6 things I’ve learned since I started this massage adventure

This week is my eight year anniversary. Sort of. Technically, it happens in four months, since I graduated from massage school in March of 2005 and started my practice the very next day. But it was eight years ago this week that I started seeing clients as an intern at a little chiropractic office. I didn’t make much money (just tips, back then interns were allowed to take tips), but I went to ‘work’ two days a week, shadowed the chiropractor, and occasionally performed some simple regional work before or after an adjustment. In less than 2 weeks I had my massage table up in a small extra room and was seeing clients for 30 and 60 minute massages. A big handful of those clients are still with me today and I am astounded, downright flabbergasted, at what this little massage adventure has become.

I’ve learned some stuff along the way. Not particularly earth-shattering revelations, but some useful stuff that’s made me a better practitioner and a better person.

I can find something I like about anyone, and everyone.

One of my first clients was a man in his 60’s with an extremely rigid neck and scar tissue from some surgeries. He was very quiet and I was very nervous. He came in for a half hour every Monday morning for a few months before we got comfortable with each other and he started chatting a bit. He was career Army, had been retired for several years, loved country music and Dancing with the Stars (remember, this was 2005, DwtS was in its first season). And he was funny. Really funny. He ended up being one of my favorite clients, and eventually I looked forward to Monday mornings.

Every so often I’ll get a new client and I just don’t like them. Or maybe I’ll feel like I can’t connect. Either I can’t figure out how my work can help them, or I can’t get excited about treating them. Then I remember my Monday morning Army guy, and I’m reminded that there is something I’ll like, that I’ll connect with, in everyone. And it’s my job to find it.

When I find myself not telling my mentor about a situation, it’s probably a bad situation.

This is pretty self explanatory. I know right from wrong. I know when boundaries get fuzzy or flat-out broken. And if I’m hesitant to seek guidance, it’s because I know I’m in the wrong, and I don’t want to hear what I should do, because I want to do something else. ‘Nuf said.

I can’t control what other massage therapists do. And it doesn’t really matter all that much, anyways.

It used to really get my panties in a bunch when I saw MT’s doing absurdly unprofessional things, like announcing their new celebrity clients on their Facebook page. Really, that happened. A local colleague did it and when I emailed her (super-politely) suggesting that she rethink that approach, she had a few choice words for me.  I used to think it was my job to lecture and call out MT’s who weren’t claiming their tips.

Nope. Turns out I was just being a loud mouth jerk.

It’s one thing to hold an opinion and speak about ethics. It’s entirely another to name oneself Enforcer of All Things Proper and Right and wave the word ‘integrity’ around like a golden sword. I’m glad I stopped doing that. And I’m little embarrassed I ever did. Lessons learned. Should I notify the police when I see a new business pop up with a questionable Craig’s List ad? Sure. That’s just good sense. But most of the time I can make more of a difference by simply being a good and ethical practitioner. I can dress professionally, claim all my income and gently encourage others to do the same. So I’m trying to stick with that.

Sometimes massage therapists are asshats, just like everyone else.

In the sunshine fairy land that exists in my head, massage therapists are all warm and loving and sweet. Not the case.

I’ve had an overly-competitive colleague screw me out of clients at a chair massage job I invited her to (by getting there earlier than agreed and signing people up for her list before I arrived). I’ve been yelled at by people who showed up 30 minutes late for a class and got pissed that they couldn’t get CE credits. I had a friend who struggled for months to get a refund on a class she registered for well in advance, after the instructor cancelled the class. I’ve been labeled a ‘hater’ just because I disagree with an opinion.

I’ve been an asshat, too (see above). I’m trying to be less of one everyday.

It’s okay to stay small.

I don’t want to manage other therapists. I don’t want to be anyone’s boss. I felt bad about this for awhile. I built a great practice and it seemed only logical that once my schedule was full I should hire more massage therapists to handle the overflow. But the idea of it made me uncomfortable. I pushed ahead anyways, looking into the variables and keeping my eye on new MT’s who may want to work for me. It made me more uncomfortable. After an anxiety attack (or seven) I stopped the madness. Choosing to continue my one person operation and simply renting space to other business owners does not make me a small thinker. It makes me someone who has settled into the business model that is right for me. Bingo.

It’s worth it. All the hard work is worth it.

It took a long time to get my business to this stage of happiness. I need to keep up regular marketing efforts to keep my schedule full, but I don’t need to hustle constantly to get clients on my table. I thoroughly enjoy every client who walks into my office. I love the therapists who rent from me and we compliment each other well. It was not easy. It is still a considerable amount of effort to run a business. But it is a pleasure, too.

What have YOU learned so far? What has being a massage therapist taught you?

5 thoughts on “6 things I’ve learned since I started this massage adventure

  1. That’s what I like about you – not afraid to say “Hey, I was wrong.” Or “Ok, I probably could have handled that differently”. It takes a lot for someone to vocalize that. Also, I agree on “It’s ok to stay small”. Sounds like business is a success as is for you and that’s what really matters! :)

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