by Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson, MASSAGE Magazine

You went to a good school and spent a lot of money learning to become an excellent massage therapist. You know you are good at what you do and you love giving massage—so where are the clients?

Getting clients to come to you doesn’t just happen because you are good. Some of the best therapists I know have gone out of business because they didn’t know how to bring in new clients and how to keep their old ones. They didn’t understand that no matter how good you are, sometimes clients will leave—and it has nothing to do with you.

If you are just getting started, here are a few things you need to know.

Constantly meet new people and touch base with your clients. An online newsletter is an excellent way to stay in touch with clients. Make sure you send it out regularly and fill it with helpful tips. This will keep the clients you have coming back more often. Your readers may even forward your newsletter to friends, which could result in new clients.

Regularly feed your business with new clients. Even clients who love your service may leave due to circumstances beyond their control, such as moving to a new city or financial obligations. Joining networking groups will ensure you meet a steady stream of potential new clients.

Have a marketing plan. When I first started, I didn’t have a plan—and believe me, I worked a lot harder than I needed to. Have a good plan, write it down and add it to your calendar. You will find when you do this, it will be easier to attract new clients. You will lead a balanced life. Would you rather go to a massage therapist whose life was in chaos or who was relaxed and balanced? A well-thought-out marketing plan will allow you to use the most of your time, ensuring your income stays steady. Scheduling time for marketing is just as important as scheduling time for a client. Your marketing efforts will pay off by keeping your practice full and profitable.

You may need some help. So many people go into business thinking they have to do everything themselves. Because of the nature of the massage business, when you are working, you really cannot do anything else, like answer the phone, write a newsletter or send out postcards. These activities must be performed after your clients leave.

Depending on your budget, you may want to hire some help. If you are on a shoestring budget (and many are), do not worry. You have a valuable tool for barter. Find someone to help with the business part of your practice and you will see your business bloom. If you go to networking meetings, there is a good chance you will find someone there who can help.

As a massage therapist, you are very lucky; you don’t have to create your own brochures and postcards. If this is not your expertise, there are several great companies that offer a wonderful supply of printed materials made for the massage industry. There are also companies that offer newsletters both printed and online.

Consider getting a coach on your team, at least for the first few months. Take any and all marketing classes you find and learn, learn, learn. A successful entrepreneur never stops learning.

If having your own business is what you really want, know it is possible, no matter what someone may tell you. Family and friends are often naysayers, telling you all of the reasons why your business will fail. They really don’t mean to squash your dreams; they probably think they are helping to save you from some awful failure. You can do anything you set your mind to. Surround yourself with positive people who know you are capable of great things.

Starting a new business takes determination and persistence. You must first decide you deserve to have a wonderful and profitable business. You have to stay determined no matter what challenges life may throw your way. Sometimes you may put a lot of time or money into a marketing effort and it will not pay off. This is not the time to throw in the towel. Instead, become a bit clearer about your plan.

When I first started my practice, I joined the local chamber of commerce. I was told by a new friend who belonged to the group that I should not expect any business for the first year. She said the members had seen so many businesses come and go that they wanted to make sure you have the perseverance to stay in business before they refer others to you. It is important, I was told, that you show up to the meetings and participate in the organization.

It is only by giving that you will be able to receive. Though I received some business that first year, it wasn’t until after my first anniversary as a member that I really began to see results.

Remember, develop a plan and stick with it. Get the help and support you need and go for your dreams. You can be as successful as you believe you can.

Kathryn Watson has been a successful, licensed massage therapist since 1993. Her company was voted Best Small Business in 1999 by the American Business Women’s Association in Houston, Texas. After selling her business in 2001 to move away from the area, Watson decided it was time to help other therapists achieve their dreams. She became a life and business coach in 2002. Her book, Marketing From the Inside/Out was released in 2008. Learn more about Watson at www.relaxforsuccess.com/bizcoach.

Read “How to Reach Your Goals,” by Paul Lewis, at www.massagemag.com/reachgoals.

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