Getting Started as a Massage Therapist: The Basics

Kathy GruverToday’s post is contributed by guest blogger Kathy Gruver. Kathy  has been involved in natural health for nearly two decades and has her Masters in Natural Health and Doctorate in Traditional Naturopathy.  Kathy is a Medical Massage Therapist, Natural Health Consultant, Reiki Master, and Birth Assistant.  She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Natural Health.  Kathy owns Healing Circle Massage in Santa Barbara which specializes in medical and therapeutic massage and was chosen as a “Best Practice” by Massage Magazine in 2006 and 2007.

We are pleased to feature Kathy and look forward to more insights from this extraordinarily qualified healer and gifted writer.



You’ve graduated from massage school; you have your table, sheets, lotion and ridiculously short nails. Now what? This is a question we all asked ourselves as we stepped out in to the real massage world. There are numerous options for you. Here are few that I’ll address over the next few weeks. Depending on your personality, skill set and how much you want to work, any of these options might work for you.

  • Get out on your own and start your own practice
  • Join someone else’s practice
  • Work for a spa or massage chain
  • Become a part of a chiropractic or physical therapy office

No matter where you end up working, here are some must haves:

  • Business cards. Even if you’re working in a spa or for someone else, people should have a way to contact you. It can simply be your name and contact number, but make sure it looks professional. I recommend www.vistaprint.com where you can get free or very inexpensive business cards. Don’t get too cute or complicated, simple is best. And once you have the cards, don’t be caught without them. I’ve gotten clients in line at supermarkets, at parties and in parking lots because I had a business card on hand. You can also post them on bulletin boards around town, but we’ll get to marketing in the future.
  • A dedicated phone line. It’s best if you can avoid using your home phone as your business line. There are numerous reasons. The first is your own safety. If someone shady starts to get out of hand, they won’t have your home phone number which means they won’t have your home address and can’t show up at your door. Aside from safety, you’ll know your roommate, spouse or small child isn’t going to miss calls, not give you messages or accidentally be rude to a potential client. When you answer the phone do so professionally saying your name. Make sure your outgoing voice message is concise and professional. Don’t make people wait through five minutes of Stairway to Heaven; just say your name, business name and any other pertinent information. Check messages regularly and return calls promptly. I’ve gotten numerous clients because I’m the only therapist that actually called them back.
  • I know this sounds stupid, but have a table. And enough sheets and oil. I had someone apply for an outcall therapist position that I was trying to fill and half way through the phone call they informed that they didn’t have a car…or a table. I’m still wondering how they thought they were going to be an outcall massage therapist.
  • Make sure you get insurance. Many of the insurance companies give you a special deal while you’re still in school so you can take advantage of that. Two of the biggies are ABMP (www.abmp.com) and AMTA (www.amtamassage.org). Being a member of one of these organizations provides not only insurance, but listings on massage search engines, information about licensing requirements in your area, continuing education opportunities, a magazine subscription and a level of professionalism. And most spas and employers will want to see a proof of insurance.

There you go; a few things to get you started on your new vocation. Check back soon for career options and the best way to get them.

In health,

Kathy Gruver, MS, LMT, RM,
Doctorate of Traditional Naturopathy

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