Becoming a professional massage therapist isn’t quite as easy as earning your credentials and showing up at the office ready to go.
You also need to know how to handle your massage therapy practice in all kinds of situations in order to earn the same respect from other professionals and your clients as someone who’s been practicing for decades.
To help you get there, consider these 10 things you should know to become a professional massage therapist.
1) Emphasize Passion for Healing
It is essential that you care about helping people. If you are not passionate about serving others, it is unlikely that you will be successful in your career as a massage therapist.
A professional massage therapist involves much more than simply doing work and making money; it means getting outside of yourself so that you can focus on what your clients need.
It also means working hard so that your clients get the results they need in order to improve their health and well-being.
Be sure to emphasize in all interviews how much you enjoy working with people and helping them live healthy happier lives. Your passion for healing is one of your greatest assets as a professional massage therapist!
2) Gain Experience
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need tons of experience under your belt in order to get hired as a professional massage therapist.
While many employers do prefer candidates with 1-3 years of training under their belts, you can still get by with less.
If you have zero professional experience and want to start out giving massages at home, perhaps work on building your reputation online as an amateur masseuse or give yourself some time to practice with friends and family members.
Even if you are new and just starting out, focusing on acquiring additional training or volunteering for experience is crucial for developing your skills.
When it comes down to it, most companies don’t care about your past—they want someone who can deliver exceptional services now.
3) Join Professional Organizations
For many professions, joining professional organizations is a great way to network with other professionals and increase your earning potential.
If you don’t know where to start, do some online research on membership fees and benefits offered by different professional associations.
Then look for opportunities in your area—you may be surprised by how many exist for occupations you never even knew existed!
Once you find an association that matches your interests, consider contacting them about membership.
Ask if they offer referrals or student memberships—both are great ways to try out something new without diving in headfirst.
4) Complete Continuing Education Courses
Continuing education courses and seminars are usually offered in the evenings or on weekends.
These courses can help you stay current on industry trends, and they give you opportunities to meet other massage therapists.
The knowledge and connections you gain through continuing education can also be valuable in helping you land new clients when starting out your own business.
Make sure your continuing education classes are accredited by an agency recognized by national associations, such as NCBTMB or AMTA.
That way, it will be easier for you to become credentialed when working with insurance companies later in your career.
5) Practice Good Hygiene
One of the most important steps you can take in your career as a massage therapist is making sure you show up to work clean.
This may seem like common sense, but it’s amazing how many people forget they are exposing themselves and their clients to infectious agents when they skip bathing or don’t take care of their nails, hair, and clothes.
The better shape you’re in physically, mentally, and emotionally, the more successful you will be in all aspects of your career.
A good first step for anyone looking for professional tips on how to start a new business is keeping everything about yourself neat from head-to-toe; from your presentation as an employee or business owner/manager to showing up on time every day.
6) Maintain Professional Boundaries
It is critical that as a professional massage therapist, you understand and keep your personal life separate from your work life.
This means that if you have pre-existing personal relationships with any of your clients, these are kept out of sight when you are working professionally. For example, it is unethical for you to start dating or become friends with a client.
If something comes up in conversation that suggests there may be more than professional interest on either party’s part, it is important that you remain clear about where things stand and set clear boundaries for what constitutes professionalism in relation to both parties.
Remember, being professional also requires always being ethical!
7) Consider Purchasing Insurance
Because massage therapists are self-employed, you have no one looking out for your interests.
If anything goes wrong, you need to handle it yourself, whether that means paying for medical treatment or hiring an attorney.
Protect yourself by purchasing malpractice insurance and joining your state’s professional association (both can help cover your expenses if you’re ever sued).
Invest in a professional website and buy liability insurance for any tools or products you use in your practice.
Getting professional liability insurance and becoming part of your state’s massage therapy association may cost $50-$100/year but it is well worth it.
8) Price Accordingly
One of your first challenges as a massage therapist will be finding customers willing to pay you for your services.
While some clinics might work under arrangements with insurance companies, many therapists are self-employed and make all their income from one-on-one clients.
Therefore, it’s important that you set an appropriate price for your service. But don’t get carried away—you’ll find competition in most cities is stiff and prices are often low.
It can be difficult for new therapists to stand out, but by setting an appropriate price and having a few competitive advantages (like an in-office sauna), you may be able to attract clients despite stiff competition.
9) Pursue Certification
The number one way to show prospective clients and employers that you’re serious about massage therapy is by getting your state license.
The first step on your journey as a licensed massage therapist (LMT) will be earning at least 500 hours of education through an accredited school.
Then, you’ll want to research your state’s requirements for licensure, which could include passing an exam or paying fees. Becoming certified in a specialty can further enhance your resume and open up opportunities for higher pay.
10) Set Goals
Before you start your business, you should think about what goals you want it to achieve. Do you want to make massage your full-time job?
Are you looking for supplemental income or an easy way to pay for college? What are your long-term goals? Make sure these goals match with what kind of experience and practice working as a masseuse will provide.
It’s important that you work towards realistic outcomes, so always be prepared to modify your plans as they move forward. A lot can change between now and when your business is up and running.