Deep Tissue & Prenatal Massage Specialist Freda Johnson Previously Worked in the Restaurant and Insurance Industries

Freda Johnson1. 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 am the owner of a solo practice in Tacoma, WA where I see up to 20 clients a week. I provide relaxation, treatment/deep tissue and prenatal massage.

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?

When I was 20, I had the opportunity to be a practice patient for a friend who was attending massage school. I came to understand the benefits of massage very early on. I had worked in insurance customer service and restaurant service and after 10 years after receiving my first massage, I knew I wanted to help people in a deeper way.

I also knew I wanted to have more flexibility in my work schedule, to enjoy my life and family more. I had a couple of friends that were massage therapists who encouraged me to pursue the career. My main goal was to find a career that was fulfilling while helping others, yet provided me time to enjoy life while I’m still young.

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 main concern initially was if this career would be sustainable, financially and physically. I knew I wanted to own my own business and it would be a challenge to build the clientele needed. Massage therapy was on the rise and I was worried the market would be saturated, but more than one person pointed out that there are thousands of people in need of massage every day and each therapist can only help 3-8 people a day.

4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?

I am certified in prenatal massage and I especially enjoy working with moms to be, relieving their pain during a time where their bodies are changing rapidly. I also do a lot of deep tissue work.

The biggest factor in my success is having an amazing support group. My family and friends encouraged me to step out try something new and kept my spirits high in the slow transition from employee to business owner. I also had 2 great massage therapist mentors that enhanced my education with real life experience.

They gave me pointers for a great treatment techniques and business practices. I now try to help new graduates venture in to the world of owning their own massage business. And lastly, I’d say I regularly get massage from student clinics at massage schools. Not only am I able to provide them positive constructive feedback, but I usually learn something at each session. It keeps me fresh in techniques and theories.

5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?

My favorite thing is making people feel good. I love when someone walks in to my office feeling a little down or maybe walking in with pain and then walk out a little straighter or taller and have a smile on their face. It makes it easy to love what I do because I rarely have negative conflicts.

6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?

Working with insurance companies to get paid. It’s like pulling teeth sometimes!! Ha Ha. Sometimes it takes 2-3 months, several phone calls and faxes to get paid for one session. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to utilize a billing specialist to do all the hard work for me, so I can just do what I love and just massage my clients.

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?

I would like more people to recognize massage therapist as medical providers. Half of people I encounter still associate my profession with unethical ideals.

I wish health insurance companies made it easier to have and use massage benefits. I’d like this be across the United States. My state, Washington, along with the AMTA have been pioneers in making this a covered health benefit rather than just relaxation or maintenance, but I believe massage therapy should be available under health plans as treatment AND preventative care.

8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?

Honestly, I’m not sure at this point how long I’ll practice. Massage work can be really hard on your body if you don’t practice proper body mechanics and take breaks when needed. I’m working on learning more techniques (like cupping and range of motion stretching) that I can incorporate into each session that will be just as beneficial to the client and a little easier on.

As for my next step beyond massage therapy, I hope to continue working with pre and post natal clients in some degree. I’m just not sure yet what that looks like.

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?

In addition to my own practice, I work part time/on call at a hospital, in the oncology department. The company I work for offers short, complimentary chair massage to cancer patients while they are receiving treatment. I do this for 4 hours every Wednesday, which makes it a short day for me, giving me a little break half way through the week. The work I do in oncology is so rewarding for me and beneficial to the patients that it doesn’t feel like extra work.

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?

The biggest mistake I made in the first year was relying on other people (professional or otherwise) for financial and tax information instead of researching it myself. I didn’t hire an accountant until I was in my second year and I found out I was tracking my finances incorrectly and I didn’t save properly for business taxes (since I’d always been an employee, this didn’t even cross my mind until I got my first tax bill—YIKES)

Also, I’d warn to be cautious when take 3rd party PIP claims, unless you know the person or require payment up front. PIP claims are a great way to treat people and make good money, but it can take up to 3 years to get paid under 3rd party PIP claims.

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?

Prospective students should have a few schools to choose from. Always take a tour of potential schools and meet with the director and maybe a couple of the instructors if possible. My determining factors were length of the program, schedule of classes—to work around my work schedule, location of the school, and size of class.

I preferred a smaller independent school where I had more one on one time with the teachers and students. I had 9 total in my class, but some can have up to 30. And lastly, look at the ciriculum if possible. Some schools offer more in depth treatment education or offer spa training, etc, while others may not.

12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?

Some schools offer in house financing, which is a nice option. Sometimes you can work in the student clinic to help pay off the debt. I acquired a personal loan which allowed me to take 2 years to pay for school.

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?

Find a modality you are interested in and learn a lot about that one thing in the beginning to stay focused. It’s easy to get distracted by wanting to learn several modalities. If you can find something that not everyone around you does, you can set yourself apart by specializing.

Really research the area you want to work in, find a great space and stay there! I moved 3 times before I found my sweet spot and I had to rebuild clientele each time. It’s helpful to have a space where you spend time. Your check out person at the grocery store or your yoga instructor may become a client since they see you often, are comfortable with you and you are not far from them.

Get appointed with as many health insurance plans that you can. Even if you decide not to take insurance right away or at all, you’ll have the option when the time arises if you ever change your mind. It can take some time for that process to complete, so start right away.

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?

I wanted to have a business name that stood out. Aliptae were slaves back in the Roman/Greek times that anointed oil on the Olympic athletes before and after competing. Essentially these were the first recorded massage therapist and I really liked the history behind them.

Make sure to take time with the decisions pertaining to your business. They will be with you a long time and are not always easy to change without some sort of sacrifice to your progress.

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.

My favorite thing outside of work is being with my family. We enjoy exploring on road trips and hiking in new areas as much as possible. Getting out in the woods and away from the hustle and bustle of city life is important for relaxation and regrouping. Inside those road trips, I like finding local breweries and tasting new beer.

Freda L Johnson, LMP is a massage practitioner/business owner. She can be reached on her website here.

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

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