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The hardest lessons you'll learn being a Massage Therapist

by Samantha Jenkins July 03, 2019

Female client lies on a massage table receiving a massage treatment from a female therapist

Are you a new therapist looking to set up your own massage therapy business? 

Have you been running your own clinic for a while but feel like you are constantly fielding issues? 

Take heart, because we have asked established massage therapists what was the hardest lesson they learnt along the way and some of the answers might sound familiar....


Being bold is tough 


Facebook post from Alison Sue Adams about asking for referrals



Putting yourself out there can be scary for some people. Asking for referrals is one of those moments where you have to dig deep and ask for what you deserve! There is never a better time than when you have just delivered a kick-ass treatment, so when your client pays you a compliment, strike while the iron is hot and offer them an incentive if they refer a friend. You could offer; 


  • Free extra 15 minutes for every referral that books. 
  • 10% discount on their next treatment for every referral that books. 
  • Free 15 minute head massage for every referral that books.  


Don't undersell yourself 


Facebook post from Elizabeth Cassie Christensen about setting your prices

A great piece of advice from Elizabeth! Working out your annual expenses can help you be more strategic when you want to run a promotion! It will also boost your confidence when you have tricky customers who ask questions about your costs! 

However, your value doesn't just relate to money...


Facebook post from Crystal May about finding your value


Do you have a client who is always cancelling last minute? Or have you been chasing a corporate contact for ages but just never get the final nod on their business? Knowing when to cut your losses and focus your attention elsewhere is a lesson massage therapists learn over time. A three strike policy can be a handy way of keeping track of clients who are draining your time. Three last-minute cancellations with no good reason, look to move this client along. Called three times and sent three follow up emails to that company, time to look into new opportunities. 


Maintaining your distance


 Facebook post from Vicki Ebel about maintaining your boundaries as a massage therapist


As an empathetic bunch, it is easy for us as massage therapists to develop unhealthy relationships with our clients. Working closely with people over the years it is easy for a business relationship to turn into friendship. However, if you are consistently letting your guard down you could be setting yourself up for a fall when previous clients start asking for mates rates, or worse freebies! 

The other side of this problem is that clients can start to relate information to their massage therapist which is really beyond the scope of our practice. The intimate atmosphere created by massage therapy can lead clients to share issues that fall more into the realm of a counselling session. Read more here about why it is vital massage therapists keep their boundaries, for your own wellbeing as well as your clients.  


Put yourself first 


Facebook post from Sandra Sanford about taking care of yourself as a massage therapist


Lots of massage therapists mentioned the lesson they learnt the hard way was to take care of yourself! Working as a therapist can take its toll both on our bodies and our minds. Take time to introduce these simple exercises into your routine to keep your body in tip-top shape! 


Facebook post from Tamara Freebird about finding the right amount of massage treatments to deliver each week


Tamara raises a good point. Find your flow and stick to it! Space out treatments to give yourself time to recover and make sure you give yourself a couple of days off each week, you deserve a break like anyone else! 


Facebook post from Ramona Trudeau about ensuring you save money as a massage therapist so you can take care of yourself


As anyone who is self-employed can attest, holidays, sick days and pensions are often the first things to get neglected. Don't bury your head in sand, make sure you are putting money away to cover yourself when you are sick and so you can enjoy yourself a little in old age. Get on top of your finances and plan some vacation time each year. Clients worth keeping will respect your need to get away to rest and rejuvenate! 


Work smart not hard


Facebook post from Paula Wojtan Nedzinskas about there being a massage therapist for every type of client


Perhaps the lesson therapists find the hardest to learn. Not every client is a good fit for your skills. Think about it, how often do you feel frustrated when you see a therapist nuzzling in on your turf, offering a type of massage you know for a fact they aren't trained in! 

But frustrations aside, clients won't appreciate you fumbling your way through a sports massage, for example, if you have no training in this technique. You might end up doing your reputation harm and losing more money than if you had just referred the client to another therapist. 

Take this lesson, and your massage therapy business, to the next level by choosing a niche. It might seem counterintuitive but by delivering fewer treatments targeting a specific issue you can charge more. Read more on how you can boost your massage therapy business by becoming a specialist here. 


Keeping yourself up to date


Facebook post from Erin Boroughs about difficulties in attending training courses


It is important to keep expanding your skills and learning new massage techniques, to refresh your passion for massage and ensure you are keeping up to date with the latest research. However, if you are a massage therapist working in a remote area or working in a particular niche it can be hard and expensive to attend courses each year. Online training can be a good alternative for massage therapists in this situation. Allowing you to refresh your knowledge whilst saving up for hands-on training courses as often as you can afford to attend. 


Remembering the basics 


Facebook post from Laureen Anne Gaeta Moses about remembering to listen to your clients


Over time as we develop as massage therapists it can be easy to think we know what's best for our clients. However, the reality is most clients have expectations in mind and when those are met they aren't likely to come back. Take time to speak to your client so you can make sure you address the problem as they see it, then wow them with some extras you assess along the way! 


What was the hardest lesson you learnt in your journey as a massage therapist? Let us know in this 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!