You’ve devoted countless hours and big chunks of money into becoming a skilled massage therapist and establishing your own practice. Dedicated to being a healer in your community and promoting your profession, the last thing you want is to deal with a customer asking you if you provide services of a more illicit nature. Unfortunately, if you advertise your practice publicly having a moment like this is not uncommon. Answering inappropriate questions over the phone can be uncomfortable, but dealing in person with a client who is expecting sexual services can be downright frightening. Thanks to a long history of massage parlors serving as fronts for such activity, legitimate massage therapists can still find they have to differentiate themselves as licensed health practitioners.
Here are a few tips from established therapists that will help.
Send The Right Message
For one thing, list your license number in your ad, business cards, etc and if there is ANY question, let the person know that you are in fact licensed to perform massage. Give them a link to verify it if that is needed. Walter Harris, owner of Serene Touch in Nashville, TN suggests. I always use LMT or Licensed Massage Therapist, not just MT when I talk to someone. I am proud of the work I put into getting licensed. Brag about it, show it and don’t be afraid to let people know.
When you put an ad in a newspaper, it’s a smart idea to research the nature of a publication’s readership and the type of ads they run. For instance, if you’re located in a larger city, consider running an ad in a free weekly newspaper. Readers of these free papers are usually more attracted to holistic health practices such as massage. There are lots of websites that promote specific types of practices, it’s simple and cost-effective to purchase a presence there. Again, do your research, make sure they’re legitimate and that you’ll be in good company.
Sharon Perry-Ferrari, the owner of InSymmetry Wellness Massage, advises some careful thinking about the name and location of your business: Sometimes where your office is and what you call your business helps too…Always use first and last name on all business related literature.
Belief in yourself and your role in the healthcare system is also important. “The first thing is the therapist has to look at their practice as legitimate. I know it sounds silly, but I have heard many therapists describe themselves as just a therapist,” says Butch Phelps owner of The Muscle Repair Shop in Sarasota, Florida. “Second, you have to be a marketer. I know people in every profession hate it, but it is a necessary part of the job. You do not need to be used car salesman, but through education of your clients and potential clients, you can build a strong practice. Therapists must believe in what they do before anyone else will. The public is not so enlightened about the importance of what we do. It is our job to clear the fog.”
Be Active In Your Community
Participating in community events, writing pieces for your local paper, and maintaining a website or blog are great ways to establish your legitimacy in the community.
On the page [of my website cranemassagetherapy.com] that talks all about me it lists where I got my education, where I volunteer, what number for the California Massage Therapy Council I am shares Faye Crane. I also have a blog that talks about the different types of massage, how it can help, etc.
Showcasing your practice at community events like fairs and trade shows does double duty: Not only does it allow you to promote your business and add to your contact list, it will help to strengthen your reputation.
Local news outlets are always on the hunt for good (and free) content. Contributing regular pieces about your profession is a great way to make your name well known in your community and share your passion for all the wonderful health benefits and the boost to one’s physical and emotional well-being that massage therapy can provide.
Educate Others and Be Vigilant
Much of the general public won’t know what to look for when doing a casual search for massage therapy services. Use your advertising, website, and community activities to help educate them on key indicators that will lead them to a legitimate practitioner. Cost of services can be one of the warning signs: Many fraudulent practitioners are in the habit of “grossly under-pricing the services and causing confusion among potential massage clientele as to what a real massage should be.” says Teena Johnson, a therapist at Finish Line Therapy Center of Dallas. Nancy Jo Campbell, an LMBT from Raleigh-Durham, NC suggests taking advantage of your network: “John and Jane Doe can be directed to ask their primary care physicians – many wellness and medical practitioners network and refer to each other.”
It’s in the best interest of licensed massage therapists to report to local authorities and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork if they suspect fraudulent practitioner and/or school.
Choose Your Setting Carefully
If at all possible locate your business in an office setting, it comes across as much more professional to your prospective clients than working out of your home. And sticking to daylighthours only is also something to consider. If you want to capture the office worker, work a Tuesday through Saturday schedule. It also adds to the safety factor.
Have a copy of your business and therapy licenses visible on the wall. Even if your state law doesn’t require it, display it anyways.
Keep Your Web Presence Current
Many prospective customers are going to find you through an Internet search. Make sure that all your information is up to date and listed with your regulating bodies and on your website. If you move or change numbers, don’t forget to update your information as soon as possible. Discrepancies in information can set off warning bells for consumers.
Don’t Be Afraid To Screen Your Clients
Be wary of anyone who contacts you and won’t disclose their full name or callback number. If you ask and they won’t tell you, don’t make the appointment. Find out if they’ve ever had a professional massage. Asking them to specify if there is any particular type or technique they’re interested in can also give you some clues as to their intentions. For example, a client who requests Reiki or deep tissue massage is most likely on the up and up and you won’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Following these few simple tips can go a long way towards sending a clear message that you are a legitimate, licensed therapist and start you on the path to a successful massage therapy practice.