Have you ever had the feeling you're forgetting something when you leave for work? You know, that nagging sensation that there's something you missed that you were supposed to take with you? It's happened to everyone.
I polled 15 massage therapists about what they always carry with them, even when they don't have clients scheduled. Each massage therapist had different opinions, and each had different jobs-a few have their own business, many work at day spas or clinics, and a couple people work directly with chiropractors or doctors. Some suggestions were pretty obvious, but a few surprised me. The items on this list may seem like a lot to carry, but most are small and fit nicely into a pouch you can slip into a purse, day pack or briefcase.
1. Business cards
All massage therapists should carry business cards, which ideally should include their name, their business's name, phone number, Web site/e-mail address, location and hours. I thought this was enough, until someone who works at a day spa told me she also carries her spa's card with her at all times. That way, she can market to new clients and keep her appointment book full. Another therapist told me she keeps extra cards in her purse, so she has an extra stack available at all times.
Another therapist said he uses his card to market his specials. Instead of spending extra money to print out monthly specials, he simply prints labels from his computer and attaches them to the back of his card.
Finally, one massage therapist said she uses her cards as appointment reminders, giving each client a business card with the time and date of her next appointment written on the card. The therapist said this gives a handy reference to any client who needs to reschedule.
2. Name tag
This does not refer to those small paper name tags you write your name on and then attach the sticky side to your shirt. A couple of massage therapists said they invested in an inexpensive metal name tag (usually available at most office supply stores). So if you're doing chair massage at an event, wearing a name tag will give you credibility. Going to a networking session with other businesses in attendance? A nice name tag makes you stand out. By simply running into the bank or store, people will notice your name tag and become a potential new client, especially when you hand them a business card.
3. Appointment book
This item is a no-brainer. I started remembering all the times I didn't carry my book with me, and then got a call from someone who wanted an appointment. At that point, I changed my evil ways and started carrying a small page-a-day book, which fits neatly in my purse. Now I'm ready whenever a client calls. A few massage therapists told me they invested in a BlackBerry (or something similar) and can keep client information in their phone, along with their appointment book.
I have a personal pet peeve about cell phones ringing during my sessions with clients, and I will ask for them to be turned off before we begin our session. I do leave my phone on, however, while with a client, but I change the ringtone to silent. Several massage therapists told me they carry their business phone with them at all times during business hours. That way, they can book appointments whenever a client calls.
Another part of using a phone is follow-through. Every month, I get new clients as overflow from other massage therapists. The client will leave a message for these massage therapists, but will never get a call back-or these massage therapists will call back the next day, when the client wanted the appointment the day before. On the same token, I've also lost clients because I returned their calls several hours after they left a message. By that time, they've booked with someone else who immediately answered their phone. So, a rule of thumb is to return calls within two hours.
5. Hand sanitizer
Four massage therapists I talked with carry little bottles of hand sanitizer with them at all times. Why? How many times have you introduced yourself as a massage therapist only to be told by your new acquaintance about the knot in her back? The massage therapists I talked with give an on-site assessment, palpating the client where it hurts. They tell the person what they think is going on, talk about how a massage can help this problem and then book an appointment. These massage therapists then pull out their hand sanitizer, making sure they don't spread any germs.
6. Nail file
I thought this item was a bit obvious, until I stopped working at a day spa. Since the spa offered pedicures and manicures, I got into the bad habit of not carrying a file with me. On the days I didn't work at the spa, I'd have to scrounge around looking for something to get rid of that hangnail.
A couple of massage therapists told me they carry different types of files: throw-away paper ones that can be carried in a pocket for a quick fix, as well as a nicer metal one in a purse or briefcase for a more complete treatment. Also, don't forget clippers or a small scissors for cuticles and longer nails.
7. Liability insurance information
Most professional massage organizations offer liability insurance as part of their membership. Personally, I never thought about carrying my membership card with me until one massage therapist told me about the time she was almost sued by a client. One of the first things she did was pull out her professional membership card, call and talk with a representative about what was happening, and get great advice about what the next step should be. It makes sense. Everyone carries their auto insurance information with them, right? Why not do the same with your liability insurance information?
8. Liquid Band-Aid
This is a real "massage saver" when you have any type of open wound. Liquid Band-Aid (or liquid skin) forms a clear, plastic-like seal over a cut or sore, protecting both you and your client from infection. Finger cots work, too, but the liquid formula doesn't slip and slide like cots do. One disadvantage though: This substance will start peeling away after you wash your hands several times. Therefore, keep a bottle with you, and apply a couple of coats whenever the edges start pulling away from your skin. A quick substitute: clear nail polish (but beware, it hurts!).
9. Bottled water
This is part of self-care. We tell our clients to drink plenty of water, but often don't do this ourselves. I had one massage therapist tell me he was getting cramps in his hands every day until he realized he wasn't drinking water after his sessions. This problem ended as soon as he started placing a cup of water beside his office door. Every time he left after a session, he'd pick up the cup and drink. Herbal tea or fruit juice works, too, but try and stay away from anything with caffeine, as it a diuretic and dehydrates you. Bring your own cup, mug or metal water bottle with you every day. If you use plastic bottles, please be sure to recycle them.
10. Breath mints or gum
This should not need an explanation.
11. Massage oil or lotion
I added this item because one person said this was the most important thing she carried. Many spas and clinics provide massage oil or lotion for their therapists, so massage therapists who work at these places don't really need to bring their own. However, massage therapists with their own office usually leave their oils there, replenishing them as needed.
I included this item for a couple reasons. I contract with a day spa, and I like my oils much better than the line it carries. In fact, when I forget to bring my own bottle, I end up making my own brew, mixing several of the day spa's products together to get a consistency I desire.
Another massage therapist I talked with brings her own bottle, but uses the spa's products. She prefers using a pump bottle, and the day spa uses a squeeze-type bottle.
I've gotten into the habit of keeping my small to-go massage bag handy; this is a clutch-sized, Zip-Locked bag where all these items are kept at all times. Think of how the airlines require you to put all your personal-sized things in a quart plastic bag. That's about all the space you need to carry your massage bag, too-and since it's clear, you will be able to see every item inside. I do, however, keep my business cards in a small, waterproof holder to protect them from any liquids.
I then put this little bag in my massage tote. Every time I walk out my door, I'm ready to massage!