As Massage Therapists, we have all been there when working for someone else, such as a spa or office, and we feel underpaid.
We think someday we will get out on our own and start our own business and be rich, but it doesn’t quite work that way.
In order to start and run a successful business, it will largely depend on your personality, goals, and to be honest with yourself, if you are a good enough therapist to keep clients coming back.
If you are a good enough therapist, you will be busy; quite simple, unless nobody knows about you and you are hiding. If you put yourself in the shoes of a client, are you truly the kind of a Massage Therapist you would be looking for and willing to schedule consistently with? What do you need to do to become that therapist?
When starting a massage clinic to mentor therapists in the science and art of Deep Tissue and Sports Massage, I was left speechless by an unexpected expectation. A therapist stated she had been massaging for 20 years, and put the responsibility on me to fill her schedule as a subcontractor. Perplexed at her request, did she not have a following? Not to mention this wasn’t another employment opportunity, but a mentoring opportunity while getting paid.
Therapists, YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your own busyness. Whether you are an employee or a business owner. Especially if practicing for 20 years, you should have a following. In the days of working at spas, there are slow days, there are cancellations, and there are therapists that are still in need of skill development for clients to want to schedule with you again. You can’t expect to sit around and wait for your schedule to be filled magically.
However, there are special situations that I too have been in as a brand new therapist. Nobody knew the spa had a massage therapist, nobody knew I existed. At that point, it was up to me to work with the owners for promoting and marketing, not to sit in my room depressed of an empty schedule and no paycheck. We all need to get out there.
Employee: If you are the type of therapist that doesn’t like to take up all the responsibility and time commitments of building a business, perhaps remaining an employee is your best option. It is a lot to handle, and most therapists end up prefer working for someone else. Many love the idea of working for themselves, but simply can’t afford it, also. Perhaps you are not wired, nor interested, for all the other areas it takes to have a successful business. You like having the structure of regular work hours and having your supplies taken care of.
Sub-Contractor: An option I have done on the side for years, is to be a subcontractor for companies and fancy hotels for spa packages. They contact you when in need of therapists, but you are not an employee. Therefore, you keep track of all your miles and responsible for all your bookkeeping and taxes. You will need your own liability insurance on file at most places before they contact you.
Owner: All responsibility is on you. When you work for yourself, it makes sense why you weren’t being paid as much as you had hoped when an employee. Rent, utilities, laundry, linens, products, receptionist (or in my case, I use online scheduling only to save on costs but still costs $20/month and up), promotions, making office supplies such as business cards, pamphlets, gift cards, and gift certificates. Fees for each credit card swipe, paying your own book keeper and accountant. Don’t forget the investment to making your office or studio be appealing for clients to want to come back to. These are all investments you need to be willing to make when working for yourself. Business does not magically pour through the door and into your bank accounts.
None of this is cheap, and I learned everything the hard way. I’ve tried only doing home visits, being a sub-contractor, being an employee, and now owning my own business. Nothing was ever handed to me. Each level has its challenges and struggles. If you are a therapist wanting to get to owning your own business, do it in baby steps without pricey overhead. Clients will feel your stress if you are too money focused.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I have received about having a successful business was, “People spend more time working IN their business, and not ON their business, and that’s when they fail.”–Christian Foote, Senior Banker, Easton Huntington Bank.
This advice really propelled my mindset on succeeding on owning my business. Not only do I need to become the best therapist I can be for my clients to want to continue scheduling with me and speaking highly of my work, but to continue learning and building outside business hours, and ON my business.
This means business plans, designing more brochures and ebooks to give out to educate clients and other therapists. I am also trading services with a Career Coach to keep moving forward, building websites, reviewing products, writing blogs, following up with clients, getting massages and maintaining self-care and my own wellness. It’s not a 9-5 job where you show up and clock in. It’s thinking as an entrepreneur and I love the challenge. It never stops.
When I stop working ON my business, that’s when it suffers. So don’t just work longer hours IN your business, think creatively outside the box ON your business.
Ready to get started?
- Be truthful and honest. If you are planning to start your own business, don’t violate or breech your promise to your current company by telling your clients where you are going. I have worked for multiple spas and left clients quietly due to honoring my contract. Yes, I have had to start over many times, but being dishonest isn’t worth it. The clients that really want you will find you online if they search hard enough. Also, it was quite humbling to google about massage therapists and come across this forum that was written about me years ago. The forum was about a search to find the best massage therapist in Columbus, where multiple authors contributed comments about me, and when they went to reschedule I wasn’t there anymore and had to relocate me.
- Have the experience that clients will want to invest into.
- Find an inexpensive office to rent from a chiropractor, physician, or booth rental set ups like Salon Loft or Studio Elements. But have the skills to back it up so clients will want to reschedule and remain loyal to YOU. (If you would like a Studio Elements in Columbus or Florida, contact me for more information.)
- Pay attention how people find out about you so you are not wasting money in marketing somewhere that doesn’t work. I’ve spent more money advertising on SpaFinder than what I’ve ever made from that method. I’ve also spent money on flyers, and not one of them worked. What has worked is reputation, word of mouth, and the reviews on my website. Find what works, stick with that, and build on that.
In the comments below, what methods have worked or havn’t worked for you? What has led you to decide you are better at being an employee, subcontractor, or business owner?
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For another great blog post click here: Massage Therapists: Business Owner or Employee?