Want to get ahead while in massage school, so you can start a business right away? We’ve got some tips!
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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 am Allissa Haines.
MR And we’re your hosts. Welcome. Glad you’ve joined us today.
Allissa, fall is in the air. I’m excited.
AH It’s so nice. I had to come out to my little outside office early this morning to get the heat turned on because it was like 50 degrees in here. And it’s up to like 64 now, so I’m snuggled in my chair with a blanket on my toes and stuff. It’s awesome.
MR Oh, so cozy. So cozy.
AH It’s wonderful.
MR We went to Halloween decoration shopping a couple days ago, and it was so much fun. I love Halloween.
AH Oh, my gosh. Does he have his costume yet?
MR He has one picked out. We haven’t actually bought it yet, but he wants to be Spider-Man.
AH That’s excellent.
MR Yeah. Of — I’m sure you would have guessed that, but [laughing] he’s kind of on a Spider-Man kick for the last few months.
AH [Laughing]. He is. That’s great.
So listen, I want to — you were — we haven’t recorded in a while. You were away for most of last week at a conference, and I want to hear about what this conference is — was.
MR Oh, okay. Sure. Well, it was a conference for financial advisors, which sounds incredibly boring when I say it out loud. [Laughing]. But it’s actually very different. So it’s not the typical conference. It’s from XY — I’m a member of XY Planning Network, which is kind of the Massage Business Blueprint for financial advisors, which is really cool. And it’s for financial advisors who are more progressive, more high-tech, more — you know, they serve a wide variety of people, younger people, millennials. So not your typical financial advisors. And it’s a really kind of disruptive crowd, so it’s really exciting because it’s financial advisors who are kind of disrupting the industry — sorry to use a buzzword — but kind of breaking the mold of what you think of when you think of the typical stuffy, arrogant financial advisor. So it’s really — they’re really accessible, very tech-forward, very cutting edge in terms of how we deliver service.
So it was a really exciting crowd to be around. Everyone was like my age or within, you know, a little bit younger or a little bit, you know, kind of close to my age. And so it was so much fun. I had a blast. I’m glad to be back, but it was a lot of fun. So thanks for asking and letting me talk about that for a little while.
AH I’m so glad. And I’m really — I was excited because I saw in some of the pictures you posted — and I know you did a podcast recording with the panel — I loved seeing so many young women. And I think I’m at the age now where I think everyone under 50 is young.
AH So I’m like, oh, what a delightful young woman.
MR Kids these days.
AH And she’s probably my age. So I’m just going to roll with that.
AH But I loved it. I really liked it, and I’m excited to see what comes from that.
AH So thanks for telling us about it, Michael.
MR Yeah. It was fun.
AH What are we talking about today?
MR What are we talking about today? That is a great question. We are talking about how massage students can prepare to run a business. Oh, my gosh. I am so in love with this discussion.
AH [Laughing]. I know.
MR I am so in love with it. [Laughing].
AH And we got such a wonderful email from a student. And it was longer and thoughtful, but I’m just going to steal a little bit of what he wrote to kind of intro this topic. And José wrote, “Since I’m in school, what do you believe I should do to hit the road running? I have very little resources to invest up front, so I was hoping you can provide some feedback to a student who wants to gain an advantage beforehand with a very limited budget.” And from the rest of his email, I also know that José has a background in mental health counseling. And he plans to integrate them and work, I think, with people with trauma — integrating bodywork into that. I’m not sure exactly. I could be paraphrasing a little too much, but I liked knowing that he had a history in health care stuff.
So — ugh. This is just so exciting. I do have some tips for students, and you’ve heard many of them before, but I’m going to try to put them together in a really cohesive way. Yeah. So I’m just going to jump right in.
So this is the question, right? If you know you’re going to — you know you want to start your own practice after you graduate, how can you lay the groundwork so that you’re not flailing once you have proper licensing and everything? So where are you going to get clients? And that’s the question most massage students ask — start like — a few months before graduation. You know your massage stuff, and how do you make a reality out of making a living in this business?
So start now. Even though you’re not a full massage therapist yet, it’s important to start a mindset of marketing because it takes practice. Just like the first time it was hard for you to palpate whatever, it’s hard the first time you make an email campaign. So marketing is the same way. You need to start practicing. And you need to remember the thing that Michael told me many times in the beginning of our friendship when I’d be like, I don’t understand; I don’t know this marketing thing, and he’d be like, it’s all about relationships; you understand that; you’ll be just fine; it’s all about relationships. And it really is. It’s all about relationships. And I’m going to add a little bit to it. As you’re a student, it’s all about the reputation you are building as Joe Schmo the massage therapist versus Joe Schmo who used to be a bartender. Or it’s about the reputation you build and how people start to see you as you emerge into this profession and as you kind of, I don’t know, emerge from your cocoon into a — of massage school into being a professional in the world. So you want to start building that great reputation now.
So what does that mean? It means being really, really responsible and treating your practice clients like real clients and teaching them that your massage is going to be worth paying for when you graduate. Massage therapists often get a bad rap. People think that we’re flighty and flaky and unreliable. And yeah, a lot of massage therapists are, and that stereotype has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades — the past decade or so, but it’s still around. So you’re going to need to work really hard to prove that you’re a reliable, responsible practitioner. And you’re going to need to work hard if you want this to be your main source of income. If people get to know and trust you now, they will be much more likely to spend their money on your massage later and to refer their friends and family to you. You’re going to stop being Amy who works at The Gap and has an irregular schedule, and you’re going to become Amy who is running a solid massage practice. And absolutely you have an opening on Tuesday night; I work Tuesday nights; wonderful. So it is about kind of recreating how people in your life and potential referral partners see you.
Now, it could be that none of your friends and family become your clients, and that’s great. That’s fine. Some people prefer that. But it is important that if you in the past have not been a super reliable person, that you become that if you plan to be a business owner because you want your aunt Fran to feel comfortable referring her colleague to you. And Aunt Fran’s going to know that if — that you’re reliable if as you practiced on her you did many of the following things to build that reputation of reliability and professionalism.
So let’s start on some very specific little things you can do — I’m going to give you like two things, and then we’ll stop for halftime — to start acting like a professional now to pave the way for when you graduate. Clean up your outgoing voicemail message. It’s time you start acting like a respectable practitioner, and your outgoing message should not have music in the background, it shouldn’t have your toddler being cute, it shouldn’t have a terrible, muffled “leave a message” kind of vague thing, and you don’t want it to be that default “you’ve reached 978-212 whatever” because that’s terrible. You want it to be very short and clear. It doesn’t need to say anything about massage because you’re just a student. But I should say something like, hi, you’ve reached the voicemail for Sarah Smith; I’m sorry I can’t take your call; if you leave your name and number, I will return your call as soon as possible. As a student, that’s all you need. It should be a very clear your voice, your name. That’s that.
And then if you answer the phone — I know some people don’t, and that’s okay — you need to answer it like a pro. Even if you know it’s your mom or your best friend or whoever, get used to answering the phone by saying, hi, this is Sarah; may I help you? It’s good to practice that. It’s good to just get used to answering the phone that way. It flows naturally. Once you practice it, then it doesn’t feel so awkward. And I will — I’m not going to dive into the second part yet. But when you answer the phone, do it well. When you answer texts, use full speech; use proper language, at least something close to proper language. [Laughing]. I know that a lot of people use a lot of abbreviations. And I’m not going to say that’s not okay, but make sure that you can text in a way that another adult, even if they’re older than you or younger than you, is going to understand. So be clear.
All right. We’re going to stop for our halftime. Michael, who’s our halftime sponsor today?
MR Yeah. Our halftime sponsor is Acuity, our favorite online scheduling software in the world.
Sponsor message Acuity is our software of choice. They are your online assistant working 24/7 to fill your schedule. They avoid you having to play phone tag, which is great if you don’t like to deal with voicemails and returning calls like I was just talking about. Clients can quickly view your real-time availability and book their own appointments. They can pay online or not. You get to set those and customize all of those settings. You can handle your forms before the appointment so you know what issues are walking in the door. You will look and act professional by having a convenient scheduling for your clients. You can make it match your brand and your voice. You can get a special 45-day free offer when you sign up, and you can check that out at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.
AH All right. Let’s flip back to my notes.
So we’ve covered having a good voicemail. We’ve covered answering the phone like a pro. Now is also a time to get a good email address to use professionally. If your email address is anything other than your name or a clear derivative of your name, you need to get a new one. So fuzzybunny@yahoo is not good; dancinghottie is not good; mamabear, some funny take-off on your kid’s names, not cool. Not if you’re going to use it for your future business, and not if you want to start laying the groundwork that Amy the massage therapist is a pro and not Amy the person who whatever. I don’t even know. I’m not going to start saying things about people. So poor Amys. I apologize.
Anyhow, now is the time to pick a decent email address that is some derivative of your name. You want to — not — I don’t think — I don’t know that we’ve ever talked about this, but when you’re choosing an email address, you want to use a service that isn’t connected to your internet provider. So a lot of people have like Verizon or Comcast email addresses, but if you change your internet service, then you lose that email address. So that’s an issue. So I don’t think that’s something we’ve ever talked about. So you want to use a service like Gmail or maybe Yahoo! — I’m not a huge Yahoo! fan, but — or — but like an email service — what are some other — what’s outside of Gmail, Michael? What are the options?
MR Outlook.com is one that’s becoming more popular from Microsoft. I’m like you. I’m not a fan of Yahoo!, [Laughing]. Yahoo! labels you as kind of out of date, I think. But I like Gmail. Gmail’s my favorite. I’d say Gmail or Outlook. I’m partial to those.
AH Yeah. So something that is not connected to your internet service. Yeah. I’m going to — I’m just going to go with that. I’m going to say that.
You also, at the same time, want to have a really good email signature, which is what autopopulates at the bottom of your email with your contact information. So it’s going to say your name, your phone number. It’s a — we have a whole bunch of information on email signatures. So if you get that far, just search on our website, and you’ll see it. Yeah.
Okay. I got distracted by talking to you about providers and then lost my place. So now that people — they’ve got a good outgoing voicemail message — and yes, it’s okay to start running your business through your cell phone. Once you actually become a massage therapist, you might want to get a separate business line. But you’re a student now. You don’t need to think about this. You want to keep things low-cost, so you can keep using your regular cell number. That’s totally fine. And you’ve got an email address set up. Email addresses are free. Awesome.
Now that you’ve got really good, clear professional ways to communicate with people, you need to communicate with them professionally. So you need to return messages. You need to call and email and text people back in a timely manner, which is different for everyone. So you got to figure out what “in a timely manner” means to you, and then you need to be consistent with it, please. So I say that’s roughly as soon as possible. Within 12 to 24 hours, I think, is fair. You’re not going to be getting a lot of calls from people you don’t know or strangers or anything, but it’s important that you get used to calling people back efficiently. And that if you get a call or a text or an email from somebody and you can’t respond right away, that you have a good system for making a note so that when you can get back to them, you will and you won’t forget. And this happens with me so often with texts because once you read a text, it doesn’t alert you that there’s a new text anymore, and then you forget. So figure out your system for however you’re going to remind yourself to get back to people. And that’s a really important way to build a good reputation.
If Aunt Fran gets practice massages from you as you’re a student but then she calls you to make a — schedule a next one and you don’t get back to her for two weeks, that’s going to stick with her so that when you do graduate and you are licensed and she wants to send her neighbor to you after her hip surgery, she can say, hey, you should go to my niece Amy for a massage and give her a call, but it might take her a couple weeks to call you back. Like, you don’t want Aunt Fran to have to add that caveat to save her own reputation, so just be crazy reliable. I don’t want to beat this to death. You understand. But you want Aunt Fran to be like, hey, you’re going to love my niece; I’m so excited for her starting her business; she’s super reliable.
So anyhow, as you practice on people when you’re a student, get their contact information. Every time you practice on someone or every time you meet someone who inquires about your future massage services, you want to get their information. You want to get their full name, potentially their postal mailing address — I know that sounds old fashioned, but people still like a nice postcard — their phone number, their email address, and maybe even their birthday. Doesn’t even have to be the full year, but if you want to be the kind of practitioner that sends your clients birthday cards, it’s not the worst thing to get.
Now, you might have to get some of this information for people you practice on anyway depending on your school and what they require for intake forms, but you want to get permission to use it. So when you get this information from your massage guinea pigs, it’s very important that you get permission to use it. So you can add a little checkbox that says, is it okay for me to reach out to you when I start my massage business? You could also do it verbally if you make a really — a contemporaneous note about it, like a note right then so when you’re practicing on someone, you — not as you’re practicing on them but before or after you can say, is it okay if I add you to my email list? I’m going to send an announcement out when I start my business. And make a note of their reply and follow through on that.
So as you collect this contact information, you’re going to need to decide how to store it. And this is a really good way to get used to data entry and data management. So the best, freest way to start is with a spreadsheet. You can use Excel or Numbers depending on the computer type, or you can use a web-based program like in Google Drive or Docs you can use the — Sheets is what they call their spreadsheet. Is that what they call it? I don’t know. So every time you practice on —
MR It is. Google Sheets.
AH Google Sheets. Excellent.
Every time you practice on a new client or you meet someone who could be interested who expresses interest, you want to get their contact information into that spreadsheet. And you might have one page for people you practiced on and one page for people you want to reach out to for marketing and referral purposes. Whatever. However you organize it, get used to organizing it. If you can discipline yourself to do this, you’re going to be miles ahead of most graduates who are struggling to get organized and build the list and don’t know how to store an email address in a spreadsheet.
So I also think you should treat practice clients like real clients in that consider sending them a thank you note. After you practice on them, they’re going to say thank you. If it’s legal in your state or with your school, they might even tip you. But I think you should get used to welcoming new clients and those kinds of protocols on your practice clients. Send a simple, blank note card that just says, it was such a pleasure to work with you; thank you for letting me practice; I hope you feel great and I see you soon. It’s super easy. This is something you can do very cheaply. You can get blank thank you notes super cheap. I know you can do this via email, you can do this via text, and those are great. If that’s where you’re at and that’s what you can manage, that’s wonderful. If you can manage an actual paper note and handle the 50 cents or 52 cents or whatever it costs to mail a — I don’t — mail a card now — I don’t know. I just bought a book of stamps. I should totally know. Anyhow, that’s great if you can do any kind of a thank you. Whatever you can manage, whatever’s in your grasp, do it.
Business cards. Now, you got to check with your state regulations here because you don’t to want to get in trouble. In some places you can have a business card that just says your name and says massage therapy student and then have your phone number, your email address. You can get these cards free at Vistaprint just for shipping. So the free version of the card has their Vistaprint logo on the back side still, I think. It’s been a while since I’ve ordered the free cards. If that’s what you can manage, if the $5 for shipping is what you can manage and you get the free card with the Vistaprint logo on the back, that’s just fine. If you can afford a $10 upgrade and you can get the ones without the Vistaprint logo, great. You don’t — don’t worry about designing a logo. Don’t worry about getting fancy. Just have some kind of business card that’s got your name, it says massage therapy student, and however you want potential clients to contact you. Yeah. That’s all I have to say about that.
But again, check with your school and check with your state because that is — that’s a variable of on what’s allowed. And do not put “massage therapist” on there because you’re not a therapist. You’re a student. And you want to make that really clear. But you want to have — if it’s allowed, you want to have some kind of card to give to people because you want to get used to when people hear you’re in massage school and they ask you about it and if you think they’re someone you might want to practice on or offer services to when you start up, you can hand them your card. Hey, I would — if you want to give me a call, I’d love to practice with you. And/or get their contact information from them right then.
Okay. So I don’t want to dive too far into this next one, but I want to let you know that it exists. If your practice people, if your potential clients, if your future population of clients are people who utilize email, it’s a great way to communicate with clients individually and in bulk. So by virtue of getting people’s contact information and getting their permission to use it, you can start communicating with a handful of people, like maybe five or ten people, really easily, and it can set the stage for good email marketing once you start your business. So it can be tempting to just use the blind cc, the Bcc: field, blind carbon copy, and send an email to all your practice people at once to be like, hey, I need to practice on somebody with knee problems; let me know if that’s you or whatever. But I would encourage you to get hooked up with an actual service for bulk emails. Mailchimp is free. iContact has really cheap plans. There’s a bunch of other free bulk email options out there. And get used to using a real bulk email service. Build a basic template. These are easy — these are learning curves that you can conquer now versus when you are trying hardcore to recruit new clients for your new business.
But send an occasional bulk email. If you need someone to — if you work on — you learn some more low back techniques, let’s say, in the last portion of your school and you want to practice on people with low back issues or you just need a practice dummy in general, it can be super easy to just do one bulk email that goes to your 10 or 15 practice people or whoever’s given you their information and say, hey, I need to practice on someone specifically on low back stuff; if you’d like me to practice low back massage on you and you’re free on Saturday at this time or this time, let me know; I’d love to set that up. It’s a great way to learn how to communicate with multiple people at once in this email format. And it’s a good way to show people that you’re excited about what you’re learning, and that’s going to also help you build your reputation. If I got an email from a student that said, I just learned about massage for headache and jaw stuff and I would really love to practice on you; call or email me and we’ll schedule something, I would love that. I would love hearing that they’re so eager to treat something that’s important to me that they’re sending an email and asking for clients. Like, that’s wonderful.
And then that helps you get used to how to use email and build your list so that when you graduate, you can announce that, hey, I just graduated, and I am so excited. And you can send a picture from your graduation in that email. And you can say, I am in the middle of setting up my business, so you’re going to hear from me in a couple of weeks or a month when I’m ready to start taking clients. And then when you finally are all set up and legal or if you found some employment, you can email these people and be like, hey, I’m now working at so-and-so massage clinic; call this number to schedule. Or, hey, I got my website set up — which we’ll talk about in a second — here’s where you go to schedule an appointment. It — practicing these kinds of things makes them so much easier once you’re starting out.
Now, two more bits. I know this turned out longer than I expected. I’m sorry. One. Get started on a website. And there’s lots of free options. I think Weebly and Wix both have free options. Get used to the do-it-yourself website builders. Build something super easy and basic. Know how to log on, change your content, upload a picture, and get it published. Practice with these things so it’s super fast and easy when you’re ready to actually start. And again, there’s — so you can start building a basic website, and it doesn’t — it’s not advertising your services as a student. It can just — mine would say something like, Allissa Haines, massage student; watch this website for upcoming news and information about when I start my practice. You could even put a little email sign-up form on there. You’re not selling massage yet because you’re not graduated. You could also build a site and not publish it to the world. You can just get used to how to build a DIY kind of site. But it’s good just learning how to do bulk emails, learning how to get a website together, a basic website with a DIY builder. And again, you can start these things for free. I think Weebly and Wix both have free options. You don’t get a custom domain name, but you can practice. And that’s really, really helpful.
And then my final note here is clean up your social media profiles. So if you’re on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or wherever you are, you want to keep — you either want to lock it down with the privacy settings as high as possible so only friends and maybe even certain lists of friends can see your posts and pictures because you don’t want a potential client to search your name looking for you in six months after you’ve graduated and you’re licensed and you started your own practice and see this picture of you getting just hammered at a bachelor party five years ago. You don’t want that coming up. So remove any pictures that are questionable or lock them down. And understand locking them down isn’t a sure thing. You want to have a good profile picture of you that’s clear and appropriate, not — and I understand Facebook profile pictures and Instagram profile pictures are used for a lot of different things, so I’m not going to say you shouldn’t have your dog or your baby or your favorite whatever. But if you’re going to run your own massage business and people could be looking for you by name, you do not want it to be a picture of you doing body shots at spring break. You want to keep it relatively clean and professional. And you want to do this with all of your social media profiles.
You could decide you’re going to create a new Instagram — you’re going to lock down your personal Instagram, keep it private just for the people you actually know, and start a new Instagram for your business. That’s great. You could lock down your Facebook profile and you know that you’re never going to accept friend requests from clients. That’s great. You just got to keep in mind that there’s going to be some crossover, especially if you practiced on friends and family. Especially if you’re going to work in the community that you live, there’s going to be some personal and professional crossover. So you want to make sure that your personal is pretty professional, at least what someone can see. You know, you don’t need Aunt Fran to be reminded of your spring break pictures that you forgot to lock her out of.
So to review, it’s about reputation and relationships; fix your outgoing voicemail; answer your phone like a pro; get a real email address; return messages like a pro; acquire people’s contact information and permission to use it, and then store that information well; get some business cards; maybe practice with some email campaigns; DIY a website; clean up your social media. This is a lot of stuff. If you do half of these things, you’re going to be in way better shape than most of the people you graduate with. And I believe in you. Good luck.
I’m done, Michael.
MR All right.
MR I would just reiterate, build your network before you need it. You mentioned that a few times, and I think that’s critically important is make sure you’re building a network before you’re ready to rely on it.
AH And I realize now that this is a lot of information and probably needs a webcast. So I’ll put —
AH — that on the agenda for the beginning of 2020.
MR Hey, we should start doing webcasts again. That’d be cool.
AH [Laughing]. We should start doing webcasts again. I’m literally going to make a note about that in my bullet journal right now.
MR They were super popular, and then we just got busy. [Laughing].
MR Okay. Well, on that note, we’ll wrap up for today. So thanks, everyone, for joining us today. A reminder you can visit us online at massagebusinessblueprint.com. We have an awesome premium member community, which is a steal. The price is incredibly low compared to the value you get including the best Facebook group for massage therapists on Facebook, premium stock photos, which are real massage photos, not those crummy photos where people’s heads are in twisted positions and stuff. These are real people with real massage therapy kind of situations and angles and shots and a lot of other stuff. So check it out.
And if you have a question or comment for us or want to give us feedback, send that to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for joining us today. We’ll see you next time.