Episode 140

Feb 2, 2018

Feel like your hands-on skills are just ‘okay’ right now? Or lacking a little confidence? Take heart, you can still be really successful.

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Feel like your hands-on skills are just ‘okay’ right now? Or lacking a little confidence? Take heart, you can still be really successful.

This episode is sponsored by:


Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I’m Michael Reynolds. 

Allissa Haines And I’m Allissa Haines.

MR And we’re your hosts. Glad you’ve joined us today. Hey, Allissa, I have been looking at our iTunes reviews, and I am just super happy with what I see. Have you looked at them lately?

AH I haven’t looked at them lately. I always forget. You always mention it when we’re recording, and then I forget to go back and look at them. But I’m totally going to bring it up on my phone right now and check it out. [laughs]

MR I discovered we’re brilliant, because —

AH We are.

MR Here’s why we’re brilliant [laughs]: We always ask people to give us reviews at the end of the episode and the people that don’t like us stop listening; they never get that far. So we only ask people that like us. [laughs]

AH Yes! Oh, man. We are totally fixing this race, aren’t we?

MR We are so smart. I was just looking at — a few days ago, someone posted a five-star — the week before that they did — we’ve got some fun reviews; so go check them out. It just warms my heard to see the feedback we’re getting. So thank you, everybody. I wanted to take a moment to thank our listeners for reviewing us and rating us and sticking around. We appreciate that.

AH And, you know what — I actually want to take a second because they did this on another podcast I listened to the other day — a lot of people don’t know how to leave a review on iTunes, because it’s a little bit of a pain in the neck. So if you go into the podcast app, you can’t just look at our podcast that’s in your library that you’ve been downloading and leave a review there. You actually have to hit the little Search button at the bottom right and type in — just start to type in “Massage Business”, and Massage Business Blueprint comes up. You have to go into that show, and then if you scroll down a tiny bit, you’ll see the little window that says “Ratings and Reviews.” And, by the way, we get five out of five all the time —

MR Woot!

AH Yeah. And then if you click on that, it will let you — if you touch that, or you touch See All, it will let you add your own review. It’s a little convoluted; so if you don’t, we understand. But if you do leave us a review, we are extremely helpful, because the more reviews we have, it helps other people find us, and if you’ve been here for longer than 12 seconds, you know that we give a ton of resources away for free, we have a paid premium community, and if all anyone ever does is listen to our podcast, which of course, is free, we think they can get some benefit from it. So…

MR Righto.

AH There’s the schtick. If you had trouble with how to do reviews, you just got to search for us in the regular, podcast search-y section. That was really helpful, I know, with all of those technical terms.

MR [Laughs]. Thank you for that. Let’s move on to our topic today, which is how a mediocre massage therapist can still be successful. I admit I cracked up when I saw this title today [laughs]. So what have you got?

AH So I was thinking about this — I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Especially because we get so many questions and requests for help from people who are really lacking in confidence in regards to their hands-on skills, like a new therapist or people who feel like they don’t have the standing to market themselves well because they feel uncomfortable saying that their work is good or whatever. That’s part one of why I’ve been thinking about this. But part two is that there was just a massage therapist in my area that closed up shop, and she’d kind of been a little bit of a mess for a while. I’d gotten a massage from her, and her hands-on skills were not very good; her communication skills were not very good. I remember the first time I went to her, the first thing I said was I don’t want to get my hair full of oil, because I just went to the gym, I showered, and I’m heading to work, and the first thing she did was glop up my hair with oil. And I was just like She didn’t even listen to me. Her office tended to be a little dirty, and she’d do weird things like in the middle of a relaxation massage, she’d leave the room to adjust the volume of the music without saying she was leaving the room. Terrible. [Laughs] Just a terrible massage therapist. And yet she had clients. And she had a handful of regular clients. Now, ultimately, her business went downhill because the things she did at the beginning of her business she did not continue to do. And it really made me think, one, my hands-on skills are very good. I’ve been honing them for 13 years now. I’m a pretty good hands-on therapist, but I wasn’t always, and the things that helped propel me had nothing to do with my hands-on skills. So if you’re newer and you feel like your skills are not really, really refined yet, or if you have moved to a new place and you’re just starting up and you feel uncomfortable and you think that you’re a decent massage therapist but not necessarily “super fantastic wonderful,” that’s okay. Because you don’t need to be “super fantastic wonderful” to be successful; you just need to do the things to build the solid business. And those things are to do more of the things that other massage therapists don’t. We talk about this a lot here. If you’re listening to this podcast, by nature of caring enough about your career and your business to make an effort and listen and learn, you’re already in the top 10% of massage therapists; you’re cream of the crop at this point. It’s a pretty low bar, really.

But here are some things you can do to grow a solid business without having to be “super fantastic awesome hands on” right away. One, be super trustworthy. Extreme confidentiality, practice extreme confidentiality. You don’t tell friends that their friends have been to see you. You don’t ask one spouse how the other spouse’s headaches have been. You be super mindful of confidentiality. Because I can assure you that the bulk of massage therapists out there are not doing this, and if you do this, it will immediately set you apart. Next, have a crazy clean and neat office. Again, seems like one of those things that everyone would understand, and yet it’s not. Some people, even during the winter when salt and sand and snow is being tracked in, depending on where your office is located, they’re not vacuuming their office rug every night, which is ridonkulous. They are not cleaning their bathroom once or twice a week. They’re not buying the nice toilet paper. It’s silly in a lot of ways, but if a client sees that your floor is dirty, they’re going to assume that your door knobs are too. And if you get germophobes, and we all do — we all should be kind of germophobes, because we’re touching bodies all day — that can drive people away or discourage them from rebooking. Be so incredibly disciplined about proper licensing and insurance and all of that stuff. Again, seems like a no brainer, but off the top of my head, I can think of four people who are operating in my town illegally without establishment licenses, which are required in my state. Make sure that you’re not flying by the seat of your pants. Make sure that you have every permit and every license that you’re supposed to have. Make sure you write a blog post on your website about what’s required for massage therapists to work legally in your state or in your locality and promote the fact that you have all that.

Be super, super consistent in a whole bunch of things: in your schedule, maintaining a regular schedule every week; having a decent location and staying there, not being the kind of therapist that moves office to office to office every six months or a year; be really consistent in the quality of service that you provide. If you provide a warm pillow under someone’s head and they love it, you don’t want to not do that the next time. You want a certain level of consistency in your hands-on work in all of the services you provide. You don’t want to take cash and checks and credit card one month and then decide that you don’t like credit card fees and eliminate that so people have to have cash and checks only now. You want to be crazy consistent in every level of service and in every interaction that you have with clients. You want to figure out how quickly you’re going to be able to call people back so that your clients know that. If you are going to not call people back when it’s not your operating hours, in your actual hours of business, that’s okay, but you want to make sure that clients know that. And don’t change that and start calling people back on Sunday night if your rule is to not call people back until Monday morning, because then you set this expectation of inconsistency. And this is all — consistency tends to be all about boundaries, and boundaries are a great way to fake confidence, too. So in regards to your schedule, if you don’t work Friday nights, don’t start working Friday nights because one new patient has asked you to do so. That’s — boundaries are a great way to fake confidence. If you are feeling nervous or not confident about your — about getting busy enough, you’re going to cave, and you’re going to work that Friday night because you want their money, and you just need the client on your books. But you’re setting a really lousy precedent and having that boundary in place and following that rule simply because you set that scheduling rule is a wonderful way to fake confidence, which ultimately is going to get your more clients. And it’s a “fake it till you make it” thing on confidence. So let’s take a little break here before I hit my last two suggestions. Michael, who is our halftime sponsor today?

MR Today it’s our friends over at ABMP. We love those guys. Good people.

AH Woo! Yay!

Sponsor message We’re sponsored by ABMP, the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. They are supporting the largest community in massage and bodywork. ABMP goes above and beyond great liability insurance to make it easier for you to succeed at what you love. ABMP membership combines insurance, free CE, and the advocacy and personalized customer service that you deserve. Join the ABMP family and learn why more massage therapists and bodyworkers, including me, choose ABMP membership than any other association. Expect more at abmp.com.

AH And — yeah. Let’s jump back in. I’m going to say something nice about ABMP, but I’m going to wait until it’s relevant here.

MR I was on the edge of my seat waiting for more. [laughs]

AH I know. I’m going to wait. I’m going to jump into my third tip here, which is to be a resource. Even as a new therapist, people don’t expect you to know everything. You don’t have to know everything. You just need to be eager to learn and research about various issues and techniques. If someone comes in and, let’s say, they filled out an online intake form, and they told you that they had a knee replacement eight weeks ago and they’re in physical therapy. If you don’t know a ton about knee replacement stuff, look it up. And then when they come in, you don’t need to fake that you’re an expert at it; you can be really honest with them and say I haven’t worked with a lot of knee replacement clients, but I did some research and tell me what they’re doing in physical therapy so that I can best compliment that. And you’ve just disclosed to the client that you are excited and eager to learn and work with them. Clients love that. They love an eagerness to learn even more than they like what is kind of a boring expertise. When clients come to see you, they’ve read your bio. They probably know that you’re a newer therapist. They don’t expect you to know everything. They’re coming to you because you’ve been super cool about all the other stuff: about being trustworthy, about having a great website, about being consistent in your scheduling, and whatever. Be really eager to learn and research. And if someone comes in, and, let’s say, they haven’t filled out their intake form or they did so incompletely and they come in and they say Oh, and by the way, I’m on this medication and this medication, and you don’t know what those are, be willing to embrace a little humility and say I want to just look those up quickly before I work on you. People really respect clinical prudence. They don’t mind waiting five minutes for you to look something up; so be willing to do that. Be willing to embrace some humility; be willing to be really honest with your clients when that’s — when things like that come up, and they will respect you for it, and they will trust you for that. And they will trust you when they’re sending some of their family members in, maybe with more complicated conditions or maybe people who are pregnant or children. I’ve always felt like it’s the biggest honor someone can bestow up you is referring someone in their family or one of their friends with a complicated health condition because it means that they trust you to be a mindful practitioner and that’s really, really important. And also, to be a resource by getting cozy referring out to other specialists and really vetting those specialists to they meet your level of integrity and your standards of care. So make sure if you’re going to refer out to a physical therapist, you’ve met them or you have researched up on the styles, and it really coincides with your soft-tissue techniques. Make sure you’ve maybe talked to a few previous clients of that PT practice, and you feel good and know that you’re referring someone to a really quality practitioner. And this goes not just for their hands-on care but also their business practices. I have a handful of chiropractors in my area that I refer to, and I do so differently. If I feel like someone needs a certain kind of care or if someone’s got a neurological issue, I’ll say You know what? I think you need to go see this chiropractor. He’s really good with neurological issues. But head’s up, he’s kind of old school: you’ve got to call to make an appointment and you’re always going to wait 15 minutes. And because I’ve made that really full referral — I would not send my busiest, executive person who’s really short on time to this one chiropractor because I know he would lose it if he had to wait 15 minutes before each appointment; so him I’m going to send to somebody else. I’m going to say I think you should see the guy around the corner. He’s got appointments nights and weekends, and I think he’s going to help you out. So being able to make really qualified referrals based on very specific bits of information to make it the best referral for your client, and also the best referral for that other practitioner, is a way to put you miles ahead of other therapists who don’t bother to do that kind of legwork.

And finally, the last tip I have to help even mediocre massage therapists be successful is to just be better than other massage therapists. And that kind of encompasses everything we’ve talked about, but treat your business like a business, and not a hobby. Do all of the above things that we just talked about, because most massage therapists don’t. And, yes, that’s changing as our profession evolves, and I’m seeing that change, and I’m heartened that more and more massage therapists are setting up shop and doing so in a really mindful, strategic and high-integrity way. But there’s still just a lot of hot messes out there, and you can look around, you can see that, you can decide to be better, and even if your hands-on skills are good but not super great, you’re going to do very well. Michael, that’s all I have. What do you have?

MR Yeah. It’s interesting. The massage therapist that you just described doesn’t sound mediocre at all, because it sounds like all these things that you suggest doing are really going to make them come off extremely professional and extremely trustworthy; so they don’t sound mediocre to me at all. So I guess I’m wondering, do you define “mediocre” as someone who doesn’t have a lot of advanced skills or specializations or maybe their technique is, like you said, pretty good, but not knock-your-socks-off? How are you defining “mediocre”?

AH I’m defining “mediocre” partly kind of tongue-in-cheek here, but mostly in reference to how people feel about their hands-on skills, especially coming right out of school.

MR That’s kind of what I was thinking because the confidence issue is what you led with, which, in reality, a lot of people, they aren’t really mediocre; they’re actually very good, but maybe they feel mediocre. Is that kind of what you were —

AH Exactly. And if you feel mediocre about your hands-on skills, it’s probably just that you haven’t found your niche yet. And that’s also — it takes us a little while to find the things that we’re really good at and to kind of figure out how to get more of those clients that have those things we’re really good at.

MR Yeah. Okay.

AH And that takes a while. But I just hear it so much even from therapists who have been around for a long time, but have flailed a little bit. And especially from new therapists. People who feel like their hands-on skills aren’t particularly amazing, but they don’t understand how tied in communication, availability, consistency, professionalism is. Even if your hands-on skills are just good and not “super fantastic amazing,” you can do very well by concentrating on these other parts of your business. And I promise you, as you concentrate on these other parts of your business, as you get more clients, as you season your hands, your hands-on skills will get even better, and you’ll get more confident. So mediocre is tongue-in-cheek here, but it’s confidence and it comes. And know that you can do very, very well even if your hands-on skills aren’t exactly where you want them to be yet. You can do well by treating this holistically, really, by treating your business holistically and not just all about your hands. Because there’s plenty of amazing, amazing hands-on therapists who have failed spectacularly because they do not have any kind of business brain in their head. Or they treated their business like a hobby instead of a business. So it goes both ways.

MR Fair enough. Yeah, thank you. Hey, since you mentioned finding your niche, I hope you don’t mind, I’d like to put a little plug in for our upcoming course, if that’s okay.

AH Please do.

MR I would love to. As you know, we launched our transformational journey last year, and it’s actually kind of wrapping up this first quarter, and it’s been awesome. It’s been amazing, so much fun. We’ve had eight students in the class that are making some amazing changes in their business. And the reason I thought of that is, because, as you said, finding your niche. One of the very first things we do in that course is to define your niche. So again, a lot of massage therapist look like every other massage therapist in their town. And by “look like,” I mean they all do Swedish, relaxation, deep tissue, hot stone, blah, blah, and it’s all like We serve everybody, and they generalize their practice, which that’s okay. But when you want to stand out from the crowd, and you want to look different enough that you get people’s attention and therefore gain more business, it really can help to niche your practice. Whether it’s niche in a specific market, a specific discipline, your perspective, we’re going to talk about all those things in the course. One of the things we do in that course is define that niche, and it’s been a lot of fun and some really great work’s happening. So if you want to get signed up for the spring course, we have people signed up already, but we do have some more slots open. We only take eight people. Go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/elevate — I just made that little short cut for you today — massagebusinessblueprint.com/elevate, because the course title is Elevate your Massage Practice: A Transformational Journey. So /elevate that will go there to the sign-up page. Get signed up if you would like to join us on that journey.

AH And let me tell you a little about how the course works since we’re doing this. It is 14 weeks. What happens is on a Wednesday morning we release a video lecture, and you watch that lecture and it comes along with homework, and you do your homework. The following Tuesday we meet in a 2-hour live, class session — online, it’s a web meeting — and each attendee presents their homework, and we help them and work through any obstacles that we’ve hit, and we help each other and we learn from each other. And then the next day on Wednesday another video lesson releases, and you watch that video lesson and we keep them all — I don’t think we’ve had one top 25 minutes; they’re usually between 15 and 20 minutes — you watch that lecture, you do your homework, and it happens again the next week. There’s one week in there where we give you two weeks to do the homework assignment, because it’s a little bit more involved. After that it’s just week by week. It’s 14 weeks starting March 7 and ending May 29; so you could have your whole business set up by June. If you feel like you’ve been struggling and you need to redo some stuff, but you’re just not sure, we start off with all sorts of re-niching and marketing and then move into very refined business practices so that at the end of 14 weeks, you’ve got a streamlined, effective business, you’ve got marketing plans and networking in place and you will grow. It’s really, really cool.

MR Right on. Can’t wait. Check it out. Again, that’s massagebusinessblueprint.com/elevate. All right. Should we wrap it up there? Anything else you got?

AH I’m done, man.

MR All right. Cool. Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. As we mentioned before, already, you know where our website is: massagebusinessblueprint.com. If you’re a premium member, thank you. If you’re checking out premium, might check out the benefits of that membership as well. If you have questions or comments, you know where to find us: podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. Send those emails to us, and we love your feedback. Thanks, everyone, for joining us, and we’ll see you next time.

AH Bye.

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