Five Fundamentals for Building Your Massage Business, Part 1

By Cary Bayer

Five Fundamentals for Building Your Massage Business, Part 1

By Cary Bayer

As a life coach, I see so many people in pain every day - suffering in relationships, in unconscious communication, in desperate financial situations. As massage therapists, you see pain, too. We face similar challenges, namely, how do you get people to recognize they deserve relief from pain? There is an answer. In your case, it's knowledge and techniques to help break through to better health. In my case, it's better relationships, more money and greater happiness.

I've seen similar patterns in the more than 100 therapists I've coached, so I'll draw on them to offer motivation now and tools for the future. To become successful and happy, you need more than massage techniques alone. Being alive means you're on an intriguing journey to self-knowledge, peace and prosperity. So, what do you know about journeys? "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step," said Lao-Tzu. Yogis offer wisdom, too: "You've got to be careful if you don't know where you're going 'cause you might not get there." That yogi was named Berra.

This article will give you knowledge of five "S's" for creating a successful massage business. They are: knowledge of self; strategy; serenity; sales effectiveness and successful thinking.

Knowledge of Self

You need to know what you want from business and who you truly are. Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." He might have added, "The unexamined massage business is not worth practicing." Self-employed people often are so busy trying to make ends meet, they overlook taking time to shape their businesses. So ask yourself vital questions:

  • How many massages do you wish to do weekly?
  • How much would you like to be paid?
  • Are there products you refer clients to that you could sell?
  • Do you want to be self-employed?
  • Do you want other therapists working for you?
Find these answers right away to progress with speed and power.


Managers hustle to get things done in time; leaders create visions to evolve into and a strategy to accomplish them. Strategies are necessary for people or organizations intent on growth; they incorporate short-, mid- and long-term goals. When you've a plan, you know where you're going and can guide your actions effectively.


People want to work with you because of your hands and your spirit. Many clients see you as a healer who helps them manage stress. Clients don't want stressed-out massage therapists. Therapists with good hands and vibes succeed. So much success depends on our serenity. Pascal said, "All of man's troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone." I could give you the experience of profound serenity, but I'd need to put on my hat as a Transcendental Meditation teacher. In one minute I can give you a small dose of serenity. Close your eyes now and take a deep breath. Release all your cares and breathe like this for a minute. Do you feel silence and peace? Can you see what this one- minute breather can do if you center this way before massages? This is the value of serenity.


Many therapists dread selling their services. Mostly it's because they think they're selling themselves, and if nobody buys, they're not liked. A person can't be sold in America. You can rent your services by the hour on your table. Once you get the distinction between selling yourself and renting your services, anxiety and the sense of rejection can disappear.

Remember in kindergarten, when you played show and tell. You brought something to school you loved and shared it with the other kids. Perhaps a favorite doll, baseball glove, or teddy bear and you inspired the others, but they had no way of getting it. Show and tell is a selfish tease because your enthusiasm interests people in having something they can't have. Therapists can play a similar game, spelled slightly differently: It's show and sell, similar to show and tell except you don't have a stuffed animal to show and tell. But you do have massage techniques you can tell about.

So if somebody asks what you do, show and tell them. Their neck and back are very interested in what you can do. You've no idea how people value your work. The famous actress Hedy Lamarr once said, "I don't fear death because I don't fear anything I don't understand. When I start to think about it, I order a massage and it goes away." Virtually every adult you see every day wants what you offer. Everyone wants less pain. When someone is interested in having less pain, ask, "Would you like to set up a session to relieve this pain?" This question sets show and tell apart from show and sell. But you're not five years old anymore and neither is this person. They have been holding tensions in their body for longer than five years. It's innocent to ask if they would like less tension. It's what we call selling. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that.

Learn these five S's because an increasing number of people will be coming to you for massages. According to AMTA research, through 2012, massage therapists are likely to see a 20 percent to 35 percent rise in job opportunities. Some 47 million Americans got massages between August 2004 and July 2005, with 34 percent of adults receiving a massage in the past five years. With only 17 percent of men in the past year having been massaged, more than 8 of 10 men haven't in 365 days. That's a huge opportunity for them and you. Two of three adults haven't been massaged. Virtually everyone wants what you offer. Ask clients to share their benefits with friends. Seventy-three percent receiving massage would recommend it to others. Talk to health professionals, too. Seventy percent of therapists receive two referrals monthly from health care pros. Talk to them. In the next installment, we'll examine in great detail the fifth S: successful thinking.