You’re Graduating from Massage School…Now What?

Finally! You are about to graduate from massage school. If you’re like many new massage therapists, your vision for your post-graduation life probably involves starting your own private practice.

However, many new graduates find it valuable to start out in the industry by working for an employer, earning wages and receiving tips, for at least a few months. This will help you further develop your innate touch, build your confidence as a massage therapist, pay bills or student loans, and start saving money for your business.

Your massage job is necessary and deserves your full effort on a day-to-day basis, but during the time you’re working, you still want to take steps toward building your private practice. Here are a few tips and strategies to get you started.

Set Your Course

You must learn to focus on your vision in order to realize your dream of being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is not an easy road to travel; launching a private practice is not for everyone. Ask yourself the hard questions, and be 100 percent honest with yourself: Do I want to be a business owner? If so, why do I want to be a business owner?

However you answer these questions-there is no right or wrong answer-will determine your path. It is then up to you to continue your journey with purpose. While this journey can be daunting, challenging, frustrating and at times seemingly impossible, it is possible. You can do it.

Define Your Target Market

Establish what type of massage practice you want. Do you want to work with athletes, senior citizens, cancer patients, pregnant women, kids, veterans or people in the hospital? As you work at your massage job, you may find you are drawn to certain types of clients, or your life experience may have guided you toward wanting to work with a particular group.

Decide who you want to serve, then study that market. Do research to find out what continuing education is required for the specific market from which you wish to build your ideal clientele. Specializing will help you narrow down the infinite choices available in this industry, which in turn will help you remain focused on building your private practice.

Get Out There

Put yourself in the atmosphere of your established target market. Work charity events, sporting events, trade shows or conventions; go to corporations or visit hospitals. The possibilities are endless. Follow organizations on social media and attend events. Do whatever you can to network and get your hands on bodies.

You are a massage therapist, so let your hands do the talking. Get people on your chair or table and deliver a great massage. Then get their contact information. Do not just hand out your business cards and wait for them to call you. You must be proactive; contact all potential clients you meet within a day or two, while you’re still on their minds-and they still feel good from your massage.

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Rarely, if ever, will you hear about a successful company that didn’t have a plan. Successful companies have a business plan; you need one, too.

Write down your goals, both short- and long-term. Put these goals in front of you-tape them to your bathroom mirror or someplace where you will see them daily. Establish a timeline to accomplish your goals. Set goals you can achieve within 90 days, six months, three years and five years.

Mark target completion dates on your calendar to provide yourself accountability. If a deadline date approaches and you have not done anything to reach your goal, you only have yourself to blame. Keep your vision, goals and timelines in your sight at all times.

Find a mentor, ideally someone in the massage industry; or a businessperson running any successful company. This mentor can help you formulate a formal business plan, keep you focused and hold you accountable. There are numerous organizations available to help you find a mentor, such as the SCORE Association (score.org), or you can ask someone you know who has the relevant business experience you need. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s website (sba.gov) lists many resources for connecting with a mentor.

Create a Portfolio

A portfolio is your brag book: a binder filled with your accomplishments, exhibiting a timeline of your professional journey. Fill it with your massage school achievements, such as good grades, awards, feedback, comments-any items you are proud of. Add your life accomplishments, photographs and other things that show your character for potential clients to read.

Don’t worry about how little or how much content you have to add to your portfolio. As your life progresses your portfolio will evolve; the important thing is that you start one.

Display your portfolio every place you are massaging, at the charity event you are working, or in your massage treatment room. Potential and current clients want to know about you, to gain the confidence that you are the right massage therapist for them.

This journey you are about to embark on as a professional massage therapist will be fulfilling, humbling, healing and . (You fill in the blank.) You can and will make it what you want it to be. You are in control.

If you focus on your vision, create a plan, network and stay accountable, the massage industry provides infinite possibilities for you to achieve success.

About the Authors

Robin Wooten, L.M.T., N.C.B.T.M.B., N.M.T., and John Sanders, L.M.T., M.M.P., established Next Level Massage Education LLC (nextlevel-me.com) to help massage therapists not be average. They have a combined 28 years' experience as entrepreneurs maintaining private practices, and 18 years as massage therapy educators. They are National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved continuing education providers.