Professionalism is a complex subject, but one that every massage therapist should master.

The clothes you wear, your communication style, what you share via social media, the look and feel of your website, the look and feel of your treatment room, and the quality of the products and equipment you use — are all important components that create your overall professional image.

When you understand the importance of each component, it’s easy to apply them to your practice.

Before discussing each component, let’s talk about how professionalism can impact your practice.

Professionalism is Critical

When a potential client meets you for the first time or finds you online, they immediately begin to form an opinion and set their expectations, often before a word is even spoken or a paragraph is read.

They determine the type of massage they will receive (will it be luxury relaxation, strictly clinical, or a specialized modality?), what your treatment space is like, and how much education you have based on the image they see.

They begin to determine how “good” you might be and what they will pay for their service. Potential clients quite often determine right then if you are the therapist they are looking for.

Presenting a professional image is critical at this stage because you don’t want to turn off a potential client before you are able to determine if they are the right fit for your practice. Instead, help them see you and your practice at your best.

Professionalism aids in creating a foundation of trust. Clients have a right to feel safe under your hands and to expect that you can provide the results they are seeking. Whether they are seeking relaxation, pain management or anything in between, clients need to trust that you can get the job done.

Trust is an important factor in determining if they will rebook with you, which can greatly impact your bottom line.

When we think about the word professionalism, we tend to immediately think of appearance. The clothes we choose and our personal hygiene and grooming play a significant role in our first impressions, but professionalism is much more complex than just how we look.

It’s time to put professionalism into practice, so get ready to dig deep.

Every Single Time

Every time we communicate with a client or potential client, we have the opportunity to enhance or detract from our professionalism. What we say, verbally and in writing, needs to be both business-like and personable.

We should not be so robotic that clients feel they are communicating with a machine, nor should we be so personable that we lose our authority. And with a plethora of ways in which to communicate in today’s tech- savvy world, how do we know what is right?

The simple answer is that all communication methods can be “right”, but it is important to make sure that the method we choose meets the needs and preferences of our clients while still meeting the needs of our business.

6 Keys to Professional Presentation

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for all styles of communication:

1. Always use full sentences with correct spelling and grammar. Using abbreviations and partial sentences can be confusing and viewed as cutting corners (and could

make clients question what other corners you may be cutting). Those extra few

seconds are worth the boost in professionalism.

2. Use plain font that is easy to read. Communication isn’t effective if the client isn’t able to read it.

3. Say or write the client’s name at the beginning (bonus points if you include it at the end as well) of the communication. This makes the client feel like your mass email was written just for them.

4. Keep client information confidential. Use the blind courtesy copy (bcc) when sending emails to multiple people and avoid group messaging.

5. Smile! Whether you are speaking on the phone or typing out an email, a smile on your face will positively impact your communication.

6. Be consistent. Your online presence is an extension of yourself and your business and should mimic your in-person professionalism. Using the same photos and wording consistently across all of your online business accounts will help create a clear image of what the client can expect when meeting you in person for the first time.

Social media posts should refrain from the traditional big three: politics, religion, and sex to avoid any potential offense. Save the personal posts for your personal page; business should be conducted on your business page. Posts that focus on what’s new in your business, how your services benefit your clients, and other important information are excellent choices for your business page.

Websites should be easy for clients to read and navigate. Focusing on your services and skills will provide enough information for the client to feel confident in scheduling, but not overwhelm them with information.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to create a professional image. If you are working with a limited budget, it is ok to start small and still make a big impact. Have an amateur photographer shoot a few headshots to use for your online presence, for example.

Improve Clients’ Experience

Professionalism also applies to your massage space as well as the entirety of your client’s session. When clients are seeking out a professional, they have an expectation that professional level products and equipment will be used.

Professional massage linens that fit your table table properly, professional quality massage lubricant, and professional grade essential oils will help you present a professional image and gain the client’s trust.

Professional grade equipment such as your massage table, hot stone warmer, and hot towel cabinet can reduce your liability by improving client safety, improve your client’s experience, and increase your professional image.

Only buy enough massage linens to get you through a day or two of clients. You will find yourself doing laundry more often, but every client will be presented with a polished table.

Choose just one or two quality lubricants and purchase the largest size you can afford to reduce the cost per treatment. Purchasing used equipment can be an excellent use of limited funds.

Remember, you can always add more as you build your practice.

If you are an employee, professionalism applies to you, too.

Chances are, your employer has policies that address professional appearance requirements and provides products and equipment for your use. It’s up to you to deliver professional communication and to be an extension of your employer’s professional image.

Maintaining a high level of cleanliness and organization in your treatment space, wearing clean, wrinkle- and stain-free uniforms, and performing quality services will show your employer that you are a true professional. It may even help you earn that promotion you have been working for.

Professionalism begins with one massage therapist at a time, but when we all band together, we can elevate the professionalism of the entire Massage Therapy industry!

About the Author:

Melinda Hastings, LMT, BCTMB, MTI, has practiced massage therapy since 1996. She holds active licenses in Washington and Texas, and is also a Texas Massage Therapy Instructor. She is a Nationally Approved Continuing Education Provider through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. Her CE classes are offered through her seminar business, Inspired Therapist Seminars.