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Nightmare massage client? Here's when you need to fire them.

Woman grabbing door knob opening brown wooden door

Building up your massage therapy business takes hard work, determination and dedication. Filling up your books with clients is no easy task and so when a client becomes problematic we can feel reluctant to let them go. Add into that the worries about confronting a person who might be rude or at worst, abusive, and it is easy to bury our head in the sand and want to ignore the whole thing! 


A bad client can totally drain you as a massage therapist, which in turn can have a knock-on effect to your other customers. Knowing when it is time to fire a massage client is crucial to not just the success of your massage therapy business but also to your self-esteem and wellbeing. Soldiering on and putting up with bad behaviour from your clients is more likely to lead to complete burnout and our industry losing what you can bring to the massage table!  


Business guru Tony Robbins gets straight to the point in this 1-minute video (although a warning for anyone with kids nearby, there is some bad language). 



So how do you know it's time to say goodbye and fire that nightmare massage client? 


If the client you dread seeing ticks any of these boxes, it's time to give them the boot. 


1. They keep cancelling. 


All clients might need to cancel occasionally, but if you have a client who repeatedly cancels their massage appointments, it might be time to let them go. Make sure you are always enforcing a cancellation policy and being paid for any last-minute cancellations. If you have a client who always cancels right before your policy kicks in, it might be worth firing them, as they are consistently disrespecting your time and your skills. 


 Facebook post from Lisa Orchier Sinclair about firing a client who kept cancelling.


Have a polite word mentioning you have noticed that they are rescheduling their appointments a lot. Ask if there is a time that would work better for them for their massage appointments, that you can reserve repeatedly for a few weeks in advance to save them cancelling. Politely explain your schedule is filling up and last-minute cancellations waste a space that another client could take. Keep in mind if they seem unapologetic, and if they cancel again call to say your books are now full and you won't be able to see them going forward. 


2. They are consistently slow or refuse to pay. 


The safest way to ensure your clients pay is to ask for appointments to be pre-paid or secured with credit card details. However if you find yourself in a situation where a client is slow or refuses to pay you need to refuse to deliver further treatments until their debt is paid. 


Sometimes as massage therapists we can get roped into awkward situations like Laura below.... 

 Facebook post from Laura Folos about being enticed into offering free massages.


You are well within your rights to refuse to deliver free treatments, especially those offered by someone else. Kindly explain that you have paid for extensive training, equipment etc and that you need to be paid for your time and expertise. 


3. They make unreasonable demands. 


Running your own massage therapy business often sees therapists trying to please every client with last-minute requests, late hours and pushing through discomfort, or worse, illness.  

A client asking for a last-minute session may be in serious pain but that doesn't mean you have to tolerate any rudeness or overstretch yourself to be accommodating. As caring folk most massage therapists will do all they can for a client in need, but it is important to weed out who is taking advantage of your kindness and who is genuine. 


Facebook post from Anne Milewski about being wary of last minute massage clients


Charging upfront for any last-minute massage appointments is usually a good way of weeding out any nightmare clients. Just keeping in mind that your boundaries and well-being as a massage therapist are just as important. This is really vital to help to keep you motivated and avoid burnout. 


Facebook post from Chrissy Hoke Lmt about maintaining your boundaries with last minute appointments


Unfortunately, unruly clients may try to force unreasonable demands when you are at your most vulnerable. Any client who tries to force you to make a massage appointment with them whilst you are ill is totally out of line. Politely remind them you are only human and like everyone can experience illness from time to time. Remind them that during your sessions you are working closely together and that you do not wish to pass on your illness to them. If they still insist on an appointment or threaten to find someone else, you can politely fire them, explaining that it might be best they find another massage therapist as you are unsure when you will return to work. 


Facebook post from Kelli Christine about a client demanding to see her when she is sick.


4. They are dishonest. 


Be cautious if a client demonstrates frequent dishonest behaviour as they could wreak havoc on your massage therapy business with false reviews if they ever became disgruntled. Whether this is a lie about why they cancelled their appointments, exaggerating symptoms to get a last-minute treatment or boasting about getting away with lying to others, keep a mental note and replace them as soon as possible. Make sure you leave things on a positive note, a full schedule is always a good excuse that you can use to subtly fire a client who has the potential to be a troublemaker. 


5. They play you off against the competition. 


Everyone loves a bargain but any client who repeatedly tries to reduce your prices, especially by playing you off against another local massage therapist, needs to be fired from your books. Giving in to this dynamic will only set you up for failure down the line and most reasonable clients will respect your prices after a polite explanation. You can use our blog post to outline the true cost of a massage treatment to your potential clients.  


Facebook post from Mayasell Pacheco about a client trying to bargain on price


6. They are physically or mentally abusive. 


It goes without saying that any client who threatens you or your treatment space needs to be fired from your books immediately. Take precautions to protect yourself especially if you work alone, from home or as a mobile massage therapist. Always make sure there is a record of where you will be and leave it somewhere a loved one or friend can access it. Always make sure your mobile phone is charged and don't be afraid to call the police if you feel threatened. In severe cases, dial 999 without telling the client and start the conversation with the address in case things escalate.  


However, not all cases appear serious at first and sometimes they can even bring a chuckle on first glance. 


Facebook post from Robin Hodges about a disrespectful client


In some cases, clients can make an awkward joke during treatment and after a polite but firm conversation, you can move on to have a professional relationship. 


Facebook post from about a client making an awkward and inappropriate joke during a massage treatment


However, any client who repeatedly makes inappropriate or sexual comments like in Robin's case needs to be fired from your massage client list immediately.

Mental abuse can also take the form of bullying, with demeaning or threatening comments. Any clients engaging in this behaviour will drain your energy and affect the massage treatments you can deliver to your other clients so it is crucial you fire them as soon as possible. Don't be afraid to be firm, ask clients to tell you directly what they are unhappy with so you can work on this for them, this will usually silence a bully but if they give a response, you can use this to make an excuse and move them along to another therapist.    


Keep this reminder 


Print off and stick this guide in the back of your schedule or somewhere private so you can refer to it in times where nightmare clients are dragging you down! If they tick any of these six boxes then you know what you need to do.... fire them and open the space for someone more deserving of your time, skills and energy. 



Infographic when is the right time to fire a nightmare client

 at the end of the day with nightmare clients, it's best to..... 


Facebook post from Ingrid Bisor Anderson Lmt about letting go of bad clients


Have you got a nightmare client you need to fire? Or have you already fired a client who was draining your massage therapy business? We would love to hear your experiences and how you handled them in our Facebook thread

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