Is massage therapy the right choice for me to follow as a career path? This is a question that is very individual and varies widely. The first question you must ask your self is what kind of practice do I see myself in? Do I want to be a business owner or work for someone else? Do I want to work in a spa setting? Do I want to be a mobile service? What kind of hours do I wish to work and how many days a week? Do I need financial stability? Am I willing to work hard and not always receive a tip for the service I provide? Am I willing to deal with the wide variety of personalities on my table? Am I ok with having to take classes every year to keep my license? We will attempt to cover these questions in this blog. I feel this is an important issue to look.
When you decide to step into a service field you need to really look at yourself and your personality. I remember from the time I was small my dad always said if you do not love what you do then make a change. When I was almost 5 years old he was in a logging accident and was seriously injured. He would tell me that he could always tell the nurses and doctors that loved their chosen career and those that did it for the money. My dad is an outspoken man and did tell those people they should consider a field that they loved not just for the money or because they had a degree. In my 40’s I realized that my degree in Horticulture was just not something I could keep doing do to health issues. I loved my job but could no longer do it full time. I decided to consult with my brother who is very intelligent as to any ideas that would fit me for a new career inside. He calls me back two days later to tell me he had registered me in massage school that started in 28 days. I was like I will be a terrible massage therapist. His response was that is fine you still need to learn it and then run a massage salon. The rest is history, about halfway through my 10 months of training I fell in love with massage therapy. Because of a great school and a smart brother, I am a very good massage therapist today. I say all this to say you should always be open-minded but never afraid to change your mind if you are not happy.
While attending school I decided I wanted to own my own salon that I could set the guidelines for dress code, massage, setting, etc. I opened a massage salon two months after receiving my license to massage. It was a small 3 room massage salon. What this taught me is not every massage therapist has the same work ethics as me nor are they all honest. I spent the year I had the salon open hiring, firing, training and working trying to do 8-12 massages a day to cover the salon expenses. I work 6-7 days a week and most evenings doing outcalls to pay my personal bills and those of the salon. I also found that you need to have a good base of capital and no need to make money to support yourself for the first 1-3 years to be a success at opening your own salon. You also need a manager you can trust so you get time off occasionally. Sorry to say most massage therapists do not view their jobs as a professional job. They think it is going to be easy money with very flexible hours. This makes it hard to run a salon smoothly when they are not committed to working hard and making the salon a success. The last six years I have worked independently for myself from my home. I stopped doing outcalls. I set my work hours for 8 am-4:30 pm Monday-Friday with no weekends, evening or holidays. I work my appointment only meaning I do not have to sit and wait for clients to appear. I can do errands, clean the house, do laundry, cook or just sit in the sunshine of my yard. I have found peace in running my business this way. I do not always make the money I want each week but I have come to understand that you pay your bills before you play. I chose to never work for someone else since I hate to be told how to dress, what hours to work or what I can say to my l clients. So, working a spa or large salon was out of the question for me since I refuse to wear scrubs.
Being my own boss means I do not have a receptionist to screen my calls, emails and text for me. This means I deal with each potential client one on one. So, this mean crude or mean comments, pictures and messages. I have developed standard replies to keep it professional and not involve my personal options in the answers. This keep both parties from getting their panties in a bunch. This business requires you to be in professional mode always when dealing with clients. You must silence your phone after 9 pm to allow you to get sleep since clients do not pay attention to your business hours and will contact you all hours of the day or night. I use google voice that allows me to also make it so that nothing comes to my phone when I am on personal time. I also, look up every comment that either does not make sense to me or I do not know what it means on google. This has saved me many times from saying I would do things I will not do in a massage. I hate to say there is a whole massage dictionary of terms that mean something to do with sexual actives out there. If I cannot find it on google I will ask the client point blank what they mean or that I do not understand what they are asking me. I always tell my clients they may ask me anything but I have the right to not answer everything or tell them it is none of their business. I am never offended by questions about sexual activity but tell them not to be offended by my hell to the no answer. I also choose not to book clients that ask for sexual favors since I feel it puts both of us in the weird place from the start. If asked during a massage I have no issue if the client excepts no. Over the years I have seen and heard almost everything and find it very sad the human race is so lonely and devoid of physical touch that a stranger asks me for something that should come from a personal relationship not a business contact.
After owning a salon, doing outcalls and working on my own from my own property I can say there are pros and cons to all parts. Let’s discuss owning a shop first. Opening a shop of your own comes with a lot of expenses from occupancy permits from the city, license from the state to operate a massage business with more than one massage therapist, equipment, furniture, computer, utilities, supplies and advertising to name just a few items. It also comes with the headache of hiring massage therapist that give a good massage, come to work and are professional. This can be a nonstop job for a salon owner. So many massage therapists come out of school expecting to get rich at an easy job no not the case. Massage therapy is hard work on the body and mind. As an owner you need to have a trusted person to run the shop in your absence otherwise you will lose money and the therapist do not always show up for work. As I found out being too trusting I ended up having to close the business since the girls didn’t show for work or skimmed by not reporting massages they did and pocketing the money. You must be committed to be in the shop during most of your open hours. Give only a key to manager and yourself. Moving on to outcalls as a line of bringing in revenue. You will need to charge more for outcalls since you will have travel time to and from the client, you will also have to pack up your equipment on both ends or own two sets of equipment and you need to take your safety into account also. I always advise that you have a contact that knows the address, name and phone number of the client you will be visiting. You will let them know when you arrive and leave the client. This will give you some layers of protection against harm. I also say that you should always follow your gut and not do a massage for a client that gives you a signal they are not totally right. I prefer not to outcalls since I don’t feel like the money is worth driving around, loading and unloading my equipment. You can also go to work for a massage business owner, this method leaves you without any responsibility except to give the best massage you can each and every time. This also means you have a set wage and work hours. I find that I do not like set work hours, dress code and someone else deciding who I will massage. So, I choose to not work for others. Lastly, you can work individually from your home or small office. If you choose this method make sure to check your state laws and follow them to avoid losing your license. You will have to provide all your equipment, materials, decorations, office work, answer calls, text and emails, advertising and all the same things a salon does but for yourself. You will have days with no clients and days you are so busy you can’t do all your clients. I find that on my days of no clients I clean my office space, wash towels and sheets, write my blog, tweak my ads and relax. You can also run personal errands and dress as you choose. I do not take walk-ins at my place of work and see clients only by appointment. I choose to only do 1-3 clients a day, work Monday – Friday 8 am- 4:30 pm with no evenings, weekends or National Holidays. This arrangement has worked very nicely for me over the last six years. I just started taking credit cards last year by using Square, before this is was cash only. Never ever take checks they are a huge hassle. So choose your path with an open mind and which one works best for your financial stability.
We attend school and take a test from the state to receive our massage license. But wait you are not finished you must take the number of continuing educations classes required by your state each year to keep your license plus pay fees to renew your license depending on each state requirements. Texas is 12-hour CE credits every two years and renew your license on the month of your birthday every two years. Each state has different requirements. I realize we are taught a huge overview of many different massage types in school but I do not recommend practicing things like hot stone, cupping or sports taping without taking certifying classes in them first. This will help keep you from receiving a lawsuit for injury to a client. I like to take classes in person versus online since I get to practice the new technique in a class setting before using it on a client. This means I will get feedback from other massage therapists on my style and use of the new technique. If you work for a salon they will often pay for you to expand into new things they can market you to a client. As an individual, it can bring you new clients by advertising a new technique.
Lastly, we will talk about clients and their wide variety of personalities. Since we work with the human race you must be ready to work with all types of personality, sexuality, and nationalities. Each comes with its own type. We are here to work on their muscles not to judge their personalities, sexuality or nationalities. I am often amazed when a client feels the need to explain their race or sexuality to make sure I will still do their massage. This should never happen and it makes me very sad. This is a business not a soapbox for your personal beliefs and values. They come to see you to get a massage to help with their muscles and general wellness. I do get clients that do not except no that I do not offer what they are looking for in services. When this happens, I tell them nicely that I am the not the right therapist for them and wish them luck in finding the therapist that offers what they are looking for in a massage. I have met many amazing people over the years and heard many fun to sad stories about people’s lives. You must open your heart and mind to your clients but still keep it professional. Each comes with their own set of issues and that is ok.
I do not regret the choice of my field of practice. It has been a wonderful walk over the last seven years. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.