Massage schools do a great job of teaching hands-on skills, but many massage school graduates enter this field not understanding how to run a business and how to get clients on their table.
From marketing to booking sessions to projecting the confidence needed of a solo entrepreneur, solid business skills and attitudes are vital to your massage practice success.
As a marketing coach to massage therapists, I’ve been supplying business and marketing advice through continuing education for the past 16 years.
I’ve condensed some of my training into this 5-Step Plan for you, the new massage practitioner, to help you succeed in the massage field.
1. Be Positive.
You might be the best therapist in the world once you get clients on your table, but if you have a negative attitude or you’re stressed out in your personal life—or from having given so many sessions that you feel your hands are about to fall off—few people will want to hop onto your table.
The words you speak, the consciousness you live from and the energy you send out nonverbally can attract or repel prospective clients and existing clients, just as powerfully as the skills you employ with your hands.
The Law of Attraction states that what you focus on expands; what you put your attention on gets stronger in your life.
This applies to the quality of your thoughts as well. Is your mind filled with worries, lack and negativity, or is it filled with confidence, abundance and positivity?
The choice is always yours. Negative consciousness repels clients while positive consciousness attracts them.
Take a minute or two before each session to chill, calm down and breathe in some silence. This centering can help you become more mindful, reduce your stress, develop positivity—and retain your existing clients and attract new ones.
2. Develop Success Consciousness.
I have privately coached more than 300 massage therapists to transform the negative messages they learned in childhood, from their parents, into expansive, positive thoughts.
Visualization and affirmation are two powerful ways to do just that.
I prefer affirmation, but if you’re much more visually oriented than verbally oriented, you might find that visualizing your successful business is easier and more effective for you than affirmation work.
If you opt for the affirmation method, I recommend using a powerful affirmation, such as “I can prosper as a massage therapist” or “I can have a $100,000-a-year massage business.”
Then add two more essential steps that set this approach apart from the typical repeating-the-affirmation-over-and-over way the affirmative method is usually conducted.
The second step is releasing the negative response from your own mind that disagrees with the affirmation. It’s vital to write this resistance out of your being.
Let’s say it’s this: “If I have a six-figure massage business after I get clients, my hands will be disfigured or in constant pain.”
This is just your lower-vibration self that’s doing the talking. Write it out to release it from your mind.
The third step brings your higher-vibration self into play and involves creating a new affirmation to transform the limited message from the second step.
In this case it might be, “My enthusiasm for developing a six-figure massage business enables me to attract all the clients I want to work on while employing another therapist to work on the rest of my clientele.”
Repeat this three-step method for 10 minutes a day.
3. Strengthen Your Ability to Receive.
Children are given such limited, confusing and negative training about money while growing up that only a small percentage of adults are truly comfortable when receiving money.
(Few people, for example, would even consider counting the money they’re given in cash in front of the person giving it to them.)
You’ve been taught not to take money from family, friends or strangers, so the only group left to take money from is known enemies—at least, that’s what the subconscious mind believes.
No wonder most employees have turned their bosses into adversaries, and why so many self-employed people and business owners have done the same with clients and customers.
It’s essential to transform this money rejection complex. One way to do that is to take two minutes a day and, with a partner, alternate one minute at a time to acknowledge each other, with the recipient saying, “Thank you” after each verbal sharing of appreciation.
It might look something like this:
Your partner: “Something I acknowledge about you is what a great massage therapist you are.”
You: “Thank you.”
This breaks down the resistance most people have to accepting a simple compliment.
It also strengthens the natural ability to receive, and expands one’s sense of self-worth—and expanded self-worth is the basis for an expanded net worth.
4. Remember—You’re the Therapist and the Session Booker.
Did your massage instructors teach you that it’s up to you to book your client’s next session?
It’s possible that you might wind up at a business where there’s someone at the front desk doing just that—perhaps at a large massage clinic, chiropractor’s office or massage franchise.
Many therapists—and not just new ones right out of school—prefer to work at such offices so they don’t have to do what they feel is the uncomfortable chore of re-booking clients.
There doesn’t need be anything uncomfortable about rebooking.
The person who just left your table spent such a wonderful hour with you that he doesn’t want to leave your table and would like to be back on it as soon as possible.
You’re not a dentist, whom people dread making an appointment with.
Clients might see you monthly because you recommend that as a smart frequency, with an eye toward helping their wallets.
However, you’re in charge of helping their bodies, so let them deal with their budgets.
Monthly clients who switch to seeing you weekly or bi-weekly have quadrupled or doubled their business with you, respectively. Such an expansion is equivalent to adding three new monthly clients.
So, after your client comes out of your room, ask her two simple questions.
First, your client just left a right-brained hour, or more, on your table, so she isn’t ready to go into left-brained analysis just yet.
Address the right brain with a simple question: “How do you feel?”
Let’s suppose she says, “Terrific.”
Then your next question is, “How would you like to feel terrific next week as well?”
Don’t be surprised if clients who normally see you once a month book a session with you for the following week.
5. Learn Marketing Skills to Get People on Your Table.
I’m always amazed by how many massage therapists who need to build their businesses pass on taking marketing and business classes at annual conferences in favor of courses that teach them new techniques.
I completely understand why therapists would want to learn new techniques to help their clients—but don’t they realize that unless they get clients on their tables in the first place, they might not be able to stay in business?
I like to tell massage therapists it’s totally innocent to market your work.
If you don’t like the word market because it smacks of business (which is innocent also, by the way), then use the word share.
Share what you do with as many people as possible.
People love what you do, so you needn’t be ashamed of sharing information about what you do. Since you’re in your community to relieve the stress and tension in people’s bodies, not sharing what you do is actually depriving those people of the great gift you have to offer them.
See Yourself Successful
Massage schools provide an average of about 625 hours of instruction before their graduates take their state’s exam to become licensed, certified or registered.
Based on my many sessions with massage therapists, I can say that of those hundreds of hours, perhaps 12 or 15 hours are dedicated to business skills, and almost none are dedicated specifically to marketing.
Upon passing a credentialing exam, graduates will hang their license or certification in an office and wait for clients to show up on their tables, but what most new practitioners didn’t get from their massage school training—techniques to awaken success consciousness, marketing skills, advertising ability or communication tips—could keep those clients from materializing.
Use this 5-Step Plan to succeed at building a practice that helps the people who need your touch.
Editor’s note: Download the free New Practitioner eBook, The Blueprint for a Successful Massage Career.
About the Author
Coach Cary Bayer is an American Massage Therapy Association keynote speaker and marketing coach. He has worked with Quality Inns; Oscar-winning actors Alan Arkin and Pietro Scalia; comedian David Steinberg and director Judy Henderson, both Emmy winners; and 300 massage therapists. He has created 14 National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-accredited workshops, as well as two DVDs for massage therapists. He also authored the three-book Grow a Rich Massage Business series.