Launching a Successful Massage Practice

Now that I’ve been in business for over 2 years, keeping my schedule full for 3-4 months solid at a time, I feel it’s time to share some of what I did to get to this point.

First of all, I attended Health Touch School of Massage. It is a 650 hour course over 10 months. It was excellent. I got so much out of it, and even though I came from the background of Registered Nurse, I found it quite challenging! I can’t recommend them enough. They’re located in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Let me set this up by painting the picture of my community. Rhinelander is a small town in northern Wisconsin. It’s pretty blue collar in relation to the surrounding towns that tend to be more touristy. There are about 8500 residents and when I started, about 10 local massage therapists. One was just leaving the area and sent some clients my way, which helped tremendously. After 3 months in practice, I was seeing 1-2 clients most days but not nearly as busy as I wanted to be. I was offering classic massage, hot stones, and deep tissue. Pretty standard issue. I was renting a small room in the city, but not super happy with the building. It looked like an old crappy house and smelled a bit like basement all the time. The room was so small I could easily touch all the walls with one hand on the client.

One insomniac night, I popped on to the Facebook group The Art of Building a Successful Massage Practice. There was a reference to the book 60 Clients in 60 Days and before I knew it, I had downloaded it on Kindle and read the whole thing. This was on October 31, 2017 according to Amazon. Basically, the idea is to give away free samples of massage and in getting people on your table, they are likely to want to come back. So, I ordered like 250 gift certificates for 30 minute sessions and started a list of where I’d like to drop them off for local business to maybe give their clients or employees. One of the places I stopped was Serenity Health & Wellness. The owner and I clicked, and she happened to have a much nicer room for rent. It was an easy decision to move. While I waited for certificates to arrive, I had a crazy idea….

I put an ad on Facebook Marketplace. Free 30 minute massage sessions. Upgrade to an hour for $25. I set up a coupon code in my online scheduler. This was on November 3rd. November 4th I was up and out early to provide chair massages 2.5 hours away. I was so busy all day I didn’t have time to deal with my schedule blowing up, but it blew up! I had to cap the freebies at 100. I was booked for nearly 5 weeks, just like that. 6-8 clients per day starting on Monday, November 6th. Many people were just there to try the free half hour. Some tipped, some did not. Some upgraded and some did not. I had to try to squeeze in my few established clients and continue to work as a nurse one day per week. It was absolutely nuts. And, IT WORKED.

I haven’t been booked solid for less than 2 months out since then. Most of my regular clients were a result of that insanity. Now I’m usually 3-4 months out with about 15 contact hours per week, 4 days, and I’ve transitioned it to mostly 90 minute sessions. I see 2-3 clients most days. I now work from home exclusively.

In January 2018 I learned ashiatsu. My hands and shoulders were not liking the requests for more pressure, and it just made sense to use gravity+body weight+my feet to get the job done. Most people in this small

Sarga

town never heard of ashiatsu. I can guarantee you that if I had a service menu offering classic, deep tissue, and ashiatsu, people would not choose ashi-whatsu??? I simply let my clients know that I use my hands, feet, hot stones and cupping, and if anything was uncomfortable in a bad way to please say something and I’d adjust. Funny thing is, even the people who are feet-phobic have come around to the benefits of receiving a massage by foot. Try it out if you haven’t. It’s next level.

Because my body is my body, I went on to develop a shoulder impingement by reaching overhead all day, so now I’m settled pretty well into Sarga Bodywork. Again, I don’t offer separate services. Or upcharges. I have my prices for 75, 90, or 120 minute sessions and they include all the things. Hot towels, hot stone, aromatherapy, cupping…. I go with the flow and what my client wants/needs that day but I only have one gal that has not tried massage by foot yet. She’s in her 70’s. I’m just glad she continues to come to me so I don’t push her.

In Summary:
1. Set up an online scheduler. I’ve been happy with Square for for a couple of years now. It’s free. I used to just do 30 minutes turnover, but by the time I would check out/turn my room over/check in the next client I barely had time to go to the bathroom! Now I do 45. I’m tired of feeling rushed.
2. Be sure to block out time for breaks and existing, paying clients!! I did not, and that was unwise!
3. Make a coupon code in your scheduler.
4. Run a free ad on Marketplace with your coupon code and any conditions (mine was for the month of November but it ended up going into December – I decided to cap it at 100 sessions).
5. Offer your service by time rather than modality. Especially important if you are offering something people are unfamiliar with.
6. Book your client’s next session right at checkout. Now, most of mine just ask to be booked out indefinitely, which is great by me. They can change their mind any time, but as of now (September 2019), most of 2020 is booked.
7. Put your roller skates on. You are going to be busy!

My best tips for being a massage therapist in general:
1. Self care. You cannot give from an empty well. Walk your talk. I do something every day for my physical and mental health. I owe it to myself, my family, and my clients to be well in body and mind.
2. S l o w  d o w n. Move like a glacier. Breathe slowly. Relax.
3. Stop talking. Unless it pertains to the massage or the client wants to talk about something, zip it. Personally, for clients that I have things to chat about with (some are long-time friends and acquaintances), I build in time around their appointment to visit. I love that. Then they can relax into their massage. Obviously, it’s not all about the money to me. I make enough. I can work more if I want to make more, but I’m content. It’s also important to me to connect with people.
4. Require a credit card to hold the appointment. I’ve eliminated no-shows and weirdos by requiring new clients to schedule online and agree to my 24 hour cancellation policy, then use their credit card to secure the appointment. I respect my client’s time as well as my own. If someone has a problem with this, I don’t want them as a client. Be fussy. Quality clients only!
5. Be on time. I start on time and end on time. Period. Who doesn’t hate sitting in a waiting room when they have an appointment and it’s past the start time??

Questions? Comments? Leave them below and I’ll answer every one!

Donation Requests

It’s important to me that my business gives back to my community. I have to admit the requests for donations was a little overwhelming as a new small business owner, so I created a policy to define who I will donate to. Thank you for understanding!

If you are reaching out on behalf of any of the following, I will donate to your fundraiser:
Oneida County Humane Society
Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association
Rhinelander Food Pantry
Northwoods Composite Youth Mountain Bike Team
Hodag Nordic Ski Team

In addition to this, I donate one massage per month to a community member in need. I also travel to most of the youth mountain bike team’s races to provide post-race massage.

Feels good to give some back 🙂

Behind The Scenes – Massage Therapy Licensure

As my first licensure renewal comes due with the great state of Wisconsin next month, I’ve been checking out what information I need to have ready and it got me to thinking… most of my clients probably don’t even know what goes into becoming a licensed massage therapist. Without turning this post into a novel, I’d like to take a moment to educate folks. If you care about your massage therapist being legit, read on…

I took a 650 hour class that included things like business and ethics, as well as what you would expect – kinesiology, modalities, pathology in relation to massage, technique and such. We learned where to massage and where not to massage. I had excellent instructors, in my opinion. It was challenging, even with my medical background. Certainly a deep dive into the mechanics of the human body.

Wisconsin tests applicants on statutes regarding professionalism, definition and the like. Here is what the State defines as massage:
definition

We are also required to carry malpractice insurance and current CPR training.

There is a rigorous (and stressful!) national exam that must be passed.

Our license is to be hung on the wall in our work space.

license
 

Then, every 2 years we are required to submit a payment and proof of 24 continuing education credits, to include 2 in ethics.  I totaled mine and came in with 119.5. What can I say? So much to learn! Here’s a quick rundown:
Sarga Bodywork
Barefoot Masters Ashiatsu, both online and in person
Barefoot Masters Fijian massage online (massaging a fully clothed client using foot pressure, great for doing anywhere!)
ACE Massage Cupping
Ayurevedic Massage
Kinesiology and Acupressure Taping
Fibromyalgia and the Invisible Diseases
The Fundamentals of Massage Cupping
Introduction to the History and Practice of Thai Massage
Thai Table Practice Fundamentals: Part 1

It’s a good start! I do love to learn.

Is your therapist legit? Massage and “bodywork” fall under the same requirements. Look up your provider here: https://app.wi.gov/licensesearch

Be informed!

I Quit

Today was my last scheduled day as a Registered Nurse. I saw two hospice patients. I’m so very grateful for the time and experiences I’ve had. For the patients I helped “pack their bags” to go home. For the deaths I was blessed to attend. For the tears I’ve witnessed. For the stories I’ve been privileged to hear. For the patients I loved and let go. How can a person not get a little attached? Some will forever be close to my mind. And heart.

My mom is a nurse. I was 34 when I lost a well-paying job due to a business closure, and had the opportunity to go back to school with some substantial financial assistance. Don’t get me wrong, I did have to work 2 part-time jobs, nearly lost my house, and stood in food pantry lines to make ends meet for myself and my kids. I learned far more than the piles of information in the textbooks. I learned gratitude, and to accept help from strangers, and that I’m capable of whatever I put my mind to. That was a crazy time! 9 semesters, due to waiting list and pre-requisite courses.

My first nursing job was in Home Health. I learned a good deal about wound care, colostomies, catheters, lab draws and medications. I actually love to drive, which came in handy with the miles put on in a rural area. However, I ended up needing more stable hours and benefits. I went to surgery, working in the suites with the surgical teams. I never fit in. The pace is fast. The environment is cold. I felt like a janitor of bodily fluids, a gopher, and if a person needed shaving or disinfection that was my job. I don’t care to ever prep another gynelogical case. Haha. I don’t like to be in such a rush, either. Or bright lights (unless it’s the sun). Or snarky co-workers. Felt like middle school. It was definitely interesting from a how-stuff-works standpoint. The on-call just about killed me. I had 20 minutes to be in the hospital and I live just about that far away. I started having panic attacks when the phone rang at night. I had everything prepared but holy smokes, to be woken up out of a dead sleep because someone swallowed something they shouldn’t or needed a C-Section was just a jolt.

My heart was always leaning towards hospice, and working in surgery was just the push I needed. People always say “it takes a special person”. I don’t know. It’s an honor and a privilege. Death is the one truth we all have in common, right? After all, a flower doesn’t blossom forever. If I can assist in that transition, my cup is full. So, I jumped in to a full time position as a hospice nurse. There’s so much I loved about it. However, with full time came on call overnight. My body really freaked out. Panic attacks, insomnia, heart palpitations….. I can do a lot of things but being called in the wee hours and having to work the days before and after just aren’t on the list. I was in pain all the time and had full on adrenal exhaustion. The company I worked for was very unlikely to utilize a “casual” nurse, offered nothing else in hospice without call, and therefore I went to Aspirus as a casual.

Aspirus is where I started in home health. I like the company. I like the supervisors. I was hired as a casual – no expectations really. No benefits but by this time I was married and didn’t need them. Work when I’m available. I figured I’d get my massage license and then do 2 days per week of each.

Around December 2017, 4 months or so into my massage therapy practice, I was working 4-5 full days per week doing massage. It kind of took over my schedule. I was available some random Wednesdays to hospice, but the timing wasn’t working out. I went from the end of February to July without putting on my scrubs.

And, I didn’t really miss it. I was committed to covering a vacation in July but kind of dreaded it. You see, in my massage practice I’ve found what I was hoping to in being a nurse. One of the greatest joys in my massage practice is the continuity of care. I actually see the same clients, week after week and month after month. I get to know their needs and tailor sessions for them. It’s the feeling of seeing an old friend when they grace my table, even if only a few words are spoken. I’m never on call. In fact, my phone is in Do Not Disturb mode most of the time. I’ll check it when it’s convenient. My “charting” consists of writing down what my client’s complaints were and what I did about them. I’m usually done by the time they walk out of the treatment room. No meetings. No waiting for doctors’ orders. No Foley catheters to insert. No needles. No medication management. Just a peaceful environment, aromatherapy, and presence. All I really have to do is be present.

It’s like the struggles to get to this place have made my success. I appreciate it with a deep gratitude. It’s like going to work now is a breath of fresh air. I look forward to it. I am allowed to be creative, set my boundaries, and provide the calm and caring space for people to do their healing work.

My experience as a nurse certainly helps. I utilize care planning for treatments. I understand peoples’ conditions and medications, and customize sessions for those circumstances. Nursing has taught me so many things, and thought process is a huge part of it.

As of today, I am no longer available as a Registered Nurse. I will maintain my license and keep ties with Aspirus. I look forward to spending some of my Wednesdays providing the comforting touch of massage to hospice patients in my area, and I’ll do it with the watchful eye of a nurse. My role within the company will be transitioning.

It has not been a year since I officially became licensed for massage therapy and here I am, booked solid for a couple of months. Doing work that I embrace with my entire being. No more panic attacks. No more dreading phone calls or crying because I’m miserable in my work life. Just spreading the love and joy. The awesomeness of my life. The good vibes.

Thank you for allowing me to discover and live my highest passion. I choose joy and abundance. I am at ease.

Namaste.

Why I Became A Licensed Massage Therapist

Clients sometimes ask what made me go into massage therapy. Around 2008, as an amateur athlete, I became interested in sports massage. I had a table and a book, and would work on friends and family at home. I was very interested in the muscular anatomy and the aspects of sports recovery.

In 2011 or so, I was doing some deep soul searching. I spent hours on 2 wheels contemplating my purpose in this life. I rode from Rhinelander to Lake Superior on one solo adventure (135 miles each way – lots of time to think). I camped in a tent near the Union Mine River, and started my official Bucket List. I pick something off of it every year. The first thing was to ride in the Wausau 24 solo category – 24 hours of as much mountain biking as a person could do. This year I’m kayaking Pictured Rocks. At any rate, massage school was on my list. Logistically, though, it seemed far-fetched. It is a commitment of time and thousands of dollars. $6k just for school, not to mention insurance, licensure, equipment, etc, etc. The nearest school is over an hour away.

Then, in 2016, my sister was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. By the time it was found, it was beyond treatment. My sister was handicapped since she was an infant, and I’m not sure she understood what was happening in her body.

Becky<—Becky receiving massage and music therapy from Aspirus hospice, shortly before her death in June of 2016. When her massage therapist came to visit, she would have a moment of relaxation and it made her feel so much better. It was the most beautiful work I had ever seen.

Later that summer, my husband and I were visiting a friend, who introduced us to his lady friend, an RN/Massage Therapist. I was treated to her massage and knew I needed more of that in my life. The environment was calm and relaxed. The touch was enough to send me to that peaceful state of bliss….. I felt like between these 2 women, I was being urged to at least check into massage school.

My husband, per his usual, was supportive in me checking it out. I was working full time as a hospice nurse, with one overnight of call every week. I had struggled financially big-time prior to living with my husband, so I didn’t think a bank would actually finance me. Still, I needed to know. I started by calling my bank. No problem, and a decent APR. The school I decided on (Health Touch) for several reasons had just recently started and would accept me a few weeks in, due to my medical background. They met 2 evenings per week, 3-9pm. One of them was my on-call night. A fellow nurse switched nights with me, no problem. It all just fell into place. How could I not??

I’m still not sure how it all worked out. The schooling was not easy, even with my background. It was 12 hours of classroom and 4 of driving, plus practice time on various friends/family, plus studying, plus full time work every week for most of it. Nuts! Just goes to show you what a determined soul can make happen.

My original intention was to massage for hospice, but there have been no openings in my area for that. In the meantime, my little part-time self-employment gig has taken over in an amazing way, for which I’m grateful. I still hold most Wednesdays open in case hospice needs me to put on my scrubs and help as a nurse, but there’s talk of transitioning my hospice role to massage therapy later in summer of 2018. I’m totally down with that. I love bringing calm and caring touch to the people.

If that isn’t a rambling answer to the question, I don’t know what is! There you have it. 10 months into my professional massage therapy career and I’m wholly in love. Pursue your passions <3

On Being a Nurse and a Massage Therapist

Many of you know that I’m a nurse as well as a massage therapist. I had met my edge in nursing with overnights on call, and sought balance in my life by going to massage school. My plan was to do each job 2 days per week and have a weekday to myself for solitude/errands/house cleaning/adventures. I left my full-time hospice nursing job and took a casual position, working on a pretty regular weekly basis for Aspirus Comfort Care & Hospice Services. No on-call expectations, help out when I’m available and they need me, etc. Perfect arrangement. Balance. Two wonderful jobs.

My massage business quickly took flight. I expanded my hours for a crazy promotion in November 2017, in which I gave away 100 thirty minute massage sessions to the community. I called it Project Give Some to Get Some, and it was a resounding success! Since then, my calendar has been full 6-8 weeks out. Some clients signed up for a year at a time! My expanded hours have stuck, so my only available day for hospice was Wednesday. Most weeks I work as a massage therapist now 4-5 days (and try to squeeze my husband in on Sundays!).

It’s been some time since hospice needed me on a Wednesday. I generally have massage clients hoping they can get in that day as well, so I give Aspirus first dibs.  As of now I want to say it’s been about 6 weeks since I put on my scrubs.

And a funny thing happened recently. Once I put aside my guilty conscience for having invested in my education to become a Registered Nurse and hone my hospice skills (I do love hospice work), I realized that the very work that has taken over my weeks (massage therapy) is everything that I hoped nursing would be.

I meet a new client and assess their needs. I diagnose (not medically, duh, I’m not a doctor). I make a plan. I implement the plan. I evaluate the treatment (I love it when folks follow up in the couple of days after their massage – it helps me shape their treatment).

I provide hands (ok, feet too!) on care. I provide touch. I provide comfort and space to just be. I nurture. I help. I develop a relationship with my clients that gives continuity to my work. As I get to know them, I give thought to ways I might better serve whatever they’re coming in for.

This is what I went to nursing school for. And I’m finding it as a massage therapist.

I don’t love spending as much time charting as I spend with patients as a nurse. I don’t love turning down overnight call (my body just doesn’t handle that well at all – hello adrenal fatigue!) because I feel like a jerk even though I know it’s not expected. I realize people have pain and die in the middle of the night.

I love being my own boss, too! Heck, if I’m feeling overworked I have no one to blame but myself! I get to work in yoga clothes every day. My meditation and yoga practices benefit not only me, but those I work with.

So here I am, away for a weekend of ashiatsu massage training and excited to learn. Every day I spend in my rental room downtown giving massage, I am so grateful. My heart overflows. I needed more calm in my life and I found it. My work is my creativity. We’ll see if Aspirus feels like keeping me around or if I go 100% in on massage.

Either way, thank you for allowing me to discover and live my highest passion.

Easy Menu Planning + What I’m Thinking About During Massages

This is how I’ve done my menu planning for years. Usually I use one card or piece of paper and put the menu on one side/shopping list on the other. I like having my menu with when I shop. I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch all week, for the sake of simplicity. I will batch cook as much as I can on a Sunday afternoon, or when I have the oven hot for a dinner I will throw in 4-6 yams for grab-and-go food.

For the first 3 weeks of January I “detox”. Actually, I examine habits that I feel are unhealthy and put the kabosh on them for this period of time. This January I am doing it by way of a diet of fruits and vegetables. I want to acknowledge that I do have a coffee habit. I’m not going there. I’ve eliminated coffee several times in the past and nothing good comes of it. I love a rich, organic French roast *especially* in the dead of winter. Gets me out of bed in the dark of morning. The staples I have eliminated for these weeks are the evening glass of wine and grains. I tend to eat rice and sprouted grain bread. I have a glass of wine 3 or 4 evenings of the week. But, not for now……

As I’m writing this, I am thinking, “detoxing from some rice and red wine??” Yeah, I don’t know either. It’s not like I ate more than a half dozen Christmas cookies during the Holidays or anything.

At any rate, here are my menu and shopping list for the week. I made a last-minute decision to trade baked squash for baked hashbrowns – squash was no longer on sale and potatoes were. This is all organic food from my awesome local grocer, Golden Harvest. The recipes are from www.potatoreset.com and would be considered low-fat vegan. The “cheeze” and “queso” are made primarily from a boiled potato, nutritional yeast and seasonings. Yogurt is for my husband. I decided against almond milk for my coffee for now and crossed that off, too.

Menu

 

Here’s my haul for $98 and change:

Haul

That’s a full pound of broccoli to go with a yam for lunch every day. 10″ of Russett potatoes, 11.5# of yams. You get the idea. Plenty of food. Now, I do have some staples here already which helps.

The other thing I wanted to write about is massage. I love this 2nd job. I love it like it’s my brand new baby. I love the learning, and the people, and the atmosphere, and helping my community move a little easier. Want to know what the quiet pauses are if you’ve been on my table, or what I’m typically thinking? Yes, of course my mind wanders to groceries and obligations at times but for the most part it goes like this: Once you’re situated on the table I rest my hands on you. Usually on shoulders. I picture in my mind that I grow roots into the ground. I plug my hands into the energy of the sun. I give thanks for this person on my table. And then I proceed. This ritual centers me. For the duration, I am thinking about what my hands feel and what my eyes see. Sometimes I’m thinking “cool tattoo!!”. Sometimes I’m thinking what other tools I’d like to implement to help your muscles loosen up. If my mind wanders, I gently bring it back, just like in meditation. I think thoughts of appreciation, esteem, kindness and gratitude. If you’ve shared a struggle with me, I’m likely thinking affirmations for you. And as I conclude the session, I place my hands in 4 locations along the body while I say these words (usually in my mind):  May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be free from inner and outer dangers. May you be well in body and mind. May you be at ease and happy. Look up “metta” if you want to know more.

There you have it.

Holistic.

Body, mind, and spirit.

Winter Solstice Reflections, Gyms, Workout Routine

Today is the winter solstice of 2017. Seems that many of us pause and take some time for deep reflection this time of the year. It’s kind of an annual review. Where am I and how does it align with where I want to be? Are there large changes to be made? Habits I’d like to adopt?

I’ve been licensed as a massage therapist for 4 months. While I still work as a nurse most weeks, the majority of my work time is spent in a lovely room, in a lovely space, with essential oils being diffused, my homemade candle flickering, Wholetones music playing and a client that I’m grateful for on my massage table. My intention was to be booked out for 4 weeks at a time by the end of the year, and that’s exactly what has happened. It has taken a lot of effort, but it’s here. I love it so much. I feel like my work is my hobby, my creative outlet and my gift. I love helping people feel better in their bodies. I love learning more.

I am a personal trainer and health coach, but don’t push that work. This is certainly the time of year people are thinking about their weight and health, myself included. I’ve lost 17 pounds since spring with ease by adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet and moving my body throughout the day. Once in a great while I will weigh and measure my foods, counting calories and macronutrients. It’s more to prove a point now, like that I do, in fact, get enough protein without eating animals. And that I do eat a rather large quantity of food. I like it that way. I like that my diet continues to evolve, to be more aligned with the seasons as well as my feelings about animal welfare.

Several people I’ve observed over the years turn to whatever the latest pill or potion is to lose weight, only to gain it back. Not only is the weight back, but the feelings of failure are worn around like a weight every day for many people. I’ve been there! Although I still have my struggles, they’re much fewer and farther between than they used to be. I truly believe the fundamental reason why the pills and shakes fail is that they don’t address the root of the problem. What if you loved yourself enough to nourish your body? What could you love about yourself right now, in this moment? Until you examine why you keep repeating the cycle, it will continue. Also, what are the ingredients in your shakes and bars?? Synthetic vitamins? Isolates? For me personally, I like a large quantity of real food. I like to put away a pound of veggies, or several cups of starch in the form or rice or yams every day. I do not like restriction, and if I think I can just have a little bit when it comes to chocolate or nut butter, I’m lying to myself. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. Serves me well in some aspects of life.

Ok so, here’s my current workout plan:
plan

If you’re wondering what the heck Heart Butt and Blast are, check this site: https://ashleyblackguru.com/heartbutt/ – the Fascia Blaster is the only tool I’ve found that addresses my bound up fascia, and I’m able to see/feel a difference with regular use! I’ve struggled for years with IT band and Achilles pain, so this is huge for me. Most days I do my strength training and blasting in the morning, in my bathroom with the space heater on. I play loud music and do the strength exercises with a resistance band in sets of 10 for the duration of a song. Then I blast one area for a song (left upper leg, for example) and repeat for 3 full sets.

For cardio, you will no longer find me on some machine under fluorescent lights watching negativity on a screen. Here’s my cardio gym on Tuesday. Quiet stillness except for me moving my body through space, and the chatter of winter birds. The forest floor blanketed in sparkling white. Crisp, fresh air. Hills are my high-intensity intervals. I’m finding that a gentler pace and more restorative approach is more aligned with this season.

and Thursday, with my enthusiastic 4-legged soul mate:

 

I’m not so into “Resolutions” but in 2018 I’m taking steps to:
 – replace some evening glasses of wine with tea
 – create a morning ritual to involve a little yoga and meditation
 – create space in my schedule to relax, especially in the evenings