NHI Expert Panel Discussion
At NHI, our massage therapy ambassadors have a unique opportunity to ask questions and learn from a panel of massage therapy experts. This month’s panel at our Emeryville campus included Teacher/Mentors Julie True, Frankie Menzel, Sabrinia Italia, Curriculum Coordinator, Sharlene Philips and NHI’s Training Manager, Melissa Wheeler. The discussion was so in-depth that those who participated got the full benefits of attending the panel but we wanted to share a few highlights with everyone.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Felicia Cursi, asked: Can I live on a private practice as my only source of income? Is that realistic?
Melissa: Yes, it is absolutely possible to support yourself with a private practice. I supported myself for five years with my private practice before I started teaching at NHI. What I recommend is that you get a position as a massage therapist while you build a small private practice – this way you are getting an income while working up to having a successful private practice.
Sharlene: With my private practice what I did first was decide what I would like my schedule to be like, since I am a mother and wife it was important for me to have flexibility. I would allow my clients to schedule appointments for up to three months in advance. I would not allow my clients to book past three months but I would put them on a waiting list. With this set up I was able to feel financially secure. You have to decide for yourself what would make you feel financially secure then base your practice around that.
Julie: What I love about massage therapy is that you don’t have to stick to one schedule and you can get income from clients you have regularly or corporate gigs. What I liked to do was have something that I relied on for income such as my corporate gig where I provided massage at Google and have my classes at NHI where I taught massage then if I had free time I would take clients. I liked that I could take a month off if I wanted to and not take any clients then they would always be there for me next month. It’s really cool because I moved from San Francisco to the East Bay and my clients still followed me! The same thing will happen to you – your clients will follow you.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Keiko Hamano, asked: A private practice is similar to the nature of a startup; do you need to have Facebook, Twitter, Google +, a website, and a blog?
Julie: The most important thing is to have a website with online booking. My close friend saves up to 4 hours a week with online booking. For me I had enough clients with my private practice that I didn’t need more clients so it worked out that I didn’t need to use social media.
Sharlene: Don’t lose sight of the power of word of mouth! First work on gaining that client base and then let it expand. What I liked to do to gain more clients was to offer them a free massage if they referred three new people to me. I found that referral based promotions worked great!
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Cat Gardere, asked: Am I devaluing my work by giving specials?
Julie: I’ve found that if you offer a deal someone will take the deal and they may not become a regular client but they will refer other people who can afford you. The person who got your deal will end up telling coworkers, friends and family members about their experience. Another thing I’ve done is run specials when I want to get more practice. I would send an email out telling my clients that I would like to introduce them to Thai massage so I offered them specials. Doing this helped give me practice while getting paid and it introduced my clients to a new modality of massage. During tax season I would send out an email that said It’s Tax Season – Who has tension in their shoulders? I would offer a special and then get extra practice massaging shoulders.
Melissa: Be judicial about offering deals. You only need to give deals about one time a year. Instead of offering deals what I like to do is offer a free massage to someone in related professions such as chiropractors, yoga instructors, personal trainers, Pilates instructors or spin class instructors. They will spread the word fast about you and will single handedly build your private practice. Since the holidays are coming up this is a great time to sell massage gift certificates just make sure you add time frames.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Cat Gardere, asked: Were the majority of your clients requesting specific modalities? If you wanted to specialize in a certain modality should you do it?
Sabrina: If you have something that you want to specialize in go for it! There will always be people out there who want what you are specializing in. Don’t dabble in anything that you want to specialize in because the more you know the more you will be able to help and educate your clients and the more you can market yourself.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Bobbi Knowles, asked: What do you think about continuing education?
Melissa: Continuing education is vital! I have thousands of hours of continuing education. From continuing education classes I was able to learn more about the body in a new way. I was able to slow down and apply what I learned to my clients.
The panel also offered the massage therapy ambassadors insight to networking, marketing yourself, and what it means to take care of yourself as a massage therapist.
Networking tips from the panel:
Frankie: When I was a student at NHI, I knew immediately that I wanted to work at the school so what I did to help make that happen was introduce myself to key people that I knew could make that happened. It’s important to identify who you need to rub elbows with and introduce yourself to people. If people don’t know you then you have to approach them and let them know who you are. Join LinkedIn groups for massage therapists and don’t wait to start networking.
Tips on marketing yourself from the panel:
Sharlene: Start marketing yourself before you graduate. You can start taking clients and offering them Swedish massage. Just be honest with your clients and let them know that you are a student. Use every opportunity you have to tell people what you do and why you do it. If you are in line at the grocery and you see someone rubbing their neck use that opportunity to share with that person that you are a massage therapist.
Tips on taking care of yourself as a massage therapist:
Melissa: In order to be a successful massage therapist you must take care of yourself. The more massage you get the more clients you will get. Once your private practice starts taking off and you are able to afford massage therapy regularly get it! You must practice what you preach. You can’t tell your clients to get massage if you don’t. You can come to the massage clinics here or you can partner with another massage therapist to trade, but take care of yourself. Plan meals, get exercise and don’t over-book! No one wants a sleep deprived massage therapist. You must take care of yourself.
Our Massage Therapy Ambassadors are an elite group of NHI alumni volunteers who are committed to supporting the integrity and positive growth of the Massage Therapy profession. If you want to join this special community, obtain leadership experience and professional exposure though Massage Therapy networking events, actives, and training then Apply now!