This has been a long time coming. Acknowledging that there is something you want to say into the wide world and then owning that you have a right to say said thing…can be a bit overwhelming.
So, this blog will be a space for me to formalize my thoughts about massage therapy, the business of massage therapy, and things that I’m of the opinion that folks should know about massage therapy. The end result might be a book with a pragmatic introduction to various aspects of the business of massage therapy.
With that introduction, I’d like to start from the assumption that whoever is reading this hasn’t even decided yet if they want to be a massage therapist. Mind you, what follows is opinion (mine to be exact) and hopefully you’ll pay more attention to your own than mine, but I’m sharing it as it’s my blog. 🙂
If you are thinking of being a massage therapist, consider this: 1) You don’t decide when you’re going to work. 2) Typically, you don’t decide who you’re going to work on. 3) Your body will limit how much money you can make, followed by your marketing, followed by your stereotypical attractiveness and lastly followed by how good you are at massage.
1: The idea that you are going to get into this field and you’re going to be able to work when it suits you (and by most advertisements for massage schools, you’re thinking it will be rarely and really well paid) is fundamentally flawed. When you work is when clients want to receive massages. The only thing you really have control over is when you don’t work. Your clients are typically going to want massages when it’s convenient for them (nights and weekends). You’re typically going to want to take time off when all the fun stuff in life is happening (oh wait, you guessed it: nights and weekends).
2: Who you work on. The number of young men I’ve talked to who when they find out what I do for a living assume that I spend all my days working on cheerleaders and porn stars is remarkable. My clientele is about 40% male and and regardless of gender, aged about 55 on average, plus or minus 30 years. While I do my best to reset the silly mindsets of young men, I believe that all future massage therapists need to understand that the people you’re going to be working on are usually middle aged and affluent, with a higher than average education and success metric. The exception to this will likely be recipients of trust funds. While massage has become more popular, and accessible, the truth is, it’s still a relatively luxurious expenditure for most of the general population.
3a: The typical massage therapist works hands on (actual hours of massage) between 20 and 25 hours a week. This is largely because for most massage therapists, this is considered full time work. Why? Because massage therapy is hard on your body. IF you are exceptional at body mechanics and tend to do lighter work, you may find you can do more than this average. If you are exceptionally fit, and have a very athletic build and also have exceptional body mechanics, you may find you can do 30 or 35 hours of Deep Tissue massage therapy a week. That said, for the average massage therapist, new out of school….take it easy, and build your tolerance for the work, and the impact of said work over time. Better to start slow than to injure out of the profession before you get a chance to really settle in.
3b: No matter how good you are, if no one knows about you, you will be lost in the sea of other massage therapists that exist in any metropolitan area. If you’re lucky enough to be located where there isn’t a saturation of cmt’s then you may have a different experience. How you market yourself, what offers you put on the table and how you reward folks who bring new folks to your table will make a huge difference. This is a topic for a future post, where I’ll share what worked for me, why I think it worked for me, and what thoughts I have on how others can replicate the success I experienced in client acquisition.
3c: Sadly, massage is a beauty business. This is just my opinion, and it’s based off working in spas for over 8 years with a wide variety of cmt’s. The younger and more stereotypically attractive you are, the better you’re likely to do starting out in this profession. That said, with time and skill, how you look will become less and less important. The saddest moment I had regarding this issue was when I tracked the change in my tip percentage as correlated against my weight loss. The loss of ~20lbs (285lbs to 263lbs on my 6’7″ frame) resulted in an increase in my tip percentage from 13.7% to 15.3%. That’s a less than 10% loss of total body weight that resulted in a greater than 10% gain in tip percentage.
3d: How good are you at massage? Truth be told, how good you are at massage might be more about how good people think you are, or how good you are with your basic people skills. Your skill may even be measured in how accurately you portray your style of work (setting expectations properly will make your life so much easier). For some folks, how good you are will be a function of if you can put them to sleep or not…for others putting them to sleep would give you a failing grade. I’ll explore in a future post what makes someone good at massage…in my opinion.
If you’re thinking of joining this profession, I think it’s probably for one of two main reasons: 1) you saw an ad that told you it was easy, fun and you get to set your own hours while making good money or 2) you’ve loved doing massage for some significant portion of your life and have decided to make a living at it.
If you fall into the first camp…before you spend lots of money getting trained as a cmt…consider this: massage schools are in the business of making money from training people to be massage therapists. They are going to tell you whatever you want to hear to make that money off of you. If you fall in the second camp …the same thing we told the other campers is true for you as well…but at least you already know you enjoy giving massages.