New Year, New Love for my Massage Business (and some structure)

I purposely did not write a New Years post this year. As much as I love tradition, I just wasn’t ready to make declarations of intent about productivity, happiness, success or anything else.

In reality, I’ve been laying the foundation for a kick-ass 2015 for months. I’ve been practicing. And it’s all about structure.

I am aware of my tendency to dream big, set a start date on any particular project then fail in the first few days as I struggle to create new protocols and make them part of my daily rituals all at the same time.

Last year I spent time thinking about how much I work at my massage practice. Specifically, how many hours I spend providing massage and how many I spend with all the various administrative tasks. Unsurprisingly, I was not massaging as much as I wanted and spending far too much time buried in my badly organized business tasks.

On top of all that, my massage business is about to celebrate its 10th birthday. It’s time to run this show like a big girl, huh?

So I read a few books, spent some time with my friend Jason and seeing how he runs his crazy-successful massage business, and got more than a few tips and inspiration from Melissa and her busy practice, too.

The money stuff was my biggest concern. I set up a protocol for tracking and planning finances (and some spreadsheets, argh)  and began using it in December. That gave me plenty of time to play with it and make adjustments before the 2015 money started rolling in.

My schedule was another concern. I love my office, but when I’m here 45 hours a week and only doing 18 hours of massage, that’s just lousy scheduling on my part. I made some changes to my availability on the online schedule and I’ve got much less weird-dead-time between clients. You know, those spaces where it’s not enough time to run errands or dive into a real admin tasks, but way more time than needed to just change the room over and have a snack?

Oh, and you know how whenever we think about changing schedules (or prices) we imagine that all our clients will be terribly inconvenienced and find other therapists? Yeah. That didn’t happen. Yet another reminder to not make business decisions from a place of fear.

To wrap up my admin task issues, I sorted through files, cleared out the inactive clients (and made a list of those I wanted to contact). And I made a checklist to be sure I’m keeping contact info updated and remembering to send the proper Welcome and Thank You cards when called for.

We’re two weeks in and I’ve been fairly successful. I’m on top of the money and scheduling still, I’m already a few days behind in updating and correspondence. (But I have a plan to catch up this week.)

There’s a bunch more I can and will share with you in the coming months, including the spreadsheets and checklists I’m using, but I haven’t decided exactly how to do that, and I’ve got to practice a bit first (see the pattern here?).

Meanwhile, I want to know: How are YOU? What are you struggling with that’s new or different?
What have you tackled in your business that you’re proud of?

Searching for love (and Ideal Clients)

investigateIn my handful of years being single, I’ve noticed a trend among the dating community (aka- other single people). They say things like, “I just want to meet the ‘right’ person,” and other hazy crap like, “I’ll know when I meet him, we’ll just click, there will be chemistry.” And then those same people bitch and moan about all the awful dates they waste time on.

I’ve used a few different online dating sites in the past few years. In 90% of profiles, the same trend occurs. People are vague about their own characteristics, and similarly blurry about what they’re looking for in a partner. It goes like this:

I like to go out, sometimes I like to stay in…I like all kinds of music and I’m looking for someone cool to hang out with. <Insert obligatory photo of guy in NE Patriots jersey holding either a beer or a friend’s baby here. Really.>

Yeah, that’s not helping anyone, buddy. And women do the same thing. (I know because I check out the competition’s profiles. But girls tend to use more ‘hiking in the woods’ pics. What is that about?)

I’m not vague or confused about who I am. Nor am I uncertain about what I’m looking for in a partner. I lay it all out very clearly. It looks something like this:

Me: Gainfully self-employed, child-free, not afraid to sing along loudly to Careless Whisper in any environment. I like who I am, I like my life. It would be nice to meet someone to share that with. Preferably, someone who doesn’t mind that I ended that sentence with a preposition.

I’m comfortably situated on the spectrum somewhere between women with lots of outdoorsy hiking pics and girls in revealing outfits making the duck face in a selfie. I like heels but can’t stand makeup or jewelry. I’m hilarious on twitter, fiercely independent, but I still really, really like it when men open doors and display other chivalrous behaviors. I would like to see some dragon-slaying and defending of my honor should the need arise. That just sounds awesome, right? I also have no trouble taking charge of a situation. I’m versatile like that.

I am firmly in defense of the oxford comma, one space after a period, and an occasional well-placed cuss word to make a point in otherwise civilized conversation. I think grammar and spelling are important, but people who are dicks about it need to calm the hell down. In a recent quest for some hobbies, I’ve taken up learning to make old-school mixed drinks and playing the ukulele. They pair well together. I don’t want to brag here, but I can play almost any song on my ukulele. Unless there’s a B minor. Or an F minor 7. Alright I only know about 6 chords, but I rock them. I rock them hard.

You: Fun, funny and smart. What? Were you expecting me to want a boring, humorless, stupid dude? I’m very much looking for a guy who has his crap together. Seriously. I’m not looking for a fixer-upper. None of us has it entirely figured out, but it would be nice to hang out with someone who likes his work, his life, and is generally happy. If you could commit to always reaching things on the top shelf and opening pickle jars whenever needed, that’s cool, too. I want you to pay for the first date, and I want to cover the second. Kids are awesome, but if you’ve got little ones (or big ones) at home, we’re probably not a good match right now. (But thanks for populating the earth!)

If any of this rings a bell, I hope I hear from you.

Yeah. I still get contacted by guys who don’t in any way meet the parameters I’ve set. Dudes in major career transitions, guys who hate their jobs and whine about it in the first email, men with full custody of a gaggle of kids under the age of 10. But because I know what I’m looking for, it’s easy to weed them out quickly.

Also, because I’m clear, the guys I’ve met and dated have been great. In fact, I’m convinced the matching process is darn effective, since I’m very good friends with a few. The romance wasn’t a keeper but the compatibility stuck on a friendship level. That’s pretty cool.

I had to suffer through some icky dates to figure all this out. Finally, I actually sat down and said, “This is what I want in a partner,” and made a list. Icky dates dramatically decreased, leaving room for the better ones. Occasionally, a guy who doesn’t quite fit the criteria will wow me in some other way. I’ve bent some rules and ended up having some really fun dates and made great friends. But more often than not, staying focussed on what I truly want has served me well.

But this isn’t a dating blog, so let’s move on

In all my teaching and reading about massage and marketing, I’ve found the most common obstacle for a massage therapist is figuring out what she wants. Often, defining what kind of clients a therapist wants to treat, their Ideal Client, is what entirely halts an otherwise motivated person in their marketing efforts.

Have you seen those therapists who list six different ‘specialties’ on their business cards? It kinda stops being special after two. When asked, “Who is your Ideal Client?” the response is “Everyone!” Well, everyone may benefit from your massage, but successful marketing depends on figuring out who you most want to serve, assessing their needs, and sharing how your services meet those needs. You’ve got to nail it down, be precise. Know who you are and who you can best serve.

I’ve got advanced training in Prenatal, Labor and Postnatal massage and I specialize in helping women feel educated, comfortable and relaxed throughout pregnancy and the transition into motherhood.

If you are a mom-to-be experiencing physical discomfort or just nervous about the process, you’re exactly my kind of client! Massage has been shown to decrease depression, anxiety and pain for pregnant women, and massage may be just what you need. Call for more information or to book an appointment.

When you first get out of school, you may not know exactly where you want to go with massage. Start somewhere. Think about your favorite practice ‘clients’. Was there an age group you most enjoyed woking with? A specific pathology that lit you up and made you run to your reference book excitedly? Start there. Write down the characteristics of those clients and pathologies. List how you and your amazing massage skills can serve them. Then put that out to the world. Focus on finding those clients and serving them well.

Network with other massage therapists and health professionals, be sure they know what you do and make extra sure to understand what they do. Focussing on one market doesn’t mean that you blow off any potential client with different pathologies or needs, but be wise about referring out if you know someone who may serve them better. It’ll come back ten-fold. It can be a rough process to figure out what you want. It’s worth the effort.

Much like love, marketing can be brutal. Much like love, you gotta do the work to make it great.

This post is #3 of a 31 day blog challenge

Image courtesy of thanunkorn /

On being prepared

Are you familiar with the Bad Day Phenomenon? For me, it’s when something awful happens and the dominoes just keep falling until there’s coffee all over my computer, I’ve stubbed a toe and my keys are locked behind a door of some kind.

The Bad Day is a first cousin to Unprepared Days.

Kerry Callen Wonder Woman

photo credit: Kerry Callen

That is, days when I run out of paper towels, a client has a new pathology and I can’t find my A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology (affiliate link), and I can’t find my credit card swipe-y thing. It’s not that bad things happen, it’s that I’m completely unprepared for inevitable things that DO happen.

On a small scale, lack of preparation is no big deal. I can run out for paper towels between clients, use the interwebs to look up narcolepsy, and manually type in a credit card transaction. But I always end up kicking myself. For procrastinating errands, never putting books back where they belong, and storing 47 receipts, 2 cookies and a emergency fork in my desk drawer along with my credit card square. Sigh.

On a big scale, lack of preparation can demolish your business. If your office gets burgled tonight, do you have property insurance, and enough of it, to replace what is taken? Natural disasters pose the same threat to our livelihood, as do health issues and injuries that prevent you from working.

And this extends well past tangible matters. Sometimes I’m emotionally unprepared. 

For a client who demands so. much. attention. Sure, I can get warmer pillow, we can take a break and I’ll get you some water, I’ll smile and murmur ‘mmhmm’ while you talk about your mom’s bunion surgery for 60 minutes.  

For a slow week (or month) that damages my confidence. Oh, dear god, are all my clients leaving me? Is everyone out of town at the same time?

For a chair massage job in a public setting that requires me to be in full Happy Professional Allissa mode. Yes, massage can be really helpful in dealing with that carpal tunnel, let me get you some research on how. I’m located right up the street… Check out my online scheduling…. You won a gift certificate in a raffle? Wonderful! Let’s get you scheduled…And on and on.

This job can be draining on a good day. It’s downright disheartening (or worse) when unprepared and difficult collide.

The good news is, we can get prepared.

You already know how to handle the practical aspects. Schedule your errands and office upkeep and stick to it. Have good liability and property insurance. And take care of yourself. Do you hear me? Take care of yourself. We say this to our clients. We say this to each other. Then we promptly ignore each other 92.4% of the time.

Lifeguards are taught to put the rescue-e between them and any obstacle they may crash into.

Flight attendants instruct you to put your own oxygen mask on first. (FYI-There’s a fantastic support network for parents of children with special needs that embraces this idea. I love it.)

I’m not going to nag you about the importance of self care.

You know that already. But I’ll tell you a little bit of my story.

Last year I took a four week working vacation. I desperately needed time away from my massage practice so I could concentrate on the marketing agency for a bit. I needed to get ahead on my writing for you and for others. Here’s what happened:

Week 1- I slept. Harder and longer than I ever have. Didn’t write a word. Couldn’t write a word. Barely kept up with the daily marketing agency tasks.

Week 2- I played. I walked. I learned 5 chords and countless songs on my ukulele. Caught up on marketing agency tasks.

Week 3- I’m hustling. I’m borderline productive, even! There’s a chance I’ll even get ahead. Nah, probably not. But that’s cool.

Turns out I needed that trip. I needed it so hard, and I had no idea until I got there. I needed to get out of dodge, sleep too much and be taken care of by my friends here. It took me a week just to unclench and breathe.

I am so grateful I was (mostly) prepared to take a month away from my massage practice. I hustled and got all my bills paid a few months in advance. I started prepping my clients for this months ago, so they were prepared.

When I get overwhelmed I look back at that trip. I take mini-vacations for a day or two. I remember how it felt to regroup.

Well, I just regrouped again. Let’s get to work.

PS- Here’s my new unofficial tagline/daily inspiration. But it’s got foul language, so I’m not posting the photo here.

photo credit- Kerry Callen Thanks to @jasonperinger for sending it my way 


Book Review: Excuse Me, Exactly How Does That Work?

It pleases me greatly to publish this book review from Dr. Christopher A. Moyer. Dr. Moyer is a friend and has become my first call when I need guidance of the massage research variety. We’re lucky to have him as an advocate and a teacher in our profession.

laura allen book coverLaura Allen undoubtedly has energy – but what does that actually mean?  In massage therapy circles, that word is used loosely so often it can be difficult to know what it means.  In this instance I mean she is active, productive, and industrious.  Allen has been a successful restauranteur, musician, blogger, businesswoman, massage therapist, educator, and author.  Most recently her prodigious energy went into writing her seventh book, Excuse Me, Exactly How Does That Work?  Hocus Pocus in Holistic Healthcare (Amazon Digital Services, 113 pages; ).  Those who use the word “energy” loosely should take note.

Anyone who knows Allen will recognize that the title perfectly captures her friendly-but-still-challenging style that is tempered with a dash of Southern sass.  And while there are an increasing number of books that advocate critical thinking for the massage therapy profession, this book could only have been written by Allen.  In addition to her distinctive style, the book draws on her considerable experience in massage therapy along with her quest to learn about a range of alternative medicine practices.

The first third of the book is essentially a memoir.  Allen describes, in an engaging way, how curiosity and varied experiences led her to study massage therapy but also reiki, crystal healing, magnet therapy, homeopathy, and other alt-med practices.  She describes herself as willing to try just about any of them in order to learn from the experience.  This approach is laudable, but incomplete when it is unaccompanied by any critical reflection.  Looking back, Allen admits “I was looking so hard, I got lost.”

The turning point comes abruptly.  Allen, now a reiki master and teacher, is preparing to teach a class on the practice and finds herself wondering “how is my drawing a few symbols in the air and blowing a puff of air onto someone going to turn them into a healer?”  Realizing there is no sensible answer to that question, she makes the decision, on the spot, to abandon the practice and to adopt a more thoughtful approach to evaluating alt-med claims and practices.  Most importantly, she recognizes that it is an ethical imperative for learners to be able to ask how health practices work, and that it is also an ethical imperative for practitioners and educators to be able to provide sensible answers that are consistent with well-established knowledge in physics, chemistry, medicine, and psychology.

From this perspective, the latter part of the book examines a range of alt-med concepts and practices commonly encountered in or attached to the massage therapy profession, including special water and juice formulations, devices that claim to interact with one’s human energy field, detoxification, and ear candling.  Readers who have not already encountered these, as well as those who have adopted them without question, stand to learn a lot from this portion of the book.

The importance of professional ethics, and the need for them to be rooted in critical thinking and evidence, is the common thread that ties all the sections together.  Important ethical concepts, such as avoiding harm, and providing effective treatments for appropriate fees, are addressed.  However, I would have liked to see Allen pay more attention to an ethical problem that I think is especially important – the fact that massage therapy schools, continuing education providers, and the governing bodies that accredit and sanction them are heavily invested in perpetuating nonsensical information that supplants opportunities for students and practitioners to learn modern, well-validated information that would help them be better therapists and which would serve to elevate the profession.  Allen’s take on that specific issue would be an illuminating and welcome addition to the book.

Allen’s best achievement in writing this book is that she provides a model of how to approach health claims.  Such a model is badly needed in massage therapy, where students, practitioners, and educators are often more likely to invest time and energy on New Age claptrap than on the art and science of their effective, evidence-supported treatment.  The profession needs more people who are willing to ask “excuse me, exactly how does that work?”  Perhaps this book will inspire some to do just that.

Christopher A. Moyer, PhD, is a psychologist and massage therapy researcher currently residing in Milwaukee.  He is the coeditor of Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice.

Hey, whatchya readin’?

computer on table

Roughly 4 years ago (okay, it was more like 2 months, it just seems like it’s taken me that long to get it together) a reader named Marie asked on the facebook page:

You say you’re behind on your reading which prompts my question(s):

What do you read on a fairly regular basis? How much time do you spend a week reading professional material? What type of material (marketing, industry development, cutting edge research, etc) do you read? Where do you get your material?

Whoa, Marie. That’s a lot of questions! I like it when you make me think. Here’s a lot of answers.

I read a ton of stuff. Well, that’s not entirely true. I skim an awful lot of stuff. I sink my teeth into whatever catches my interest pretty quick. If I’m lucky, I can spend 30-40 minutes a day really reading, so probably 5-6 hours a week. More often I’m skimming and reposting things to the various pages I manage, and to my own massage business page (and twitter and google plus and interest when I remember).

If I happen upon something I really want to dive into and concentrate on, I use instapaper to bookmark it for later.

I’ve got a list below, but be assured it is incomplete. I’m getting better now at bookmarking sites I want follow regularly, and when there’s an option to subscribe via email, I usually do. I used to have RSS feeds set up in my computer’s email program but at some point, something went awry and I lost them all, and I haven’t set up a replacement option.

As you’ll see when you peruse the list, I read a wacky variety of blogs and online magazines. I don’t read every post of all of them all the time. But when I’m stuck, or just can’t concentrate but don’t want to totally waste time, I try to read things that may inspire me, or at least teach me something. All of these blogs do that.

Now, my question to you. What are YOU reading online?


massage industry

business & marketing



general life & health

photo courtesy of

Well, hello 39.

birthdayIt’s my birthday. I had a pretty fantastic day. Michael called first thing (while I was eating my cinnamon bun pancakes. Yeah, that’s a thing.)

I read a whole book. Fiction, even. I played with great kids, I got to be mellow and chill with their mom.

Now I’ve got cupcakes and wine and the music of a 12th century nun rocking the house.

I did some really cool stuff in my 39th year. I’m totally cool with being a little self-indulgence (hey, it’s my blog, also I’m totally revamping this thing soon so you’ll be getting Extreme Marketing junk soon enough) so I thought back and whipped up my list of Stuff That Mattered to Me This Year.

I revisited the Birthday post of 2011. I marked off a few things that I’ve accomplished.  There are still plenty of adventures I haven’t enjoyed yet. I’m cool with that.

I started a thing. It’s gonna be a big thing.

In what I still think of as the best 2nd date ever, I saw rodrigo y gabriela in hot & sweaty House of Blues with a hot & sweaty super cute guy. He didn’t last, my affection for the duo did. (Seriously. I want to play uke the way she pays guitar.)

I got my heart bruised up good and hard. Thrice.

I ran away to find comfort with a friend, and some alpacas, and Hildegard of Bingen.

Then I let it go.

And I kept trying.

I fell back in love with my massage practice. Then I noticed my skills are stale. Whoops. That is being remedied.

I bit my tongue a few too many times. Then I didn’t. And it was good.

My office got Vader-ed.

I made fancy drinks for my bestie.

I saw a old college friend, now a new(ish) MT sing and tell stories and talk shop on stage.

When I was in a craptastic, humiliating, vulnerable position I said “I can’t get cold cocked again. I am entirely out of resilience.” And I meant it. I got the mercy I needed. I don’t miss my pride.

I got cozier with myself. 30 minutes before a first date I couldn’t find the concealer. The blemish was just going to be there. And it didn’t matter.

I gave some massage to my nieces and nephews. I don’t think they know how much that means to me.

I showed up for some people. I stopped showing up for others. All good decisions.

I got used to saying, “I have depression”.  Although I did catch myself averting my eyes a bit when I told someone new recently. Probably gotta work on that a bit still.

So all in all, it was a decent year. Reading the list over, I worry that I’ve harped on the negative. The reality is, it was a HARD year. I spent a lot of time under my metaphorical bed hiding. But I learned stuff under there.

I’m coming for ya, 40. You best be ready.