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As the massage therapy industry recovers economically from the global pandemic, I wanted to share some of the advice that helped keep my business afloat during the early days of chaos. It is important to note that I am writing this from a purely business perspective, and in no way mean to undermine the seriousness of what happened.
I have been a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years, including 10 as the owner of Corporate Massage Kneads, a mobile chair massage business for corporations.
Over the years, I have experienced many recurring challenges, however, the global pandemic of 2020 was something completely new to me.
Like others in my profession, I initially feared that I was going to go out of business as federal and state regulations seemed to change every few weeks. And now, two years later, my business and I are still here and thriving.
As such, I wanted to share my reflections and experience with how I survived the pandemic as a massage therapist. I especially hope that this will inspire new(er) therapists or massage school prospects to keep their heads up.
Here is how I survived the 2020 pandemic as a massage therapist and business owner…
Prepare for the Long Haul
During the early months of 2020, it was unclear how long the pandemic would last. But as time went on, it was clear that this was not going to be a short-term issue. Covid was here to stay. As such, I decided to buckle down and prepare for the long haul of slow and even nonexistent business at times.
Network During Downtime
During the early stages of the pandemic, business was naturally slow, especially given that massage therapy is a hands-on profession.
As such, I ended up with a lot more downtime than I was used to. However, this downtime gave me the opportunity to expand my business network. I ended up reaching out and connecting with other professional massage therapists, primarily through Facebook groups.
It was extremely helpful (and continues to be) to be able to relate to other industry professionals, many of whom became a source of inspiration and motivation during the troubling times. Above all, it solidified the notion that “we’re in this together,” and even provided a form of psychological relief knowing that many of the problems I was facing were being faced by others.
Some of the groups I joined were larger and consisted of massage therapists from all locations and walks of life, while others were more local or focused on a particular subset of the industry. For example, I (thankfully) found a mobile massage therapist group.
The group discussed topics ranging from general support and motivation to specific business questions, such as setting a preferred hourly rate, dealing with tricky client situations, and even when to begin offering massage services again.
Even though massage businesses have opened up again in most places, the groups continue to be active and offer a great place to read about topics related to the massage therapy industry.
Prioritize Selfcare (Like Always)
At the start of the pandemic, there was a real temptation to lay back and watch the world go by from my window. Like many others, the combination of stay-at-home orders and limited outdoor activities meant that my exercise and self-care routine naturally slowed down.
However, as a massage therapist, I knew that it was crucial to maintain my body and mind in a good state, given how physically demanding this profession is. As some of you may know, even just 25 hours of massage therapy and bodywork per week is considered full-time. This means that regular exercise and proper nutrition are something that massage therapists should prioritize. For example, I do regular strength training, yoga, tennis, and core work in addition to practicing proper body mechanics at all times.
All of these things enable me to be able to offer mobile chair massage services for six hours with short breaks regularly.
However, with gyms closed and social distancing in place, I had to find new ways to work out, or else I knew that I would not be able to perform at the same level once business resumed. As such, I had to reinvent and prioritize my self-care routine to compensate for gym closures, limited contact with others, etc.
This was a big motivator to keep in shape and continue to exercise despite obvious obstacles.
Stick to Your (Business) Values, Even During Hard Times
As a business owner, I have learned many valuable lessons, and use the experiences to shape how I choose to practice business. This includes learning to set limits on what I can and cannot offer to clients.
For example, throughout the years, I have been asked more times than I care to count, to offer free massage in exchange for self-promotion. As a younger therapist fresh out of the Atlanta School of Massage, I would often give out free massage services to large and small companies and too eager clients seeking mobile chair massage. As time passed and my massage experience increased, I eventually learned to politely say “no” to most of these offers, because I realized that companies and people that get free services do not often pay for massage services.
With Covid, business was uncertain everywhere, especially when things first started opening up again, but especially for massage therapists, who literally make a living by touching others.
At times it was tempting to “break my own rules” for the sake of maybe generating more business.
However, I decided to stick to those life lessons I learned years ago and instead sought other ways to promote my business that didn’t violate my business values. I have not regretted this one bit at all.
Continue To Build Your Business
During the early months of the pandemic, my massage services slowed down. However, that didn’t stop me from continuing to build my business.
I took advantage of the downtime to revamp my digital branding. I completely updated my website with new professional photos, text, and pages. It was a worthwhile effort that paid off in the long run, because now that employees are returning to their offices, employers are once again seeking corporate massage chair services. I also continued working with professionals that had previously helped my business, including lawyers, marketing companies, a great bookkeeper, and social media gurus. With this team in place to assist me, I have the tools necessary to keep my business running with ease for challenges that are out of my scope.
As of writing, the pandemic is still raging on, and with new variants arising every few months, who knows if/when things will return to what they once were. As such, it’s better to embrace and adapt to change than remain stagnant. By following the suggestions I outlined above, I believe you can continue to grow your business, regardless of any future shut-downs. And in fact, I believe that if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that human touch is more important now than ever, so massage therapy will thrive.
Here’s to 20 more years of offering chair massage!
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