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?
Recently, I was able to complete the full cycle of my massage career. I am the owner and curator for the World Massage Festival , Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, and the Massage Therapy Repository. These projects have warranted my retirement from an actual massage therapy practice. I now focus on helping therapists with their careers.
From Roaring River, NC, Cindy Michaels and I plan, organize and create an annual massage convention, the World Massage Festival. For the Festival, we contract with world-class instructors for the very best classes, years in advance. We are presently planning the 2018 Festival.
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?
Cindy and I were travel writers that posted our stories online about campgrounds and bed & breakfast inns from Alaska to the Dominican Republic. It was during this time that I starting massages the B&Bs. On our final tour, we settled in Brownsville, TX, where a local massage therapist inspired me to return to Florida and attend massage school.
I was 45 years old and not sure how long I could last in the profession. After graduation, I opened a massage therapy establishment, eventually having seven treatment rooms and dozens of therapists who worked there. I was pleased to be able to offer new therapists a way to improve their skills and develop a clientele while making money at the same time.
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.
I really wasn’t worried about the school or what I would be taught in school. I considered school basic training. I remember after pouring myself into basic training in the Air Force, when I arrived at my first base, the sergeant said “Forget everything you learned in basic training.”
It seemed like every job I ever had, I was trained from scratch. So, I focused on the test that I would have to take to acquire my license. I knew that all I had to do was learn what was in this book and I could have my massage therapy license.
4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
My specialty was a 4-hour massage. Contributing factors for today’s success is having strong support from my partner, Cindy; finding a way, no matter what, to accomplish my goals; setting short, long and intermediate goals.
5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career?Why?
Being able to give a client 4 hours of continuous pampering. It was therapeutic for myself as well.
Today, my career allows me to travel, to live and work in various locations across the country and to offer world class continuing education to massage therapists at a price they can afford.
6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?
I don’t like that it takes a whole year to organize the event. I wish we could do it more often. However, in order to make it the Festival, and provide the high quality experience it does, we are limited to once a year.
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 three things I would change would be:
1. No politics! — Some in the profession spend so much time arguing about the politics of massage that they have forgotten how to promote massage as a benefit for the client and a livelihood for the therapist. Many therapists tell me that they come to Festival specifically because there is such a strong a non-political, co-exist attitude at Festival.
2. Keep the profession diversified. — Massage means something different for almost every person. That is the beauty of the profession.
3. Honor the bridge builders. — Massage has fallen into history too many times. I find it almost impossible to find common massage therapists that worked in times past. We should recognize the professionals that went before us and built the bridges to make our careers better.
8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
I have reached retirement with my massage therapy practice and am now focusing on the Festival, Massage Therapy Hall of Fame and the Massage Therapy Repository. The Repository is a holding place for our massage history.
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?
No, I work this program year-round and will continue to do so for at least the next 15 years.
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?
When I first opened my massage establishment in Florida, we had 3 treatment rooms. In less than one year, I moved to a larger, and much more expensive, location with 7 treatment rooms.
Looking back, I would have stayed with the smaller location and not had the pressure that was created with that big growth spurt. We would have done better financially and had more time to enjoy life.
11. What would you advice 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?
Most people looking to attend massage therapy school will search the cheapest, closest and the least amount of hours required to finish school. Few are willing to move or travel too far to attend school.
I would suggest that a prospective therapist seek out a school who has a philosophy and mission statement that meshes with their own thoughts and feelings. The most expensive school may not be the best school for everyone. Look for diversity in class selections and instructors.
12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
I would suggest that they contact the local school, some scholarships may be available. Also, massage school would more than likely qualify for a Federal student loan or grant. Also, they may be able to work at the school to pay off part of their tuition.
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?
1. Slow down. — Life is rushed. It is very hard to get people to relax and the more you slow down, the more relaxed they will be.
2. Eat properly. — Food is your fuel. Many therapists work many hours and their health is affected after only a few years, mainly because they do not eat properly when they can. Take snacks like fresh veggies that you can nibble here and there between massages, as you have time. It will allow you to work more hours and therefore make more money.
3. Protect your hands. — There are certain instructors, such as Karina Braun and Laurie Ann Greene, who have focused their careers on helping therapists save their hands for longevity in their careers.
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?
The main thing for students and therapists to remember is be realistic about what you expect from your career. It does not happen overnight. Learn how to promote yourself online and locally.
If you are unable, at first, to invest in your own private practice, go to work in another establishment. Learn from their successes (and failures).
If you run into a problem, find a way to go around it. Find alternatives so that you can improve the industry. Don’t just accept NO.
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.
No question, traveling and meeting new people. I recently purchased a guitar and hope to learn how to play. I enjoy helping people achieve their goals.
Michael Hinkle is the founder of the World Massage Festival and the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame. He is a formerly Florida licensed and NCBTMB nationally certified massage therapist. You can reach him at his websites here and here.