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Entrepreneur First, Massage Therapist Second?

by Samantha Jenkins November 17, 2019

Male Massage Therapist Writing Business Plan Growth Concept

Very few massage therapists choose this line of work because they love the business side of the job. But the fact that business isn’t your true calling doesn’t mean it isn’t a vital part of your business practice. Just as the body can’t function properly when it’s injured, a massage therapy business can’t last for the long haul if you aren’t keeping an eye on your finances, marketing and other basic operational concerns. Learning some basic business savvy can help you become an even better massage therapist.

The Business-First Approach

Sadly going to massage school and learning about essential oils and giving therapeutic massages aren’t enough on their own to succeed in business. Putting your business first can bring about some surprising benefits. That’s right: being a good business person can make you a better healer.

Before we get started, though, there’s one important thing to remember: being an entrepreneur first does not mean that you have to sacrifice any skill or professionalism in the massage therapy realm. No savvy entrepreneur would let their licence to practise fall by the wayside and don’t take this advice to mean that you shouldn’t care about being a good massage therapist. In fact, your ability to perform massage therapy in a legally compliant, skilful and effective way is your product. The type of massage you offer, whether it be a Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, or sports massage, and how you promote the benefits of massage are just as vital to your business.

When we talk about being an entrepreneur first and a massage therapist second, we mean that you should make every decision in your practice from a business perspective. What’s going to maximise value for your clients while delivering you the best return on investment? There may be some choices a massage therapist would make from a purely clinical or therapeutic standpoint that wouldn’t be a smart business decision. 


Facebook post from Vicky Ebel about setting and maintaining boundaries as a massage therapist


For example, a very caring therapist might offer services for free when a client tells a sympathetic story about what brought them in for a massage treatment. A business-focused massage therapist would find other ways to make the client feel cared for without cutting into the bottom line, like offering a discount on a package deal or sending the client away with a home treatment plan for no extra charge. In both cases, the therapist is able to care for their client, but the business-focused massage therapist is concerned both with the client and with their bottom line. This balance is essential for maintaining a healthy business without it you could find yourself unable to help anyone at all.... 


What Are Your Priorities?

What are your goals for your practice? It can be helpful to make a list. If your goals are all related to your clients and the type of care you want to provide, you’re missing out on some important foundational support. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t keep providing excellent care for your clients. It’s not selfish to include goals like “I want to be able to take 3 days off per week” or “I want to earn 25 per cent more this year than I did last year.” Looking out for your own health is responsible, not greedy.


Facebook post from Elizabeth Cassie Christensen about setting her prices



No matter how much you love your work, you can burn out if you don’t take care of yourself. Your business goals should include a basic amount of security and provide room for appropriate self-care. If you aren’t setting specific earnings goals, it can be hard to keep yourself on a steady, reliable budget that allows you to save and build in time to plan for your future. This is all part of the overall wellness required to keep you going, so don’t hesitate to get specific about how much you’d like to earn and how much time you need to take off each year to feel refreshed and ready to return to massage. You also need to ensure that you are scheduling in enough time each day to properly recover between clients


Facebook post from Bethany Stanley about scheduling break times between clients


We suggest saving 40 minutes between appointments find out why this can be the key to avoiding burnout as a massage therapists in our blog post

Getting Practical and Using Entrepreneurial Spirit to Your Advantage 

This kind of bottom-line thinking can be uncomfortable for people who are natural healers. So many massage therapists put others first. As a healer, you want others to feel comfortable. You may worry about losing long-term clients if you raise your rates. You might be concerned that moving to a more comfortable office space in a nicer part of town will make it harder for the kinds of clientele you like to serve to reach you. These are all valid concerns, but you shouldn’t let them stand in the way of vital business growth. 

Entrepreneurs have to be practical to succeed. They have to carefully watch their numbers and focus on optimising product costs with operational expenses, with their own salaries included in the column of operational expenses. This can be tough for massage therapists, but it’s the key to running a healthy business. Can you imagine a business leader like Bill Gates agonising over whether he was being unfair to his customers and underselling himself as a result? Not likely! Bill Gates earned his wealth by recognising his value and asking for what he deserved and now he’s the benefactor of one of the most effective charitable organisations in the history of the world: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

This isn’t to say that you need to try to become a billionaire massage therapist and start a world-changing philanthropic organisation. That’s an awfully high bar to set. The point is that being business minded isn’t necessarily in conflict with being charitable or living according to your values. When you’re successful, you can share your wealth without doing damage to your own well being. Raising your rates for new customers and those who’ve only been in to see you a few times can give you the breathing room to stay personally comfortable while keeping your rates where they were for a small handful of loyal clients who can’t afford higher prices. 

This is a practical approach that allows you to not only grow your business and earn more but also retain the loyal client base and, in return, are likely to send more clients your way through glowing referrals. Good entrepreneurs know that they won’t get far if they don’t have a loyal client base, and with a service like massage therapy, word of mouth is a very effective way of bringing in new business. 

Don’t let the idea of entrepreneurship overwhelm you. If you’ve been successfully supporting yourself as a massage therapist for any period of time, you’re already a good entrepreneur. Keeping your business thriving in the long-term just requires a bit more focus on the practical side of things.


Just remember..... 


Relax you got this meme with Morgan Freeman


Do you agree that as massage therapists we need to be business focused first? Let us know in our Facebook thread! 

Samantha Jenkins
Samantha Jenkins


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Massage Table Size Guide

Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!

A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.

The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because

  1.  They are smaller in size (normally around 61cms wide) and as such have less materials
  2. They are sold by specialist retailers who also sell anything else they can import and turn a profit on. As such they just buy the cheapest massage tables they can find in China. They go for smaller sizes as they are cheaper.

Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.


The Width of the Massage Table:

Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.

Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.

Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.

Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.

If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:

Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.

measuring the width of a massage table

Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.

The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.

You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.


The Height Of the Massage Table

Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.

A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:

1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.

The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.

You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!

There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.

1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):

If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.

2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):

The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.


Massage Table Shape:

The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.

1. Rectangle shaped with square corners 

This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.

2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners

Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.


3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient 

A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.

This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.


4. Hour glass shaped with sharp gradient
Same as point above but instead of the it gradually going from wide to narrow, the massage table changes quickly from normal width to narrow width so people of very short stature can get in close.
5. Oval Shaped

 The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.

oval massage table


Have any questions or comments about anything above? Please let us know in the comments below!