1. Tell us a bit more about you and your practice as it is today? i.e. are you a solo practitioner or a business owner? If solo, what kind of an establishment do you work for, how large is it, what is the clientele like, what is the specialty offered? If it is a business that you own, kindly include the same time of relevant information that will give the reader a good idea about your establishment/practice. Please also include where you live and work?
I live in Mosley, Virginia, on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. I am sole proprietor of my own massage business, Ocean Waves Massage VA, and I also work as a contractor for several places around town, including a chiropractor and a high-end spa.
My clientele base is small but grows in increments year-by-year. The specialty that I do offer is canine and equine massage, which does bring in some very different people from around the area.
There is a large movement in Richmond for holistic-based services, and so more and more people seem to be turning to massage for relief with their aches and pains. For my own business, I travel to peoples homes as this seems to be more comfortable for the client. For myself, I really didn’t want people coming to my house. I needed it to be a place of sanctuary. My friend, who is also a massage therapist, likes to have people come to her house. It is different for each person.
2. Tell us why you chose to go into massage and at what point in your life did you decide to do so? What were you doing at the time? Where did you first hear about the massage career? What factors influenced your decision? What were you looking to get out of this decision?
I always wanted to go massage, but I really decided to get serious, I was living in with my husband and it was far too expensive for me to learn. When we moved to the states, I had a much better chance of learning. I went straight into school and dove right in. I’m always been a super fast typist and at the time I was just doing your typical average office work.
I decided that I needed something to really challenge myself and to give myself a career. Being a secretary or assistant just wasn’t good enough anymore. I wanted something that I could really work for. I had massaged people before on the neck and shoulders, just for fun, and everyone told me that I would be a really good massage therapist. It kind of set the wheels in motion.
I felt that in getting hungry are, and starting my own business, I could really give myself the respect that I felt I needed. I knew that the job would never be the same everyday, and that really influenced my decision to take the plunge.
3. What were some of your questions and concerns before further pursuing your massage therapy goals? Talk about concerns with school and the profession itself.
My concern at the time of going into massage therapy school was, basically, can I do this? It is very intense training, with lots of memorization and hard work. I’m not afraid of hard work, but at the time I was working full-time as well and going to school at night. Sometimes I was so tired I just thought I could not do it anymore. But of course if you want something enough you will make sure that you can pull through.
My concerns with the profession were not very many but did weigh heavily on my mind, and sometimes still do. With massage therapy, you never really get a full salary that you can count on week after week after week. It constantly changes with the amount of appointments you have, are you paid hourly or not, etc.
I tend to be a worry wart anyway, so I’m constantly calculating and recalculating the appointments I have, trying to give myself an idea of how much I may take for the month. But as soon as you do that, someone may cancel, or someone may add an appointment. So it always changes. I just try to give myself a goal and stick to it every single month.
4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
My specialties are actually equine and canine massage, but for people, I would say that it is deep tissue massage. I think the top three factors in my success are professionalism, good attitude, and flexibility. In our profession, we must be professional at all times. There’s so many rules and regulations, and they differ from state to state. We have to be up to date on them, and know what is right and what is wrong.
Also, if your gut feeling tells you not to do something, I would go with that. Good attitude and flexibility also help a lot in this business. Of course if you cannot do an appointment, so be it, but I will generally try to bend over backwards to make sure that I can give another alternative. These people are your bread-and-butter, and we need to try to accommodate them.
And of course the friendliness helps with that aspect if you aren’t able to accommodate them and need to reschedule. Overall, people come to us for relaxation, not to be more more stressed out by a rude therapist.
5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?
I love my specialty in animal massage. I don’t make a lot of money doing it, and it is really a side project for now, but what I love most about it is that the animal will give you a nonverbal clue that shows that they are really enjoying what you’re doing and that you’re really helping them with their pain.
I would love to say that animals get the massages for fun, but all of the animal clients I have have had issues, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, torn ACL’s, etc. When the animal finally lays back and sighs or lays their face on your hand, you know that you have hit the spot and are actually helping to relieve their pain.
That is what I love most about animal massage, and massage in general. People will come in and they are so stressed out, and they leave so relaxed, all because of what we have done with our hands, it is truly amazing. It really is a rewarding career.
6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?
I guess the main thing I do not like about my career is that it does take away from the “normal” weekend times that I used to have. Now I work six days a week, not full days, but it’s what I have to do to maximize the time for my clients and to make more money. Also, the uncertainty of the paycheck as I stated before. As long as you know you can hit a certain mark, it should be okay.
7. If there were three things you could change about your work or the industry as a whole what would they be? Why would you change them? What would you change them to?
The number one thing that I would change would be the stigma of getting a massage from a male. I know it is hard for males to accept other males massaging them, but that is because often massage is seen as a sexual thing, which it definitely is not.
I don’t care if an alien massages me, as long as I get a great massage. I know a lot of great male therapists who have issues in this industry with getting work. It is probably the only industry that males are discriminated against in such a fashion.
The second thing I would change, although it will probably never happen, is having things differ from state to state in terms of requirements. If I move from Richmond to California, I may or may not have to have more schooling, less schooling, or have to do more hours. It’s all very confusing, and I know a lot of therapists who move from state to state and it becomes very difficult for them. I would love to have a nationwide reform and have everything be the same.
The third thing I would like to change is to have all therapists be required to have a background check. This I think would make the profession seem more legitimate to some people, to know that everyone has had a background check, and that we are all committed to the safety and comfort of all of our clientele.
8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
I plan to practice basically as long as my hands will let me. I started when I was almost 33, and I am over 40 now. I still feel pretty good, but my hands do hurt at times, and I know that the typical time frame for a therapist’s career is 10 years, and I’m quickly reaching that. I plan to teach massage, or teach English as a Second Language, which I’ve already put the plans into place for.
9. Do you currently have another job or business whether full time or part time? Tell us a bit more about it and how you are able to juggle that with your massage career?
Currently I work at quite a few places around town, but they’re all massage based. It still is difficult to juggle schedules, though. Thank goodness for my smart phone, for being able to look at something on a moments notice and change or add something. I used to have an old school pencil-based writing calendar, and I was constantly erasing things and adding things, until the papers begin to rip. I’ll stick with my smart phone this time around.
10. What are some mistakes you made in your career pursuit that you’d like to warn other students about so they can learn from your experience and avoid it?
Some mistakes I’ve made in my career is that I’ve actually undercharged people. I know that in the beginning you want to get your own clientele, but you need to look at therapist websites and businesses around you and go from there. Never undersell yourself.
Your massage is good, and people will pay for it. Also, I agreed to do a Groupon at the chiropractors where I work. He brought in very little new clientele, and I pretty much almost burnt out because of it. I would stay away from coupons and deals like that.
11. What would you advise someone who is looking at massage therapy schools? What do you recommend they look for and how? How do you recommend they determine whether the school is the right one for them?
First off, honestly, I would definitely speak to the finance department and test how willing and able they are to help you. Finance is a huge part of the massage therapy experience, and you cannot be dealing with people who are not willing to go to bat for you.
Also, go online and check out what the graduates have to say about the school itself, and what their specialties are. If you want to go somewhere more spiritually-based, I would not stick with the schools that just emphasize the physical aspects. The best way to find out is from people who have actually gone there.
12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
I’m not really sure how to answer this question. It’s a hard thing to say. You don’t want people to go into debt but at the same time you want them to do it right. Perhaps if someone cannot afford to go to massage school at this point in time, they can read up on it at the library and find out all the different types of massage that are available, and things like that. That way when they can afford it they will be ready and willing to go to work.
13. What are your three biggest points of advice for an aspiring massage therapist today? What should they do/not do? What should they think about and consider?
First off, do not sell yourself short. Secondly, do not do anything that you feel uncomfortable doing, ever. Thirdly, always go with your gut feeling. If something does not feel right, do not do it. You need to really think about how you want to work. Do you want to work for a spa? Do you want to work for yourself? Do you want to let people into your home?
I do not like that because I didn’t want people to know where I live. Probably nothing would ever happen, but just in case, you just never know. You also need to make sure that your other half or partner is okay with your career decision. People always ask me, how can your husband let you rub people you don’t know? My answer is, he knows it is a profession and I don’t do anything out of turn. People need to really understand what the profession is about and where we are coming from.
14. Any open thoughts / comments – anything else that you’d like to share about yourself, the massage industry, profession, future, etc? If nothing, make one prediction for the future of massage?
My prediction for the future of massage, is that people will really understand it has been around for a long time and will continue to be around for a long time. More and more people are understanding how massage can help with muscle pains, as well as the stresses of everyday life.
And people are realizing that animal massage is just as legitimate as human massage. We like to say, a muscle is a muscle, regardless of its package. So I predict that animal massage will really blow open in the next 10 years.
15. What is your passion outside of massage? What are your hobbies and interests which you pursue when you are not working? Tell us why you enjoy what you enjoy.
Besides massage, my hobbies are animal rescue, music, and films. I love going places with my husband and traveling, and of course I am huge foodie (who isn’t?).
You can reach Carrie Kinnear, CMT, CEMT, LMT on her website here.