As a business owner there’s a thousand different hats to wear, and seeing clients is…
I thought I’d talk about what it takes to own a massage practice. Whether you’re just out of massage school or you’ve been in the field for a while working for someone else, and you’re just ready to get out on your own, you’re going to want to watch this; because there’s some serious things to consider before you jump into business ownership.
A lot of schools do their students a massive disservice by not preparing them for the reality of what business ownership takes, and even if schools do try to prepare students, a lot of therapists have this unrealistic expectation of how simple and easy it’ll be. You give a great massage, people will get that great massage and pay you. Wahoo! You’re self-employed and successful and it’s all rainbows and unicorns! But that’s not exactly how it works. It’s really not that easy. If it was, everyone would do it.
So here’s my top 4 tips for those who are thinking of taking the plunge and opening their own massage practice.
If you thought you were done learning when you graduated massage school, think again. You will need to learn constantly, in the hands-on work of massage and self-care and body mechanics to keep you going for years to come of course, but even more learning will be needed in business and marketing. Do not, I repeat do not just randomly open a business with absolutely no plan or strategy or financing in place. Do some people make that work, yes. But guess what…they more than likely lived in extremely difficult circumstances and struggled for months if not years before they finally got into the groove. They learned through a ton of trial and error and hit wall after wall trying to just break even, much less make enough to pay their own bills and live off of. Before you jump into business ownership, take the time to learn business. There’s a lot to it, and while it may seem intimidating, learn some basics… Finances, bookkeeping, and accounting; if you can’t handle your finances, you will not make it in business, plain and simple. Marketing; how to get clients in the door and keep them coming back. People have to know your business exists, and then you have to educate them on what you do and why they need it. Creating a client experience; you’re not just selling a service, you’re selling an experience and a result. Take the time to learn these things and anything else you can find on business! Preferably, you want to start all this learning before you open your doors. If you’ve already jumped in, get to it now.
Throwing stuff together just doesn’t work well, and even if you can make it work, you will hate every step of the journey until you get it figured out. So start with a plan in place. It’s not set in stone, you’ll probably change it a lot over time, but you need a general plan; a detailed business plan of what your business will be, what services you’ll offer, what your prices will be, who you’re ideal client is, what your brand will be, where and how you’ll market…essentially everything that will go into your business, you’ll want to at least have a general plan.
Part of that plan will be developed through research. You’ll need to research your local market to see what’s already there, where there’s room for improvement or something totally different that maybe you can offer. Research if there’s the money and customer base you’ll need to do what you want. Research other businesses in your area you may be compatible with. Research what types of marketing and promotions work for your ideal client and your area…all kinds of stuff. Research, research, research! Know your business, know yourself, know your market, know your local demographics, know your economy, know your community, research everything. Don’t know something. Research it!
#4 Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Business ownership is hard. Period. It’s stressful, it’s scary, it’s a huge overwhelming task, and you’re going to have to be prepared for that. I mean, as prepared as you can be. I compare it to parenthood. You’re never really prepared…like people can tell you what to expect; the stress, the sleeplessness, the strain on relationships, etc. But you don’t really understand it until you’re walking the walk, right? If you’re a parent you know what I mean, and if you’re not, just know that you’re never fully ready for it. BUT, saying all that, you do what you have to do, and you go with it, right? You just get comfortable being uncomfortable. You do what has to be done. I would love it if every plan went perfectly and every business was smooth sailing from the first day you opened your doors, but the truth is, that’s a rarity…because life and reality. Crap happens, we don’t think of everything, we didn’t realize just how hard something would be, or we forgot to put something into our bookkeeping sheets, or we weren’t prepared for the hit the summer may bring on our schedule, or we’re making a big investment we’re not certain will pay off, or we’re doing some new marketing that really puts us out there and open to criticism and it’s scary…whatever it is, there are times in business you’re going to be very uncomfortable. Get used to it. Because that’s also how you know you’re in it to win it. Pushing through those times and learning and growing and building in spite of it all, and because of it all…that’s what separates those that succeed from those that throw in the towel before they’ve found their groove.
Owning a business is amazing, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re content with working for someone else, there’s no shame in that. My husband is the 9-5 employee type. He has no desire to ever start a business, or deal with the decisions and stress that go into it. I, on the other hand, cannot imagine going back to work for someone else. I really don’t think there’s any amount of money in this world that would make me go back to being an employee. My husband thought I was kind of crazy, for a number of reasons, but partly because I was so passionate about opening my own business. And the longer he saw me in business, the more he saw the benefits of it. He saw how much happier I was, how much nicer it was being self-employed. But did that make him want to try his hand at it? Heck no. He’ll still work as an employee until he retires, I’m sure. Because that’s just him. And if that’s you too, there’s no shame in that.
Don’t think that because so many other therapists have their own practices that you need to do it to prove something or whatever. But if you’re the type that is driven, that really wants to go for it, and you’re ok with taking on all the responsibilities that go with owning a business, then do it! But please, take these 4 tips to heart and don’t just jump in haphazardly. Save yourself a lot of time and stress by learning, planning, researching, and getting comfortable being uncomfortable.