Thursday, September 5, 2019

So You Want to Make Your Own Content

My favorite resources for royalty-free images without the guilt of copyright infringement:

Need help choosing colors? Try these (and remember to write them down!):

Want to play with fancy fonts, symbols, and emojis? There are sites for that:

Once you have your images, text, and colors, here are some free/inexpensive resources for putting them all together:

For the ultimate $299 business investment, check out 99Designs' Custom Logo Design contests.

Happy Creating!


Saturday, August 10, 2019

When the Best-Laid Plans Go to Pot


August 10, 2019. I had two clients booked at my office on Main Street in Buxton, Maine. I was leisurely going about my morning at home when I was told there would be a parade going past my office that morning.

I was instantly gripped with anxiety. I called and messaged my clients to ask what they wanted to do, as there was no telling when the parade would end and whether or not we could get in and out of my parking lot.

I rushed to my office, frustrated with the cars doing 35 in a 40, frustrated with the town, and frustrated with myself for not connecting the dots sooner.

Pulling into my parking lot was easy; things weren't busy yet, though a local side-street was already reduced to local traffic only. As I finalized rescheduling my first appointment, I looked around my office...

And got to work.

"If you can't beat 'em" became my mantra as I put out my signs on the street, and then added Small Business Saturday balloons and business cards. I washed windows and mirrors and dusted surfaces, both inside and outside. I moved more signage and decoration around and tacked up an outlet cover to hide a hole in my wall. These are all things that I never would have made time for, otherwise.

I took a photo and shared it on Facebook, with a bit of (malaphoric) humor -- because that's how I deal with life when things go wrong.

The Importance of Being Adaptable

Yes, I allowed myself a few moments to wallow and bemoan the situation, as well as the (temporarily) lost income. Once that was over with, I made the best of it.

In massage school, I emphasize the importance of rolling with whatever situations arise -- because things can change in an instant, regardless of whether you're in a school clinic, working for someone else, or running your own private practice.

  • You will have no-show clients.
  • You will have five clients vying for the same day and time slot.
  • You may plan to work on a client's shoulders but, when they arrive, you find out they have a sunburn.
  • You may plan to start work on a client who is face-up, only to walk in and find them face-down.
  • You may plan to have no clients at all and come to work to find three of them.
  • You may expect to be fully booked and find out everyone cancelled at the last minute.
  • The business next door will throw a road race and BBQ in your parking lot and not tell you about it.
Life happens.

It's easy to panic and get upset and run in circles, but none of these things accomplish much in the long-run.
  • I can't guarantee that anyone is going to take my business cards while they walk up and down Main Street. 
  • Probably nobody is going to appreciate the cleanliness of my windows and office. (Though, trust me, they notice when things aren't clean -- they are just too polite to mention it.)
  • My landlord is going to have to pry that outlet cover off to fix the hole properly, someday.
But all of these little things add up. They didn't take much time or effort out of my day while my original plans were already thrown out the window.


So when life happens -- when your teachers ask you to do seemingly menial tasks, your boss needs you to come in after giving you the day off, or your client has to cancel due to sudden illness -- go ahead and take a moment to vent about it. 

Then take a deep breath.

Do what needs to be done.

Make the most of the situation.

And then be proud of yourself for remaining flexible and handling things with grace.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Job Hunting for Massage Therapists: the Bare-Bones Basics

"Hi, I have five years experience, give me a call at 207-xxx-xxxx."
"Why should you need more than that?"
An on-point massage may not be enough to land you your first (or next) massage gig. When it comes to job seeking, your first impressions should represent your best efforts at communicating who you are. Potential employers will notice your attention to detail -- and they will certainly notice when you fall short.

Your response to a job ad is, to employers, a simple test: "Can you follow a few very, very simple instructions? Can I trust you to provide world-class customer service or to follow a doctor's order on a complex case?"

How to Job Hunt:


• Before you start your search, sit down with a calendar and mark out the days and times you would be available to give if you got a job. What commitments do you already have in place? Be honest with yourself without stretching yourself too thin.

• Consider your long-term goals. It's easy to focus on needing to get paid right away, but be reasonable in your expectations. Once you start a job, you need to build relationships with your employer, other employees, and the clients you interact with. These relationships and related skills (communication, money-handling, etc.) may take six-months, a year, even two years to build. Be ready and willing to tough out the quiet times -- your dedication will impress those around you. (A steady work history will also help you get auto and personal loans.)

• Read the job description and requirements. If your availability or credentials don't line up with what they're looking for, move on.

• Introduce yourself and show your personality! A cover letter is a nice touch to say hello and answer any basic questions that were brought up in the job ad. It’s a way to let your personality and customer service skills shine. Some examples: What do you bring to the table? (Pun intended.) What are some of your experiences with complex cases? How effective are you at rebooking clients?

• Have a resume. Consider the point of view of the person who will read it. Do a quick Google or Pinterest search for inspiration. Proofread it and then ask someone else to proofread it, too. Send it with your cover letter or when asked; bring a copy or two with you to your interview.

• If you seemingly have no pertinent job experience? Write up a list of your skills: massage-specific, customer service related, sales specialities, computer and social media familiarities, etc. What do you know that would benefit a potential employer and their business?

• Have a list of resources and their contact information -- these should be trusted individuals who can speak to your work ethic and character. Ask their permission, first! You may also need this information for your own sake when filling out job applications. Keep a couple of printed copies on-hand.

• Return phone calls and e-mails in a timely manner. 24-hours, tops. If they ask for something specific, get it to them ASAP.

• Show up for interviews. Be on time. Silence your cell phone. Throw out your gum. Be clean and fragrance-free.

• Be professional in your dress, your words, and your demeanor. You don't need to wear a suit, but please don't wear your pajamas or holiest jeans. Keep your humor appropriate. Stay humble -- don't try to demand a high salary if you only just graduated massage school. (Likewise, don't try to tell them they're missing out on your skills if those skills aren't what they're looking for. I've done that. It's not cute.)

• Clearly communicate your availability and any potential scheduling conflicts that may arise. If you agree to work one schedule and then go back on your word -- for whatever reason -- it makes you look bad, inconveniences clients and other employees, and complicates their business.

• Along with copies of your resume and references, bring a copy of your massage license, proof of liability insurance, and your CPR/First Aid certificate if applicable.

• When in doubt, get a tutor, mentor, or counselor or find a career center to help you bolster your job-seeking skills.

• You are allowed to change your mind -- just give your contact the courtesy of saying, "Sorry, I'm no longer interested."

Job searching can be super intimidating and grueling, an additional source of stress and anxiety on top of other life obligations and monetary insecurities. Knowing that returning calls and e-mails quickly is important and actually following through with it can be complicated by a myriad of reasons. Take a few deep breaths. Call up a friend, mentor, or loved one for a quick pep-talk. And then do it anyway.

It'll all be okay. I promise.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Quote:


"Give the massage that you wish to receive in the world."


- Bethany A. Ingraham, LMT

Thursday, May 30, 2019

When the Money Isn't Worth It: Times I Should Have Said "No"


As a self-described Millennial, I know how difficult it is to live paycheck-to-paycheck and to say "no" to potential money.

I grew up watching the American Middle Class disintegrate and entered adulthood with student loans I knew would be next-to-impossible to pay off. The thought of graduating from massage school even further in debt triggered more fears: that I wouldn't find a job or would be injured to the point that I couldn't work. It wasn't even wholly about the money -- it was about the emotional and time investment, where I had devoted a year of my life to learning this trade.

The thought of it all going down the drain was -- and still is -- terrifying.

I made a lot of mistakes those first few years, and still make mistakes from time to time. We talk a lot in school about contraindications -- reasons why we shouldn't massage a client. We also talk a lot about setting and maintaining professional boundaries. Against my better judgment and standard medical recommendations, I have said "yes" to certain clients when I should have said "no," for fear that I would lose out on that client's business, a paycheck, or even my entire job.

For the sake of your clients, your employers, and your own reputation and conscience, ask yourself if giving this massage or bending your boundaries is truly worth the risk.

I have massaged clients who admitted to drinking alcohol before their massage session. They often felt worse afterward and never came back -- so, I lost their business, anyway.

I have massaged clients who triggered mental red flags during a session. Even though I kept it strictly professional, investing up to an hour of my time and physical energy on someone who didn't appreciate it made me feel resentful afterward.

I have taken same-day bookings on my days off with new, random clients. These sessions often ended poorly for various reasons (i.e. red flags) and, again, triggered resentment. It wasn't worth it, and now I don't do same-day bookings for new, random clients.

I have massaged clients who had various, obvious medical issues. I tried to take precautions and maintained frequent communication during the session. They would seem to feel okay afterward, only for me to get a phone call later that week saying they'd been in a lot of pain since the session. My anxiety would spike and I started questioning myself as a professional. While maybe their worsened condition wasn't because of my work, it all could have been avoided if I'd trusted my gut and said, "no."

In these cases, it was so not worth it: it wasn't worth the money, it wasn't worth the physical effort, and it wasn't worth the mental and emotional toll on myself.



There have been a few times where I did successfully say, "No," and it was totally worth it:

One of my long-time clients was in a car accident and sustained a concussion. She tried to come in for a massage with a colleague who wasn't comfortable performing it and turned her down; she wanted to see me and I said, "let's wait a week for you to heal before we do the massage." Despite her obvious displeasure and the threat of taking her business elsewhere, I held my ground and convinced her to give it time. It wasn't until after the concussion passed that she realized she'd been in an altered mental and physical state at the time. She apologized. She's still my client to this day.

A gentleman came to the salon I worked at, asking to speak to the massage therapist. I was the only therapist employed at the time and didn't come into work until later that day, so the staff took his name and number. I was so busy that night that I forgot to return his call. The next day, there was a nasty voicemail on our machine where this gentleman went on an angry tirade about his money apparently not being "green enough" for us and that he was taking it elsewhere. At first, I hung my head with guilt, ready to call and apologize and offer for him to come in. After several minutes of thinking about it, I found my fire and said, "No -- no, I'm not going to apologize. He didn't need to speak to us like that over a simple mistake." My boss took the reins and called him, telling him we didn't appreciate the tone of his message. He hung up.

I took a mobile massage gig that included a 40-minute drive into the city and took me away from my office every other Saturday. The clients were only able to do 30-minute sessions, and I often only had two or three. There were many variables at play that made this gig a poor fit for me: my car was falling apart and I felt stressed, spread too thin, and wasn't breaking even -- financially or otherwise. I did this gig for about two months before I had to say, "I'm sorry, I need to take a break." By saying no, I was able to restructure where I was spending my time and energy.


What You Gain From Saying No:
  • You have time and energy that can be used for finding or working on your ideal clients.
  • You open a space for that ideal client to fill -- getting their regular business helps give you a sustained income, and allows you to do work that feels good to you.
  • Should some terrible circumstance befall that client with medical contraindications, your conscience will be clear. (Yes, it might have been nice to make them feel good for a little while, but would it have been worth the risk of making them feel worse?)
  • You have the opportunity to educate new or inexperienced clients about why you need to say no -- and you can give them the opportunity to come back another day when they're better prepared. 
Remember: don't set yourself on fire (or burn-out) just to keep someone else warm. You do not have to say "yes" to every potential client or employer. Just because you've said "no," today, doesn't mean you've lost a client's business or a job opportunity for forever -- you're making room for opportunities that will better benefit you.

And please know that it is always, always perfectly acceptable to say, "No," for your own sake.



Friday, April 12, 2019

What Do You Need to Start Your Own Business?

So you want to start your own bodywork business? Let me preface this post with the following:
"If you build it, they will come" is a terrible marketing plan.
You can have a beautiful space with the nicest equipment, lotions and oils, and decorations --
-- but if you don't have clients coming to see you, ensuring your rent gets paid and the lights stay on, those lovely doors will be closed in a hurry.
Marketing and choosing how and where you want to work are topics for separate posts. If you want to plan ahead, here is some of my advice.

To start your business on a barebones, shoe-string budget:
  • Sack away extra income to pay a first month's rent and security deposit. You can sell gift certificates, but using that money before they're redeemed carries a substantial risk. Similarly, try to avoid using lines of credit.
  • Furniture, linens, and decorations can be bought second-hand or sometimes found for free. 
  • Reach out to other massage professionals about any extra tables, massage chairs, or other equipment they may be willing to sell.
  • Buy quality massage products in affordable quantities -- these will be used on your clients and yourself, so this is one area where you shouldn't skimp.
  • Ask friends and family for gift certificates to your stores of choice.

For the back-end and marketing details:
  • Vistaprint (affiliate link) has some of the best deals on basic business cards.
  • Google Domains can get you set up with a .com address of your choice for as little as $12 a year, with connections to other web services at varying price points.
  • Square (affiliate link) offers gadgets and an app for accepting credit card payments, along with many other resources.
  • A basic MailChimp account is free and relatively easy to use for e-mail marketing. (Affiliate link, but only if you purchase a paid plan.)
  • Get a free Facebook Page for your business. (Please, oh please, don't register a new profile for your business; there is a difference.)
  • Use an online scheduling system (affiliate link).
  • Make your own graphics and use them on all of your business-related websites, social media pages, etc. to make a consistent "brand."

Sunday, April 7, 2019

You Will Make Mistakes

You will make mistakes*.

Nine times out of ten, they will not be the end of the world. 

* After seven years, I still make mistakes and I will be the first to admit them.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Advice for Bodywork Students Preparing to Graduate

Specific to (Southern) Maine:

  • If you want to work on a lot of different people and make a lot of money in a hurry, then a gig in the tourism industry can help you get there. Head for the coasts in the summers and ski resorts in the winters.


In General:

  • Be open to opportunities. You may not get to your ideal workplace or wage right away; accept that you may need to make concessions and take smaller steps to get there.
  • Ask your teachers if they're willing to serve as references and write letters of recommendation. Networking and word-of-mouth are golden for marketing your services, but require building and maintaining rapport.
  • Avoid the independent contractor trap. Unless you are really clear on your own boundaries and the regulations of the state, aim toward becoming an employee.
  • Honor your body and go at your own pace: just because Joe Schmoe the massage therapist can work on five people back-to-back without a break doesn't mean that you can or should. If you push yourself too hard, too fast, you can jeopardize your career before it's barely started.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Introduction!

Hi.

My name is Bethany Ingraham, and I've been working as a massage therapist for about seven years. I've spent my career working in a hair salon, at chiropractor offices, and doing mobile massage before officially transitioning to my own business, I Knead Serenity, in Buxton, Maine. As of January 2019, I've started teaching at my "alma mater," Spa Tech Institute, because I love working with massage students and sharing tips and tricks for getting through school and out into the community.

Professional™ Me... ... versus My Latest Facebook Selfie

I aim for casual professionalism: I hold myself and my colleagues to high standards, but I'm incapable of being super serious and rigid 100% of the time. My office and services don't quite fit the spa industry standard of complete, meditative zen. It's comfortable and cozy, but I have a corner office next to a busy road and post office, with other office neighbors frequently going through doors and connected halls. I like to let my clients pick their music, so we get a nice mixture of Reggae, the Lumineers, acoustic rock covers, and Annie Lennox to balance out the pan flutes and synthesizers.

And if the name didn't give it away, I'm really into alternative rock music, sci-fi shows, and at-times-obscure pop-culture references.



As much as I enjoy writing, I'm also a perfectionist. I love to wax poetic and make sure everything is nice and tidy and makes sense before I hit "publish." Sometimes, I just can't dedicate that amount of time and attention, which means I end up with unfinished drafts that don't make it out into the world. This blog may not always have photos and long paragraphs of information. I will likely ramble. I may have to go back and edit things later, or make a new post to better explain whatever points I was trying to make.

Still, I hope that you'll stick around and find something that helps you. Ask questions -- there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. And it's me: I drive my family nuts with my smart-alec answers, and I'll probably try to answer with something witty.

Stay shiny! ♡