Joe Yoon is a massage therapist, personal trainer and founder of Joe Therapy, a company that provides massage therapy at his clinic in Orlando, Florida, and through which he teaches stretching and self-massage techniques online.
Joe is an expert in developing reach on social media, and has one of the top stretching accounts with 1.2 million followers on Instagram and more than 25,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.
Joe has worked with many well-known athletes as their massage therapist, including NFL Super Bowl champions, NFL Pro Bowlers, multiple Olympic gold medal winners, and world champions. Joe also wrote a book, Better Stretching: 9 Minutes a Day to Greater Flexibility, Less Pain and Enhanced Performance, which will be released in early 2020.
Joe is also a MASSAGE Magazine All-Star, one of a group of innovative therapists and teachers who are educating the magazine’s community of massage therapists in our print magazine, on our social media channels and on massagemag.com. I’m Karen Menehan, the editor of MASSAGE Magazine, and I’ll be interviewing Joe today. Welcome, Joe.
Joe: Hi, Karen. How’s it going?
Karen: It’s going well. How are you doing?
Joe: I’m well, thank you.
Karen: Thanks so much for making time for this interview. We wanted to talk a bit first about social media and your reach on social media and some advice that you might have for our readers about using Instagram and YouTube.
You have one of the top accounts on Instagram focusing on stretching and muscle release, and with more than a million views of your posts weekly. So, I’m wondering if you could tell us first why you think the public and therapists are so interested in the type of content that you’re presenting there.
Joe: I think just, in general, people want to just feel better physically, and stretching is a great tool to make that happen. [On] my Instagram, I have a pretty big range of demographic. So, I have people who might work at a desk all day, I also have the people who do the opposite, who might stand all day, like construction workers and hairdressers — but I also have that high-level athlete just trying to get that edge to perform better. And stretching can fit into all of those professions.
So, if you sit at a desk all day and you have some low-back tension or upper-back tension you can do some stretching to make you feel better just to get through the day. And if you’re that high-level athlete, and let’s say your hip flexors are tight there’s a stretch for that to make you feel a little bit better to perform at that next level. So, I think, in general, it’s just a great tool for people to feel better.
Karen: You have so many people who are watching your videos and partaking of the education that you have there. What can you say just about using Instagram, specifically, to help build a brand or build a massage business?
Joe: [Instagram is] amazing to build a business. It’s exactly how I built pretty much my Joe Therapy brand from nothing to something. And it’s great because you can put on Instagram things that you want your audience to see. So, you can really dictate what kind of business that you want to grow.
At the beginning, for me, as a massage therapist, I wanted to work with a certain demographic. And, for me, just personally, I really wanted to work with little bit more of the active community and work with athletes. So, what I did was when I first started and I was doing these sessions with clients, if I had an athlete in, I would ask them if I could put them on video and show a little technique. And then I would pop it up on my Instagram. And then my audience started to see, “OK, well, Joe works with fitness people, bodybuilders, track stars. I’m going to go see him, because it seems like he’s an expert in the sports side of things.”
So, it’s a really great way to build a brand from a massage therapy standpoint, and then from a stretching and mobility standpoint it’s putting out all this free information on stretching. And that helped me become an authority on stretching as well. So, it’s a very great way to build a brand.
Karen: Walk us through the steps — after you’ve posted a video to Instagram, how exactly do you promote that in order to let your audience know that there’s something that they might want to engage with?
Joe: The first thing is just putting up a lot of content, but also try to get your clients to help promote for you, too. So, if I had a client in for a session — and this is what I did a lot, especially when I was starting out when I had a very small clientele — I asked them if they could post it on their page. And maybe I gave them a discount if a person came in for a session, or maybe I gave them a discount on the next session.
That’s a great way to kind of get people engaged with your content and hopefully, build a little bit more of an audience and community in your area and start helping to build your book out and try to get your schedule filled out.
Karen: One of the videos that you have online is called “A Day in the Life of a Sports Massage Therapist,” which I watched again today. It’s really engaging. And in that, you walk your audience through some of the specific steps related to posting a video on Instagram. I just wanted to mention that to our audience as a piece of content that they might want to check out as well online.
You also have 25,000 subscribers on YouTube. Is there anything that you can say related to YouTube that might differ from some of the marketing advice that you just gave us about Instagram?
Joe: Yeah, the good thing about YouTube is that you can put video content up there that’s a little bit longer. So, that “A Day in the Life of a Sports Massage Therapist,” I think that video was maybe like 10 minutes long, 15 minutes long. And on Instagram, people are usually there to kind of scroll through the pages and try to find something that they like, and it’s more digestible pieces of content.
But on YouTube, you can go in a little bit more in depth, and I really like to put vlog-type work on YouTube. So, I love having content on Instagram which is a little bit shorter, and then going on YouTube where I can be a little bit more detailed about what I’m doing.
You know, I think that’s very important because Facebook owns Instagram and Google owns YouTube. And those are some of the biggest companies in the world. So, those are going to be pretty popular [sites] now and hopefully, the near future.
Karen: Do you have a presence on Facebook? What do you think about using Facebook?
Joe: I do have a Facebook. I think I got there a little bit later than I should have. But the good thing about Facebook is, because I was on Instagram so much, all I really had to do was do a little click of the switch and it would post all my videos on Instagram over to Facebook.
Facebook is an amazing community as well, and you can have really good discussions there too. I have a lot of friends who use Facebook, to really help build their community, and have really good discussions in there. And it’s definitely something I’m trying to work on for the future to help my brand, overall.
Karen: If you were going to tell one of our listeners to focus on one of the social media platforms, which one would you choose, between the three?
Joe: I picked the one that I was the most interested in. I was on Instagram before I was even thinking about starting a business. It was just a platform that I enjoyed being on the most. When I started to post on Instagram, from more of a business standpoint, it felt a little bit more natural. It just felt more fun to be on.
My advice would be if you like being on Facebook, and you’re on Facebook a lot, maybe be on that platform more. If it’s Instagram, you can pick Instagram. If it’s YouTube, pick YouTube. So, I would just find what you have the most fun on, because then it feels less like work when you’re actually posting to it.
Karen: That makes sense. I’m on Facebook a lot and I keep telling myself that I should use Pinterest and Instagram. And I just don’t, I can’t imagine juggling that many platforms, although I know it’s probably different for a business owner.
Joe: That’s exactly what I did was instead of juggling so many at the beginning, I concentrated on one thing and really tried to make that grow. And now, since that’s doing well, now I’m just trying to branch off a little bit. Stick with the one that you really enjoy the most — and there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to be on every single platform.
Karen: Moving on to your new book that’s coming out in 2020, Better Stretching: 9 Minutes a Day to Greater Flexibility, Less Pain and Enhanced Performance, can you just tell us a little bit about the book and if you feel that would be pertinent for a massage therapist wanting to read more about self-care?
Joe: It’s almost an extension of my Instagram — so we have the stretching and the mobility exercises, over 100 exercises, in the book. But I also wanted to touch upon things that enhance the stretching and the mobility exercises, and then things that will help keep you more flexible. I talk a little bit about the foam rolling and the self-massage techniques that will help enhance the stretching, but there’s also a section that talks a little bit about strengthening as well, which I think gets kind of overshadowed sometimes where we just think about the flexibility. I think it’s just part of the puzzle, kind of that health puzzle.
You need a little bit of everything for it to be great at the end of everything. So, I talk a little bit about mobility, a little bit about the foam rolling, and then also some on the strengthening aspect as well. It’s really good for not only massage therapists, but I think their clients, too. I got a lot of feedback from massage therapists on my Instagram page saying that my Instagram was great because it allowed them to give homework and a reference to their clients for stuff they could do at home. So, hopefully, maybe they will pick up this book on top of that.
Karen: It was on your Instagram channel that you asked your audience and massage therapists provide some questions for the interview that we’re doing right now. And a lot of things that came in were questions regarding business and developing clientele.
So, I’d like to dive into some of that material so that you can address these questions more related to becoming a successful brand, a successful massage therapist.
The first one is pretty basic. It’s, what advice can you give a new massage therapist getting started in this industry?
Joe: One of the first things that helped me a lot was surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. That’s what I think helped me the most, especially when I was starting off in business.
When you start your own business, it becomes a little bit different than having a normal 9-to-5 job. So, I had to really surround myself with people who could kind of understand the problems I was going through, the difficulties of the business — because, you know, a lot of my other friends, they would just go to work, they would get a paycheck, they would have the weekends off, where I don’t have a steady income at the beginning, and I was really just concentrating on trying to build the business — and that meant not taking the weekends off and missing some friends and family events.
So, for me, it was trying to find this kind of a small circle. And it could be online, which I thought Instagram was great for, connecting with people who are in the same situation, that you might not be close to. But then I also found people in my community that were just starting their business and I could bounce ideas off of them.
So, surrounding yourself with people in the same situation, I think is going to be one of the keys to being successful in the long-term.
Karen: What’s a good strategy for finding those people?
Joe: I actually use Instagram a lot for this one, naturally, because when I started on Instagram [I saw that] Instagram’s very intuitive with their algorithms and they show you things that you want to see or that are related to what you’re doing. And what I started to see were other accounts that were doing similar things, maybe a little bit more in the fitness or nutrition or some of this prehab or massage stuff.
I would just reach out to them and ask them questions, introduce myself to them. And it’s crazy, because I’ve met so many people on Instagram that just became really good friends in real life as well.
That’s such a good way to keep you motivated, to continue with your business, because business is tough. You’ll have those down days, you’ll have those up days and it’s always good to just talk to someone with kind of a different opinion on things to help you out.
Karen: When I was on your website, I noticed that you have a membership program with enhanced content like exercises and assessments related to stability and range of motion.
The membership model is something that we’ve told our readers about, something that kind of borrows from the franchise industry. I’m wondering if you could talk about the success of your membership program and any advice that you can share with readers or our audience regarding that.
Joe: My membership program is a little bit separate from my massage therapy business. It’s essentially another revenue stream. A lot of people would call it passive income, even though I still call it active income because you still have to put work into it!
But it really helped me out with, not only a new revenue stream, but also from a self-care standpoint — because I was getting some income from this membership site, so it allowed me to take a couple of days off from actually working on people in person, which in turn has helped me feel a little bit better in-between sessions, where I don’t have to rely on being at the office every single day to make income.
Now I’m making income from actually working on people in person, and I also make income from this membership site, which is bringing in revenue daily. And then, from another standpoint, it’s actually a really good benefit for my current massage clients too because it’s a separate entity.
I have all these videos that I have on there recorded already, that I can give to my massage clients at the end of the session for them to do while they’re at home in-between sessions. So, it’s a really great way to not only have multiple revenue streams, it’s also a great added value to my current clientele.
Karen: And what kind of feedback do you get from your clientele regarding that?
Joe: They’re very surprised. It’s really cool because usually at the end of every session, I give them just a little bit of homework to do, just to make them feel better at home, in-between sessions. And then they always ask, “Oh, can you just write an email to me real quick, because I’m not going to remember?” And I always say “Of course.” I don’t think they realize that I have videos. So, a lot of the feedback I get is these amazing emails that say, “Thank you so much. I didn’t expect these videos to be here.”
And again, it just makes the session just that much better for the client. It just builds their expectation. And it’s an added benefit and it just makes them want to come back for more.
Karen: You know, one of the other questions that your audience said they would like to hear from you on is money, especially starting out. How did you deal with not having as large an income as you might have wanted or needed when you were starting out, and budgeting?
Joe: Money will be the biggest stressor for you, definitely, when you’re starting out. I was actually in debt going into business. I had even less wiggle room than someone who had some money saved up.
What I really wanted to concentrate on was just making sure I didn’t spend money that I didn’t have or put money on a credit card. I really wanted to start off small and then grow as my business grew.
One of the most important things I tell new grads is if you want to go on your own, find a room but see if the owner is willing to do a percentage split instead of [you] paying a monthly rent.
I think a lot of times when people just graduate from massage school, they want that amazing facility with all the bells and whistles, but there’s no clientele, so you can’t really pay for it. Instead of taking on that stress, just rent a room via percentage split because that way, even if your clientele goes up and down throughout the month, you’re never putting up money that you don’t have.
I think that’s one of the most important things, just start off small even though you might want to have that amazing space. But kind of grind it out until you have the clientele to rent your own space.
Karen: So, that could look like renting a session room for just 10 or 15 hours a week to begin with, something like that?
Joe: Exactly. When I first started I had someone approach me, and they said, “Hey, I have a room in my clinic and you can use it. We just want X amount percent per session.” And for me, I didn’t have any clients at that point. So, I was like, “You know what? That’s perfect.” And once my clientele and my book got scheduled out, then I’m willing to move on from that space. But in that meantime, it was amazing because I never had to put up money that I didn’t have while I was starting out.
Karen: Gotcha. Thanks. So, another question that your audience had that’s really a big deal in the massage field, especially when someone’s starting out, is knowing how to set their per-session fees, or prices. How did you figure that out and what can you say about that?
Joe: When I approached the pricing — and there’s so many different ways to go about this — the way I went about it was, I found the average price in the city I was working in. I’m in Orlando, Florida. I actually looked up some of my competitors that do similar work to me and found out what their pricing was, and I actually priced it just below what they were pricing it at, hoping that would incentivize some people to come see me as opposed to my competition.
Once I did that, and I started getting clients in, and my schedule start to fill up, then that’s when I decided to bump up the price. In my opinion, it’s once my book is all scheduled out, then it’s my duty or, like, I have the ability to raise the prices because then it’s justified because I’m busier.
I would say that’s probably one of the best ways to do it is be super busy at maybe a slightly more affordable rate. And then once you’re just too busy and you can’t fit any more people in, that’s when you want to price-jump it up.
Karen: And how long did it take you to get from that point of setting your price and then having a full book?
Joe: I set my prices very affordable for what I was doing. I was definitely undervaluing what I was doing, but I definitely needed to get people in first. And then, it probably took maybe like six or seven months, actually no, probably nine months to raise my prices $10, so not too much.
But I also made sure that I had a surplus of clients before I bumped that price up, too, because I didn’t want to have, like, a 75% booked schedule and then price jump it up and then lose some clients. So, I made sure I had too many clients and then I bumped up the price. Because you will turn off some people — but the price jump will help mitigate that.
Karen: Is there anything else at all you’d like to add just about marketing in general, or word of mouth marketing, guerrilla marketing, any tips or secrets for therapists?
Joe: Yeah, I’d say do it all. I have a big Instagram following now, but [in the past] I didn’t have any Instagram following. I was doing things like setting up tables at gyms, at local events, on top of posting on my social media.
My big thing is be everywhere. Be at all the gyms on one weekend and post everything you can with your clients that come in online as long as they’re OK with it. And then, hopefully, you get some word of mouth in there [and] you’ll get the referrals. I always say if you just get one client, that’s like a huge win because you never know if that one client is going to refer 10 people.
I had a great experience with one client. I was just starting out and didn’t have too many clients, and a fitness coach came into my clinic for a session. I didn’t know who he was, but then I started getting multiple clients of his in for sessions. So, just working on that one guy probably got me 10 new clients within that next two month span.
I always say, “It might be a lot of work at the start and you might be spending a lot of time, but that one client can change everything.”
Karen: You’ve spent a lot of time becoming a sort of an Instagram and YouTube guru and you have your book coming out. What is your next big project that you’re looking forward to accomplishing?
Joe: I just opened a new clinic. It’s really amazing, just like the progress, because I did start with that room that I rented at a percentage split [and grew] to three other rooms that I rented — and then, I finally just opened up a clinic that’s a little bit bigger in Orlando, Florida, called Orlando Sports Rehab. I opened it with a friend of mine and his wife who are both chiropractors.
We’re going to have massage and chiropractic and then a rehab area for some people in Orlando. So, that’s very exciting. We just opened that within the past couple of months.
I’m going to continue to perform massage therapy sessions locally. I just had a couple of sessions this morning. And then the book coming out, which is very exciting for me, March 3 of next year. So, hopefully, just trying to help promote that and maybe do a little bit of traveling too, and try to network in all different areas of the U.S.
Karen: You sound like a busy guy! Do you have any final words that you’d like to leave with our audience of massage therapists?
Joe: I would say consistency is going to be the key in a lot of things, from social media to your massage business. So, from social media standpoint, I think a lot of people will get kind of bored of it or tired of it because they don’t see results. But I always say keep consistent with it. Just post every single day or when you can.
And then in your massage therapy business, when you’re first starting, things go a lot slower than you expect. At first, I thought I was going to be super busy if I just posted online and then when that didn’t happen, [got] frustrated. But if you just stay consistent and keep doing things, like going to your local events, setting up demos and posting online, if you’re doing things correctly your business will grow. It just takes a little bit of time.
A little consistency, a little bit of patience. Like I said before, just getting one client from any of those events online, these free demos, that could change everything because that person could refer you tons of people. So, stay consistent and be patient.
Karen: Stay consistent and patient. Thank you for that. Well, we’re down to the end of our time with this all-star interview. This has been the MASSAGE Magazine interview with Joe Yoon. Learn more at joetherapy.com and Joe Therapy on YouTube and Instagram. Thank you, Joe.
Joe: Thank you so much, Karen.
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. Her interviews with All Stars include: Whitney Lowe, Anita Shannon, Thomas Myers, Til Luchau, Gael Wood and James Waslaski. The All Star interview with Erik Dalton, PhD, was conducted by Eric Brown.