What’s Your Biggest Practice-Building Mistake?

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We all make mistakes. Often, they lead to valuable lessons. Since I can only share so many experiences to make your massage business journey easier, I’ve enlisted the help of these wise and generous massage therapists, educators, marketing experts and bloggers. Enjoy!

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Jamie Johnston, The Massage Therapist Development Center

I took the first job offer I got right out of college. I didn’t look for a job or apply anywhere. I didn’t actually seek out a busy clinic or even think about what different clinics would provide as far as marketing, reception, linen service or even variations in rent agreements.

My sport massage teacher offered me a spot at a local rec centre. I thought it would be awesome. The treatment room was right on the side of the gym, I’d have access to exercise equipment, the pool, the sauna, everything. Then I started, and I waited and waited and waited.

They had never offered massage therapy at the centre before. I was fresh out of college with no money, no marketing experience and no patients. I didn’t really realize that I would be in business by myself and starting with absolutely no referrals or patient stream. I should have looked for a busy clinic to work at, so that I could then learn the business side of things while actually generating an income.

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Elefteria Mantzorou, Flow Wellness & Training

My biggest mistake in the beginning was investing money on flyers. I should have invested this money on internet marketing, like Google and Facebook ads.

Flyers are good for promoting food services only, I think. So save your time and money, and DO NOT print flyers!

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Susan L. Miller, Susan Miller Health Concepts LLC

I would say I didn’t create a marketing plan. Now I have one in the works which includes weekly specials and lots of social media.

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Felicia Brown, Spalutions

Thinking I knew everything and finding out I was wrong. If I could do it all over again, I would listen to people who had done what I wanted to do (or something similar) and learn from their mistakes.

I would also never let pride alone guide my actions or decisions. I learned the hard way that you have to set goals for your business and make sound decisions that support those. Just because “an amazing opportunity” comes up does not mean it fits with your goals or business!

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Laura Allen, LauraAllenMT

The biggest mistake I made in building my practice was paying my staff more than I paid myself. My business quickly grew from myself and another therapist to eventually including a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, an esthetician, and up to 6-7 massage therapists at a time. When I started out, I thought many of the therapists I knew who worked for others were underpaid, and I had the noble intention of being that great employer who paid very well. I did that for several years too long. I was the one taking all the business risks, doing all the marketing, and paying all the bills, and my two busiest therapists made more money than I did. I finally realized I deserved to be paid more than the staff members. I had to change my business model. Mistakes are great learning experiences!

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Caylon Ellis, Caylon Ellis Therapeutics 

The biggest mistake I have made as my practice grows is not standing firm behind price increases after making substantial time and financial commitments to continuing education. I do have some clients that have been there with me from the beginning that I have grandfathered in as a thank you for their continued support over the years as I strive to further develop. I feel very comfortable with that decision, yet I still find myself wavering with my new rates for new clients. I believe undervaluing the time invested in constantly researching and taking continuing education courses as that factors into a session is a common mistake. My intention for this year is to own my rate, taking pride in all that I have done to get to this point, and I encourage other therapists who are building a practice to do the same!

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Deanna Sylvester, LMT and Chief Operations Officer for Sohnen-Moe Associates

When I first started out, I advertised to the general market. I put an ad in a local, weekly paper and hung up flyers in coffee shops all over town. Unfortunately, my promotions talked about massage in general and didn’t speak directly to anyone in particular! I wasted time and money, and generated very little leads. I finally realized how important it is to choose specific target market(s) and focus marketing materials on my ideal client. Once my promotions talked directly to people with chronic pain conditions and mobility issues, I began to attract the clients I wanted.

A large part of my early practice involved out-calls. I would show up with my table and set up wherever and however the client wanted. One day I was instructed to set up in a spare bedroom. By about 10 minutes into the treatment I was having an extreme allergy attack. I asked, “You don’t have a cat, do you?” The client replied, “Sure do, and this is the cat’s room.” We had to stop the treatment and move the massage table out into the dining room as I explained about my allergy to cats. I learned my lesson well that day. As soon as I got home I developed a phone interview checklist for my out-calls that included a list of allergens.

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Rajam Roose, Massage Business Marketing Services | Grow Your Massage Business

In the 16 years of working as a full-time massage therapist, it is amazing to think how forgetting one detail led to the biggest mistake I made in my massage business. Not thinking to do this one simple thing ended up costing me a few thousand dollars! When I looked for an office in San Diego, I chose a neighborhood where people were very interested in health and had money for regular massage appointments. I found an office with hard wood flooring, 20’ vault ceiling, and a skylight. It was gorgeous and about half the price of other offices in the area.

I went in on a Saturday to meet with the owner and look at the space. It seemed perfect! I was so excited to finally find a place, I signed the lease that afternoon. I started moving my things in on Sunday and it was Monday when I came in to organize that I realized my mistake. Can you guess the mistake I made?

The building was incredibly noisy. I could hear everything going on in the building. There was no insulation in the walls and I could even hear the fellow in the office next door giving out his credit card info over the phone! It was so awful, I wanted to cry. I should have come in during the week before signing the lease and I would have immediately discovered how noisy it was.

But the lease was signed, so I learned everything I could about sound dampening and over the next couple months ended up spending around $3K on sound dampening materials. Turned out to be a gorgeous office and one of my favorite locations to work, but it was the biggest and costliest mistake I made in all my years of being a massage business owner.

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Cath Cox, cathcox.com

Early in my first practice, I would go in during my scheduled time if I wasn’t booked to wait for walk-ins. I did get one client this way.  Although I could no longer accommodate him as I got busier, he refused to book ahead and eventually stopped coming. Although he paid a few phone bills for me, I now know I would have grown much faster by using that time to network and market myself directly to clients.

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Brenda Blakesley, Southwest Ashiatsu Massage & Bodywork Academy

The biggest mistake I made is not planning for business to be as busy as it was, including having as many records to store! I think knowing that if you’re not into computers when you become an independent contractor, definitely hire a company, download a program, or get digital immediately! One issue I struggle with is that half of my records (from the first few years in business), are kept in paper format in files, and the other half are all over the place in too many different areas.

In retrospect, I would have bought a new computer, taken it to an accountant, and paid them to install Quickbooks, set it up for me, and then teach me the few steps it takes to use it. As it is now, to implement one of those handy programs, it will take a solid week to get all the information input (sigh). That’s why I procrastinate and am still using old, illogical methods of record keeping.

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Personally, I don’t believe there are really any mistakes. Our journey just needs an occasional course correction. What I love most about these stories is that every contributor is going strong despite their less-than-perfect experience. Building a thriving practice that you love takes time, tenacity and connecting to your vision on a regular basis. Thank you all for sharing!

What’s YOUR biggest practice-building mistake and what did you learn? If you don’t see a comment box below, click the Leave a comment link to share. Thank you!

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About deepheeling

I'm an Ashiatsu barefoot deep tissue massage specialist dedicated to sharing my journey to creating a successful business that I love!
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