It’s called “Massage Is Weird,” and it’s about massage, communication, treating pain (and dealing with it yourself), and beating burnout. If that seems kind of broad… it is! This book is everything I know about being a massage therapist, with a special focus on living a life of quiet satisfaction. Click here to order (eBook and softcover versions available), or continue below to read some samples.
Who is this book for? It’s for new massage therapists who are still trying to find their place in the massage world. Do you need to work for someone and give up 75% of your income for the first 5 years, or can you skip to the part where you’re paid what you’re worth? Is wrist pain and thumb pain a necessary part of the process, or can you skip that too? Why is pain so mysterious, and why aren’t you producing all those massage miracles that you see the gurus talk about?... continue reading.
Getting reviews for your massage business is important. It gives you instant credibility during those crucial first seconds when a client is deciding, “should I explore this therapist’s page further, or should I go back to looking at cat memes?” It lets curious clients see how other people perceive you. Are they praising your ability to deal with pain? Your expertise? These reviews, along with pictures, videos, and autobiographical information, can form a clear picture of who you are and how you operate before a client even steps into your office. In other words, each new client will be your biggest fan before you even meet.
You may have noticed that clients don’t seem to leave a lot of spontaneous reviews. Even the ones who rave about you and send you referrals don’t always hit up Yelp or Facebook to sing your praises. Over time, that can leave you with a strong online presence, but no outside references to back up your credibility.
Like I’ve said before, I’m no business powerhouse. I have trouble asking clients to pay for their massage, let alone do me favors like leaving me a review. I mean… that’ll take them a whole three minutes! I can’t ask them for that! So, before I get into my strategy, I want to reassure you: The clients who love you WANT to help you out. They wish they could leave you thousand dollar tips and send the world to your door. Giving them another way of helping you isn’t just something they’re willing to do, it’s something they’ll be enthusiastic about!
So start with those clients, the ones you know are your biggest fans. These are your ambassadors, and they can be a real driving influence in your business’s growth. You’ll eventually want to start soliciting reviews from everyone who seems to enjoy your massage, but this is a good jumping off point.
The trick: Ask in two parts. First, after a massage, ask if you can send them an email later with a link to review websites. It’ll sound something like this: “Hey, if I email you a link, would you mind leaving me a brief review on [site]?” Full stop. Don’t say, “but only if it’s not too much trouble,” or anything like that. Remember: They love you, and it’ll take three minutes.
Later, send them an email that sounds something like this: “Hi [name], click here to review me on [Facebook/Google/Yelp/etc]. These reviews let new clients see that I know what I’m doing, and that I’m a bit different. It doesn’t need to be long, and even just a rating would be helpful. Thanks so much!” Notice how I’ve prompted them to leave certain information in their review: That I’m good at what I do, AND how I’m different. This will get you higher quality reviews than the standard “They’re the best, you should see them!”
I’ve had a much higher success rate with this method than either just asking in person OR sending an email. Asking in two parts seems to keep it fresh in their mind, and they’re less likely to think, “well, I’ll do that later.” Once you get the review, make sure to thank them the next time they’re in! Let the gratitude flow both ways, and you’ll each end up as excellent advocates for the other.
What strategies do you use to get reviews? While I have a pretty Facebook-centric strategy, what sites work for you? Have you gotten clients directly from having good reviews?
People ask me about business stuff a lot, but… I stink at business stuff. I don’t promote myself often, or answer phones, or leave my house. I basically maintain a Facebook blog, advertise, and let clients come to me. This works for me and my social nopeness, but there are ways of tapping into your local client base quicker, finding the right people for your business, and getting the ball rolling in months rather than years. I can’t help you there, but I’ve got friends who can.
Allissa Haines and Michael Reynolds run the Massage Business Blueprint, which I’ve been an advocate for since it began. I’ve even helped with a podcast and an article (they were about working with the gluteal region, so we got to say the word “butt” a lot). In fact, they bring in experts in different fields regularly, so it’s a good way of hearing a lot of viewpoints about massage and business.
You may want to start with their free stuff, which is truly useful: Weekly blog posts and podcasts, and a monthly content bomb full of sample posts and images for you to use in your newsletter or blog. Just signing up for that can provide a lot of inspiration and substance for your online and in-person marketing game.
The premium service is 9 bucks a month, and it’s pretty amazing. There are articles and webcasts on dealing with an accountant, advanced Facebook and Google marketing (Michael is a wiz with that stuff), starting your corporate chair massage business, and a ton of other topics. As each week passes, their archive gets more and more impressive. They even have sample forms and contracts—lease agreements, business proposals, membership programs, and more. It’s bananas.
That’s an affiliate link, but I’m choosing to feature them because I’ve been more and more impressed by the service with each passing month, and I know it’s worth your time. And they’re my friends, but ignore that part.
I know a lot of you are existing members: What do you think about MBB? Has it been useful in growing your business? Has any feature been particularly useful for you?
In a previous rant, I said that massage therapists causing pain—and making their clients think it was necessary—was one of the only massage-related phenomena that truly made me angry. Well, this counts as causing pain. If someone comes to me with a unique human body, anything that I say or do to stigmatize that person for their shape, or size, or sounds, or smell, is causing harm. They’ll leave that experience thinking, “I was wrong for putting myself in that vulnerable position.” In other words, they trusted us with their body, and we breached that trust.
Maybe you would never think of commenting directly on someone’s weight, which is great! With that as a given, I’d like to direct your attention to something that we’ve learned from psychological and medical studies: The power of words, and the power of symbols in general. How we speak, and even the signs and pictures in our offices, can communicate a powerful message of brokenness or wholeness to our clients.
Consider the client with back pain who walks into a doctor’s office and sees one of those “3 kinds of spinal dysfunction” infographic posters that doctors like to decorate their offices with. Cheery. As they’re sitting there waiting for their doctor to arrive, that vulnerable human is seeing a herniated nucleus pulposus pressing on a nerve, and an osteoporotic lumbar vertebra crumbling to dust. That doctor could be as reassuring and encouraging as Mr. Rogers, but the damage has been done. Is there any chance they’ll leave that environment thinking, “this is something that my body can handle”?
In the same way, think about what happens when we talk about a client’s “bad back.” Maybe they said it first and we’re just picking up on the language, but it’s not something that we have to buy into. We can choose not to pick the client apart, or to pathologize a relatively normal ache or pain. Instead, we can talk about that person’s back in the context of their return to pain-free living. We can discuss the pain without bad-mouthing the part.
We can apply that same “language of wholeness” to all aspects of our professional presentation. Most, if not all, of our clients are self-conscious about part of their body. How many of your clients have apologized to you about leg hair, or their “back fat,” or cellulite? These are all perfectly normal features for a body to have, but they feel ashamed. There are some things that we can do verbally in that situation to help them feel accepted (I’d love to hear some of your reassuring responses in the comments!), as well as through kind, accepting contact.
But, what about the other symbols in our professional environment? Think about what it communicates when a client is perusing our menu of services and sees “Lypossage: Recontour your cellulite through non-invasive massage” or “Face-lift massage: Look years younger with just 5 treatments.” What about facial treatments that offer to make fine lines disappear, and tighten up sagging skin? Or, like the massage therapist in the article, you’re advertising shakes that can supposedly help clients lose weight?
“You deserve to be pain free. You also might have saggy skin, and have you considered how unsightly your cellulite is? And isn’t it about time to lose that spare tire around your midsection?”
These are things that we’d never say out loud, but we can sure as heck say them with the products and services that we offer. We can accidentally imply them when we comment on clients’ physical appearance, even if it’s just to praise them for losing weight. Maybe that’s not something they consider praiseworthy. Maybe we could stick to wholeness and kindness, and leave all the picking apart and judgment to insensitive Facebook posts and YouTube ads.
I don’t mean to make any massage therapists feel put on the spot by this post. I know that we’re all well-meaning. I know that some of you offer those “slimming/contouring” services because you find them valuable, and they help your business. Still, I want you to consider the symbology of your words and your professional environment. We can create safe spaces where human bodies can just be human bodies. Humans have hair, and zits, and subcutaneous fat. I’ve got super flat feet and a sunken chest, and I’d love for a massage therapist to help me accept them, rather than trying to change them (and, by extension, me).
Let me know what you think about this. How do you communicate acceptance of your clients in their myriad shapes and sizes? Has a massage therapist ever made you feel ashamed of your body or mind, whether accidentally or on purpose? I’d like to hear your story.
I’ve recently done something revolutionary for my massage business: I made a video of myself in action. My new clients increased substantially, my Facebook business page started getting a lot more views and likes, and my advertising dollars suddenly stretched a lot farther.
The days of describing your style and hoping people got the picture were… fine. Trying to tell people how my massage style was different from everyone else’s was always an adventure, because I had to ride that fine line between sounding exactly like everyone else and sounding like a pompous jerk. But it’s the year 2016 or so, and we’re well into the age of easy online video. Why don’t we show instead of just telling?
It’s really not so hard. There might be some equipment to buy, and the editing can be a bit of trouble, but I promise that it’s worth the effort.
Okay hotshot, what does a demo video look like?
Here’s how my first one came out:
Super fancy, right? Looks like it took a lot of time and effort? Probably had a key grip and a best boy and all that? Nope, it was just me, a volunteer, and a handycam on a tripod. The shooting took 45 minutes with set-up, and the editing took a while longer. Overall, it’s easily been the most fruitful time investment I’ve put into my business in recent memory.
If you’re thinking that you couldn’t make one that looks this good, please consider the following: My feet were sliding all over the place during the entire shoot (my gracious hostess had just mopped), I just barely managed to avoid showing my sweat stains that appeared approximately 3 minutes into filming, and I spent half the time dragging the table to new positions so that my model wasn’t in shadow the entire time. I thought it was a fiasco, and I still cringe watching this thing.
And yet… you probably thought it was just dandy. The moral here is to just make the video. Even if you feel like it comes out crummy, it will still show off your techniques, and no one else will be nearly as critical as you.
What equipment will I need?
A camera. For this, any high-end cellphone from the last 4 years will do just fine. You can also use most pocket cameras, and you may even have a friend with a fancy-pants pro camera (only go this route if said friend is willing to help you use it, these things are tricky).
A tripod. This one is optional. You could prop your phone somewhere and just use a single angle and it would work. You could also have someone hold the camera. That said, I think that the quality increases significantly when you use a tripod: You can get exactly the angle that you want, there won’t be camera shake, and it’s easy to change angles based on the techniques you’re demonstrating. Consider this an investment: Once you’ve done your first video, future videos are waaaay easier, and videos perform really well on Facebook. I recommend this cheap tripod from Amazon, as well as a mount for your cellphone if that’s what you plan to use.
A computer. A laptop will work just fine. You’ll need to hook your phone or camera up to the computer and transfer the files. The procedure varies between different hardware (Mac vs. PC, etc), so be prepared to Google it if this is your first time. Don’t just email the video to yourself, as many phones will heavily compress the file (making it blocky and tiny) to make the file size more manageable.
Editing software. I guarantee that you either have video editing software on your computer right this second, or that you can download it for free/cheap. If you’re on a PC, there’s Movie Maker. If you’re on a Mac, there’s iMovie. There are also apps to edit video right on a phone or tablet, but that’s not something I’ve ever messed with. In any case, these basic programs are meant to be very user friendly, and they can make some really nice looking video files.
If you’re not computer savvy, find a friend who likes messing with that kind of stuff. You can pay them by letting them be your massage model. Win-win!
What should I do during the shoot?
When I’m looking for a good massage, I’m looking for flow and confidence first and foremost. In other words, just do a basic routine for your demo video. I recommend a back massage, because it allows for many interesting techniques and angles, and because people love to see that kind of work. I’ve got a neck massage demo that looks better but that didn’t do half as well.
Let people see that you travel the entire length of the back, and that each technique melds seamlessly into the next. Let them see you calmly transition from effleurage to a shoulder-encompassing petrissage. If you feel like including some fancy moves, do this as part of a broader routine. In other words, don’t just take shot after shot of moves that you think will be picturesque; just do a good massage.
As you do so, move the camera every 4 or 5 minutes (or as needed to keep yourself from blocking the action). Get back into your flow, and take 5 more minutes of good work. Repeat a few times until you come to a good stopping point, slowly remove your hands from your client’s back, and cover them with the drape. Future-you will use this time to fade to black.
Don’t get too fancy with the editing, especially this first time. No need to worry about a title card, or credits at the end. In fact, get to the action within the first few seconds. Anything else risks people scrolling on past.
Try for a final length of less than 3 minutes. You want people to be able to see what you’re about, but this isn’t an instructional video. It’s just a quick taste of what your routine looks like, and then you’re done. Too much and you risk people scrolling by without interacting with the video (e.g. hitting “like,” liking your page, commenting). There’s not much danger in your video being too short, so feel free to make some big cuts.
Really, I feel like the editing part is magic. It allows you to highlight yourself when you look your best, and snip out the bits where you’re slouching or itching your nose or making a funny face. You have no idea how much embarrassing junk ends up on my cutting room floor.
Some quick rules for editing:
Use slow “fade” transitions. Sharp cuts can seem abrupt, but slow fades from one angle to another will fit with the theme of your video.
Maintain visual interest. That means only spending short amounts of time showing any one angle or technique. Unless you’re doing something really cool, try to cut to something new pretty frequently.
Be heavy-handed. Cut out big chunks of video, even if it hurts. You need to finish with just a couple of minutes of footage, so avoid the temptation to leave in that whole 5 minute sequence where you do some really neat low back work.
Consider the project as a whole. So, if you have to cut a lot, what do you leave? Leave the parts that tell a story. Show yourself making that initial contact and first long stroke down the back. Cut to yourself kneading the low back, then swooping up toward the shoulders. Cut to effleurage in the upper back, and those first big scoops of the trapezius. Cut to some groovy rotator cuff work, and some manipulation of the arm. End with some strokes that bring the back together again, the slow removal of your hands, and then fade to black.