For many new therapists completing their formal qualification marks the end of their study and the beginning of their massage journey. Experienced therapists though will tell you that in this role you never stop learning, never stop challenging beliefs, and never stop trying new things. The moment you do is the time to walk away.
So, what advice would an age weary therapist give to those about to graduate? Here’s the top 10 words of advice to those starting in the industry.
- The more you learn, the more you realise you know nothing! You will learn more in the first few months of practice than you did in all the time in your course. When you start out you can feel like a pirate about to walk the plank. It is ok to take the leap so long as you have the supports and safety mechanisms in place to have a safe landing. Find a mentor that you can discuss issues, presentations, clients, business questions and challenges you are facing. We’ve all been there. How does the saying go? No man is an island….
- Know your clients. Do not try and be everything to everyone. Work out who your ideal client is and focus your energy on attracting them to your clinic. If you hate doing sports massage, don’t focus your marketing campaign at the local gym. If you love working with new mum’s, connect with your local Child and Maternal Health Centre.
- Value yourself. When you are starting out, it is easy to undervalue yourself and offer discounts and incentives to get people through your door. You don’t have to be the cheapest therapist in town and you don’t have to offer discounts on your services to attract new clients. By pricing your service too low, you are not recognizing the time and expense that has gone into your training and you will be attracting clients that value discounts above a professional service. You want to attract clients that value you for your skills.
- Set your boundaries. When you are starting out, it is easy to be eager to please ever client request. Client needs an appointment at 7pm on a weeknight. No problems. Just cancel that family dinner and you can accommodate them! Wrong! Set you work hours. Let your clients know. Do not answer the work phone out of hours. Client’s will adapt to your availabilities and if they do not then maybe they were not the right clients for you.
- Trust your instincts. If something does not feel right, it is ok to say “no”. Maybe it is a client that makes you feel uncomfortable. They have not done or said anything overtly wrong, but your “spidey senses” are tingling. It is ok to not rebook them. Or maybe you do not feel that you can successfully help a client with a particular presentation. It is ok to tell them that and refer them to someone who is more qualified. They will respect your honesty.
- Invest in your equipment. Understanding that finances may be tight when you are starting out, ensure that the equipment you purchase is the best you can afford within your budget and be prepared to upgrade along your journey. Know the working weight of you table or chair and start planning early on to upgrade to a lighter/stronger/electric as soon as possible. A great quality table is an investment in you. Using ergonomically designed, height adjustable equipment is going to allow you to work safer and more effectively and protect your back and joints in the long run.
- Pace yourself. When you graduate, it is like everything is shiny and new. There are so many cool CPE courses you can do. But I urge you to take your time. It is a marathon not a sprint. Take some time to hone the skills you learnt in college. Work out what you like and what you do not and more importantly, what modalities work for you and what service your clients are after before investing your hard-earned money on courses that may not fit your business model.
- Know your rights. One of the disappointing aspects of this industry is the number of therapists that are engaged as “contractors”. The vast majority of these are actually sham contracts and illegal under Fair Work and ATO rules. Just because “everyone does it” does not make it right. Know what your rights are when accepting an offer. Know the difference between an employee and true contractor and don’t get ripped off. There are many good business owners out there that pay a fair rate under the federal award but there are just as many that entice new therapists with the promise of big $ that quickly turns out to be not quite what it seemed.
- Treat other Massage Therapists as colleagues not as competitors. This is important, especially if you are self-employed. Massage can be a lonely experience when you are working on your own. Take the time to connect with other therapists in your area. Everyone has different skills and knowledge, and clients will respect you if you are secure enough to refer on when necessary.
- Look after you first. We have all heard the saying that you cannot drink from an empty cup. By nature, Massage Therapists are a very giving bunch. We nurture and look after others. If you are sore, tired or upset, it is going to reflect in your day-to-day life. Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away for a moment, refresh and recharge and then come back to the table with a new perspective.
Remember to check out the “therapist resources” section on the Firm-n-Fold website for lots of helpful checklists and fact sheets that the team at Firm-n-Fold have been working on to help support new graduates as you start out in your massage journey.