Being in this business for many years, I have observed therapists who, after finally achieving their dreams of having a fully booked schedule with a maximum income, have simply shut down their businesses and walked away. I have asked some of these individuals why, when they had finally achieved their goals, did they quit?

The answers have all been similar: They felt like their business was controlling them and they were exhausted on many different levels at the same time. These therapists were burned out.

However, it wasn’t just a physical depletion from performing massage. It was more of a mental exhaustion from trying to fulfill the building needs of their business. Their businesses had become so needy that they could no longer meet the demands it required.

For those of you who feel like you are on the brink of a similar situation, I have a solution for you that could positively impact your business.

Who is the Boss of Your Business, Anyway?

Since we are reliant on clients for operating a massage business, owning a successful massage business is about having the right number of clients purchasing your services to meet your budget. There are challenges at each phase of your clientele and business growth.

The beginning phase is about an almost frantic need to find your clientele and niche. The middle phase is about accommodation and filling your schedule as much as possible. The last phase is about managing your schedule and clientele in a way that supports both your clients’ needs and your needs.  

Now listen closely. The first two phases are about saying yes to all the needs and possibilities required of clients for you to accommodate them. The last phase is about learning how to say no, in a healthy way, so that you have the ability to manage all the needs and possibilities required for you, your business and your clients.

Massage businesses are built on successfully meeting client expectations. Learning how to meet those expectations while maintaining control of your schedule is what your business must evolve into. If it does not, then it has the power to control you.

[Read “These Are the 5 Types of Clients You Should Feel Good About Breaking Up With”]

Healthy Business Boundaries are Found in Your Schedule

The first step is to learn how to create and manage your ideal schedule. The way you do this is to take your ceiling* massage schedule and set it up around the needs of your personal schedule.

*The ceiling is the number of appointments you can comfortably perform each day and week.

We then map out those appointment times on a weekly calendar. Here are two examples of a 15-appointment ceiling schedule:

Example 1:

12:3012:3012:3012:30 12:30
2:30 2:30 2:30
4:304:30 4:30

Example 2:

Off9:00 Off9:00Off
11:0011:0011:00 11:00
1:001:001:00 1:00

Next, match up current clients with available appointments. This will require communication with clients and potentially reorganizing reserved appointment times into new availabilities. Accommodate as much as you have available, but avoid changing what you want, for times that you don’t want, for clients.

The next step can be difficult, but it is essential for your business well-being: You must train yourself to not schedule outside of those selected times. This new schedule could potentially create discomfort for you and some clients.

You may have to deal with that discomfort and inform clients you can no longer accommodate them or their required time. All businesses hit this real limit and when we do, sometimes we are simply unprepared to apply these limits.

An amazing thing happens when you allow your schedule to maintain your ceiling and business boundaries. You begin to feel in control of your world again because the pressure to meet so many demands matches what you have decided to offer.

The more you stay within that boundary, the more balanced and happier you become, and the better service you provide.

Anytime you schedule a client outside of your set times, you begin to feel the stress and pressure that accompanies that feeling of being overworked. When you go beyond your preferred ceiling of massage sessions each week, it is common to experience fatigue that impacts the quality of service you offer all clients. This fatigue can spill over into your personal life and impact home life.

Regardless of the income your business provides, living in this state of fatigue is not appealing nor sustainable. This is why massage therapists quit when they finally succeed in obtaining a full, but out-of-control, schedule. And the control is literally in your hands.

Healthy Business Boundaries

Once you build your business, it becomes a living entity that you must develop a relationship with. How you feed it, what you ask of it, how it dictates your behavior with its behavior, are all very real components that impact you. In order for your business to respect you, you must respect it as well and ask yourself to set boundaries that allow both the business and you to coincide with each other to be successful.

Having healthy business boundaries is actually about having good limits that support you on many levels: mental, emotional and physical. Creating and maintaining these business boundaries are essential to the longevity of your business and career in massage therapy, and it begins with how you hold yourself to your schedule.

Owning a successful massage practice will be an ongoing, delicate balance of you not taking advantage of your business and respecting those you serve within your massage practice. While at the same time, requesting respect from your business and those you serve. When there is mutual respect between the business, the client and yourself, the potential for success, longevity and happiness follows.  

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.