A Massage Therapist on Working Mom Guilt – 10 Ways to Ease Your Conscience

A guest post by Ali Boehm

The Massage Business Mama

I am honored that Ali Boehm has written this guest post exclusively for TSMT community. Ali is a leader not only in the massage therapy world, but an expert in guiding massage therapists that are moms first. So without further ado… enjoy!

“Mom Guilt” is real, especially for those of us who work, even in a career as flexible as massage. You feel guilty when your kiddos are at daycare, or with their grandparents, or watching tv in a separate room while you get some things done. You feel guilty that you don’t feed them properly, or bathe them every night, or brush their teeth long enough. Guilt around feeling frustrated or upset with them. Guilt that you aren’t teaching them enough, or are exposing them to too much or too little. 

“Mom Guilt” Is Real

10 Ways to Combat Working Mom Guilt As Massage Therapists

1) Get Clear on Your “Why”

2) Dedicate Time to Connect

3) Integrate Networking with Child Activities

4) Establish an Evening Routine

5) Meal Plan

6) You are not Superwoman

7) Be Picky About Clients

8) Establish Clear Boundaries with Clients

9) Raise Your Rates

10) Utilize You Time Between Appointments

Whether you work full or part-time, you are bound to have moments when you feel just awful about leaving your kid(s). The times when they cling to you desperately as you try to walk out the door. Snot pouring out of their noses, red eyes, and pleas, “Mama, don’t leave me!”… OUCH!

The truth is, all moms, even those who don’t work experience “Mom Guilt.” It’s a universal thing. Doesn’t it make you feel a little better knowing that the Pinterest Perfect Mom, the one who throws the most amazingly coordinated birthday parties also feels guilt at times? I know kind of sick, but it eases my mind to know these crust cutting, outfit coordinating, song singing moms struggle too.

So how do we ease that “Working Mom Guilt”?

1) Get Clear on Your “Why” – When you have distinct clarity on why you choose to work, moments of uncertainty will be minimized. Take some time to really sit with this one, it’s important and will be revisited often. Write out your reasons. Maybe you work because you LOVE massaging, and this type of work feeds your soul. Or is it because you are saving to move to a more desirable home? Possibly, you need to have a purpose greater than just being a “mom,” that getting out of the house helps you feel balanced and whole. What about the biggie, you have to support the family????

Once you have spent some time journaling, condense your reasons into one sentence that you can display. Make it pretty so you enjoy looking at it, then display it in a prominent area where you and your children will see it daily. Not only will this be a constant reminder to help you cope when the chaos of life seems more than you can handle, it will also help your children understand your reasons for working.

2) Dedicate Time to Connect – Find an activity you can do on a weekly bases where you and your kid(s) truly connect. Music class was it for me, for three years my son and I relished our Thursday mornings. We would dance, play instruments, and sing (you caught me, I’m one of those song singing moms). By having intentional time with your children, you will feel less guilty about the times you are away from them.

3) Integrate Networking with Child Activities – This idea was a huge lightbulb moment for me! Pre-children, I used to look at marketing very differently. I was all about networking groups, chamber mixers, and knocking on doors. Who has time for that now? These days, I’d WAY rather be hanging at the pool, teaching my kiddo to swim, than awkwardly passing out business cards at a speed networking event. Not only that but also this type of marketing never truly resonated with me. You see, just as so many massage therapists, I’m an introvert, and this type of blatant promotion felt inauthentic.

But you know what? Networking doesn’t have to be that hard and time-consuming. If we stay open and engaged, marketing opportunities are all around us. Think about the parents at daycare drop off, sporting events, birthday parties, and yes music class. By simply talking about the work we do with these individuals, we are opening ourselves up to a whole new nexus of potential clients, and hanging with our kids when doing so. Also, it feels way less gimmicky than traditional networking methods.

4) Establish an Evening Routine  – Evening routines set us up for successful mornings. Pick out outfits for the next day, pack lunches, and load the car. Determine a place where everything goes, a spot for the things that will be taken in the morning, a hook for keys. This will help your mornings go more smoothly, instead of searching for your missing shoe, you can spend that 5 minutes refining your t-rex roaring skills.

5) Meal Plan – One thing that really sets my mom guilt off is in regards to food. When I first had my son, he was NEVER going to have added sugar, ALWAYS eat organic, and LOVE vegetables. Well, fast-forward to now, and it isn’t so easy!

I WANT to make sure we are eating healthy, balanced meals, but I don’t always have the time or energy to be creative.

One of my favorite hacks has become spending a few days a month prepping crockpot meals and freezing them. In the morning, I can easily throw a healthy balanced meal into the pot, and it will be ready when we get home. Not only does this save time, it also saves money. More money to buy all the plastic dinosaurs, (or more wisely, save for college).   

6) You are not Superwoman – Conserve your energy, whether at home or in the office, know that you simply cannot do it all! Maybe you could before you had kids, but those days are long gone. This means slowing down and not taking on all.the.things. You don’t have to volunteer for every school activity or donate to every fundraiser. You don’t have to say “yes” to every client or do the dishes every night.

Be gentle with yourself and practice genuine self-care. Know that if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else, including your kiddos or clients.

Some days I’m scrambling from the time I open my eyes until I close them at night. It’s times like these that I HAVE to remind myself that I am doing a good job, even if it doesn’t feel like it. 

The best self-care for me in times like these is to call a friend or family member and have them remind me of how awesome I truly am, even if I drop a few balls every once in a while.

Self-care could mean calling that friend who will reassure you, or taking a bubble bath and eating chocolate. Or, it could mean building a life that you don’t regularly need to escape from — creating a grace-filled schedule that allows room for sick kids and mental health breaks.

Which leads me to…

7) Be Picky About Clients – Choose to only work with clients who appreciate your situation. Clients who understand that you are a working MOM and that while you respect them and their time, that your duty as MOM comes first.

You might be surprised how many people fit this description. Of course, you don’t want to abuse your client’s empathic nature, but having these type of clients is one of the first steps towards having that grace-filled schedule I mentioned earlier. This also may mean weeding out some clients who don’t quite fit the bill.

Firing clients is never an easy task, but a worthy one when you aren’t aligned! Having clients that drain our energy diminishes our life-force, and are totally not worth the revenue. I promise you can find more clients, ones who respect your stage of life.

It is also a good idea to have a disclaimer on your website and intake form that states your policies around child-related emergencies. This way, any new clients know where you stand before they book their first appointment with you.

8) Establish Clear Boundaries with Clients – Clear boundaries are always a good idea in massage, but especially as a mom when you are spread a little thinner than your foot-loose counterpart.

Boundaries allow us to leave work at work and home at home.

Make it clear that you start your massages on time, and don’t go over on time. Don’t allow no-shows to happen in your practice. It’s okay to have friendly rapport with clients, but you don’t have to share everything with them, nor do you have to hear it all. In fact, you shouldn’t.

Having these boundaries and remembering that these are professional relationships will help your tanks remain full so that you can use your resources for the important stuff at home!

9) Raise Your Rates – This may sound scary, but there is a simple concept at play here – the more you charge, the fewer hours you will need to work. And that means more time for t-ball, helping with homework, and volunteering in the classroom.

Too often as massage therapists, we come from a place of compassion and empathy, it’s just our nature. We got into massage to fix the world. Which is all well and good, but we can’t fix anything when we are neglecting our own well-being.

Obviously, you don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but I am willing to bet you could bump up your rates a notch or two. When was the last time you gave yourself a raise? And how come other occupations are allowed to get periodic raises, but we are not? Just food for thought.

Also, it is important to remember that if you lose a few clients in the transition of raising your rates, it is okay. The point was you wanted to work fewer hours to have more time for your family.

10) Utilize You Time Between Appointments – Instead of chatting with friends or surfing the web, get busy with business-related tasks. Clean your office space, return phone calls and emails, fill out SOAP notes, and wash linens. This way, when you go home, you can truly be present! 

Working Mom, don’t be filled with guilt. Instead, think about the lessons you are teaching your children. How to reach for their goals, the importance of hard work, efficient time management, they are worthy of being a high priority,  and that women can provide. I know it is hard not to feel some remorse that you aren’t there for every stubbed toe, class picnic, or broken shoelace, but remember that your love for your child is carried with them in their heart and that your reasons for working are TRUE and VALID! You are kicking butt!

Ali Boehm lives and works in the mountains of Colorado, where she has
been practicing massage since 2008. She also runs, The Massage
Business Mama, a blog where she shares advice for fellow massage
therapists on how to grow their massage business while maintaining a
happy, healthy home. The single greatest day of her life was the day
her son was born. She wishes she could go back and relive that day

Website – www.themassagebusinessmama.com
Instagram – @themassagebusinessmama.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/themassagebusinessmama
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/company/40783864

Breathing Technique to Quickly Relax Massage Clients

Are you looking for a fast way to get your clients to relax? Do you feel like the first fifteen minutes of the massage is wasted because it takes that long for your clients to calm down and settle into the massage?

This technique is a body saver for the therapist. Instead of fighting with the client’s tissue at the beginning of the session, you are simply standing in one place with your hands on the client and counting. Incorporating techniques like this into your massage therapy sessions can lengthen your career and demonstrate your versatility as a therapist. Work smarter, not harder, right?

This technique is designed for clients that have a difficult time settling into their own body and grounding. The client may be nervous about the session and they will most likely be talking about their family and friends more than they are talking about themselves. The type of person that can benefit from this technique is overstimulated by their life, so they have a hard time getting centered and grounded into their own body.

You cannot simply say to this type of client, “relax, empty your mind.” THEY CAN’T. They need direction. Mindful breathing gives them a job to do and something specific to focus on. If they do not have that guidance, their mind will drift to their to-do list or elsewhere, making it challenging for them to enjoy the massage. Taking a few moments at the beginning of the massage session with this guided breathing meditation will stimulate their parasympathetic nervous system and is time well spent.

4 – 4 Breathing Technique

  1. At the beginning of the massage, hold the client’s ankles and take an audible breath yourself. There are a few things that can happen here – so watch the client closely. There may be no change and they continue to breathe in a shallow and quick manner, they might take a deep breath, too, or they might be talking. If they are speaking, invite them to listen to the sound of your voice and launch right into the technique.
  2. Place your hand on the abdomen, or if the client is prone, their mid-back. Keep your hand soft and gentle and imagine the heat from your hand warming this space on the client. Do not press into the client – simply place the hand on the client with no pressure.
  3. Instruct the client to inhale for four counts and exhale for four counts. Count out loud as they breathe until you notice the body relaxing.
  4. As soon as the client relaxes, stop counting and continue your massage.

This is so simple, but it really works. I have used it countless times (pun intended) with my clients.

Other resources may suggest breathing techniques that encourage the practitioner to hold the breath. If the client has a strong meditation, yoga, or controlled breathing practice on their own, you can incorporate a four-count hold between breaths. However, if the client has a strong practice in any of these disciplines, they most likely will not need your guidance to help them focus. Make sure you know your client and only use the technique described here if the client is exhibiting signs that they are ungrounded and/or unfocused. You do not want to lead a client in a guided meditation that wants to do their own meditation. You should know where they stand by completing the intake process and being aware of the client’s mindfulness practices. This is one of the techniques we will be practicing in my massage continuing education class called The Breath – a Self-Care Exploration, where we use yoga, bodywork, stretches, and breathing techniques to relax and ground. You can register for NCBTMB approved courses here: www.thesailingmassagetherapist.com/live-courses

What to Say to “Tight” Massage Clients

OHMYGOSH. Your muscles are. So. Tight. You are just loaded with knots!

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to a massage client? 

A simple statement like this may seem like a great way to get repeat customers, but it can have a profound effect. I have had massage clients come to see me and tell me how “tight” they are because some massage therapist told them that they were tight 20 years ago. They can carry around this outlook with them for a lifetime.

Think about the long game. Truly educating clients on what you are feeling on a DEEPER level than just saying they are “tight” can help them tune into their own body. It can allow them to have an awareness of the sensations THEY feel and draw their OWN conclusions instead of basing the story of their body on someone else’s opinion.

While giving a massage, if you are feeling resistance from the tissue and find it necessary to talk to your client about it (which is totally ok), base your opinion of their tissue on a comparison to that client’s own tissue. Do not base your scale of tightness on all the clients you have ever worked on. There are tons of different types of bodies and tissues; you are doing yourself and your client a huge disservice by comparing their body to others. If, during the massage, you notice differences, by comparing one side of the body to the other or within a muscle, use words like “stagnation,” “stickiness,” and “blockage.” These words indicate movement is possible. They do not have the finality of “you are tight,” which implies an unchanging way of being. Then, talk the client through the process as you unblock that space TOGETHER, all while the client is breathing and moving with you to release the area. When you talk to your clients about their bodies, let them know that if they are “tight,” there is a way to change it. Clients can “loosen up” through lifestyle, physical activity, mindfulness, massage, stretching, and so on. This idea allows them to understand how fluid our tissue is and that our bodies CHANGE, moment to moment. 

Your clients are not “tight,” “knotty,” or “stuck.” They are in control of moving the stagnation that sometimes occurs in the body. Do not sign them up for a life sentence of tightness with your words. Empower your clients to achieve freedom, movement, and CHANGE in their body.

Join the Facebook Group!

If you enjoyed this post about finding the right words… watch this video that discusses what to say and do in embarrassing situations that can arise with your clients.

Draping Techniques for Massage Therapists

  1. Setting the Massage Table
Have the sheet stick out slightly beyond the blanket and fold over once and then one more time to have clean edges.
Pull the sheets and blankets up to the top of the table and make sure it looks neat, clean, and inviting.

2. Undraping the Back

If you would like to begin the massage with compressions over the sheet and blanket, they could potentially be bunched up on the client’s back.
Undo the folded sections and cover the client’s shoulders to get the sheets and blankets out of the way.
To expose the back, undrape the blanket first.
Secondly, undrape the sheet. Uncovering with the blanket first and the sheet second keeps the transitions less abrupt for the client. Remember, the client wants to feel safe and secure. You never want to rip the blanket and sheet off all at once. It could leave your client feeling exposed. Make sure the sheet is out of the way so you can work on the entire back. The iliac crests should be exposed.
Avoid yanking on the blankets and sheets creating a draft for your client underneath.
This isn’t the parachute game in gym class!

3. Undraping the Leg

Start with the blanket and move it out of the way. Pick up the sheets with two hands and bring the sheet slightly up towards your client’s head. This should give you some extra material to work with towards the top of your client.
If the client is not wearing underwear and has your permission to expose the glutes, do so. If the client is wearing underwear, bring the sheet up to that boundary.
Roll the sheet underneath itself and tuck the sheet under the quads and stomach to secure.
Bring the excess blanket up and around the glutes to cover the client’s hand.
Use the weight of the blanket to hold down the sheet to keep it secure. Make sure the foot of the leg that is not being worked on and the shoulders are covered.

4. Undraping the Arm

Simply reach in and pull the client’s arm out and place it on top of the sheets and blankets. If the client’s arm is not at their side, you can ask them to move it there. Do not reach under the sheets without knowing exactly what you are reaching for. You don’t know what you may find!

Navigating an Emotional Release

I will never forget it. I was a teenager watching Oprah after school. Oprah told a story about how she was getting a massage, and suddenly, she started crying. I did not understand what she was talking about until I began my journey as a massage student and my teachers taught us about what to do if a client has an emotional release while receiving a massage.

What is an emotional release? Emotions and memories get tucked away in the nervous system. During a massage, holding patterns can be disrupted and release an emotion or memory. The result can be a subtle change in the client’s breathing, body temperature, color in the face; or a more outward expression of emotion with tears, sobbing, laughter, anger, fear, or criticism of the therapist. Recognizing these subtle or not-so-subtle reactions can allow us, as therapists, to guide our clients through this magical healing experience. After all, releasing this emotion that was stored in the body for months, years, or a lifetime can feel great after it is over. Navigating the client through the process, educating them about what has happened, and holding space for continued releasing can result in a powerful cathartic experience for the massage client.

I am ten years into my massage career and have navigated multiple clients through an emotional release. With input from members of my Facebook group, and referring to one of my favorite massage books, The Psychology of the Body, I have compiled a list of do’s and don’ts for handling an emotional release.


  1. Let the client take the lead – tune in to the verbal and non-verbal cues from the client to be a supportive witness and facilitator.
  2. Offer to stop working – ask the client if they want you to continue hands on work while they are releasing. If they say yes, keep in contact with the client with supportive holds. Options are heart, stomach, posterior neck, forehead, feet (if they need grounding), or whatever you see fit. If they ask you to stop working, remain in the room and quietly observe. Once the client’s demeanor has changed, ask them if it is ok to continue working.
  3. Tissues or no tissues – there are two different schools of thought. Some believe that offering tissues is a way of signaling for the client to stop crying, stifling the release. Others believe that offering tissues is a supportive way of saying, you are in this together and you are there to give them what they need. This is a call you must make in the moment. Let the client lead you.
  4. Grounding – keep the client in the “here and now.” During and after the release, one of the therapist’s duties is to keep the client safe and grounded. Stay keen to the cues from your client and keep them in the present moment. Simple holds will usually accomplish this.
  5.  Aftercare – after the session is over and the client is dressed, meet with them in a quiet space where you are alone. Praise them for their accomplishment and educate them on what has happened, and that the release will continue after they leave your practice. Let them know that for the next few days, emotions may rise to the surface again. Instruct them to let the emotions come, and not to stifle them. They should avoid violent television, the news, and people or situations that make them fearful, angry, or anxious. Encourage them to eat good food, spend time in nature, be alone, or surround themselves with people they enjoy. They have opened a door to healing, and they can choose what they want to fill that space with. Hopefully, they choose the good stuff.
  6. Changes in pain levels – the client may also notice that physical sensations such as chronic pain may have changed or disappeared after the release. If the symptoms come back, that means there is still work to do – and that is totally normal! If this emotional holding was there for a long time, it may take multiple releases to heal completely and experience true relief.


  1. Do not solicit an emotional release. Never try to push the client to release by saying or doing things that will make the client emotional. The release will happen organically when the client is ready. Even if you think it needs to happen, you can’t force it. This could lead to further wounding and trauma for the client.
  2. Do not cry with your client. I know this is a hard one! I am a crier and it doesn’t take much to get me going, but it is important to stay grounded as a practitioner and not to get sucked into someone else’s journey. As a supportive facilitator, we need to remain neutral to allow the client to release freely.
  3. Keep boundaries clear – if you are too close on a personal level with your clients, it can stifle an emotional release. If you have a clear client/therapist relationship, it will be easier for the client to release in front of you. If your client is also a family member or friend, they may not feel comfortable to be vulnerable in your presence because the relationship is blurred.
  4. Avoid judgement, withdrawal, and psychotherapeutic intervention – stay within your scope of practice. If you find yourself offering questions, advice, and/or solutions, you are dabbling outside of your scope. If the client needs further intervention and support, refer them to a mental health professional.

The Psychology of the Body
by Elliot Greene MA NCTMB; Barbara Goodrich-Dunn BFS
Click here to order on Amazon

Join the Facebook Group to enjoy daily posts by Joyce about massage business, techniques, and solutions for the solo massage business owner.


Chair Massage Marketing that WORKS

1. Set up your space

2. Present yourself as a professional

3. Make a connection

4. Call to Action

5. Email follow up

It is extremely easy to find companies, events, and charities that are looking for volunteer massage therapists to provide chair massage. If you are just starting out and have ZERO clients, doing a free chair massage event is acceptable. You will get to a point in your career where it will not make sense to leave your office (losing money) to go work for free. At that point, limit yourself to paying chair massage events, but you can still use the steps below to use those events as a marketing opportunity.

So, without further ado, here is how you can successfully turn a chair massage event into paying clients:

  1. Set up your space like a boss. Create your own little “relaxation station.” If it is a situation where there are lots of vendors in a large space, make sure you have a table to block off your space to create a mini treatment room. Use the table as a barrier so your chair and clients are in a space that is separate from the rest of the event. Set the mood by having it smell nice (while being cautious about using perfumes or air fresheners as some people are sensitive to scents), making sure it is clean, maybe play a little music or have appropriate decorations, and use a tablecloth on your table.
  2. Present yourself as a professional that is there to work. Dress to impress. Consider the type of clientele that is attending the event and try to match their level of attire. If you are going to a law office and everyone will be in suits, showing up in yoga pants and bare feet will make you look out of place. Dress up and wear shoes. If it is a yoga expo, by all means wear your yoga pants and kick off those shoes! Consider your audience. Not only do you want to look professional, but you also want to present yourself as someone that is ready to work. If you are not working on someone, stand next to your chair and ask people engaging questions to get them to come over. “Have you ever had a chair massage?”, “Do you want to take a minute to relax?”, “Want to get off your feet for a few minutes?”
  3. Once you get your client over to the chair, it is time to engage, slow down, take your time, and connect with the client. Make it all about them. Ask any intake questions you see fit, make sure they are comfortable in the chair, and get to work. Here is where you can wow them with your psychic abilities. As a massage therapist, you can tell who works at a desk, who is on their feet all day, etc. Talk to them about this. “Hmmm, I am noticing you have a lot of tension in your shoulders, do you work at a desk?” Saying things like this will blow their mind and get them thinking you really KNOW them and what they need. What better way to show them that you are THE massage therapist for them?!
  4. Now let’s get into the marketing stuff. You have impressed them with your professionalism, charming personality, and stellar massage skills. It is time to close the deal. Before the client got in your chair, you had them give you their name, an email address, and maybe you had them sign a waiver (depending on the laws and regulations in your area). Set your sights on getting the client on the schedule today. In order to do this, have a call to action. This is something to make your client feel the need to buy in that moment. It calls them to purchase right then, not in the future. If they do not do it then, they lose out on a cheaper price, a free gift, or an added bonus. Calls to action have been around since the beginning of sales because they work. Now, don’t give away the farm, but think of a solid call to action. My favorite in this case is to have a product that compliments your practice, is cheap to make or buy, and is aesthetically pleasing. A perfect example is a sugar scrub. You can find a recipe online where all you basically need is sugar, oil, essential oil, and a labeled container. The most expensive thing is most likely the container. Keep your costs low on this! Have your product displayed nicely on your table with signage indicating that this is not for sale, it is only for the *special* clients that make an appointment today. Having a tangible product serves multiple purposes. It grabs people’s attention visually, it is a conversation starter, it is something for people to have in their hands as they walk around the event (another person may ask them where they got it, directing people to your booth), and it is a reminder that that client is special because they got a gift for booking with you. Utilize this call to action when you are done with the massage. If the client seems at all interested in your business after the massage (they ask you for a business card, where your business is located, what your hours are, etc.) tell them that clients that book today get a free sugar scrub. Show them to the scrub on the table and put one in their hands. As they look at it, you pull up your schedule in your book or on your computer and offer them a specific appointment time. If that does not work for them, find a time that does. If they are really not interested, it will be apparent. You will be able to tell the difference from someone that needs a little prodding to someone that just wants to run. This is not going to work for everyone, and some people may say “no.” That is ok! At least you tried. Just keep in mind, if you do not close the deal right then, they will leave and never call you. I don’t care how many business cards you hand out, the chances of someone calling you after an event are slim. The key is to book them that day.
  5. Now, as a last ditch effort, you have that email list, right? The day after the event, email everyone on the list that did not book and send them an email stating that you are extending the offer for the sugar scrub for three more days. If they schedule with you within three days, they can still get the sugar scrub. This may get someone that was on the fence to pull the trigger. Just keep in mind, that you must send the email out the very next day, no later. If the sugar scrub idea isn’t for you, you can always add something to the massage. Consider an extra 15 minutes, an aromatherapy blend, or a tension tamer head massage. Never offer a straight discount. Do not offer a dollar amount or a percentage off as a call to action. You want clients to come in and pay your full rate. You already gave them a FREE chair massage, remember?

Nine Reasons NOT to Give Your Clients Extra Time on the Table

            I was a brand new, rising star of a massage therapist. Ok, who are we kidding, I was just starting off and only had two regular clients. I had all the time in the world, and I had an awesome connection with one of my new clients. I did what any new massage therapist would do; talk to the client for an hour, then got her on the table for her hour massage. As I got busier, I struggled with spending less time talking with this client. It put a strain on our relationship as client/therapist and there was a wishy-washy boundary between a professional relationship and friendship because we spent so much time talking about our lives before her weekly massage.

Running a tight schedule is an extremely important part of having a successful massage practice. If you do not stick to the agreed-upon appointment time, it can be harmful to your business. Just so we are all on the same page, the scenario I am citing in this article is about running over on time when the client is unaware, and you do not intend on charging them for it. The time overflow could be anywhere from five minutes to an hour. It has happened to all of us, but here is why you should stop.

  1. It is disrespectful of their time.

I know you think you are doing the client a favor by giving them bonus time, but they have places to be. Nothing ruins a great massage like looking at the clock at the end and realizing you are going to be rushed to get up off the table and out the door because you have somewhere to be.

This has happened to me as a client. I had a massage therapist go over on time as a bonus to me because she appreciated me as a client. I got off the table all dreamy and relaxed, eased my way out of the room, checked out, and floated to my car. ERRRRR! My world came to a screeching halt when I turned on my car and looked at that little digital clock with a time that was way later than I expected. She gave me extra time, and I had no idea. Then I was late for the thing I had to go to. I don’t remember what it was, probably because I was so late.

2. It makes it about you and not them.

It is easy for our egos to slip into the picture as massage therapists. We feel that we can heal everyone with the beautiful gift of massage. The more seasoned you get as a massage therapist, the more you realize that we cannot heal everyone. Giving someone extra time because they “need the work” is led by the ego. It is saying, “I can heal this person if I just have 10 more minutes.” Let it go and work on it in the next session.

3. You get less of a break between clients.

Giving a client more time on the table means less of a break between clients for you. This is a recipe for burnout.

4. You are setting the expectation for it to happen every time.

Spending extra time with a client turns into an expectation. It is going to put stress on your therapist/client relationship if there comes an appointment when you can’t give the extra time.

5. It encourages lateness or clients arriving early.

Most of the time, when therapists end up running over appointment times, is because the client arrived late. We feel bad that the client is not getting their full table time. This encourages the client to be careless about punctuality. They will know that even if they are late, they will still get their full time. What is the incentive for them to be on time?

The same goes for clients that arrive very early. If you take a client in early and give them their full appointment time plus the extra time at the beginning, they will be encouraged to continue the behavior. They will realize the earlier they arrive, the more free table time they will receive.

6. It makes it less likely for them to rebook.

Clients are coming to see you, as a therapist, because you provide structure, respect, and care. Being clear about the amount of time you spend with a client is a great way to have firm boundaries. Ending a session when there is still work to do is a great opportunity to educate your client. It took months or years to create the patterns we are addressing in the body. You cannot be expected to “fix” it all in an hour. Give them something to look forward to the next time and a reason to re-book.

7. It puts pressure on your clients to spend more money than they planned for.

When you give a client extra time, it puts pressure on them to tip you more or to pay for the extra time, even if that is not your intention. You can tell them you are not going to charge them more, but they feel bad. This situation can put undue stress on your client/therapist relationship. Remedy this potential awkward situation in advance by asking if they would like to upgrade their session before the session begins.

8. It makes it harder to upsell the client to buy a longer session in the future.

It is simple to say, “we keep running out of time, you should consider coming in for a 90-minute session next time.” It is impossible to upsell if you are turning their 60-minute massage into a 90-minute massage by going over on time and not charging them.

9. It cuts into your bottom line.

Most massage therapists charge by the hour. Every minute you go over, is another minute you are not being paid. Employees with other jobs would not dream of working for free, why should you?

A great alternative to going over on time is to simply ask the client if they would like to upgrade their massage to a longer session. Tell them the price difference and see if they are ok with it. That is a way to increase your revenue and build your business. If a client is late, be up front with them that you cannot give them extra time, even if you do have the time. Setting that boundary with everyone is extremely important. Trust me, I struggled with late clients for years. It is extremely freeing when you stick to your boundary and have clear rules for all your clients, no matter how much you like them.

What to do if your client has a muscle spasm during a massage

If it hasn’t happened to you already, it will. You are giving a relaxing  massage and your client’s breath is taken away by the sudden pain of a muscle cramp. You spring into action and quickly guide your client in a way that stops the charley horse in its tracks. Here is a quick and easy fail proof technique to stop a spasm.

  1. Take your hands off the client.
  2. Ask the client where the cramp is.
  3. Have the client contract the opposite muscle or muscle group from the muscle that is in spasm.
  4. Have the client hold the contraction of the antagonist muscle until the spasm has stopped.

If there is time left in the session, continue the massage. Avoid the area that was in spasm. The muscle needs time to rest and recuperate. Refrain from stretching, compressing, or manipulating the muscle. Any work in that area could cause the muscle to spasm again.

At the end of the session, ask your client about how much water they had that day. Chances are, they are dehydrated. If they were well hydrated, a nutritional deficiency or possibly a medication side effect could be the culprit. Stay within your scope of practice and refer out as needed. Do not dabble in nutrition if you are not qualified to do so.

If the muscle cramp was due to overuse, like from an intense athletic activity – encourage your client to rest in addition to hydration.

If a client has a spasm on your table, it is a great opportunity to educate them on the wonders of reciprocal inhibition. Antagonist, or opposite, muscles cannot contract at the same time (example – the biceps and the triceps). Knowing this and a little anatomy can allow your client to take action if they have a spasm, even if it happens outside of your presence.

Check out the video above for examples of how to execute cramp management for a spasm in the low back and the calf.

Are tip jars appropriate or tacky?

            Tip jars can be a subtle way to let your clients know you accept tips. They can be especially helpful when working with the public in a situation where they may not be aware that it is appropriate to tip. However, it can come across as pushy or even tacky to put out a jar or envelopes soliciting a gratuity.

            If you are relying on tips, it is an indicator that you are not charging enough. Tips should be a bonus to your income, not something that you depend on to make ends meet.

            Have you ever been to a restaurant and it was clear that the server was soliciting tips? You know, they immediately tell you their life story and how many jobs they are working to get by? It is uncomfortable, right? This is exactly the situation you do not want to be in as a solo massage business owner. It should not be part of the experience to ask your clients for additional money. Have one clear price where you believe you are receiving the compensation that is appropriate for your business and services.

            Joyce, what if I am doing a free chair massage event? Well, grasshopper, doing free chair massage is a rite of passage every new massage therapist must experience. Chair massage is a great way for potential clients to experience your work. Free chair massage is a long-term investment in your business. If you work at a free chair massage event and book one client as a result, and that client comes to see you once a month for years, then that did not end up being a free chair massage event. You actually made thousands of dollars from a few hours of chair massage. Putting out a gratuity jar seems like small potatoes compared to the long game, right? The same goes for the end of a massage in your office. Getting the client to rebook is much more lucrative than a tip. Keep your eye on the prize.

            Putting out a tip cup is living in the moment when it comes to your income. I want you to think about your business and money long-term. Getting clients to come back and see you multiple times over the course of many years should be the goal, not squeezing another $20 out of them at the end of the massage.

            Tips happen naturally, and I expect you to accept them with grace. I’m not saying to turn them away. What I am saying is that soliciting tips with a jar or envelopes could put your clients on the spot and make for an uncomfortable and unprofessional situation. This practice could ultimately hurt your business more than help it.

The Secret to Effective Massage Marketing

It’s all about consistency. Keep your targeted “ideal client” in mind, and market directly to them. You need to accomplish four things in each marketing strategy you deploy.

  1. Get their attention
  2. Introduce yourself
  3. Get them to know and trust you
  4. Make them comfortable with giving you their time, money, and body.

When you look at it that way, it seems like a lot. That’s because it is! Anyone that is trying to sell you a fast or easy way to market, is marketing to you themselves.

There are plenty of ways to market to your clients without being sleazy or salesey. Just be genuine and truthful. Be upfront about being a massage therapist and being the one that can help them. If you provide value within your marketing techniques, your potential clients are going to be more likely to engage with you and your business. It gives them a chance to check you out.

Here is an example:

Write a blog post about safe ways to massage a pregnant woman’s feet. This is how it accomplishes all the goals listed above:

Get their attention – you have written an article that is for pregnant women (and their loved ones) specifically. It is like you are talking directly to them.

Introduce yourself – they will get to know you through your writing and have the opportunity to explore the rest of your website to learn about you and your practice.

Get them to know and trust you – you are letting your knowledge and education shine through your writing. Since you are taking the time and care to make sure they are safe, it allows them to trust your expertise.

Make them comfortable with giving you their time, money, and body – you have proven that you are an expert in prenatal massage. You are the person to go to in the area if you are pregnant and want a massage.

Take it a step further – provide a class at your office. Pregnant ladies (and their partners/families) can come to your office and learn proper, safe massage techniques for the feet. Do you see how this can be even more effective in getting them to meet you and your practice?

Even better?! Teach the same class at an OBGYN office. This not only lets your expertise shine, but it shows you are endorsed by their doctor, someone they already know and trust. Bring the appointment book to this one, because you are going to be booked!

Touching on the point I made at the beginning of this post, be consistent. You can’t expect to write one blog, or teach one class, and have clients pounding down your door. Develop a strategy and execute it over a period of time. You must put yourself in front of your target audience multiple times before they will be ready to take the next step. Stay consistent and your hard work will pay off.

Watch the video below for more details.