There are many important actions that go into developing a strong client base as a massage therapist, but they all boil down to one common factor: your reputation. Your skills, your space, your pricing, your superb taste in music – none of it matters unless you develop a good reputation.
Unfortunately, a good reputation isn’t something that you can develop overnight; it takes time and consistent effort. But fortunately for you, building a strong reputation doesn’t have to wait until after graduation. By beginning now, you can have a good reputation as soon as you have your license in hand, and the clientele to go along with it.
What’s the worst kind of negative comment you can imagine when critiquing a massage therapist? “She was so unprofessional.” A lack of professionalism is one of the fears that people often have about receiving massage from a student for the first time. By appearing extremely professional with your practice clients you can not only impress them in the short term, but impact how they’ll think of you after you graduate. So what does professionalism mean?
- Show up on time.
- Have all your equipment ready.
- Have your forms organized and ready to go.
- Have what you need to clean up after yourself.
Follow best practices.
- Practice proper hygiene.
- Drape conservatively.
- Maintain appropriate boundaries while in the role of massage therapist.
- Educate your clients when you can.
Keep it scrupulously legal.
- If you can’t accept compensation, don’t. Even when clients insist.
- Stay within your scope of practice.
- Maintain client confidentiality.
Does this mean that you can’t be yourself? Not at all. You don’t have to wear a suit or talk like a robot to be professional. The trick is to be the most respectful, clean, and reliable version of you. Want to tell a joke? Great. Want to tell an off-color joke? Save it for another time.
Naturally, your reputation will also be built on your massage skills. Of course, you’ll always want to give your practice clients 100%, even though you’re not being paid (yet!). The truth of the matter is that your skill level will advance as you go through school, and even more so after graduating. So how can you impress people with your skill level when it’s still admittedly in its early stages?
- Be confident. Constant apologizing doesn’t make the experience more relaxing.
- Focus. Keeping one eye (and hand) on your client’s physical cues can clue you in to moments when things aren’t going quite right – and give you time to adjust.
- Offer what’s asked for. It’s amazing how many experienced massage therapists end up with a poor reputation simply because they give the massage they want, rather than the one the client has asked for. This is an easy one to provide!
- Not sure? Look it up. If your client asks you for a technique you don’t know how to do (or aren’t sure is safe), let them know you’ll find out more and get back to them at their next appointment – and follow through. Showing commitment to improvement means your clients can look forward to a better massage every time.
- Don’t get complacent. No matter how many compliments you get, you can always get better. This goes for everyone, student and pro alike! Keep growing and learning and the results will certainly show in your massage.
Spreading the Word
One person thinking the world of you isn’t a reputation, that’s an opinion. Your reputation is based on what a number of people think of you, for good or for ill. So it’s important not only to show that you’re skilled, friendly, and responsible, but also to let the world know! That’s what marketing is all about.