Some Self-Publishing Basics in Case You’re Curious or Have Something to Say

The following is a guest post written by my sister Deena. Although she is not a massage therapist, she is a fabulous librarian and passionate author of YA (young adult) fiction. I asked her if she’d mind sharing her thoughts on publishing ebooks because some of us may want to put our written stuff out there. Being the awesome sister that she is, her answer was a resounding yes. Enjoy!

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Hello, Young Thumbs Readers and thanks for having me here today. My sister, the self-published author of her own ebooks on massage therapy, asked me to talk about the basics of getting your book Out There in ebook form. With the glacial pace of the traditional publishing world, I love that epubbing is a viable option for writers today and I’m happy to have jumped on board in 2013. Hopefully some of you with something to say will take the leap as well.

I will start by stating that my experience is limited to the world of publishing young adult novels, and that I only have three titles under my belt. I am by no means a bestselling author, and my skills with marketing my work are fairly sad as my day job, life, and sleep take up large chunks of my non-writing time. I will not be insulted if anyone wants more info than I can provide. In fact, I’ll even point you to a fantastic resource: this free ebook by best-selling indie author Susan Kaye Quinn.

OK, now with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump in.

  1. No matter what you are writing (fiction or non-fiction for any age group), make sure your book is well written. Since 2004, I have written over ten novels. Thankfully, self-publishing was not a popular avenue ten years ago, because if I’d actually put my earlier work up for sale, I’d be super embarrassed by its crappiness right now. Find writing partners and critique each other’s work, read books on the craft of writing, and read books in your genre. Write, write, write. Revise, revise, revise. Do not publish your first draft.
  2. Once your well-written book is complete, get it copyedited. Yes, some typos and bad word choices may still get through to the final product (admitting guilt here). They do in traditionally published books, too. That is OK and no reason to panic since you can fix and upload your files again as needed. But still, enlist a freelance copyeditor or friend or writing partner who is good with grammar to do a final edit for you before publishing.
  3. Hire someone or learn how to format your book in MOBI and EPUB files. MOBI is the format used by Kindle, and Amazon is where you’ll sell most of your books. EPUB is the format used by Nook and most other e-readers.
  4. Buy an ISBN…or don’t buy an ISBN. Honestly, it doesn’t matter too much these days for e-publishing since most e-tailers don’t require them anymore. However, if you want to publish your book in print and sell it, you will need one.
  5. Create or purchase a professional book cover. If you are not good with design, do not attempt this on your own. Hire someone. Cover art is important and is the best marketing you can give your book out of the gate.
  6. Write a short blurb for your book. Polish it. Make sure it is error-free. This will be what potential buyers see when they browse your book at e-tailers (you will upload it with your manuscript), so make it perfect.
  7. Upload your book to e-tailers. I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, but you must upload your book to this megastore for ease of access for your audience. I would also recommend using Barnes & Noble for those Nook users. Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes are optional in my opinion, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it available through as many vendors as possible (even if uploading to iTunes is the most convoluted, antiquated process compared to the cutting edge technology of their products).
  8. You will also set your book’s price when you upload it. There are tons of posts online (just Google “best ebook price point”) that try to pinpoint the winning strategy to this, but I go with $2.99. Then I’ll put them on sale for $.99 at times and promote the deal for the duration.
  9. Advertise! As I’ve said, I suck at this part of the process, but do as much of it as you can so you sell more books than me. If you have a platform (you are a massage therapist writing non-fiction about massage, for example), find readers in your field who will post reviews on relevant sites or ask them for online interviews. Encourage readers to post reviews on Amazon and B&N. If you can, create a short (one minute or less), professional book trailer or hire someone to make it for you. Have a professional website with a clearly marked “books” page. Carry a bookmark or business card around with you that has your website on it and calls you an “author.”
  10. The best way to bring attention to your book? Write the next book. A fresh front list will bring attention to your backlist. Only have one book in you? Periodically update the content of your book if it is non-fiction, or give it a fresh cover if it is fiction. Something so it stays relevant in the glutted market of books.

Hopefully some of these tips are helpful for anyone dipping their toes in the world of self-publishing. Just remember, it is not a get rich quick scheme and if you don’t love to write, it may feel like a chore. Spend your time on what you love, and if writing is it, make time for it.

Weird things that matter when you’re running a business.

I live in New England, where we’ve been getting an unholy amount lots of snow over the past few weeks. It’s a project to dig a car out and clear it off post-storm. Common sense dictates one would clear off one’s car completely.

But some people don’t. Some people clear most of their windshield, maybe a little of the rear window, and set out onto the roads putting other people in danger.
That’s a mark of character, I think. And I wasn’t too sad to see the state police pulling people over for it during the recent blizzard.

car covered in snow

photo via the MA State Police Facebook page: http://ow.ly/ILx6p

 

I’m a hardass. I know I skew a little stricter than average about guidelines and rules, especially when it comes to running a business. Just like the snow-on-the-car thing (but certainly not as dangerous), I think there are actions and inactions that indicate character in a business owner. I think they matter.

Where you park your car
Some business owners park in a spot far away from their entrance, reserving the closer spots for customers. And I’ve seen others take the spot closest to the door, and stay parked there all day while clients have to schlepp from a distance, both before and after their massage.

The bottom line here is, are you making convenience a priority for you or your client? Your clients will catch on to that.

(Yes, I know that not everyone can control the parking situation around their business. If that’s the case, this doesn’t apply to you.)

What you wear
I know. I KNOW. People get piffy about this one. But the reality is, if you show up every day in ragged yoga pants, dirty sneakers, and a tshirt, it’s pretty damn clear that you don’t respect your work. Our ‘uniforms’ will vary according to environment. But the clothes you wear for work should always be clean, not worn-out, and not overly-casual.

Oh- and let’s have a little side chat about wearing custom tshirts with ignorant puns or ‘jokes’ about massage. Stop it. Your profession is not a joke. It’s a career, dammit. A career that has the potential to change lives. Unless of course, those people think you’re an unprofessional twit who wears silly tshirts. Then they will never come to you for massage and you will never change lives. “I’ve got your back” is fun. “I’m a massage therapist, I get paid to hurt people” is not.

Your trash
We need trash baskets. They will often have trash in them. This isn’t rocket science. But if you let them hang out more than half full for days at a time, it looks bad. It looks like you can’t be bothered to empty your trash. If you let them hang out full and overfull, it looks even worse. Trash is a visible indicator of how clean the rest of your office is, even the not-so-visible parts. Make it a good indicator.

What else? What are the little ‘things’ you notice that turn you on or off to certain businesses?

Light at the End of the Tunnel

We’re pleased to publish this guest post from our friend, Katie Adams. She’s a career therapist in the Boston area and knows.her.stuff. You can read more about her in the bio at the end of this post.2015-02-02_0810

Thank you, lax ligaments, for allowing me to get away with doing massage for 19 years without much pain. Over the past two, however, I have chased nerve-like symptoms up and down my arm while continuing to practice full time. I’d only cancel clients when the pain was enough to cause me to panic, haphazardly putting out the fire with chiropractic, massage, trigger point dry needling, some strengthening and stretching.

My thumb and first two fingers were tingling a lot when I went to my annual physical this past October. My PCP kindly reminded me that I was complaining about forearm and wrist pain at my last annual physical. Duh! Something always hurts when you are a bodyworker, right?

“I just don’t know where it’s coming from,” I said. “The pain jumps around between my neck, shoulder, biceps, forearm and thumb. But, come to think of it, I have been dropping things a lot lately. I just assumed I was clumsy.”

Full disclosure, I knew I had a positive Tinel’s Sign and Phelen’s Maneuver, so I begrudgingly made an appointment to see a neurologist.

I wanted to see a “soft-tissue friendly” doctor, so I made an appointment with a wonderful woman who is a neurologist and physiatrist. She remarked about my fear of the painful EMG test, “You have had a tingling hand for over a year? Trust me you have already felt more pain than this test will elicit!”  

Well, it was a rather unpleasant experience, but not that painful – quite interesting, actually.  An electromyogram (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction. A nerve conduction study measures how well and how fast the nerves can send electrical signals. My neurologist taped electrodes to my skin and put small shocks through my upper extremity nerves. Using a thin-needle electrode, she then stuck various muscles and asked me to move, listening to what sounded like loud static. Results: muscle damage (also called wasting) in my abductor pollicis muscle and significantly slowed median nerve impulses in the carpal tunnel. Diagnosis: moderate-severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

Normally, if symptoms are caught early, conservative treatment for CTS inclusive of rest, PT and a cortisone shot to the wrist is prescribed. However, mine being a moderate-severe diagnosis with muscle and nerve damage, is a surgical case.

According to WebMd.com “Endoscopic surgery uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached (endoscope). The endoscope is guided through a small incision in the wrist (single-portal technique) or at the wrist and palm (two-portal technique). The endoscope lets the doctor see structures in the wrist, such as the transverse carpal ligament, without opening the entire area with a large incision.”

According to WebMd.com “Endoscopic surgery uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached (endoscope). The endoscope is guided through a small incision in the wrist (single-portal technique) or at the wrist and palm (two-portal technique). The endoscope lets the doctor see structures in the wrist, such as the transverse carpal ligament, without opening the entire area with a large incision.”

There are two main types of CTS Surgery: Open or Endoscopic. The hand surgeon that I consulted with specializes in the endoscopic procedures. He really seemed to understand my anxiety about my hand. “It’s more than the ability to support myself, I said, “It’s my connection to the world. My sense of touch is highly attuned – far more than any of my other senses. What if I lost it?”

No one can look into a crystal ball and know the outcome of any surgical procedure. But, according to the hand literature, my surgeon told me four things:

  1. Anyone with my level of nerve impairment (proven electrically) is best treated with a carpal tunnel release. Surgery can immediately halt further progression of nerve fiber loss and damage, provide symptomatic relief and prevent further loss of function.
  2. The damage thus far is not going to reverse by itself. Steroid injection can temporarily improve pain or tingling. But, there will be ongoing nerve loss with time, even while pursuing conservative measures, possibly progressing to ultimate total numbness and weakness in the hand.
  3. In the short term, less invasive endoscopic technique has been shown to be less painful and allow quicker return to function for the patient.
  4. At a certain point post-operatively, all carpal tunnel surgical patients should function equally (which is to say quite well). The hand ligament will heal over, but with roughly 30% more space for tendons and nerve to coexist within the tunnel.

My take away:  there is no guarantee that conservative treatment will take pressure off my carpal tunnel. I could spend a year trying non-invasive therapies, but with the moderate-severe diagnosis, it’s a gamble for sure. While spending time treating the symptoms, I could lose time for the nerve to viably recover. With the possibility of more permanent nerve damage, I decided to pursue surgery.

As I left the surgeon’s office, my brain slammed with self-defeating thoughts: 

“You are so stubborn, you could have prevented this if you’d taken better care of yourself.”
“You have been slouching for years over the massage table. You could have worked with better ergonomics.”
“What were you thinking digging in the garden and making rock walls for all those years while you did massage?”
“You were completely stupid trying to do sand bag carries and pull-ups at the gym followed by 5 massages back to back without rest.”
“I should have given up gluten and sugar…” (isn’t that ultimately what everyone blames these days?!)

Massage Dinosaur
I’ve often called myself a dinosaur in the massage world. I’m either seriously old, or I’ve survived the 7-year average burn-out rate multiple times.
Reflecting back upon the 18,500+ massage hours I have done in my career, I realized that I have been given the rare gift of a second chance with this surgery. I can prevent career extinction.

It’s easy to assume people just want a quick fix when they have surgeries.  As massage therapists, we usually try to help our clients avoid them at all costs. I never realized, however, how hard it is to actually make the decision to have an elective surgery. It is an exhausting and emotional process. But making the decision can be a true ‘light at the end of the ‘tunnel,’ bringing hope for longer lasting relief. Remember this the next time one of your clients comes in and has made this very personal decision.

To my massage colleagues I say, do not be afraid of injury or extinction!  The “Age of Dinosaurs” was the Mesozoic Era, which got divided into three periods: the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous (albeit 145-66 million years ago). I figure that I’m just entering my own post-surgical, ‘Jurassic’ massage era. I wonder if the Jurassic Park Discovery Center at Universal Studios in Orlando needs a new exhibit!

dinoKatie Adams has been practicing NMT in the greater Boston area for a long time. She founded the group practice 360 NeuroMuscular Therapy in Needham, MA which is uniquely focused on rehabilitation of soft-tissue dysfunction associated with medically diagnosed injury and myofascial pain syndrome. She is on the faculty of Myopain Seminars in Bethesda, MD, and also a regular speaker at medical conferences, including for the last five years, the New England Baptist Shoulder & Sports Symposium. Katie holds a BA from Ithaca College, and achieved national NMT certification in 1996 after graduating from the Massage Institute of New England. She is an active member of the American Massage Therapy Association, the National Association of Trigger Point Therapists and the International Myopain Society. Katie is always eager to confer with fellow or budding Massage Dinosaurs! Kadams@360nmt.com | @katieadams360 | #massagedinosaur

Transition

This is a guest post from our friend Michelle Giles, a Phoenix, Arizona based massage therapist and continuing education provider. You can learn more about Michelle here

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You are a well-oiled machine. Body mechanics spot on. You’ve learned exotic massage techniques from all over the world.  You use many interesting products. Your sacred work space is beautiful. You love your clients. After 10 years you’ve hit your professional stride…or was that a wall?…made of bricks.  

Wait. How many treatments have you been doing a day? Between six and eight. Are you taking breaks in between sessions? Very few, with clients stacked back to back. Since school ended you have been striving, building, advertising, networking and flexing your boundaries and schedule to accommodate clients, never considering how this might impact your body. After all — you love what you do. 

I injured my right arm, shoulder and chest wall simultaneously last January. I didn’t feel it coming — no aches, no warning shot, nothing overtly physical. The signs were there. Subtle things. Things that can be mistaken for general fatigue; a neck ache, headache, or malaise that drifts into life from time to time. It’s easy to get lulled into a feeling of comfort when business is great. It’s also easy to get lazy with self care when you feel good and nothing hurts. 

I tried slowing down, putting more space between clients, getting acupuncture and physical therapy. After a few weeks of that routine, the reality of the situation weighed heavily on me. I was really hurt. Not “get a massage, take a few days and sleep it off” hurt, but “out of commission” hurt. Stubbornly, I still saw a few clients a day for another week. I refused to acknowledge that I was hurt — after all, I had worked so hard to build this. Then a miracle arrived disguised as a disaster — my landlord sold my studio out from under me. I lost my office and was forced to take a break. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Once home, I did some research. I read articles about injury and professional burnout.  One fact stood out from the rest: “The burnout rate within the massage industry has been estimated at 50% to 88% within the first 3 to 5 years after graduation according to a study completed by Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, a reputable industry organization.” I am not sure how many of us know and absorb that statistic. I have been a full time massage therapist for 15 years, and had no idea it was that high. 

I was depressed for about a week, alternately sleeping and crying.  An MRI revealed severe tendinosis and RSI injuries surrounding the area, and it would take between one and 5 years to heal completely. My PT was very honest with me — no amount of therapy could help at this stage. I felt frenzied, I wanted to will it better with salves and treatments. The simple truth was rest and accept.

Looking for gifts within life’s challenges is tough. My mind wanted to ruminate on loss. I made the conscious choice to use this time to reinvent and rethink my entire approach.  Epiphany: I was in the next stage of my career. I was fortunate enough to be able to take seven months off. This is what I did with that time:

  • Sold most of my belongings from my old office to create a new environment
  • Designed a 200 square foot massage office in the garage behind my house
  • Designed and built (enter my husband’s building skills) 8 large wooden planter boxes to grow herb and plants to make infused oils and salves. Also functions as a courtyard space to separate work and home
  • Learned to use Himalayan salt stones instead of hot stones
  • Learned to use Chinese cups and gua sha tools
  • Bought a product called Armaid to begin rehabbing my arm
  • Learned how to foam roll and use racquet balls for self care
  • Applied for and received my continuing education provider number enabling me to teach continuing education classes out of my new space
  • Learned how to create my own scrubs, soaks, lotions, lip balms and deodorant
  • Created my own website with the free ABMP tool (simplistic, but great)
  • Rested, stretched, soaked, and focused on my new self care needs

I had emailed my client list when I began my sabbatical, emailed them again when the office was done, then emailed a small group of regulars to let them know I was coming back in July…slowly. I began by taking one client a day a few days a week for a month. Then two clients a day a few days a week for two months. After two months, I emailed the rest of my clients announcing I was back to work. It has been seven month since I have been back.  I only see three clients a day. I schedule morning, afternoon and evening- leaving hours in between each. No compromises. My clients have loved the new modalities, the fresh space, and knowing no one is stacked right after them. They take their time, and so do I. What a change. My patience and new approach has paid off, and last week I realized my arm doesn’t hurt at all anymore. I will never return to my old way of doing business; it was outmoded.

Professional transition is inevitable. As our bodies age and change, so should our approach. Self care, exercise and diet need also change as we do. What worked in the beginning of our careers won’t always work. 

Injury is a great teacher.

The Many Sizes of Social Media

I’ve been managing social media accounts for many years, and I started in the social media arena in 2006 on Youtube. Things were a lot simpler back in the day, but now it can give a person a HUGE headache with all the different sizes required for photos. Since 2006, Youtube has changed their main layout at least three different times, and don’t get me started about Facebook :)

The rule of thumb (pun intended) for photos on social media websites:
* Profile photos: Usually a square shape (100×100, 250×250 and so on).
facebook-profile-image
* Photos as posts: Most social media accounts recommend either a square (Instagram), or a photo that is wider (Landscape size) for Twitter and Facebook.
facebook-post-normal
* For Pinterest and Tumblr: these sites look better if the photos are taller (Portrait size).
twitter
* Cover photos: totally different story. Most of them are wider (Landscape size), than narrow (Portrait size) – but every site has different dimensions.facebook-cover-imageEditing Websites
Here are two great sites: autreplanete and internetmarketingninjas, that you can make your photos the right sizes for  your social media accounts.

Here is a list of sizes (This is just a generalized guideline):
- Blog Graphic: 800 x 1200px

- Business Card: 8.5 x 5cm
- Card: 14.8 x 10.5cm
- Document: 21 x 29.7cm
- Facebook Ad: 1200 x 627px
- Facebook App: 810 x 450px
- Facebook Cover: 851 x 315px
- Facebook Newsfeed: 1200 x 1200px
- Facebook Post: 940 x 788px
- Facebook Profile: 180 x 180px
- Google+ Cover Photo: 2120 x 1192px
- Google+ Newsfeed: Minimum 497 x 373px
- Google+ Profile: 250 x 250px
- Instagram Cover: 2048 2048px
- Instagram Post: 640 x 640px
- Instagram Profile: 110 x 110px
- Invitation: 14 x 14cm
- Kindle Cover: 1410 x 2250px
- LinkedIn Cover: 646 x 220px
- LinkedIn Business Logo: 100 x 60px or 50 x 50px
- Photo Collage: 25 x 20cm
- Pinterest Profile: 165 x 165px
- Pinterest Post: 735 x 1102px
- Poster: 42 x 59.4cm
- PowerPoint: 1024 x 768px
- Social Media: 800 x 800px
- Twitter Header: 1500 x 500px
- Twitter Newsfeed: 1024 x 512px
- Twitter Profile: 400 x 400px
- Youtube Cover: 2560 x 1440px
- Youtube Desktop Display: 2560 x 423px
- Youtube Mobile Display: 1546 x 423px
- Youtube Tablet Display: 1855 x 423px
- Youtube TV Display: 2560 x 1440px
- Youtube Thumbnail Preview: 1280 x 720px
- Youtube Icon: 800 x 800px
- Tumblr Profile: 128 x 128px
- Tumblr Posts: 500 x 750px

Hope that helps, and please embrace technology – it’s a lot easier than you think!

Ryan Hoyme is the Owner of MassageNerd.com (Largest Massage Website) and RyanHoyme.com (Largest Massage Website for Stock Photos)

That Magic Massage Moment (A Poem)

That moment when, 
Your client’s leg begins to stiffen,
There’s a gradual resistance,
And you retreat gently,269001-20150111
Adjusting the technique,
Testing the waters,
Ever cautious,
Ever respectful,
Of their space.

Then you hear it,
The smallest of snores.
Then a glance, 
Feigned casual interest,
Quick to catch a glimpse of the clock,
Or the art on the wall,
Should they catch you peeking,
And think it a stare.

Their head lolls to the side gently,
Their neck has softened,
And they are comfortable in their body,
And comfortable in the moment,
And they begin to expand.

No more shrinking into themselves,
Arms folded over navel,
Abs stiffened,
Ankles turned in,
For a pleasing silhouette.

Just them,
Resting.
With a nice soft jaw and a nice soft snore. 
Suspended in that dream space,
Neither asleep nor awake,
And their bodies expanding,
Unwinding,
Blooming,
Taking up glorious space,
That was always theirs to play in.

The momentary resistance subsides.
You smile a little smile,
Of working hard at work worth doing.

You are doing well.
They are doing well.
All is well and right in the world,
For at least another 42 minutes.

That moment is a feeling of pure joy.

If I could bottle it,
I would. 

 

10 Things Your Mother Never Told You About Entrepreneurship

Since posting about my resort spa-leaving in October, a handful of lovely people have approached me to express their own desires to go out on their own and become entirely self-employed. Some have asked questions like “what’s the first step?” or “how do I find clients?”. I hope to share my insight on these matters briefly yet somewhat competently in this post.

Let me start by mentioning that no two paths to entrepreneurship will be the same. Each of us are born into individual circumstances, raised in different environments, given unique opportunities, and influenced by factors specific to our own lives. I share some of my experiences here, modestly hoping that at least one small, useful part resonates with someone out there in our virtual living room. If you have an entrepreneurial story of your own – good, bad, even completely unrelated to massage therapy – I encourage you to share it in the comments section. Entrepreneurship is one of those blog topics that can only benefit from group participation, and I thank you in advance. Now let the listing commence!

 

  1. Identify your vision. What kind of work are you passionate about doing? What types of products are you passionate about using? I love doing many kinds of massages and spa treatments, but foot massage is right up there at the top of the list. I also like using luxurious creams and oils that are beneficial to the skin (this is especially important here in the Mojave Desert). So I opened a little day spa that specializes in feet. Pinpointing your passion will help you to hone in on your signature offerings, which will set you apart from the chain massage clinics down the street. This is one of the first steps to building your identity as a business.
  2. Get cozy with your branding and stay consistent. Maybe you live in a small town and you’re the only massage therapist within 200 miles. You can probably afford to name your business “AAAAA Massage Therapy” even if everyone hates the name. But in my experience, I’ve found that in a marketplace full of half-baked business ventures and forgettable distractions, having a fun, clever or thoughtful name is a plus. It also helps to keep you on track when you’re considering the overall feeling that your brand conveys. “Feetish Spa Parlor” has always been very Victorian in my mind, so I keep my branding consistent with that vision as much as I can. Victorian influenced furniture, cabinets, ceiling tiles, lighting fixtures, décor…even the typefaces and clip art used on my signs and printed materials are reminiscent of the time. Obviously I use a smartphone, hot towel cabi and factory-produced hand soap too, but you get the idea. You wouldn’t install Ashiatsu bars in a room that isn’t used for Ashiatsu, so don’t clutter up your image with inconsistencies that dilute and confuse.
  3. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people. I can’t do couples treatments because my office is tiny and there’s only one of me. Once in a while I have to explain this to a caller. But I continue to put myself out there, and the right people find me. Again, focus on what you can do, and on what you enjoy doing.
  4. Location is key. I don’t necessarily mean you have to be in the biggest, flashiest building in town, but if you’re running a brick and mortar operation, location is pretty damn important. You’ll want your location to be convenient to the clientele you’re looking to attract. You’ll also want your location to be convenient to yourself, as you’ll be your very own #1 VIP client. Is there parking nearby? Is the area relatively safe? Are there other businesses in the area that mesh well with yours (cafes, boutiques, other places where relaxed or adventurous people with disposable income hang out)? Are there other businesses in the area that compete with yours that might cannibalize your clientele now or in the future? Stake out the locations on your list of possibilities. Become obsessed. Check out the flow of people on different days of the week during different times of the day. Do this for months. Talk to people who are active in the community where you hope to set up shop. Make allies before you sign your lease. Spend your money in this community. Say hello. Smile.
  5. Make your presence known. You will have to market your business. You will have to invest countless hours into this seemingly thankless task. You will be tempted to give up, but you shouldn’t. Cast a wide net. The advertising I pay for right now consists of my website, business cards, and printed spa menus. I will sparingly and selectively donate gift certificates to causes I’m passionate about. I send out a monthly email newsletter using MailChimp. I have a free Yelp listing. But other than that, most of my marketing efforts are concentrated on social media. I use Instagram a lot, and I usually auto post my photos to Facebook and Twitter. Someone may see you on Yelp today, someone else may see you on Google tomorrow. You never know.
  6. Don’t get in over your head. Signing a lease on an 8,000 square foot facility may sound like a dream come true right out of the gate, but I’m having heart palps just thinking about it. It’s perfectly OK to start small.
  7. Consider your schedule. The more hours you make yourself available to take appointments, the more appointments you’ll likely take. Wait! You say you only want to work Tuesday through Thursday from noon ‘til 5? And you wonder why you’re only booking two appointments per week? And you resent the whole damn thing because you just drove 45 minutes one-way to perform a 30 minute service when gas is $3.26/gallon? It sounds like it’s time to rethink your schedule. Two years ago when I first opened my business, I had set hours when I was in the office — appointments or not –five days per week. This was good at the time. But last year I realized it benefitted my clients (and my sanity) more if I switched to working by appointment only, but with greater availability. Now I can schedule my life around the appointments on my book and vice versa.
  8. Make things happen. Create excitement! Start a blog for your biz! Video chat online and upload it to your business’s YouTube page! Visit with your neighbors! Throw a party at your office and invite the neighborhood! Offer them food! Share meals with people…people like to eat! The early days of business ownership are usually the loneliest. Fill that time connecting with people and building relationships with people in your community, because eventually, when you’re super busy with appointments, you’ll wish you had more time for that.
  9. Adapt. Now that I have more appointments on my book I’m no longer able to sit in my office with the door open, waiting for retail customers to stroll by. So I’m running a clearance sale on Dermalogica this month, and it’ll probably be a while before I order more retail-sized items. And y’know what? I’m totally OK with this.
  10. Some pressure is OK. Like a firm handshake or a leather corset. But business is messy, invention is messy, and life is messy. To quote my dad: “We can’t control everything that comes our way; we can only control how we react.” Countless successful entrepreneurs have failed in business multiple times before they eventually made it big, but they learned a lot along the way. Entrepreneurship is hard work, long hours, boatloads of stress and tons of sacrifice. I’m still really happy with my decision to take this path, but if it ever gets to be too much for me – if I feel like I’ve been paying too high a price for too long with too little return on investment – I’ll do my best to adapt. And if that means hanging up my holster for a bit so I can treat myself to some well-deserved kindness and understanding, then that’s what I shall do.

For Auld Lang Syne, My Dears

On behalf of The Young Thumbs, I want to thank you all for checking in with us throughout 2014. 

We’ve all experienced our ups, downs and evasive maneuvers this year, but we’ve done it together. For this I am incredibly grateful.  

I’ll keep this short and sweet, friends. Just know that you are appreciated, and that we Young Thumbs are looking forward to a brand spanking new year of learning, sharing, and having an all-around good time with you here on this zany blog that’s sometimes about massage therapy but more often about life. 

Much love and best wishes for a wonderful 2015.

Suicide and Perception, Nine Months Later

Note: Nine months ago my brother-in-law ended his life. This is a follow up to my previous posts on the topic.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). They are available to take your call 24/7. International readers should visit the website for the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to find local resources. We care about you, friends.

***

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with my better half here in Las Vegas. I did some computer work during the day, then we went to a local casino movie theater to watch Interstellar. I won’t give anything away, but with lines like “love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space” and “no parent should have to watch their child die”, it’s no wonder I had tears streaming down my face by the time the end credits did their thing.

Sometimes it’s good to feel, and frustrating not to. Sometimes it’s agonizing to feel, and tenuously comforting not to. I have blocks of time when I will have “good days” (making progress with personal and work projects, feeling hopeful and like I can actually do things, pushing thoughts of Petey’s last days and his final act away from the forefront of my consciousness) followed by “bad days” (struggling to gain momentum as if I’m walking through quicksand, feeling like I’m wasting my time or my potential, questioning what the point of all of this is, dwelling on Petey’s absence, missing him, and thinking about the evil that some humans are perfectly okay with embracing). These days used to alternate in approximately 24-hour cycles up until a few weeks ago. Now they show up and stick around for multiple planetary rotation periods at a time without respite.

My recent thought patterns feature themes revolving around Petey’s death such as “there’s no possible way to fix this” and “I’m searching for meaning in this and finding none”. Today I felt sorry for myself (not something I’m proud of), broke down and asked Petey as if he were in the room “why did you do this to us?” —  truly not a fair question to ask because I know he was a kind, thoughtful and great guy, but frustration makes us think in strange ways. It’s difficult because I understand where he was coming from and what his intentions were, but I will never place the value of his reasons over the value of his life.

Yet, despite all of the disagreements I have with Petey in my own head and the stupid unanswerable questions I ask him aloud, the real question I want answered is “why did we let this happen to him?”, because that’s the thing I think I can find meaning in and fix. Still, the damage has been done. We can’t bend time, and we can’t tinker with permanence.

When my husband lost his brother and best friend nine months ago I figured I’d be the one he’d lean on for support, but his strength and wisdom keep me going on days like these. Tonight we talked about my struggle with depression that stems from searching for meaning in this devastating loss. He told me to savor the moment, to enjoy it like a bite of food that I just put into my mouth. To experience it slowly, letting the flavor unfold as it will — because for that block of time that is its purpose: to be experienced without meaning.

Here’s another look at the change in perspective that served me well tonight, perfectly illustrated in this scene from Louie where Charles Grodin enlightens Louie about the pleasures of pain, loss and love. Maybe you’ll find comfort in it as well. 

Even though it hurts tremendously, I am thankful for beautiful, heartbroken, walking poem epiphanies.

Transitioning to Self-Employment

Today marked the end of an era. At three o’clock this afternoon – after twenty-one years, eleven jobs and five-and-a-half-years of working the same one — I went from being partially self-employed to fully self-employed.

Now this might not sound like a huge deal to you, but to me? I held onto that last vestige of working-for-the-other-guy the way Dr. Oz holds onto his one o’clock time slot: mercilessly and with a smidgen of desperation. Over the last several months, as my own business grew busier, working at the resort spa morphed from financial necessity to psychological security blanket. I had always worked for someone else! Was I really ready to swim in the choppy waters of free market capitalism while depending on a child-sized flotation device labeled LIPOMI’S BUSINESS ACUMEN?

I knew I’d never know if I never tried. I knew I was suffering from burnout while juggling ten-hour Sunday shifts at the resort spa, appointments with my own clientele, and managing my continuing education business to the best of my ability given the complete lack of residual hours in my day. I was also becoming increasingly aware of the effect that death and grief can have on a person (me). It became almost painful for me to be away from my better half every Sunday, and I didn’t want to get to the point where I resented my massage therapy career choices. I love what I do; it gives me purpose. I hope I never lose that.

For better or for worse, all signs were pointing to “hey Andrea, dump the resort spa job”.  This option was made even more attractive when I received some timely external validation from marketing expert Seth Godin by way of his book THE DIP: I was caught in a cul-de-sac. A dead-end job was taking time, energy and attention away from other promising projects that needed me – all of me – to succeed. I may be slow to process information, but after being bludgeoned repeatedly by obviousness in its most obvious form, I knew what I had to do.

The email was polite and to the point. I gave my manager a little bit more than two-weeks’ notice. I only hesitated for five minutes before hitting “send”.

And here I am! Sitting at a Starbucks just down the street from my former employer with a refreshingly recalibrated focus on what matters most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for the opportunities that came my way while I was employed by other guys: steady paychecks, priceless experience, awesome clients, sweet coworkers, lessons, stories, inspiration and adventure…but all chapters must come to an end, and I’m really looking forward to experiencing this new one as it unfolds.

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