There’s a business model out there for massage therapists but I’m not doing it. I guess you can make a six figure income using this technique: get between 17 to 25 people to pay you $4-6k for a six-month period of focused service. Two women put this together, to garner high-end clients and ensure a whopping profit. It must be true, I read it, in Massage Today.
The problem with massage therapy, as I see it, is threefold: 1) one person 2) one table 3) two hands. (This is not a problem, at all, but if you are trying to be upwardly mobile and also do massage, it could be.) You can’t put your work in a bottle and mass-produce it, and you can’t make other people do your session: when a client calls, it’s you they want, not someone else, not even if that person is your employee and/or is a good sport about doing things your way. You wear yourself out to break even. It can happen.
I’ve gone galloping into the great wilderness of client acquisition and reaching my fifteen-year mark in terms of practice. I am thankfully not the same person who started this career but I’m also keen on understanding what she’s all about, because career longevity, as I understand it, requires re-evaluation every so often, and I am wondering all over again, “Who am I in this work? What do I want out of it? Who is my client? What can I do for them now?” (Also, what brought me here? Why am I still doing this job? I ask these questions because I care.)
You know how you pursue something headlong, sometimes for years, and then when you finally catch up to It, whatever It is, you grab it and get it down on the ground and wrestle around with it for a while, and it looks up at you and growls, you see it clearly is *not* the thing you thought you were chasing, and worse now that you’ve captured it, it’s your responsibility to do something with it?
That’s what it’s like, from my perspective, in reaching my maximum potential as a practitioner. I have been wondering what it would feel like to have as many clients as I could literally handle in a week. I’ve had the chance to find out. (I’ve also had the business equivalent of kudzu tumbling over a hot barren wasteland: that is, next to no one: that is the ups and downs of business, and it usually hits us here in Maine when it’s hitting everyone else around here, late winter through early spring, so even while we all suffer a little, we are suffering together, which gives all of us the opportunity to practice compassion. And not pity ourselves? Too much?)
There is no magic to being busy. You keep showing up, you do the rounds, you’ll work. I’m not chanting for clients; they have by some grace found me, sometimes just when I needed them the most. Over a period of years, if you stick with anything, you reach some kind of success. And then you have to start all over again, because success is temporary. It feels good to land there but pretty soon the locals show up and want to know what the hell you think you’re doing, standing on their beach, blowing your own trumpet. Best to keep moving.
Having a full client load is not something I want to stand on a boulder and shout about. It’s that thing I’ve been pursuing because it’s my nature. It’s also that thing that looks up at me and growls. But now I’m in trouble. I realize I have only two hands, one office, only so much time and only so much energy. I can only see one person at a time: even if I had the limbs of Shiva, I could not possibly see more people than I do.
And it’s the thing that makes me stand shoulder-to-shoulder with myriad others who, like me, realize they can’t possibly do more, and yet know they must, somehow: for income and for conscience. And for whom the possibility of a six-figure income in their chosen profession looks mighty good.
I’ve watched massage therapy– with profound gratitude – become studied, accepted, acclaimed, and referred to. I am humbled by the many researchers, writers, professional organizations, educators and advocates in the massage biz. I have work because they have given what I do legitimacy. I am pooped, but it’s a good pooped.
It’s because of this that I don’t begrudge the profiteers one iota, not really, no, not at all. Their schemes are a normal outcome of a business that spirals every year into the greater mainstream. They don’t threaten me, really. It only firms my resolve to grab what I know of the work I do and run the other way down the field with it, convincing as many as I can to join me in the end zone.
I see massage therapy as an act of subversion: a bona fide profession, but one that ducks under the high beams of money-makers, and tricks people – practitioner and client alike – into opening their heart, after all. It’s a creative art, up there with sculpting and throat singing and giving birth. It should attract the artist, the actor, the disciple, the devotee: why not give their innate curiosity, empathy, love of story, and love for humanity, a place to perfect a trade and practice radical tenderness?
Rather than waitressing or temping or data entry, the sensitive thousands could become massage therapists, and save one human at a time through professional loving attention.
I may never make a comfortable living but is that the goal? Comfort? I’d rather accept that there is no comfort in life save for the small caring gestures we can give, human to human; that struggle is sacred, and make my work one Noah’s ark in a roiling endless sea, because in case you haven’t noticed our times certainly do seem that dire.