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Massage Today
February, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 02

The Massage Road Show

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

When I lived in Boston, I owned and operated a wellness center. I had full control of my surroundings, which included a lovely treatment room that was set up exactly how I wanted it. When I relocated to New York six years ago, I decided not to open a store front and I started a travel business instead, offering massage in the comfort and privacy of people's homes.

There were two reasons behind my decision. First, I did not know anyone in New York and securing office space seemed risky. The allure of savings from a lack of overhead was another reason. I have been on both ends of the spectrum and, recently, many of my students are asking which I prefer.

Office-based space and travel businesses each have pros and cons. As a massage therapist, it is common to have more than one job or work at more than one location. I know many therapists who choose to have office space, work for someone else part time and do some outcalls as well. Here is the good news: there is no right answer. We are so fortunate that in our profession we can design a work strategy that fits our personality and lifestyle. So although I will give some thoughts on office space versus house calls, it is up to each of you to decide what works best for your life, family, and schedule.

My physical office in Boston was lovely. I am often nostalgic about it; remembering the quintessential New England home that was converted to commercial space. My treatment room was the former living room, complete with hard wood floors and a fireplace. I had several therapists working for me and each of them had a room that had also been converted. We had a shower for clients, a lovely garden in the back of the house, ample parking and were off the main road so it was very silent and peaceful. It was really quite perfect. But it cost a lot of money. Overhead was high, maintenance was endless and the landlord had control to some extent. I made a very decent living and was very happy. I saw 25 clients a week for about 12 years. Had my life not changed on a personal level, I am certain I still would be there.

I moved to New York and because I did not know anyone or have the same "connections" compared to Boston, I decided not to rent office space. It just felt too risky. I also decided I no longer wanted to see 25 clients a week and not having the office space meant lower overhead. Lower overhead equals less need for income. Massage by Land & Sea was born, offering massage in the comfort and privacy of people's homes, boats and offices. The first thing I realized was that travel and set up time is more than expected. So while I charge $100 per hour, when I tack on travel and set up time, each one hour session takes about two hours. My $100 per hour rate goes to $50 per hour (without expenses) in a heartbeat. Obviously, overhead is lower. Linens, lubricant and laundry will always be an expense, unless you work for someone who provides those things. The other big overhead item is the travel; car expense, insurance, gas, tolls and parking, along with phone, insurance, membership dues, continuing education and music round out the list of expenses. Am I really saving on overhead? The answer is yes, because I do not have rent to pay.

The downside, as I see it, is the lack of control over my surroundings. I described a perfect set up in Boston and when I step into other people's spaces, it's not the same. There often isn't enough space, meaning I have to move furniture to fit my table. It is not always as clean or quiet as I would like either. The other downside is the extra wear and tear on my body; lugging the table, as well as the supplies. I have a light weight table but it is still heavy. There is no way around it. Overall though, people like massages in their own space very much. There is something to putting on your snuggly robe after a massage, curling up on your own sofa with a cup of tea and not having to step into your car and fight traffic. I have created a lovely massage road show business for myself and am quite happy again.

On a side note, my students ask what I bring when I travel for massage. Here is a list of all the items I carry with me each time:

  • Table with fleece warming pad, face cradle and arm rest
  • Bolster and cover
  • Linens
  • Lubricant
  • iPod and speakers
  • Intake form and/or client chart
  • Blanket
  • Pens
  • Copy of license

Do yourself a favor and get a really good carrying case for your table. I have a heavy-duty one and it protects my table well. I carry the rest of the items in a strong canvas bag so I only have to make one trip from the car. It's not ideal, but it works.

I enjoyed having office space and I currently enjoy my massage road show. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Some days I long for what I currently don't have, but that's the nature of the beast. Most days I am really happy that I have had the experience of both, and I trust that I am exactly where I belong.

Stay focused.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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