There is a certain stereotype—perhaps for a reason—that massage therapists and bodyworkers make great healers and not such great business people. However, the fact is many massage therapists and bodyworkers enjoy the independence of working for themselves, which means they must also bear the burden of running a business.

Maybe all you wish to do is provide wonderful hands-on healing sessions to your clients, without having to worry about keeping track of accounting procedures or reaching out to network and market your skills. If you’re one of the fortunate few who has an office manager or public-relations partner, you probably can focus almost solely on massage and bodywork itself.

If you don’t work for a spa or corporation, however, and you don’t have an office manager and publicity guru on staff, it’s likely you’ll need to wear several different hats to maintain a successful massage practice. This may mean gaining or sharpening your business skills.

Fortunately, most bodyworkers and massage therapists have an opportunity to learn new skills every time they renew their licenses, as most regions require hands-on practitioners to earn a certain amount of continuing-education requirements in order to keep their credentials current.

Next time you’re looking to enroll in continuing-education classes, you may wish to consider enhancing your business skills rather than your massage techniques. There is a wide array of continuing education based on the business side of bodywork, so you should be able to pick and choose what you need and what works for you.

For instance, if you’re having trouble keeping track of how much money you make each month, when you’ve been paid, how much you may owe in taxes and just what you’re allowed to deduct, a continuing-education course on accounting for your massage practice might be the best bet.

If you have the accounting procedures down, but your networking skills leave a bit to be desired, you may decide to enroll in continuing education that focuses on how to market your massage practice and reach out within the community. Such a course would likely teach students to create media kits, Web sites, brochures or similar marketing collateral necessary to any successful business. You may also learn how to set up community events to draw new clients and get free press from local newspapers and magazines.

These are only two broad examples of the many types of business-based, continuing-education courses available to massage therapists and bodyworkers. Look around on your own to find one that suits your specific needs and meets the criteria of your state or local massage board.

Even if you’re currently employed by a spa or corporation, it may be wise to strengthen your business skills in order to move up the ladder more swiftly or to prepare for a future career change toward independent practice.

After all, success in the realm of massage and bodywork frequently involves a bit more than a pair of strong, healing hands.

—Brandi Schlossberg