Saturday, July 9, 2011

The things they never tell you

I recall my Business class being a lot about "what ifs" and for that the reality wasn't there. I had no clue what my demographic would be, where I saw myself in five years. And most defiantly did not see myself running my own practice. But here I am. Six months into my own business. Wow, it's already been six months. This was not the plan I had envisioned for myself and yet, I have never been happier. Fresh out of massage school you are given the skills to either make smart future education decisions or your a dangerous tool with way too much confidence for your own good. And whatever path you choose. Well that is just how it goes. I look back upon my massage education and really wonder if I was truly ready to step foot into a treatment room and say Yes, I am a Massage Therapist. My first job I took as such, was more or less a feeler for the industry. And it gave me some good sound motivation. And it gave me a huge swat in the ass to what the real world can sometimes look like.
The salon I started working for was decent enough. I was able to have a nice room to myself, was far enough from the hair clients that I didn't feel anyone's massage would be interrupted, and lastly the salon already had a nice build-up of clients. Whom have seen previous LMT employees. The downer is. When you tell the salon you can work certain hours. Expect to actually sit there that long. You have SLOW days. And if your employer (or owner of the salon) feels that you have to sit there even when no one is on the books. You find it very hard to be motivated into what you are doing. Even more so when you see the 50/50 swap with the salon being less then what you imagined it would be. Working for someone else has its advantages and disadvantages. By the time I had been there a little less then an entire year. I learned that this was not where I wanted my career to die. The staff of the salon seemed to hate their own jobs, or hated the fact that they had to run the salon. Owners included. It was a filthy salon. So when they moved me from a 15x12 room to a tiny closet of 6x8 I realized this was the planets aligning so I escape.
With a great support system and my sadly put together business plan from class. A little revamping and I slowly but confidently asked my clients from the salon to follow me. Most of which did and are pleased they have. My new office is spacious and so very quiet. It's calming and very peaceful. I truly believe my space is a Client Vacation.
As I went from a massage student to a self employed Massage Therapist. There are some things that I have found easier, or more pleasing to clients. Things I don't mind sharing because when I left school I knew nothing of what to expect. And I find that when we share ideas. We seem to care that much more. That is what our profession is about, isn't it. Caring for our clients. They have come to us in a very vulnerable position and we help them as best we know how.
I spent a lot of time and effort making "face cradle covers" which were the bees knees in school and in the field... well they seem like a small mistake. For one client in particular (who will always remain nameless) Felt the face cradle covers were disastrous. They would crease your face making everyone for the next hour or so know without a doubt, you just had a massage. Not always a bad thing. But sometimes "cradle face" is embarrassing. We started off just folding a pillowcase over the face cradle itself. And after awhile I realized now we have different kind of crease line on the face. Something should be done. I took a piece of old flannel I had traced around my face cradle, increased it around the edges but left the space between the two dips about the same. Maybe a few inches longer. Cut the flannel to fit the pattern and laid it over the face cradle. Just like that. It was large enough to fit over the face cradle comfortably and since it didn't have any seams on it, there would be no longer "cradle face" I did in the end sew around the edges to create an edging. This is what I use on ALL of my clients now. I have made several, at least one to match color on every set of sheets I have and I have started to make more "fun" covers. I found a flannel with frogs on it that says Peace and Love. So cute. And of course I found others like Harley Davidson, Musical Instruments, things like that. And the personalisation for each client is appreciated. Especially those long term clients who tell you things that have been going on in their life. They love that you actually remember the things they tell you.
Some other things I lived and learned about. Is paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Owning your own place takes a lot of in session time and a lot of "paperwork" time. Keep every little scrap of paper about your business in a safe place. And don't be at all surprised if your home becomes just another place to store work things. LOL.
When I first started I used my phones calendar which linked to google calendar to keep all my appointments in check. The nice things is when doing so you can have txt messages sent to remind you of appointments. Which in theory is great. But then you wake up one day and realize that you have someone managed to have collected multiple calendars that for some reason or another didn't link like they were supposed to and your appointments become a jumped mess. And then you in tern. Look unprofessional and completely un-organised. I invested in a professional appointment book. I wasn't thrilled about spending $25 on just another calendar, however, it fits nicely in my purse, because I travel everywhere with it. And its in-depth enough that I can store and entire days worth of clients in it without mass confusion. And plus I'm a huge post-it note freak. And my book allows me to post it note days, but still have room for clients. YAY. Invest in an appointment book. Save yourself. I really thought the linking my phone with my calendars was going to be great. It was great alright.. A great migraine.
My mother, who had been a bookkeeper for years, and still occasionally does it on the side insisted that I purchase Quickbooks for my records. And of course find a method that works for me to file paperwork and receipts... Because you need to hang onto everything. For the time being. All of my transactions are written in a spreadsheet on my computer. Which I find the time to update weekly. And each receipt is placed in an envelope by month and placed in my accordion file that holds just about everything else. No, not the best in the world. However it had kept me organized and everything is right there when I need it. So this works for me, so far.
Half of my desk at home is dedicated to work. And for one reason. Any mailings or chair events that I do. I need to prepare for. Should be done at home when I'm not expecting clients. I have postcards and magnets, samples, and tons of business cards at home. And even though it takes over my home too. All my work purchases are just that. Work. I have separate stamps, envelopes, even labels. To keep me on track.
I send out Birthday postcards the first week of every month. I send out Reminder letters to those I have seen multiple times but have not seen them recently. I even have special cards that I hand out during chair events. Which I still do, for the love of getting out there. I love meeting all kinds of people, even if they don't yield tons of new clients. It's the idea they I'm out there doing what I love, sharing what I love. And that love comes back.
Another fun thing I would love to share with you. Figure out your gift certificate system. Because I can't believe how many I have gone through before I found things that work best for me. I tried the actual gift certificates you buy from the office stores. Tacky and really unprofessional. Then I tried special ordering them. Great, profession but really costly. In the end I ended up ordering more postcards but printing gift certificate information on them. Tons cheaper and allows you to tape a business card on it, or use a decorative brad to make it looks cute, personal and classy. Ive also designed another set of cards. Usually rack cards for my "donation" gift cards. I supply these to business doing raffles, or give-aways. Anytime I need to donate my services they get these different gift certificates. I usually am pretty good at remember who purchases these gift cards. However this is a great way to know, OK this card is from this company, Or this was a give away for this. Easy Peasy.
Vista Printing is a love hate relationship. They are great when you are just starting out and needs tons of free stuff to get your name out there. But there are certain things I will never purchase through them. Shirts are the big one. I have been wearing the same scrubs to all my chair events. They are clean, eye appealing colors. And seemed to do the job well. But I wanted something more. Professional. you are in fact pimping yourself every time you do anything with your business name. So. Throw it out there. I ordered some shirts from Zazzle. Decently priced if you were to get a few. Kinda price when your getting bulk. But the turn around time was fast and the shipping even better. Have issues about the product once you get it? That was easy too. I ordered the wrong size for my son. Explained that to the returns departments. No problem. I have another shirt the right size with no hassles. Easy. So Zazzle has my vote for printed work as far as shirts, totes, mousepads, and things of that nature.
Massage Therapists are a strange breed of animal. But because of that, we need to stick together. I'm sharing what made my life a little easier. I knew I would have liked that if I was just starting out. Just remember the best way to spread the word is by word of mouth. I can't speak highly enough about how amazing my clients are. Since my move I have had so many client referrals I was baffled. Every time I think .... I need to do something to get the word out. My clients end up doing the leg work and making me feel so lucky I have such great clients. Who care enough to send their friends. So... Let the love of what you do transfer to every client. Because that's your advertisement. Everyone they talk to. =)