new massage therapist

Creating a plan on how to attract and keep clients will help you go much further, much faster, as a new massage therapist.

It may seem there are already a lot of massage practitioners out there — but the truth is, demand for massage could continue to increase as massage becomes more mainstream as a form of both self-care and recovery care.

Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been a speedbump on the road of life, massage practitioners are back in practice with increased sanitation protocols and personal protective equipment. And client stress and pain is certainly not going anywhere.

New Massage Therapists on the Team

The number of practitioners in other modalities — chiropractic, physical therapist, integrative health, as examples — who include a massage therapist as part of their suite of services is also increasing. And the prevalence of massage franchise chains is adding to this increasing demand. Even with the uncertainties in the world right now, in my opinion this is an excellent time to become a massage therapist.

There are many business-building tools you should include in your practice toolbox. In this article we’ll look at six effective tools: employment; making yourself stand out; developing a niche practice; feedback forms; follow-ups; and social media.

Work for Someone Else

My attitude about creating an independent practice versus working for an organization that offers massage has shifted in the past few years. In the past, I encouraged all of my business-coaching clients to create their own practice from the very start. The challenge with that is many brand-new massage therapists lack one key factor for success: confidence.

A great way to build confidence and have a more stable income is to start out working for someone else. In that situation you can hone your skills and build that so-important confidence before you set out on your own.

Depending on the area you live in, I see high demand from spas, massage franchises, chiropractors, physical therapy centers, and other businesses seeking massage therapists. As you put in your time, earn a stable income and build confidence, begin building your independent practice. As time progresses, you can shift increased attention to your private-practice clients. Can you see how working for someone else may be just the ticket to get you started on the path to a successful independent practice?

Stand Out as New Massage Therapist

Once you are building an independent practice, I encourage you to brainstorm ways to stand out from the herd. (While you’re still an employee, your employer will almost certainly have a noncompete agreement in place with you, meaning you cannot market your private practice to clients where you work.)

What could set you apart from the other massage therapists? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Write a blog; write for, or send press releases to, your local newspaper. Offer workshops or short presentations to the public in your community. Actions like these will position you as a valuable source of information about massage therapy.
  • Keep up with advanced continuing education, so you know how to best address client conditions and complaints. Be sure to tell clients when you have earned a new certification or added a new modality to your practice.
  • Create a custom label to put on water bottles to give clients at the end of their session. Create a set of several different affirmation cards that you can have printed at the local office supply store. On the front can be a positive saying, a memorable quote, or something similar with your information on the back. Have the client select one of the cards. Let them know that the card is their message to take with them for the day.

With the water bottle and the card, they have something to remember you by while keeping your information handy. (People don’t remember as much of what you say nearly as much as how you make them feel.)

Find Your Niche

One way to differentiate yourself is to offer your work to a specific client niche. Bodywork is moving toward particular specialties.

For example, there is a huge demand for sports massage. You could narrow that down even more to a particular sport or a level of sport such as professional, college or high school. Then there is medical massage, which can again be broken down to more specific niches, including post-surgery care, lymphedema, geriatric massage or oncology massage.

Find something you are passionate about, obtain the necessary education, and align your massage practice with the appropriate niche.

Get Feedback

Feedback forms are vital for improving as a therapist and for building your practice. If you are working for someone else, your employer might have their own feedback forms. If they do, try to ensure that you get to see the results of all forms that are turned in for you.

If you are creating your independent practice, I encourage you to create your own feedback form. You can find lots of good examples to model just by doing a quick internet search. Have a couple of open-ended questions that can’t just be answered yes or no or by a number scale, as this gives the client the freedom to tell you what to improve and even new aspects to add to your practice.

When reviewing the feedback forms, the key is to not fixate on any negative feedback. Take it for what it is, feedback. This information is an opportunity to make you and your practice as a massage therapist better, not a judgment on you as a person. Just remember, there are some people who — no matter how fantastic you may be —will never be 100% satisfied. Take any negative feedback and create a plan on how to make it better in the future. Take the positive feedback as a confidence booster and potential testimonial material.

Follow Up

Following up with clients is one of the simplest things you can do, yet is often overlooked or underappreciated. If you have access to your clients’ email or phone number, a simple follow up can remind them of the importance of their own self-care and how well you treated them during their session.

Reach out with permission, and not too frequently. You might get permission to send an email reminder for upcoming appointments. Remembering their birthday and possibly extending a birthday discount can brighten someone’s day. An email to check in after their first appointment is also appropriate.

Get Social

You may not like social media, but most of your clients do. According to a Hootsuite report, 90 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 use social media.

The reality is, social media is the simplest, cheapest way to reach the largest number of prospective clients. Just starting out, you probably don’t have a significant advertising budget, yet, a social media presence can go a long way in building relationships to help you attract clients.

Start with your circle of friends and family. Be sure to include what makes you unique, as discussed earlier, and stay congruent with your brand, which we have discussed in an earlier article. Post information that is relevant to your clients’ needs.

Pick the primary social media channels to focus on not by what you like but by what the greatest number of potential clients would be most likely to utilize. According to Hootsuite, of Americans: 73% use YouTube, 69% use Facebook, 28% use Pinterest, 27% use Linkedin and 22% use Twitter.

Many people have trouble thinking of something to post. The reality is, the number of potential posts is unlimited. Remember to stay true to your brand and niche. If you are focused on self-care, for example, then sharing content from other sources around self-care makes you the place to go to find information on the subject. Information on hydration, stretches and massage research can all benefit your clients. Remember to not give advice that is not within your scope of practice.

Keep your social media post simple. Pictures go a long way and are more likely to get viewed on platforms like Facebook than is just pure text. Create engagement by having polls and surveys on your social media post, if you have created a closed group. Have a question of the day or affirmation.

Keep reminding clients that you are there to support them. Add special offers to your posting menu. (In marketing, we call this TOMA, or top-of-mind awareness. It is easy for someone to want to utilize your services and be so caught up in their life that they don’t think about it even when they know they would receive great benefit.)

Tools in Review

Take a moment to review these six tools and how they will fit into your business-building toolbox. Remember that massage is more accepted now than ever before. Write your plan down and create the steps needed to put it into action. There are lots of opportunities to get started in massage if you keep a positive attitude, focus on the increasing demand, and have a solid plan for attracting and keeping clients.

About the Author:

Elmas Vincent is an entrepreneurial mentor, coach, consultant, speaker and trainer. He wrote this article on behalf of Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, a school that offers training in massage, nutrition, life coaching and more. His articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “What Steps Should I Take Now to Save for Retirement?”  and “When You Reopen Your Massage Practice, This is How to Communicate Your New COVID-19 Policies to Clients.”