Boundaries and Your Massage Business
Boundary setting can be super difficult in business, but it is the most important tool in keeping a healthy practice and avoiding burnout. This is not news. You learned it in massage school. You experienced it the first time you scheduled a client past your regular office hours, then they no-showed, and you didn’t charge a fee. You learned it when you spent a day providing free chair massage at a local business event “for exposure” and gained exactly 3 email subscribers and no new clients.
Resisting structure and breaking your own boundaries is an excellent way to build an insecure business that drains you, mentally and physically. It’s a thing we know, but for so many of us, it’s really, really hard to change. Building a mature business with reasonable boundaries is a long-term process. When I find myself waffling over a policy or feeling resentful of a situation, it helps me to return to a few basic principles. I’ve shared them here for you!
Massage is never an emergency
If someone is in so much pain that they need a massage right now, they should probably go to an emergency room. Period. You are not an EMT. You do not need to be on call 24-7. Further, you don’t need to justify your hours to clients. There’s no need to say, “My kid has a baseball game that night.” It is enough to say, “I’m not available that evening, here are my next few available appointments, do any of these work for you?”
Pricing is not negotiable
In an era of Groupon and near-constant coupons and sales landing on our inboxes, it can be tough to maintain a hard line on pricing. But this is a classic “You can’t pour from an empty cup” situation. If you aren’t earning enough in your massage business, you won’t last very long. Burnout and poverty have a way of suffocating the entrepreneurial spirit, especially if you’ve got mouths to feed at home (and even if you don’t).
Be clear and consistent in your pricing, and let go of clients who are not willing to pay your full price (so that your schedule can be filled with clients who are willing.) If it serves you and your business, offer slightly discounted package pricing to benefit your regular clients, or those who want to come in frequently. Or not. It;s your business, you get to decide.
Be prepared to refer out
If a client really wants massage at a certain time, or they want particular techniques that are not your strength (or comfort level), refer out! Have a list of colleagues who work at days and times you don’t. The same policy applies to people who want a cheaper massage. It helps to know the various prices of massage in your area, so you can refer to therapists with lower rates, or those who offer shorter treatment times or discounted packages.
I’ve found the bonus to enforcing boundaries regularly is that you can make exceptions when you really want to. If a regular client wrenches their neck, and fitting them in only means staying 30 minutes later on a given evening, you may choose make that happen. And you’ll be able to do that, without resentment or risk of burnout. That’s a win for everyone!