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!

4 thoughts on “Launching a Successful Massage Practice

  • September 27, 2019 at 4:06 pm
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    I always enjoy reading what you write. All good advice and massages.

    Reply
    • September 29, 2019 at 7:44 am
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      Thank you so much!

      Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 9:23 am
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    Very helpful article! So proud of you!

    Reply
    • September 29, 2019 at 7:44 am
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      Marquette Shawna?? Thank you for your influence as well 🙂

      Reply

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