Being in the massage business does not fit everyone. And that’s ok. But it can be an expensive mistake for those who don’t fully think it through. Before spending thousands of dollars jumping into your new massage career, take a few minutes to read this and consider some of the challenges that lie ahead.
If you’re planning to massage for a living, you’ll need the following:
- A high tolerance for people of all types:
No matter what style or location of massage you plan to do, you’re going to be working with the general public. If you’ve never worked with the general public before, I recommend getting a retail job. You will quickly learn what it means to work with this “precious” population. Do you take it personally when a customer criticizes you? Do people wear you out by the end of the day? Could you tolerate spending a full hour with the customer that annoys you most? Especially at the beginning of your career, you will not have a great amount of control over who you massage. There will be some real ‘winners’ – trust me.
- Can touch people’s feet, no matter what
Obviously, your new career will mean you touch people’s feet all the time. Really think: is there any (non-ilicit) body part you consider “too much”? You know your first 10 clients are probably going to want special focus there, right? 😉 Are you prepared to massage any region for at least an hour?
- You shower no less than every 3rd day.
…and apply deodorant at least once daily. No one – and I mean no one – wants to smell your body odor when they’re getting a massage. It doesn’t matter how life-changing your massage technique is. Remember, “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first”
- Ok with B.O.
How sensitive is your nose? Not everybody showers as regularly as you do (see #3), and even if they are showered, they may use a shampoo or cologne that knocks you out. If you can’t stand the smell of 3 or 4 things – that’s normal (for me: artificial vanilla & patchouli both make my nose cringe). But if you can’t be around “fragrance” in general or you can’t work through someone’s foot odor…massage is going to be torture. You don’t need to ‘love’ it…just tolerate it regularly.
- Ok with hard work
Here I mean, you can’t expect people to run to hire you on day 1. You’re going to have to put in hours of marketing, researching and hustling. Even if you plan to work for a spa, you can’t count on the first one hiring you. You’ll be busy filling out applications, interviewing and massaging (for free!) so people can see your technique.
- The ability to lift heavy things
Massage requires you lift people’s bodies sometimes. Elderly people may need help off the table. Your technique may require you to lift someone’s entire leg to get to the right muscle. You’re going to need to move equipment and bodies regularly. If you’re not strong enough, massaging is not for you.
- Not looking for quick money
One of the more foolish things I hear people say is, “I’m planning to use massage to help me pay my way through ______.” This entirely crazy concept was developed by the owners of career “colleges”. The places where you can choose one of 12 career paths. Some are legit. Some have been shut down and investigated for fraud. They have an interest in getting you to attend their school, so they promise ‘quick career advancement’. Don’t believe everything you see on TV. Picking up massage therapy is not like picking up a new instrument.
- Committed to the career
This goes hand-in-hand with #7. Massage schools worth going to are not cheap, easy or fast. You are going to dedicate a year or more of your life to learning human anatomy. Life’s so short. Why waste a year of your life learning something if you’re not going to utilize it?
As stated before, you’re going to be dealing with a wide range of people (see #1). You’re going to need to be able to relate to others, to show them empathy when they confide in you. Massage clients are a messy, beautiful people. If you have any reservations about working with certain groups, this job probably is not for you.
- Adaptable, easy going
This goes double if you’re planning to do mobile massage. It is an ever-moving kaleidoscope of variables, and you can’t freak out the first time someone tells you that their 3-year-old is going to be in the next room during their appointment. When a cat jumps up on your massage table – repeatedly – you’re going to have to take it in stride. Or you will not be asked back.
The good news is, if you made it through that list, here’s some things you do NOT need in order to be a quality, successful massage therapist:
- A vagina
If you are a man reading this, do not be afraid that there are no clients for you. Yes, a huge percentage of therapists are women, but you can be a part of balancing that.
- A deep knowledge of the chakras
I personally don’t know diddly squat about chakras, and am very uneducated when it comes to eastern philosophy. But I’m making 6-figures as a massage therapist, and very happy with who I am. Not all clients expect you to be the stereotypical ‘woo-woo’ massage therapist, and for a good number it’s a complete turn off if you are. They prefer a therapist that talks like them.
- An expensive education
Remember those career colleges I mentioned (back at #7)? Some of them cost a fortune. Don’t do that. My advice for finding a good massage school is simple: find one that does only massage/bodywork. Then really, really sit down with your budget and decide what you can afford. There’s no shame in needing to save up a little longer and attend in a different year. Just make sure you’re not getting a mediocre education at Tiffany pricing.
- Natural talent
My story is here. When I applied for massage school, I did not know a muscle knot in a nautical knot. As long as you are willing to learn, don’t be concerned with what you do not yet know.
I wish you well in either endeavor – whether you still think massage is the choice for you, or you are reconsidering and trying to figure out which career path is a better fit. Are you still not sure? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. Or if you have more advice to offer, tell us your point of view. Helping new therapists helps all therapists.