and support you for many years to come at the massage table.
About the Author
Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 25 years. She is the owner of Massage Business Methods and the developer of PPS (Pain Patterns and Solutions) Seminars CE courses and an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider.