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This is the best space to build a massage practice

My Professional Office Space

When I decided to go out on my own.  Be my own boss.  Work for myself.  The very first thought was where am I going to open my practice.  My next thought was where would my clients fill the most comfortable.  Really that last thought was what guided my search.  I needed a space that was comfortable, safe and airy.  I made of list of several spaces I would be interested in growing my business.  They were:

  • Professional office space
  • Physical therapy office
  • A wellness center
  • Home

The Professional Office Space

I ultimately choose my own professional office space in a community shared suite.  That’s a mouthful.  I gave my search a lot of thought.  I looked at a variety of setups before finding the perfect spot.

My suite is filled with independent professionals.  Although I thought about renting out an entire suite for myself in the past.  I didn’t want the burden of that high cost of rent or finding tenants to rent out the extra space.  Nor did I want to  grow a full fledged business.  So this single 8 x 10 office was an excellent solution.  It was big enough for me to create a real welcoming environment.

There are many many examples of these professional office spaces.  But what drew me to mine was its waiting room and there were other tenants that had complimentary practices.  In my suite there’s a hypnotherapist, 2 speech therapists, a marriage family counselor, a life coach, an esthetician, an in-home caretaker and of course, me.  So I never feel alone.  Also, my clients like the vibe that there are other people around.  It makes for the appearance that we’re part of a greater network.  This has proven to be great for satisfying client comfort and safety.  On the flip side still allows me to be 100% independent of everyone in the suite.  One last note about this community office is through natural progression we all refer to one another and it has become an unexpected generator of clients.

I remember looking at other suites that didn’t have such a dynamic environment, a waiting room or were filled with non complimenting professionals like lawyers and relators.  Which bring me to my next point.

The List

Know what you are looking for when you head out searching.  I made this list of must haves to get me through my searches.  I would only allow my space to not have one thing.  If it had more than one, it was out of the question.

Light parking  √ Month to month lease
Handicapped parking  √ Less $600/mo
Location easy to find   √ Close To home
Bathrooms   √ Breakroom 
Elevators   √ Conference Room 
Clean   √ Gym  
Professional   √ Restaurant 
Waiting room/area   √ Close to food, shops 
Multiple tenants   √ Receptionist
A window   √  
Internet   √  

This list is basic.  The asterisk sign means these were things that would be nice to have but not necessary.  I purposefully made it that way because I knew I wanted to make the space conducive to bodywork and therapeutic massage.  I just needed the space to have good bones.  The rest was up to me.  My space isn’t picture perfect but over time I have created it to be a functioning space that can accommodate all of my clients.  I have been in it for 6 years at the time of this posting with hopes of being in it for 6 more.


These types of offices can range from $250-$800 a month.  Depending on location and size.  I opted for a nicer office to accommodate my clientele.  My office has a window.  It is at the end of the suite to cut down on noise and foot traffic across my doorway.  The office is the largest in the suite.  That paired with the window creates a sense of openness in the room.  

Cost played a major factor in my decision but I didn’t want to compromise on my space.  So I had to compromise in other ways.  In order to keep my rent low I ended up signing a year lease with a one month deposit.  There after my lease would be yearly renewals versus month to month renewals.  This was the compromise I made to get a lower rate but nicer office.  This particular suite is owned by a couple.  So I was able to have that discussion with them about cost and leases.  Where as if it were a management leasing company it would have been a no go. 

I was all in.  I knew that I was going to open shop and move forward.  There was no second guessing my business plan.

How did I decide the things I needed in an office space?

I rolled played.  Pretended I was the client coming to visit me for the first time.  Walked myself through all the stages leading from my house to getting on the massage table.  Took notes along the way.  As I was finalizing my list and setting up my business, I would go on Living Social and Groupon to get massage deals.  I would then make appointments taking notes along the way about the pros and cons of every interaction I had.

  • How easy was it to get there?
  • Was parking easy?
  • Is there handicap parking?
  • Easy to get there?
  • How was the check in process?
  • Are the people in the office nice?
  • Is the place clean?
  • Noise?
  • Where’s the bathroom?
  • Do I have to fill out a form?
  • Is the room comfortable?
  • Was I on time with my services?
  • Did I wait a long time to get worked on?
  • Was there water?

I think you get my point.  In the end these were very good learning tools that helped me decide on critical aspects of my business and its location.  They were absolutely worth the investment in time and energy.  Because now I have a workspace that I’m proud of and has allowed me to build a successful thriving practice.

A few more things that come to mind

I did my search through Craigslist.  There were plenty of options.  These types of units are always readily available.  Rarely was I asked to do a credit check.  Most cases it took only a deposit to hold the office.  I used my intuition about places.  I never ignored it.  Sometimes I was tempted to because the place looked awesome or it had awesome amenities.  This is where my list really helped guide me.  I choose a space that sent the signal to clients that I’m a working professional that is serious about my craft.  It works.

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15 Massage Years. 15 Massage Lessons. 15 Massage Tips.

Where it all began
Yes, it’s true.  I’ve been massaging for 15 years.  Time flies, a phrase I often say and mean these days.  Looking back on my massage career there a many things I probably would do different.  I’m smiling as I write this because I know the truth that being a self employed massage therapist is hard.  Doing massage therapy day in and out for 15 years is hard work (borderline insane). I love what I do though and wouldn’t change it for the world.  I mean it.

15 Mistakes I Made

1.  Set some goals.

When I first started my practice in 2002, I did everything wrong.  So wrong that I had to close shop, work 2 jobs (actually 1 full-time & 1 part-time job) and dig myself out of the financial hole I had dug myself into.  On the second go around, I wasn’t going to let that happen.  It all started with setting goals.  My original and long standing goal was of course desired yearly salary.  My goal formula went something like this:  desired income ($100k) / number of weeks in the year (52) = $per week needed / # of clients I wanted to see = my hourly rate.  This formula really solved how I would approach every aspect of planning my business.

2.  Have a simple plan.

Successful businesses are based off a plan.  I hope I’m not alone when I say initially I didn’t have a plan.  I thought I’d open my doors, make a lot of money and that was it.  As I stated above, that wasn’t the case.  A simple plan just keeps you focused on your goals.  It’s you’re road map to success.  It tells you how you are going to achieve your goals.  The great thing about it is you can make it as simple as you want.  It can constantly be tweaked, changed, corrected as you become familiar with your business.

3.  Save some money.

I always think about my past and how little I saved.  If you read any good investment book, they will always tell you to pay your bills and put money aside for a rainy day and invest.  Just wish I did more of this earlier on.

4.  Focus on a niche.

I reached my goals faster by focusing on a single niche/target group.  I created my ideal client and pushed all my marketing and communication efforts towards this group.  It made structuring my website easy.  Designing my office was a breeze.  My plan was easy to develop knowing who I wanted as my customer.  I personally was happy knowing that I was seeing people I wanted to work on.

5.  Have a reasonable vision.

Don’t expect to work on movie stars if you live in Iowa.  You really have to do your research to see if your expectations of yourself and your business are practical.  For the first 2 years, I never took a vacation.  In year 3 I decided I needed to take a vacation, it was for a month.  What a disaster.  My income dropped.  It inconvenienced my clients and referral sources.  It just wasn’t practical for my business at that time.  I learned from it.  Planned for it.  Now it’s a normal part of my year.

6.  Build a routine.

Successful people have routines.  Think, you may be very successful if you adopt one.  Years and years I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Until one day I finally crashed.  Literally could not move.  I turned to reading self help books.  I read the book, The Perfect Day Formula by Craig Ballantyne.  It changed my life for the better.  It taught me how to manage my time and  achieve my goals.  The solution was quite simple, create a routine for myself.  Follow that routine.  Tweak the routine.  I’ve been diligently on a routine for years now.  Not only has it benefited me, my mental state and health have also improved because I have more time for ME.   My clients and family have welcomed the stability too.

7.  Stick to a schedule.

Commit to having set hours.  I am always in my office during these set hours.  My clients know when they can reach me and expect correspondence.  It also, lets my family know when I’d be working.

8.  Call people back.

I learned many of my lessons early in my career except for this one.  Early in my career I was driven.  I didn’t want to miss a call or a customer.  I was on it!  As I became more stable, I started to not call people back right away or immediately respond to emails.  There’s nothing worse than having potential clients or your answering service (if you use one) scold you about not returning calls.  It’s downright embarrassing.  Right away I changed my behavior and returned calls.  I’m fortunate that people didn’t decide to write negative reviews or stop coming in.

9.  Learn about online marketing.

This is the key to driving people to your business.  It allows you to reach and target a large group of people for very little.  My initial try at a massage practice failed because I paid an awful lot of money on marketing.  I got very little in return.  Taking the time to learn about online marketing jumpstarted my second go around at building my massage practice.  I can say that 75% of my new clients come from online marketing.

10.  Communicate.

Be very clear in your communication.  If you really want to attract loyal customers then you need to build a working relationship with them.  All relationships are based off of communication.  People who come to see me end up being regular clients.  I don’t lose clients because I have communicated my services and expectations clearly at every stage of our relationship.  If I do lose a client it is because someone bought a gift card for them.  Therefore, bypassing my entire screening process.

11.  Have a support network.

This is SO important.  Think about this, every super hero has a wingman or some cheerleaders in their corner.  You need the same.  They can be family, friends, peers.  But you need outside sources that will challenge, motivate, and encourage you to do your best.  Everyone needs to feel good about what they do.

12.  Do one thing at a time.

Everyone is so concerned with multi-tasking.  Many studies will show that multi-tasking doesn’t work.  It takes longer to complete an item when you’re constantly multi-tasking.  Instead work on one thing at a time before moving to the next.  I say this because I would often have incomplete tasks that never got done.  But now I complete tasks that I set out to do.  Which is much more satisfying and productive to my business.

13.  Don’t over extend yourself.

Naturally we become massage therapists to help people.  It’s a rewarding profession in that sense.  But know that massage is one of those services people can’t get enough of and want you to give away.  You have to know yourself and tolerance well enough to know when to say no.  In the past I would over extend myself by agreeing to a number of things like home visits, charity events, donations, etc.  Even-though I didn’t want to do these things I said I would out of obligation.  I realized that these things didn’t make me happy.  In fact they did the opposite.  I soon stopped doing them for my own mental health.

14.  Be forthright.

If you make a mistake, own up to it and make it right.  If you make a scheduling error, do what you have to do to make your client happy.  The last thing you should do is lie about the error or not try to correct the problem.  If you do, karma will get you.  In all seriousness, you won’t have to remember any lies to hide from your clients.

15.  Take vacation.

Massage is hard-hard work.  You need regular vacations reboot your energy and passion of massage.  When you take care of yourself, you’re better able to care for others.  I take multiple long weekends throughout the year, holidays and one 4 week vacation during the year.  Implementing this motivates me to WANT to go to work everyday.

15 Things You Should Do

1.  Hire a virtual assistant.  

Every call missed, is a missed opportunity.  When you’re growing a business you can’t afford to miss calls.  

2.  Build a website and get it listed in the search engines.  

If you have no clue as to do these things, hire someone to do it for you or put the time in to learn how.  This is how your clients are going to find you.  

3.  Promote yourself.  

Let everyone know you are a massage therapist.  Hand out business cards.  Yes they are still relevant and professional. 

4.  Get listed on social media.  

It’s just another free way to drive people to your businesses.

5.  Offer massage packages, specials and gift cards.  

This a good way to encourage your clients to return more often and refer.

6.  Get an online appointment book.  

If you’re worried about weirdos signing up for sessions make people enter a credit card.  That solves that problem.

7.  Accept credit cards.  

Sign up wit Square, PayPal and Stripe.  They charge minimum fees.  

8.  Don’t charge your clients the credit card service fee.  

That’s just tacky.  Build it into your prices.

9.  Practice good customer service.  

If you don’t know how to do this, take a course in it or read books about it.  

10.  Get your clients to review your service.

Ask them to review you on Google, Yelp, Facebook, your website.  

11.  Pay your taxes quarterly.  

It’s just easier.  Quickbooks for self employed is a great tool for this.

12.  Dress for success.
13.  Create an awesome space for your clients.  

A space that is warm, inviting and safe.  You want clients to say how much they love your space.  

14.  Be the professional.  

Stay up to date on your licenses, certifications, training.  Never speak negatively about anyone.  Be positive.  Be there person people want to be around.

15.  Pay someone to do your sheets.

My point is to simply free up more time for yourself by delegating tasks.  Hire a service, neighbors kid, a retired person to take some nominal things off your plate like sheets, walking the dog, cleaning your office.  

Closing Thoughts

When you’re a self employed massage therapist the number of things on your plate can become overwhelming.  You hear entrepreneurs talk about wearing many hats and being so busy that they don’t have time for themselves.  This can lead to bigger problems like injuries, burnout, depression, broken relationships, lack of motivation.  And, once you’ve reached these limits it’s pretty hard to turn it around.  For some reason we’re not thinking about these things when we go into the business.  But we soon learn running and operating our own massage business part-time or full-time is challenging and comes with a lot responsibilities.  Consequently a great number of massage businesses fail.  I hope I can save you time, energy and money with my lists of massage lessons and tips I’ve picked up in my 15 years on the job.

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