Dealing with a Recession for Massage Therapists

The last few years have been tough for most small businesses, massage therapists included. You may be struggling to find new clients, or your existing clients may have stopped booking in with you.

Most of the time, this isn’t due to anything you have done, but rather because people are really watching their spending. While we know massage therapy is a great treatment for a variety of conditions, it is not an absolute necessity for the majority of people. So along with reduced spending on extras like haircuts, vacations and dinners out, people are also not booking their massage sessions.

That said: there are ways you can boost your bookings! You don’t have to just sit by and wait for things to change, or throw in the towel and go work for someone else. You can work on boosting your bookings and stabilizing your income.

Here are my top five tips for doing exactly that.

Five Tips for Dealing With Slow Times in your Massage Business

1. Focus on your past success: what you do best that attracts great clients

When we are dealing with the stress of a slow season in our businesses, our natural instinct is to look anywhere and everywhere for clients in order to increase our income.

While it is important to make sure the bills get paid and we can feed ourselves and our family, it can also cause a lot of stress and many hours spent chasing various strategies to try to get client bookings. We stop thinking about what clients we work best with and focus on getting people through the door — even if the clients are not a good fit for the work that we do.

This is not a great idea, even if it feels like it in the very short term.

Instead, your best bet is really to double down on what is already working. If you had been very successful booking a specific type of client in the past — say, prenatal clients, or stressed-out office workers — focus on that client group now. Look at ways to attract them to your practice, and get in touch with previous clients who might be interested in booking with you now.

We know that focusing our attention on one target audience really does work, and that same principle still applies, even during a slow season or a downturn in the economy. People’s ability to afford your services may change, but there is still a need for massage therapy! You just need to work to find the clients who can still afford to see you or work to find ways to make it more affordable for those who can’t book your typical 60-minute session.

For more on that, keep reading!

2. Reach out to existing clients

Existing clients are one of your best resources for bookings. After all, word of mouth is still the number one way to promote your business, even in this very online world.

One thing that often happens in a recession is people’s needs change. Perhaps they have lost their job or changed jobs. Perhaps they are working different hours. Or, they might be working twice as hard to keep up with ever-increasing costs of living, so have less time for other things (like seeing their massage therapist).

One thing you can do is ask existing clients how you can help them right now. If booking shorter sessions would be helpful, you can offer that. If you have the ability to go to them, perhaps doing some mobile services would be a good idea, at least for a while. And if you feel comfortable, you can offer past clients a discount on a session if they haven’t booked in a while.

You can also ask them to refer their friends, family and coworkers. Often the best new clients come from your current awesome ones. And again, if you feel comfortable doing it, you can offer a small discount on a session for referring a friend, as an additional incentive for people to book.

Existing clients are also a great resource for changing or expanding your business offerings. If folks can’t afford a treatment right now, but might be interested in a class or product purchase, that is something for you to consider. See below for more on adding a new product or service to your business, based on this research.

3. Don’t rely on insurance bookings or the ‘busy season’

Here in Canada and in some other parts of the world, it is common for massage therapists to be booked solid from October through December. This is due to the way insurance policies work — many of them are ‘use it or lose it’, so folks book all their massages in the last few months of the year in order to take advantage of that benefit.

But even without the insurance benefits, many therapists find the last few months of the year are the busiest. People want to get in for treatments around the holidays, buy gift certificates for others, and in general tend to be in a ‘festive’ mood so more likely to treat themselves and their loved ones.

In a so-called normal year, we could rely on those bookings to round out the year. Even if the summer was a bit slow, the fall always picks up.

But when people are more sensitive to spending money, they won’t be as keen to book with you. As well, some folks have lost their jobs, or their insurance policies have scaled back what is covered. Their massage dollars might be cut, or be reduced to just a couple of treatments.

So if you usually don’t focus on advertising and marketing your business in the fall since you often don’t really need to, I recommend you rethink that strategy.

In short: Don’t wait for the clients to come to you — do the work to make sure they find you and keep booking.

4. Consider new ways to supplement your income

Now can be a good time to try out new ideas to bring more cash flow into your business.

Do you have a skill that could be taught to a group, either in person or online?

Do you have an interest in selling products or opening an Etsy shop?

Is there something you could offer that people would be interested in paying you for, that isn’t massage treatments?

Especially given the pandemic, there are many ways of earning an income online in 2022 and beyond. You can develop your own ideas, or you can join with others — for example, working for another business that already offers online health or fitness classes and teach your own.

This is not to say you should give up on your private practice and giving treatments. It is simply diversifying your income so as to help you weather the current storm. You may also find you enjoy it enough to keep doing it long-term!

5. Use cheap or free advertising methods that work

My final tip is to focus on advertising that works and won’t break the bank.

It is important to think not just about where you can advertise, but what methods will be most effective for people to find you.

Sure, maybe in the past Facebook advertising has worked great for you, but does it make sense to pay for ads there right now?

Or, perhaps you had focused on putting up posters in your local community, but people aren’t really reading those anymore.

Now is the time to get strategic on where you are placing ads. Who are your clients? Where are they hanging out online and offline? How can you get your information in front of them so they will know about your business?

For a deeper dive into this topic, I have a whole post about Free Advertising for Massage Therapists.

As we come to the end of the year, I wish you success with your massage therapy practice! I hope these tips help you make the most of it.

Looking for help with your business? Hoping to book more clients or take your business online? I can help you! Check out my shop for the latest Instagram Post Templates and Business forms to help fill your schedule with great clients! ❤️

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Recessions are hard on small businesses, including massage therapy practices. Here are five tips for helping you get more bookings and earn more income, even when times are tough for people.
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