Starting your first massage practice can be an exciting time.
Not only are you about to embark into the world as a self-employed or independent business owner (joining the other roughly 15 million, or 10.1 percent of the population who also work for themselves, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), but, in the bigger picture, you also now have the opportunity to help countless others live a healthier and higher quality life.
You have the ability to do some amazing good.
That being said, starting out in any field can also be pretty scary as you face all of the fears you have, fears that many new business owners face. Many questions will likely surface as you question how well you’ll do.
You might ask yourself: What happens if I go through all of this (putting pressure on me and my family both financially and emotionally) and can’t get any clients to walk in through the doors? and What if I can’t earn enough to keep my doors open? What if, what if, what if?
While these types of concerns are common, a number of them can be put to rest simply by making sure you set your massage practice up correctly. This means buying certain items, ultimately putting yourself in a position where you’ll likely see greater levels of success.
There are three items you definitely want to have when you launch your practice.
1. Massage Equipment
Obviously, as a massage therapist, one of the first things you want to consider purchasing for your practice is a massage table. Many options exist at both ends of the pricing spectrum, which can be more than a little overwhelming.
The key is to first consider the features you don’t want to live without, the ones that can make life easier for both you and your clients.
For instance, you likely want a table that is adjustable. Because every client is different in body shape and size, ideally, you want to be able to raise and lower the table as needed, enabling you to provide a better massage experience without having to overextend yourself or put your body in awkward, and potentially painful positions.
Choosing a table with an adjustable face cradle is important as well, creating more comfort for the people you serve.
You also want a table that is sturdy and able to withstand clients who are larger in size. By purchasing a higher quality product, you’re probably going to pay more up front, but it will also likely last longer too.
This makes it more than worth the investment if you’re able to make it when you’re first starting out.
If you’re going to be working at locations other than your own brick-and-mortar, or even if you’re not, Lisa Hopp, C.M.T., content marketing manager with Bodywork Alternatives Onsite Massage, LLC, calls a massage chair an important investment. This is because “it allows variety in your service offerings and is an easy way to offer your services at events,” says Hopp.
When choosing your chair, Hopp says it’s important to realize that options that contain a straight bar in front of the seat can be very uncomfortable for men.
Additionally, if you do decide to purchase a chair, “make sure you always hold the face cradle when clients are coming in and out of the chair while encouraging them to place their hands on the chest pad to stand up,” says Hopp. “I’ve seen many [a chair] crack under the weight of a customer.”
2. A Variety of Lubricants
Once you have your table, and possibly a chair, the next purchase to consider is lubricants.
“Therapists need to ensure they have a variety of lotions and oils to use,” says Hopp. This means having a combination of both scented and unscented options, giving clients a greater selection to better suit their individual wants and needs.
“Customers can be very picky,” says Hopp, adding, “I was surprised by how many customers are sensitive to scents.” In this case, the client won’t want any type of aroma wafting through the massage room, which means being prepared by having products that don’t have this particular quality.
Besides scent, the type of work you do will inform your choice in lubricant. Deeper massage and practices like shiatsu don’t require much glide, so a heavy cream or butter is most appropriate. Flowing strokes like effleurage or techniques such as lomi lomi require a slicker surface and more glide, so a thinner lotion or oil—sometimes lots of it—is required
Additionally, when it comes to lotions and oils, Hopp stresses that you should prepare to order frequently and strive to always keep extras on hand so you don’t ever face a situation where you run out. This requires creating an efficient system for keeping track of your products, making it possible to always know where you stand.
3. Marketing Materials
One of the other categories of items that some new massage therapists overlook—but which can really add to success—is marketing-related materials. After all, clients can only request your services if they know you’re offering them.
Even if starting your career involves first working for a pre-existing practice, marketing should still be one of your concerns.
“Many therapists start their career with the expectation of landing a job and that company will have customers waiting for them,” says Hopp. “However, they will fill their calendar much quicker if they contribute to the marketing.”
Thus, you need a marketing plan that will build your personal brand as a massage therapist.
One of the first marketing materials to consider is business cards. For relatively little cost, you can design and print these little travel billboards that remind your clients of your services and how to contact you to schedule them, even when you’re not right there in front of them. However, just placing them in clients’ hands is not enough.
“It is important not to just hand out business cards,” says Hopp, “but to collect prospects’ information as much as possible and build an email list. This way you can stay in contact with everyone interested in your services by occasionally emailing health tips and keeping them up-to-date on where you are currently offering your services.”
Starting your first massage practice can be fun, but it can also be scary. So, when you feel overwhelmed with fear and unsure how to begin, just do what famous tennis player Arthur Ashe once suggested and “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can do.” Sounds pretty simple, right?
About the Author
Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer dedicated to providing readers relevant, research-backed content related to health and wellness, personal development, safety, and small business ownership.
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