This article will examine the means and ends toward generating success with chair massage.
We have to first look at the elephant in the room: the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and how that might change the way chair massage is delivered. Grocery stores and banks, for example, have traditionally been places where a therapist could set up a chair. As vaccines continue to be distributed, those venues could return as environments that customers are willing to hang out in, but that might take some time—we just don’t know yet.
Staff massage at businesses and corporations has also been a sound choice when choosing a chair-massage venue—but with so many employees working from home either full-time or in a hybrid arrangement, the therapist’s marketing to HR needs to reflect an awareness of this development. According to Upwork, a new normal is taking shape, and marketing agility is needed to navigate it successfully. I am confident that the predominant features of building a chair massage practice will mold themselves into that new normal.
Looking toward the future, I’m presenting traditional venues, including offices, entertainment venues and sporting facilities, as viable chair massage environments even if those types of businesses aren’t yet reopened in your area. As the economy recovers from the pandemic, companies that once had employer health care plans will rekindle these plans. Often, massages, including chair massage, were included in health care plans.
As with any new business venture, you should keep yourself educated about business and public-health trends. And as our new normal forms, there’s no reason to not make plans for your practice’s success.
The first consideration is to ensure you have a durable, high-quality chair. Ideally, you are going to use this chair frequently. Make sure to check for key features with any chair considered for purchase. If you are unable to physically be present to purchase the chair, ensure you purchase a new chair. Truly, the phrase “buyer beware” will apply to any used item purchased online.
When you receive the chair, be sure to check all knobs, handles and fasteners to ensure nothing is immediately broken or overly loose. Check the quality of the padding. New padding should have great resiliency. If the padding lacks resiliency, this chair will not last the long haul of frequent use. Inquire of the weight capacity the chair may hold. Will this chair be able to hold someone 250 or more pounds?
There are 10 key pieces of information to acquire when booking either a single event or a consistent position offering chair massage. Here is a list of questions to ask when creating your proposal.
1. Who exactly is providing payment? At some companies, the company itself provides full payment, whereas at others the employees may pay a portion of fees.
2. When is payment provided? It can be a matter of days, weeks or months to receive payment depending on the company. Can you afford to wait awhile to obtain a paycheck?
3. Are you providing services on the company site or at another venue? Ensure you know who you will greet when you arrive to be pointed in the right direction. Be sure to determine if you will be indoors or outdoors to plan appropriately.
4. Is there an opportunity cost? The term opportunity cost represents that which you give up when you make a choice. If you choose to accept a chair massage gig on a particular date, would you be losing out on income from other current work?
5. Who are typical attendees? Find out who will be receiving your massage services. Knowing your clientele can help you decide how to best serve these individuals as well as which products you may want to showcase to these people.
6. Who is point of contact at this service date? Be sure to know who you will connect with and of whom to ask questions.
7. How much promotion am I allowed? Some companies may frown upon you doing much self-promotion. Make sure you are on the same page with your point of contact on this concept.
8. How do attendees sign up? Will the point of contact at the company fill appointment spots? If not, who will? If the sign-up sheet is on a random sheet of paper in the break room, chances are good spots will not be filled as expected. Help the company by creating a professional sign-up sheet or create an online sign-up registration if possible.
9. How long are sessions expected to be? Be clear on the expectation of session times.
10. May I accept tips? Some companies may not want you to openly accept tips, especially if the company feels you are already being compensated fairly. Do not allow this trite idea to become a potential deal-breaker.
As you build your business, make sure you have your business elements in place. Ensure your massage liability insurance is current and in good standing. Be sure to adhere to state and city laws regarding business operations, including business licensing and other components of operating legally. In some cities, this may include a massage establishment license for the building from which you operate.
Some massage therapists make chair massage their business’ primary source of income. For others, chair massage becomes a catalyst to boost clients into their massage studio. Determine which approach you will take with your chair massage efforts. For the latter, create goals on how many clients you wish to work on daily and how many of these people will become regular clients in your massage studio.
You may be offered a chance to provide chair massage at a community facility. Perhaps a public recreation center, public library or other public part of town. If an event is held at a public park or facility, a permit will most likely be needed. Be sure to check with your local city hall to determine the name of and fees for this permit.
When you feel ready to begin, assess the marketplace of businesses available at which to offer chair massage. Some examples of businesses that may be feasible options to offer chair massage services include:
• Homes during workday hours—again, because an increasing number of employees are working remotely, either full-time or hybrid (at home some days and in the workplace some days). You can set up your chair indoors or outdoors.
• Dentists’ offices (for patients and staff)
• Doctors’ offices (for patients and staff)
• Grocery stores
• Colleges and universities
• Retail outlets
• Sporting facilities
• Entertainment venues
Determining how much to charge for chair massage services may depend on several factors. Questions to ask yourself include: Am I performing services alone or will I have other therapists joining me? Is this a one-time or once-a-quarter gig, or will my services be ongoing regularly? How expensive are the supplies used? How frequently must these supplies be replaced?
The general rule of $1 per minute may not apply anymore as inflation and additional supplies may warrant more income for the same profit margin years ago. Asking for $1.25 to $1.50 per minute equates to an hourly range of $75 to $90.
There are many benefits of chair massage to share with potential businesses when you pitch your services to the firm representative. Most of these read the same as general benefits of massage therapy: boosting blood circulation, aiding muscle tension, promoting pain relief and relaxation, and stress relief.
Some benefits specific to workplace environments include aiding carpal tunnel pain, easing issues related to sciatica, increasing mental alertness, clearing brain fog and alleviating stress within the body. Managers at a business may want to hear these benefits to justify paying someone for chair massage services.
Once you establish a professional relationship with a company, maintain this relationship with a consistently professional approach to business. Continue to communicate with appropriate points of contact. Be open to feedback and changes that make the experience better for you and all you touch. Show gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to service their company. Show up just as professionally (if not more) the 10th time you work with the company as you did the first time.
As you prepare for chair massage gigs and events, here are items to consider bringing with you:
* Chair and carrying case
• Hand sanitizer
• PPE: Disposable face masks
• Cleaning agents
• Paper towels
• Water and snacks
• Tip jar
• Oil (unscented)
• Display table
• Your business card and brochures
• Products for sale and samples
• Gift certificates
• Banner or sign
• Fingernail file
• Intake forms
• Disposable face rest covers
• Small trash bag
• Small bills, for change
• Massage license or use permit
• Mechanical devices
• Comfortable apparel
• Trash bag to clean up workspace
• Mat for chair if working outdoors
• Shade covering if outdoors
• An air purifier if working indoors
• Your “A” game
Intake forms are mentioned on the above list of items to bring. Keeping them in a three-ring binder ensures they will not slide around or away from your table. Keep these short (about half a page) and ask essential questions about general state of health, if clients have chronic health concerns, including any lingering effects from coronavirus, the medications they take, and any areas of desired focus. Also have them sign a basic liability waiver.
A helpful suggestion is to consider having someone you trust join you in handling money, keeping track of products and ensuring a smooth chair massage event. The list of 30 items can be quite daunting to bring alone. Having assistance with hauling these items will be most helpful and ensure nothing is forgotten.
Further, it can be difficult to massage with proper intention if other people are distracting or demanding your time. Having someone to deflect this attention will ensure you give clients the attention their bodies deserve.
Perhaps you can find a fellow therapist willing to share massage duties with you. Each therapist could massage clients, switching off each hour, to allow the other to relax, eat, speak to clients walking up to the display table and manage people checking in for their session.
Circling back to the major goal of chair massage efforts, keep track of how many people at each event and paid gig eventually become regular paying clients upon your massage table. This will provide valuable information about your efforts and how they contribute to business success.
Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB, is owner of Advanced Massage Arts & Education Tempe, Arizona. He is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved provider of continuing education, and teaches “Professional Ethics for LMTs” and many other CE classes. He is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine, and his articles include “Massage Cupping Technique as an Opportunity for Professional Growth” and “These 5 Keys Will Unlock the Door to Massage Session Re-Bookings”.
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