Why did you choose massage as a career?
I love working with my hands, and working with people. I knew from early on that a 9-5 office scenario wasn't right for me, and massage as a career allows for a degree of freedom and flexibility. (Many of the LMTs that I work with have other full-time careers as dancers, yoga teachers, actors, etc.) I work with clients who come in to the studio stressed out, occasionally in a bad mood, and generally experiencing some sort of pain and discomfort. When they leave, they are smiling, feeling relaxed and are in a great mood. I often get hugs from grateful clients, I love that! After over six years of massaging clients, I still enjoy coming to work every week.
What inspired Massage Williamsburg?
When I first graduated in January of 2008, I worked in a variety of locations, trying to gain experience and see where my work best fit. At first, I worked a couple of days at a yoga studio, and enjoyed the setting very much - however the studio was often loud, and to be honest not very clean or organized, which I found frustrating. I later worked for a surgical office, which I loved! At the surgeon's office, I learned so much about very site-specific clinical work, and was able to help patients recover and gain mobility through scar tissue reduction. This particular surgeon did a lot of post-mastectomy reconstructive surgeries, using implants. I was working teaching women how to do self-massage to prevent an issue called capsular contraction, which can happen when an implant becomes hard and immobile. I loved that work, though at times it felt emotionally taxing. To temper my practice, I decided to become certified in prenatal massage. I spent a couple days per week at a pregnancy spa, working with happy pregnant clients. I loved how relaxing and luxurious the space felt, though wasn't crazy about the company's policy of pushing products on a client while they were trying to relax. I also didn't like that many of their products contained chemicals and parabens - I didn't feel comfortable using those sorts of products on pregnant clients, let alone soaking my own hands in them all day. I desperately wanted to find a work environment that was clean, organized, played good music, used natural oils, felt relaxing while doing clinical style work, and didn't push products on people trying to relax. I couldn't find one, so I created it myself!
How did you first start your private practice?
I used to be incredibly shy. There's a filter in your head, that we are all grow up with, that tells you "Don't talk to strangers". I needed to overcome this filter, in order to reach out to potential clients. I practiced a lot with my friends, and in social settings. I started my private practice by seeing clients (who were mostly friends of friends) in my apartment. Truthfully I didn't love seeing clients in my home, because it didn't feel professional enough. I really wanted a good space to work, but couldn't afford one at the time. In May of 2008, 5 months after graduating, I was taking a walk around my neighborhood, and I found a lovely physical therapy office in a nice medical building. I took a chance, and inquired if they were offering massage, and as it turns out, they weren't. I spoke to the head of the clinic, and asked if she would be interested in a trade - I would massage her physical therapy patients for a few hours per week for free doing 15-20 mins post-rehab sessions. I convinced her that patients are more likely to return to physical therapy if they are receiving a free massage, and she agreed. In exchange, I asked for use of a treatment room to see my own clients after clinic hours were over (from 5pm to 8pm). The clinic agreed, and I started my private practice in their space. I had all of 10 clients at the time. I set up my room with soft lights, hung some nice art, purchased good flannel sheets, and organic grapeseed oil. I tried to make the space feel warm and comfortable, while professional and clean.
How did you get clients starting out?
Many of the 15 minute sessions with physical therapy patients turned into full hours with me, and many clients referred their friends and family. I also targeted individuals in my neighborhood who see a volume of their own private clients - hairdressers, personal trainers, chiropractors, etc. I approached many, and offered a trade of a free massage for a haircut, or for personal training. I absolutely love personal trainers, because they are working with clients who are taking a genuine interest in their health, and they are often already sore and typically in need of maintenance massage. I built a simple website, choosing keywords that felt relevant to my neighborhood and profession (hello, Massage Williamsburg!). Eventually, I was working way too much between free and paid sessions, and needed a full-time space. I left my physical therapy office, though I am still getting wonderful referrals from them to this day. By August, having grown from 10 clients to 110 clients, Massage Williamsburg moved a block south, to North 6th, where we are still working today.
Any advice for students or new graduates?
When you first graduate, practice as much as you can to establish a routine and gain strength. It is so important to get your hands on a variety of people when you are first starting out, to gain valuable experience that will help you when you start working. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you check in with your client on the pressure and see how they are doing. Listen to feedback, and try to take criticism and learn from it. Remember to take good care of yourself through stretches, ice after a busy day, and regular classes of yoga or other physical activity. Keep healthy snacks around to munch on between clients, you'll need your energy! Work with clients that keep you inspired and motivated. There are so many settings that massage is welcome in - gyms, yoga studios, physical therapy offices, chiropractors, hotels, spas, etc. See where you best fit in. Work for a place with integrity, that feels like a good fit. Take lots of continuing education, grow your practice and your skills. Read a lot about business, and stay inspired. Seek out mentors that can help with the process.