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!

***

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 Do not publish your first draft.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.

Gratitude Challenge (Young Thumbs Remix)

 

two good parents

two good hands

karaoke

new wave bands

 

lovely partner

inside jokes

almost healthy

not quite broke

 

friends who get me

sibling smiles

trek on netflix

next gen style

 

loyal clients

my own spa

dave gahan’s tight pants

martin’s bra

 

young thumbs readers

i love you

you’ve been tagged now

you post too!

 

iheartyou

 

(Seriously, guys. Things have been kinda heavy for a lot of us lately. I really want to know: in all of your big-hearted splendor, what are YOU grateful for?)

 

Facebook Burnout and the Need for Feed

Facebook my dear, I have so many wonderful things to thank you for. You’ve allowed me to get to know and become actual real-life friends with people who live across the continent, across town, and in my backyard. You’ve introduced me to a passionate community of evidence-based massage therapists, sassy bloggers, inspirational creatives, and empathetic virtual friends who are prompt with a kind word of encouragement when I’m feeling venty and clawing at the edges of insanity.

Remember that time you told me about the Depeche Mode tribute band that was playing at Voodoo Lounge? They were sooooo goooood! Or when you clued me in to the free performances of Teller’s ‘Play Dead’ at the Rio? I mean, that guy ate a damn light bulb on stage. A light bulb!

Darling Facebook, you make crowdfunding possible, and oftentimes vastly successful! You are a wandering searcher’s muse and a coupon code addict’s wet dream. Your messaging capabilities make it easy to contact peeps in a jiffy, and Facebook events are the ultimate in convenience (assuming all desired attendees are suckling at your networky teat). I can inflict my instagrams on both you and Twitter simultaneously with minimal effort. Foursquare check-ins, too! (Or Swarm, or whatever they’re calling it today. To my shame, I’m still firmly entrenched in fiscal first quarter 2014.)

Sweet social network of choice, you’ve been great – you really have – but as is the sad case so often in this life, all good things must come to unfriend.

 

tissues

 

Now before you go all weepy on me, let me explain: it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve got an intensely obsessive personality, and your constant barrage of information overload has led me to develop the unhealthy habit of spending countless hours idly trolling your feed, for, geez, I don’t even know what. Distraction, I suppose.

The free magic shows and Dave Gahan-esque dance moves have gotten lost in a sea of the mundane, speckled with rare buoys of profundity. I sincerely appreciate the thoughts, the emotions – the people – behind these blips, but I’m just no longer cut out to be one of the lovelies manning the radar. Life beckons, and pressing tasks call.

Facebook, if it’s alright with you, I won’t deactivate you at this point in time. I’d like to continue to be tagged in posts and photos if need be, messaged when my input or assistance is required, and invited to join fun events that are of interest to me. I will continue to participate in a few choice Facebook groups, and will continue to maintain my business pages. I hope you won’t take offense when I share this blog post on my wall. I really hope you won’t brand me an ungrateful twat when I confess I just installed News Feed Eradicator on my laptop, and that I’ve unfollowed essentially everyone on my mobile app, save George Takei.

What’s that, you irresistible blue and white dealer of human commodification? Oh no, I’m not trading you in for Snapchat or the next Twitter, if that’s what you’re afraid of. You can rest assured I’m reassessing virtual boundaries across the board: instead of being overcome by the onslaught of curated life snippets y’all hurl at the masses on a moment-by-moment basis, I’ll be out there embracing my own corporeal experiences like a mofo, external validation be damned.

 

thumbsup

Autopsy of a Suicide

READ THIS FIRST: Things are about to get real here, people. I hunger for truth, and I am revolted by silence, shame and embarrassment. In an effort to shine a light on a chronic societal problem, I’m going to be describing personal events of a troubling nature in fairly graphic detail. What I’m about to write may disturb some readers, and honestly if it didn’t, I’d wonder about you guys. I just want to give you fair warning: If laying eyes on the gritty truth about a recent suicide that has irrevocably changed my life will impact your remaining days in a negative fashion, please exit the vehicle at this time, and know that I won’t hold it against you. For those staying aboard, hold onto a friend and buckle in tight. (Just to be clear, the views I’m about to express in this post are my own. I cannot speak for anyone else, including the rest of The Young Thumbs.)

It’s also imperative that I remind you I am not a mental health professional. 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.

 

MY STORY

A little over three months ago, a close Vegas friend and I were discussing the recent suicide epidemic. I counted five people whom I knew personally (or were very close to friends of mine) who had removed themselves from the equation since October, 2013. Three in Vegas, two in Oregon, ranging in age from their early-20s to late-50s. Appalled by the body count, I mentioned that someone in our community should write about this in the interest of starting a conversation, though I felt too removed from the situation to warrant my direct involvement. When I attended a memorial service for one of these guys on February 20th, 2014, I had no way of knowing that my beloved brother-in-law (my husband’s 29-year-old brother and best friend) would put a gun to his head and pull the trigger less than one week later.

Nobody in my family (and when I say “my family”, technically I mean my husband’s family, but I’ve known his parents and all nine kids for 22 years now, so they’re mine, too) saw this coming. Petey was the guy who told the best jokes – the witty, off-the-cuff quips and observations we all wish we had such propensity for. He was always curious about and excited by the best stuff in life, with the enthusiasm of a really big kid. He loved to find weird, random, perfect gifts to send to my better half and I, often for no reason in particular. (I have Petey to thank for the 4”-tall skeleton perched upon a toilet that currently graces the top of my Facebook page.) If we were passing through the town in which he lived on our way to someplace else, he would rearrange his schedule so we could spend time together, even if it was for only a few hours in the middle of the day. He made it known that we were always welcome to stay longer – that he really wished we could – and encouraged us to stay the night in the guest bedroom. Petey was fun, kind, real, thoughtful, generous, handsome, outgoing, intelligent, helpful, instantly likeable, and genuinely interested in other people. He was a hard worker and a good provider, with an infectious laugh and a beautiful smile. He put 100% of himself into any task he took on, and into any relationship he deemed worth having. Petey was the best of all of us put into one person. He loved his parents, his family as a whole, his pets, and his wife of eight years whom he adored with all his heart.

When the news of Petey’s death broke (by way of a phone call from my father-in-law 24 hours after Petey passed), we were told that his wife had left their house in Nevada for four days to go on a girls’ trip to California with her friend, and that in her absence Petey had taken a bottle of Xanax, drank himself into oblivion, and took his life without so much as a “goodbye cruel world” scribbled on an old utility bill. His wife’s friend found him when the girls returned to Nevada, after his wife reportedly received a troubling text from him that morning. The day after we found out about Petey’s death, we drove up to their house in Fallon, Nevada (quite possibly the most depressing place in the entire United States), our heads heavy with sorrow and confusion. What happened, exactly? And why? Was the prescription to blame? Considering what we had been told — unanswered questions aside — all of our family members echoed the sentiment: “This wasn’t our Petey.”

We spent the next few days in Fallon, comforting Petey’s wife, cleaning out their house, packing boxes and loading them into a moving truck to be transported to Moab, Utah (where his wife would now be living with her parents), and helping her with the funeral arrangements in any way we could. Discussion regarding the days leading up to Petey’s death was limited: We were told that Petey and his wife had gotten into a little tiff before she left for California, but that little fights like this were not uncommon among couples. She and her parents insisted it must have been the Xanax – that this never would have happened if he hadn’t been taking it.

The lack of a suicide note reinforced our belief that the pills played a role in his death, and that he must have been out of his mind. Thoughtful, lucid Petey, even in the throws of depression, would have left a note to convey a message or to leave certain items to certain people. We began to come to terms with the freakishly tragic manner in which he died, settling for an empty pill bottle in place of detailed explanation or closure, until…

A few days after we arrived in Fallon and were preparing to drive to Moab for the funeral, we were shocked when the detective in charge of the case alerted us to the presence of not one, but four separate suicide notes found in Petey’s jeans pocket, addressed to various family members. We (my husband, my youngest brother-in-law, his partner and myself) read Petey’s letters addressed to the boys amongst ourselves, and although these two specific notes yielded no answers, it became clear that Petey took the time to say goodbye and to express his love to those most important to him before he died. Their notes were entirely coherent and heartbreakingly sweet — and with this new knowledge that he was lucid enough to write four notes, the paradigm shifted, and the grieving process began all over again.

We buried Petey on March 5th, 2014 in a cemetery in Moab, Utah. The service was extremely moving, the most heart-wrenching elements being the eulogies given by Petey’s three brothers and his oldest sister’s husband, and the stories and memories shared by his five sisters while they each took a turn at the lectern. I don’t know what else to say about this day, other than that it was probably the worst day I’ve lived through to date.

The hellish weeks that followed were a mix of tears, sleepless nights, long conversations, what-ifs, and unanswered questions. I was well aware of my duty to take care of my better half while dealing with my own grief in the most productive manner possible. I wrote a blog post about grieving, talked about the situation with my husband, family, and closest friends, and hunkered down at my office. On the days when the depression couldn’t be kept at bay, I struggled to get out of bed and to eat anything substantial. I cried. A lot.

Closure was elusive, as there were still a few key parts to the story that didn’t make sense. In an effort to get a better understanding of Petey’s frame of mind during the days leading up to his death, my husband called the detective who handled the case and inquired about obtaining a copy of the toxicology report based on the blood draw the coroner had performed. Did you know next-of-kin can request a copy of a coroner’s report through the District Attorney’s office? Well they can, and we did.

We were expecting to receive a couple of pages detailing the results of the blood test. What we ended up with was a 51 page document containing reports from the officers who arrived on the scene, time-stamped 911 call records, a graphic description of the position and condition in which Petey’s body was found, the condition of certain personal effects found throughout the house, interviews with Petey’s wife and her friend (including revelations regarding what the fight was really about, which explained volumes), and copies of all four suicide notes (which were heartbreaking to read, yet tremendously informative). Finally, we had uncovered most of the truth about what happened during the last five days of Petey’s life, and although his tragic death was a permanent solution to what some may consider to have been a temporary problem, we now understood where he was coming from and could slowly initiate what will no doubt prove to be an infinitely long healing process.

 

MY THOUGHTS

I have always viewed death by suicide as a personal choice that each of us ultimately has the right to choose. I’ve also always disagreed with the common remark “suicide is a selfish act”. Sure, theoretically, some suicides can be selfish acts, but I believe in most cases the suicidal mind is incapable of thinking in terms of “selfish” versus “unselfish”. There’s just pain, and the overwhelming desire to make the pain go away.  Add hopelessness to the equation, and there you go. I also believe that the difference between the 99.9% hopeless person and the 100% hopeless person is that one of them is a suicide statistic. These are beliefs I’ve held for a long time, and they haven’t changed.

Personally speaking, I’ve battled depression and anxiety disorders (OCD and social anxiety disorder) for years. I’ve felt physical manifestations of pain brought on by mental and emotional turmoil. There have been times in my life when I’ve wished I’d go quietly in my sleep; there have been times I’ve held a full bottle of pain meds in my hand while seriously considering downing the whole thing; there have been times I’ve googled “suicide” because I knew I really needed to read something meant to talk me out of it. Yet through it all, I held onto a faint glimmer of hope, and a faraway memory of better, happier, healthier times.

I still didn’t foresee this happening to Petey.

I’m so thankful that my husband and I had visited Petey on Christmas Eve (just two months before his death), and I can tell you that the classic warning signs didn’t apply here. He seemed a little bit tired back then, but he had just finished working a full shift by the time we arrived in Fallon. He still went to dinner and stayed awake for several hours with us, singing Playstation karaoke and laughing at YouTube videos. In retrospect, I wonder if this was more than just run-of-the-mill fatigue. I wish I had asked more questions along the lines of “How are you doing?”, and then listened (openly and intently) to the real answer.

The changes I had noticed over the last few years were those of a more subdued, more personal nature. Views Petey expressed on a few everyday things no longer jived with what I believed his opinions on these matters to have been in the past. A rare comment here or there about spirituality or the exploration of spiritual beliefs. Vocalized appreciation for specific pop songs trilling tales of broken hearts and love lost. But that’s like half of all pop songs, and these preferences were never expressed with anything other than a smile and a sing-along chorus.

The observations culled from his wife’s social media presence that hinted at potential problems in their relationship spurred logical double takes on my part (I realize in retrospect), but without any clues coming directly from Petey to indicate that anything was wrong at the time, I assumed he knew what was up with his marriage and had everything under control. In an effort to avoid drama or discomfort, I kept my questions to myself. I assumed this was none of my business.

But here we are, one man down.

I’m not saying it’s entirely my responsibility, and I’m not saying I’ll ever be able to convince someone to put off doing the deed, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. It breaks my heart to imagine Petey home alone for four days, isolated and hurting. It breaks my heart to watch my husband and in-laws grieve for the greatest guy they’ve ever known. The what-ifs, the time machine scenarios, the dreaming followed by waking realizations – these hurt me to my core. I’ve come to understand that this truly is a pain one must live through to comprehend.

That’s why I’m sharing this post, friends. It was tough to write, yet I doubt I’ve ever written anything more important in my life. My emotions regarding this situation and the conversations I have in my head with the people involved are in a perpetual state of flux, however my love and respect for Petey remain constant. I miss him dearly, and I still have days where I struggle with overwhelming feelings of grief and depression. Some days I am overcome with anxiety and a profound fear that someone else I care about is suffering in silence, thinking about pulling that trigger, tying that knot or taking those pills. I can’t shake the feeling of anticipation; the death, the phone call, the next gut punch clear into despair.

The day after we found out about Petey, I asked Allissa “What’s with all the suicides lately?”, to which she replied “The world has gone mad and we’re doing a shitty job of taking care of each other.”

She’s right, you know.

So here’s a challenge for all of us: Let’s take better care of each other before we regret putting work, school, and ourselves ahead of other humans who need us. Let’s build each other up, and validate each other, and express how important we are to each other in this life. Let’s stop kicking the can down the road, assuming we’ve got years’ worth of tomorrows ahead of us. Let’s strive to be more aware of what others may be going through, and to ask each other questions that the older generation may consider rude, embarrassing, or overly personal. Because isolation and silence can be deadly, and because maybe – just maybe – we can make a difference.

Please share this post, your thoughts, and your stories.

Let’s have that overdue conversation.

 

Petey (left), my better half (center), and myself. Wedding day, Vegas, 2009.

Petey (left), my better half (center), and your humble narrator (right). Wedding Day, Vegas, 2009.

 

RESOURCES

My husband started a blog in honor of Petey. He’d love it if you’d check it out.

Again, here’s that article on the suicide epidemic.

Here’s Anderson Cooper talking to Howard Stern about a lot of stuff, including his brother’s suicide. Tune in at the 13 minute mark if you’re short on time. (Thanks so much for this link, Tommy. I honor your wisdom and admire your strength. <3)

Add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on Facebook.

Once again, if you’re feeling suicidal, 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.

You are loved. Believe it.

Massaging Reality

 

I hope you’ll read this

with an open mind

because love for the skeptic

can be hard to find

 

It’s exceedingly common

to be met with suspicion

when you question “are bodyworkers

really mutant magicians?”

 

Upending secret blockages

releasing them in turn

trumpeting mystical special powers

only initiates can learn

 

Bought skills in aural palpation

in tweaking magnetic fields

full-body cosmic detoxification

and increased psychic yields

 

An ego tripper’s tour bus

on untransmutable lead wheels

a sucker born every minute

breeds bandits poised to steal

 

Past SOAP note notoriety

or “this muscle tissue’s tense”

it’s real world paper dollars

for imaginary sense

 

**************

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

 

Tips and Accepting Them

There are many ways for a gift to be given: under a tree, at a party, in the driveway…but there is always some level of trepidation for receiving gifts, especially for me in my professional life.

I am a Licensed Massage Therapist.  There are several images that come to mind and situations where massage therapists are part of a personal health or mental regimen for a client/patient that make the MT a facilitator or procurer of better health.  There are also positions in which massage therapists are considered, for all technical purposes, healthcare providers, like in a rehabilitative or preventative sense.

Although I do not advertise that I either accept or don’t accept gratuities offered following a massage therapy session that I facilitate for my paying or non-paying client/patient, I am often confronted with what is to me, from a business standpoint, an awkward situation: receiving a tip.  To receive or not to receive?

If I accept, will it become a regular thing for this client to tip?  Well, I think I first have to ask – is this something that this client normally does (or doesn’t do, in the case this situation never happens with this client)?  I never assume that it is a habit, and much less a habit that I will strive to hope or see happen in the future – if I do, then I will be “working for tips,” which is not in my work ethic.  I charge a fair price for services rendered and only expect payment for the service as agreed upon with my client/patient.  So, what’s next?

Is this tip the result of a Pavlovian behavior pattern?  In other words: is the client/patient used to tipping massage therapists or any service professional?  Is this a behavior I want to encourage by setting a precedent of accepting the tip?

After I have decided on the nature of the tip and whether or not I should accept it without question or challenge, it may seem like the end of the story.  But let’s dive a little deeper…

Are massage therapists considered service professionals or healthcare professionals?  They are each to each clients’ needs.  If a massage therapist serves a “relaxation” purpose, or the clients’ expectations are for “relaxation” – usually resolve for a mentally-stressful situation – then I see a massage therapist as a service professional.  If the purpose is to rehabilitate, prevent, or maintain good health (like in a program), then I see a massage therapist as a healthcare professional.

Next question: is it appropriate to tip service professionals?  Yes, societal practice and situational results encourage a sense of gratitude that is often expressed in an economic transaction – the tip: that “extra” money/gift that is given to the provider for a job done “above and beyond” the regular price paid.

Is it appropriate to tip healthcare professionals? Not always – In my experience, other-than-massage-therapist healthcare professionals focus on the altruistic nature of their work and may not consider their service to be qualified to establish an “above and beyond” ability that “service-oriented” professions often make a goal and, thus, do not expect the same behavior from their patients.  I might even go out on a limb and say that Tipping may be perceived as a capitalistic behavior and that healthcare (from an individual healthcare professional’s viewpoint) is not as capitalistic in nature.

This classification massage therapists playing the role of service or healthcare provider is a complicated one, but to me, and for the purposes of this article, let’s agree that the classifications have made a distinction in the nature of the compensation given by the client/patient.  There are certainly different roles, like each of these, that indeed a single massage therapist can fulfill.

Tipping sends a message: I appreciate you, professionally: more than you’re charging me.  When these messages are not clear is when the tipping conversation/questions comes up: I don’t know if I should tip you or not, so I will to be safe (socially-speaking); I expect a tip because I “always” give extraordinary service (from the service provider’s viewpoint); or, I do not tip my doctor so why should I tip you (or expect a tip, from a healthcare provider’s viewpoint)?

My policy, no matter if I’m playing the role of service or healthcare provider, has always been “Tips are never expected, but always appreciated.”

Do you want to refuse a tip more than once? – you can be a staunch supporter of the work ethic that says: it’s too weird to accept more pay that I have already agreed to.  There are boundary issues that may be important to you to avoid with the implication that a client/patient may gain some “advantage” in the client-patient/therapist relationship.  I suspect that that is the main reason for healthcare providers’ “no tipping” policies, and definitely respect it.

Do you want to have a “no tipping” policy?  – do you make it clear, prior to the session, that “tips are not accepted”?  This may precipitate a rogue tipper or two (to actually tip, despite policy), but that would be the most-professional (and likely –effective) way to create the expectation of your client/patient.

In my practice, I do not speak of tipping – when asked, I state my policy “never expected, always appreciated”…so why do I “not talk about tipping”?  I believe it is a personal choice, and not one that I have or want control over.  When I am offered, I accept based on the role I am playing: service or healthcare provider, and often after I have refused.

Here are a couple of examples of my First Refusal:

  • “Thank you so much for the thought: I really appreciate it, but why don’t you use it for your next massage [or a massage package] – when do you want your next massage?”
  • “Thank you so much – tips are not necessary.  I appreciate your commitment to massage therapy – may we apply that to your next massage?”

Here a couple ways I practice humility when receiving a tip after refusing it once:

  • “Thank you so much for your tip – I will be donating this to [name of cause]__________ as part of my contribution to community/non-profit activities that I believe in.”
  • “Thank you so much for your tip – I will be investing in furthering my expertise in massage therapy for you and all of my clients/patients in ____________________ class I’m registering for [soon].”

I think to refuse a tip offered more than once would be insulting to the client/patient and would also be a form of self-sabotage: to not consider that I am good enough to be paid “more than” what I am charging.  Obviously, that client/patient thinks I should be charging more than I am for my service/healthcare.

If you don’t like accepting tips, why not consider increasing your pricing?  That may be the message you are hearing but not heeding.

If you like accepting tips, the excellent service you provide daily may go unnoticed by some (and already-expected by some) and greatly-noticed and appreciated by others – “Up” your game by trying new customer service techniques that not only set you apart from other practices, but also put you in a class of your own.

Where do you stand on tipping/gratuities?  “To Tip”, or “Not To Tip”?

What is your Strategy?

Do you have a strategic plan? 

For many of you, that question alone will make you want to stop reading this article.  So many MTs shudder at the thought of doing business-y stuff.  Since most of the Continuing Education I teach is business, I have heard almost every reason in the book.  “I just want to focus on massage.”  “I am an artist, not a business person.”  “I work for someone else.”  “I am not good at paperwork.” “I thought business plans were only for getting loans.”

EXCUSES BE GONE!  Even if all of the above is true, you STILL need a strategic plan.  Some of the most talented massage therapists I have ever met are not as successful as they could be simply because they lack a written vision.

I challenge you- yes, YOU the MT without a strategic plan, to write one.  Make it a New Year’s Resolution.  Now is the time.  If you are not sure where to start, read on.

We are starting a Young Thumbs Strategic Planning Series.  Each week for the next four weeks, I will give you an assignment towards your own vision.  By the end of the four weeks, you should have a nice solid strategic outlook for moving forward.

Let’s get started by defining “strategic plan”.  First, this is different than a business plan.  I do think a business plan is very beneficial and is also necessary, but for a person that has nothing in writing at this point, a strategic plan often helps to get the mental juices flowing.  Also, it can easily dovetail into a business plan.  What we will have at the end of this series is a document that contains your Vision, Mission Statement, Goals and Objectives.  We will not be addressing how to do your financial projections (we will be tackling that further down the road).  That does not mean we are not going to talk numbers and money here.  We will.  Because, whether you like it or not, all business comes down to the numbers.

Why is all this important?  If you don’t know where you are going, you cannot measure how far you have come.  Many MTs complain about not making enough money or not having as many clients as they want but they have not spent the time analyzing why this is the case.  With a strategic plan linked to measurable outcomes, you can evaluate how far you have come, what is working and how to adjust to meet your goals.

Your first assignment happens now.  Go get your calendar- I’ll wait.

What day and time do you have set aside for a business meeting?  Wait, what?  You don’t have a formal business meeting?

“Why do I need to have a formal business meeting, it is just me.”

Guess what- YOU are your business.  It is time to make your business a priority and that starts with weekly meetings.  Since you have your calendar in front of you, let’s pick a date.  Pick some time, each week, to meet with yourself to evaluate your strategic plan.  Make this time sacred and non-negotiable.

Now that we have a time set for a business meeting, here is your assignment for your first meeting.  Write a vision statement.

A vision statement is just that- a statement of what you envision for your business.  There are some basic components:

  1. What do we do?
  2. Who do we do it for?
  3. In what ways do we do it well?

(I prefer the use of “we” when considering a business, even if there is only you.  This is because YOU wear many hats and do many different jobs.  All of those jobs create a “we”.  Use “I” if it feels more authentic to you)

This is the beginning of selling yourself.  If that is something that is difficult for you, pretend you are describing a friend’s business that you really like and respect.  Also, get over it.  You have to sell yourself!

Don’t worry about your vision statement being perfect.  Get it on paper.  Finished is better than perfect (someone really smart told me that once).  Speak from your heart.  We will refine this later and add in details as we get further down the line.  Shoot for three-four sentences per question.  If you need to write more, write more.  If you can say everything in less words, great.  Just get it on paper.

Here is a bonus incentive to you, The Young Thumb.  Email me your draft to columbiariverinstitute@gmail.com.  I will give you my feedback on it.  This is an awesome freebie that is only available to the faithful readers of this blog!

Start writing.  I’ll be looking for those emails.  Then, check back on Wednesday, December 19th, for your next assignment.

360-degrees in the massage profession

 I have done a little of everything in the massage field, and it has satisfied my desires to the fullest, but nothing is more gratifying as giving massages. I’ve worked in the field for over 15 years and started out working for someone out of their garage (yep, she made her garage into a massage studio and it was gorgeous). After that I moved around a bit from working in a spa, health club, private practice and eventually opening up my own massage business. Moving around from five different places, in three years was hard to keep a regular clientele, but I was always looking for that carrot on the end of the stick.

Then I found guaranteed money with teaching, and it was great from 2001-2008. I never had to worry about classes being cut, because massage was really popular around that time, and I would consistently have 10-15 students per class. But then the recession hit, and it was harder for students to get loans, and I eventually started seeing classes be cut, and my class sizes drop down to 4-6 per class. Luckily, I started MassageNerd.com a few years before the recession, and I could possibly handle my hours being cut, but I was so used to a regular amount each month, that I had to find other opportunities.

I got a job at Bon Vital’ as their social media director in April of this year and gave my notice the very next day. I actually gave the world’s longest notice, with six weeks, because it was in the middle of the quarter, and I wanted to finish my students out. I told my students about two weeks before my last day and most of them were devastated. It was so hard to see them upset, and I hated to do it, but I knew I couldn’t play the yo-yo game with not knowing if I had enough classes to teach that next quarter.

I was starting to feel a void in my life for the first time in a really long time, because I didn’t have that human contact as much and I was lying awake at night thinking what I could do to ignite my passion again. The very following day one of my past clients from 13 years ago found my number in the phone book and asked if I was interested in giving him a massage. I can’t tell you how much joy I felt after that phone call, and I scheduled him for the next day.

For the last few months, I’ve been averaging 3-4 massages a week, and it totally satisfies me. They always say that a massage therapist never completely retires from giving massages…They just cut down :)

Who Am I To Blog?

There it is. That nagging question that keeps me in check, and if left unreconciled, threatens to render me a useless pile of massage therapist, drooling and twitching on a Big Lots area rug.

The answer is simple: I’ve got something to say. I’ve got something to say about the way we’re treated and the way we treat ourselves. I’ve got something to say about community, support, ethics, honesty, and ideas. I’ve got something to say about fitting in, and flipping off.

And when I say “I’ve”, I mean “we’ve”. You’re reading this; you’re part of the discussion. Whether your head is nodding in agreement, shaking in disagreement, or is clutched in the agony of the realization that you’ll never get the previous sixty seconds of your life back, we’ve got a conversation on our hands. When the question arises “Who am I to passionately shake my fist at the inanimate object on which I type when there’s nary a soul to see me?”, acknowledge that I’ve-you’ve-we’ve got something to say, and unleash the beast.

Our qualifications to be heard don’t have to depend on awards we’ve won, books we’ve published, or checks we’ve taken to the bank. Sometimes others will choose to engage us, and sometimes we may end up feeling like the carton of milk accidentally left out overnight, forgettable and sour, a wasted effort. But really, who cares?

Persist. Live with integrity, embody generosity, speak your truth. Projects as dynamic as what I believe The Young Thumbs to be can emerge from something as basic as a good conversation. We best embrace our right to communicate, simply because we’ll always have something to say.

 

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.