One of the most accessible types of massage for some people is chair, or seated, massage. People who might have never considered visiting a professional massage therapist will oftentimes be willing to sit in a chair fully clothed for 15 minutes. In addition to introducing massage to potential new clients, offering chair massage can be a great way to increase your practice’s income.
For this article, we spoke to David Palmer, creator of the first massage chair, founder of Touchpro International chair massage training company, and regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine and massagemag.com. (See Palmer’s article, “From Chair to Table: How to Convert Your Chair Massage Clients” for more information on chair massage success.)
Chair Massage Venues
There are many places that are appropriate to set up your chair and offer massages—with, according to Palmer, three main markets for chair massage.
“One is the event market, where you see people one time at the event, then never again,” he said. “The second is the workplace market, where you see people on a more regular basis, whether it is once a week, or monthly, or however often. The third is the retail market, [such as] an airport or a mall or within someone else’s business, such as a hair salon or a fitness center.” At that third type of venue, you might see some clients more than once or on a regular basis.
Check Your License
One of the first considerations when you begin thinking about chair massage is making sure all of your paperwork is in order.
“You need to be licensed to do massage,” Palmer said. “That’s the professional license, and is usually handled by the state. Then you need to be licensed to do business, and those regulations vary community to community.”
In terms of chair massage, there might be, for example, two kinds of business licenses in an area, according to Palmer. Those licenses have to do with zoning laws. One might be an establishment license, where you are in a fixed location; the other might be called an outcall license, he added.
“The variety of regulations from town to town is wild. It’s like the Wild West,” Palmer said. “The only way you can really find out what you need to do is check with your local municipality.”
The Chair Massage Intake
Just as you would have a consultation, including intake, with your clients in your regular practice, you should have a consultation and intake before a chair massage.
“Don’t forget to screen everybody before they get in the chair,” said Palmer. “When I see people doing chair massage, this is what is missing most often—and it is critical.
“Just because they aren’t on a table doesn’t mean you shouldn’t screen clients,” he added.
Your intake should include asking the client if he or she has any prior injuries or current injuries or pain. Just as with a table massage, tell the client he or she should inform you if your pressure is too deep or too light.
Chair Massage Supplies
There is a variety of massage chairs on the market. You’ll want one that is light enough to easily carry, if you plan on working on-site in various venues. Most people understand how a massage chair works, and have no trouble getting on or off of it; however, some people may need a quick explanation or a steady hand.
Keeping your chair perfectly clean keeps your clients safe, and is necessary for a professional chair massage practice. You will need paper face cradle covers, a spray bottle of natural, unscented cleaner, and hand sanitizer.
“Having Handi Wipes® for wiping all of the vinyl surfaces that have had skin-to-vinyl contact during the massage is critical,” Palmer said.
In workplace and retail settings, there will likely be trash receptacles for your disposable items, but for one-time events you should plan to take a small trash can.
A few other items Palmer takes to chair massage events include hair bands for people with long hair, snacks for clients—because, he said, it is important to avoid massaging anyone with low blood sugar—and paper, pen and clipboard that he uses to keep a list of people waiting for a session.
A professional sign, so that people can see you are offering massages and the price, is important if you are in a place where people pay individually, such as in a grocery store or at a health fair. Although national statistics do not exist to determine what is charged per minute for seated massage in the U.S., a Google search indicates that $1 per minute is an accepted and widely used rate.
Your Chair Massage Plan
Whether or not chair massage is right for your practice depends on myriad factors. Your professional goals, individual situation and current work environment are all important factors. If you are in business by yourself, you probably face the dilemma of how to find clients. In that case, chair massage can be a great way to grow your client base.
If you work for someone else, but you want to eventually have your own practice, you’ll need to check with your employer to make sure it is OK to offer massage outside of work hours. Unless you signed a non-compete agreement, it should be.
Remember to take care of yourself while providing chair massage. Palmer suggested having snacks, such as fruit or energy bars, on hand, as well as plenty of water, especially if you will be outdoors.
Offering chair massages can be a good way to meet people and begin building your customer base. Remember, if you invest in a chair, you will want to make sure that investment pays off.