Tough Times, Don't Panic

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT
September 13, 2010

Tough Times, Don't Panic

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT
September 13, 2010

I hear from many massage therapists that they are not busy enough these days. No one has to tell you the economy has had an impact on our industry. Spas are laying off therapists at nearly the same rate they were hiring five years ago. Some full-time therapists have to supplement income with other part-time work. Very few therapists I know are as busy as they would like to be. That means down time. How you use that time can determine your next level of practice and success.

Time off from clients is sometimes a good thing but in this economy, it can be scary and feel like a financial stab in the heart. You have a choice. You can use that time for good or you can wallow in it, obsess about it and remain unproductive. Remember, what you focus upon - expands. If you focus on the empty calendar, it will perpetuate. If you use that time constructively and to the betterment of your business, good things will come. I promise.

When you are in business for yourself, there is always a "to do" list. Often we are so busy with clients that the list goes unattended. Have you ever said to yourself, "I'll do that when I have time"? If you are like most business owners, you prioritize your list and a paying client always trumps an administrative task. Moreover, massage therapists tend not to be good at administrative tasks and often place them on the back burner. Of course, I am generalizing but I don't know too many people who say: "Yeah, filing and paperwork today! Woo hoo!"

Well here is the good news. This is your big chance. The down-turned economy is providing a wonderful opportunity to tackle those projects, big or small. Even 15 minutes a day devoted to mundane tasks, or things you would rather avoid, quickly means your checklist starts shrinking. It's amazing how just a little time each day can add up to many completed projects. Imagine if you find yourself with an entire hour to work on these projects? The results can be limitless. Of course, a paying client is always better but in the absence of one, get busy doing things for your business that will pay off in the long run.

Project Checklist

If you are at a loss of what to do with your new-found time, I have compiled a list of projects the average business owner should consider. Some of these you may already do but I bet most of these could use some refreshing.

Database: Is it current? Do you have it in Excel or some other format that works for mailing labels or e-mails? Do you have all your clients' names, addresses, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and birthdays in a database? If not, you are missing a marketing opportunity.

Client files: Are they updated? Are they filed in alphabetical order? Does your intake form need improving? Do you have an intake form and are you keeping client charts? If not, do so. If so, do they need to be sorted, filed, color coded or improved in any way?

Web site: Do you have one? When was it last updated? Is the information current? Are you happy with the format? Should you look at other Web sites for ideas on how to improve yours? Is your biography current? Are your prices updated? Does your Web site reflect your current certifications? Have you hired any new staff who needs to be mentioned?

Mail merge: Do you know how to do one? This is a marketing must and learning how can be time-consuming but worth it. (For more information on this, contact me at

Birthday cards: Are you sending them out? Do you have a record of your clients' birthdays? Should you spend some time now writing out cards for the next couple of months so they are ready to mail when the time comes?

Maintenance: Are there knobs to tighten or light bulbs to replace? Does the refrigerator need to be cleaned? Are there any repairs to your space that are needed? How about shampooing the carpets? Washing windows? Cleaning the air filter or air conditioner filter?

Reactivating clients: Do you contact clients who have disappeared or have not come in for a few months? This can directly affect how busy you are. Call or write a note but reach out and let them know you are thinking of them and hope they are well.

Staff meetings: This is the perfect time to talk to staff about how things are going and what projections you have for the future.

Chair Massage: Get busy. Is there a farmer's market or organic market that could benefit from complimentary chair massage. Donate some time with a target market that could be your clientele.

This is just a short list of things that can be done in downtime. The state of the economy is not the issue. We all find ourselves with cancelled appointments and holes in our schedule from time to time. Use it wisely and plant those seeds for the future. When you are flooded with clients and have no extra time, you'll be glad you did.

Stay focused.