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Advantages of being a Mobile Massage Therapist

Many massage therapists will do mobile massage at some time during their massage career. It may just be for a few family members, friends or clients that they know. Others will have a foot in both camps and mix clinic and mobile massage. Others will just consider themselves as being mobile massage therapists.

In addition, the mix between being a clinic based therapist and a mobile therapist may change significantly during one’s career. The norm is probably that a therapist will do a higher proportion of mobile massaging early in their career whilst they establish themselves in the industry and understand what works for them with respect to work/lifestyle balance.
Others (myself included) have done the opposite and gone from being mainly clinic based to only doing mobile massage in Sydney.

advantages of being a mobile massage therapistI will discuss the disadvantages of doing mobile massage in a later post but for now, just want to talk about the advantages to you as a therapist of seeing people in their homes.

   

The main advantage of being a mobile massage therapist is flexibility coupled with limited overheads. If you are renting space in a clinic then you need to see a certain number of clients before you start bringing in an income. Even worse, if there are no clients then money is still going out the door with nothing coming in.

Other advantages include:
– If you are sick, if you want to take a day off or have an extended holiday then your landlord will still have their hand in your pocket for the rent.

– If you are employed (or even a subcontractor) then you may have business restrictions placed on you that prevents you from setting up a business within a certain distance from your current clinic. This can effectively tie you to a specific clinic location.

– Providing home massages can be rewarding for you as a therapist. There is a little more flexibility with respect to time so that although it may be considered unprofessional going significantly over time, you can afford to build client relations by making sure that you provide an hour’s massage when the client has booked for an hour (unlike the 50 or so minutes you may get at a clinic when clients are booked on the hour). You don’t have to rush to make sure that you don’t keep your next client waiting.

– If you do the sums (and you are charging an appropriate rate), then the average take-home income per massage should be higher for outcall massaging. This is even more the case if you can manage to arrange extended appointment times or more than one client at a given location. It may even be the case if you say massage a couple at the same location, your rate/massage is lower than it would be at an equivalent client yet your hourly income is higher.

– Variety. Working in different spaces can help keep things interesting.

– Nice clients. Purely subjective but in my experience anyone who is prepared to let a stranger into their house offers a good energy and receptiveness to being massaged. Most clinics clients fall into the same category, but not all…..

  
- Fewer cancellations or clients running late. Probably the bane of the clinical massage therapist is last minute cancellations and people running late. In my experience, cancellations and clients running late are very much the exception for mobile work (and when these situations do arise, it is normally for a very very good reason).

Now doing mobile work is not for everyone and I will discuss some of the negatives in a future post.

By Richard Lane

Running Late for Mobile Massage

Our last post was on the subject of cancellations and our policy on the very rare occasions that they occur for our Sydney mobile massage business. Recently I was asked a question on a similar topic of what was our policy if the client was running late. Are we flexible with time or do the therapists stick strictly to the appointed times?

My initial response was something along the lines

well as we are professionals and we may have other bookings to go to then we do need to keep to our timetable. Obviously if we can be flexible we will but if there is a scheduling clash then sorry if you are running late then you will be the one to have reduced massage time.

Sydney mobile massageHer follow-up question was well what happens if the therapist is running late?

Again to me it seems standard business practice that if we are running late then the client will still get full time on the table. (as an aside, we do not run late as a rule although occasionally circumstances beyond our control can affect the travel time between appointments)

Only after the conversation did it occur to me that it may appear that we have double standards, it’s ok on those rare occasions that we are running late but not ok if the client is late.

I posed this as a question on a massage forum and some of the response from other therapists are listed below.

If you have another client immeditately following, then you really have no choice but to cut the session short for the late client. It’s out of your control. They should understand.

I think if we (massage therapist) were running late, then we make the sacrifice and work over our expected time, as should they sacrifice if running late. If I don’t have other commitments, I always give them their full hour. If I have someone coming in after them, then I don’t make my arriving client wait for me to finish, when they arrived on time.

You’re paying for my time; how you use it is up to you. If there is a good excuse and I can do the full hour I will.
You have to train your clients to respect you as a professional.

I am the one traveling, so sometimes unexpected things may arise on my journey from one client to another (traffic, accident, road closures, etc.). Those are out of my personal control. However, the client should know that their massage is at X time, in their home or where ever, therefore they should know to not do anything or go anywhere that would make them late. It is their only massage that day, not ours, so they need to understand that. If they are late, I would charge them the full amount of their appointment (you could have scheduled another person during that time that would not have been late) and do the massage in the amount of time they have left you. If it is continuous or they have a problem with that explain that your schedule does not revolve around them, and if they do not like it they can find another therapist that can revolve around them.

First time, with good cause, if be lenient. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Certainly it would appear to be a double standard if we expect our clients to understand when we are running late due to things beyond our control such as traffic delays but then have a hard line policy for them being on time all the time. So I do try to be understanding if a client appears to have a legitimate reason for running late and give them the full massage time IF my schedule allows. Although as a mobile therapist I’ve rarely had this situation occur, the vast majority of people are home waiting for me to arrive. For the very few who weren’t I’ve had to have the sometimes awkward talk about shortening their appointment time due to another commitment. It’s about setting appropriate boundaries, not always easy or fun but always essential for your well-being as both a business owner and an individual.

This is a good question. I always schedule at least 30 minutes between appointments and lately more like 45. If we start late I still give them their full time (up to a point-usually 10 to 15 minutes. I’ve found that by being somewhat flexible with my clients they are flexible with me when I need it.

=========

  
The consensus of the comments was that it is ok for this apparent double standard ie reasonable mobile massage therapists to expect clients to be ready on time but require the clients to have a little understanding if we are running a little late because we are the ones who are faced with the variables which are outside of our control (ie traffic).

As mentioned at the start though we will try to be as flexible as our schedule permits if you are running late for legimate reasons.

Is It Really Harder for a Male Massage Therapist to Succeed?

Check out any massage forum and there will comments and questions from male massage therapists who are struggling to develop a foothold in the massage industry. Many of these posts will point to the fact that males prefer to receive therapeutic touch from females and that male massage for females in Sydney is the exception rather than the rule as women often find it difficult to relax when they are being massaged by a male.

The upshot is that new male massage therapists feel that the odds are stacked against them and they complain that it is so much easier for females to work in the massage industry.

However, the reality is somewhat different and research studies point to the fact that males therapists, on average, do better than female therapists.
To quote from a 2002 survey of massage therapists in Australia

male massage therapist

Men carried out proportionately more consultations than women, and had been in clinical practice proportionately longer than women. Proportionately more women (80%) than men (63%) had earnings under $30,000. There were proportionately more men than women in the upper income brackets. Although men were 24% of the sample population, they were 44% of those earning over $100,000.

Yet still the perception is that males have a harder time developing a career in the massage industry.

So how can we reconcile the differences between the positions?

There are probably a number of points that can be made to address this apparent paradox that it is harder for men in the massage industry but that on average men do better than women.

Jobs and employment for (newly qualified) female therapists are more abundant than for men. Check out the massage employment websites and there will be more jobs for female therapists than males. Day spas, health retreats, hotel spas and relaxation clinics employ females. Whilst there may be a token male or two on the roster, people who book in for a massage at one of these locations will more than likely prefer and expect to be massaged by a female.

Any male who goes through massage school thinking that because he does a great relaxation massage, he will be snapped up by the swanky spas is naïve and have unrealistic understanding of the massage industry and this misunderstanding may be part of the problem.

However, these relaxation jobs are typically transient in nature and whilst they may provide employment and an income, there is no career development as such. The therapist runs the risk of just providing “cookie cutter” massages without developing their own client base and/or skills.

These type of jobs may also tend to suit people who really just want to fit in work around their family (without wishing to appear sexist, it is suggested that women are more likely to be looking for massage roles that are flexible and are part time and part of the reason for them doing massage is to fit in with their work/life balance).

In order for a male massage therapist in Sydney to succeed, then they need to find their niche which will need to be a segment of the market that is insensitive to the gender of the bodyworker. For male therapists, this niche is most likely to be offering remedial, sports and deep tissue massage ie more at the medical end of the massage spectrum rather than the relaxation end. People who are in pain, are recovering from injury or are looking to improve sporting performance will be more focussed on the outcome of their massage rather than be worried about the fact that they are being massaged by a male.

  
The fact that it is difficult for males starting out in the industry is probably an advantage for their long term career development. It focuses them on finding out where they belong (which will often be working for themselves), on working on their marketing skills and improving their knowledge/training to provide high quality bodywork that will bring in repeat/word of mouth clients.

The result is that males, who can stay in the industry, do more massages per week and have a greater income than women on average.

So less complaining, guys, about the injustices of being a man in a female industry. Maybe it is females that are getting the raw deal.

By Richard Lane

Important Questions When Booking a Massage

I’ve been running Inner West Mobile Massage in Sydney since 2005 and it still astounds me that a high proportion of phone calls begin with the words

How much do you charge?

or

what are your rates?

Whilst I know that price and costs can be a huge factor in the decision making process but for me, I would want to know something about the type of massage I would be getting and, in particular, something about the skills, experience and training of the therapist who would be putting their hands on body. Yes, price may be a factor but surely though the value of the massage and service is much much more important?

I would want to explain the reasons why I would be wanting a massage such as I need a sports massage or a remedial/deep tissue massage for a sore lower back and then questions I would want to be asking are:

Is the therapist you recommend suitable for my requirements?
What is their level of training?
What is their level of experience?
How long have they worked for you?
etc

Currently we charge $100 for a one hour mobile massage in Sydney. We only use experienced and professional therapists who are registered with health funds and we believe we offer fair value compared with a massage from a therapist of equivalent experience in a clinic (particularly as we are prepared to offer an unconditional guarantee about our services).

Now, the normal response if I answer their question about prices is that the caller will say

Thanks. I’ll call you back

(not that they ever do).

I’m often tempted to ask them what they are expecting our rates to be. Are they used to paying $60 for a one hour massage in a dodgy clinic where the therapists have no formal training and the towels might have been washed last week? Many clinics in the Inner West are in the price range of $80 to $90 so we are more than competitive with them given that there are so many benefits from having a home massage.

  
But for them, $100 is too high to consider.

Now, maybe I am being a little harsh, and those who are on a limited budget may begin to ask the type of questions I would expect, if our price fell within their price range and, for them, there is no point wasting time on discussion. But I suspect that these are exception and the majority of these callers just equate value to price. The quality doesn’t matter, all they want is a cheap massage.

Sorry, unfortunately cheap massage is not our business. Great value massage is.

Why I Enjoy Doing Mobile Massage

Being a mobile massage therapist is not for everyone. It is relatively easy to come up with a list of the disadvantages and problems associated with mobile massage therapy. These include:
– Having to work out of business hours, often late into the night
– Trying to find a carparking space close enough to the house or unit where you will be working
– Carrying heavy massage table/towels/equipment around often up multiple flights of stairs
– Working in isolation from other therapists/professionals
– Never quite knowing what type of premises you will be massaging in and how easy it will be to set up your table. Will there be enough room? Will it be cold or hot? Will it be noisy? Will there be other people around?
– Are there are personal security risks (particularly relevant for female massage therapists)

Yet despite these negative factors, I have been a mobile massage therapist in Sydney for over 7 years and still enjoy and prefer plying my trade in this way compared with being in a clinic.

So what are the advantages that outweigh the negative?

Advantages of Mobile MassageThere are a number of reasons why I prefer providing a mobile massage service in Sydney compared with working in a clinic. Some of these relate to advantages to the client; some relate to advantages to me.

For many people who are working full time or are constrained as to when they can get to see a massage therapist then there are significant advantages of having a home massage in Sydney. These benefits are covered at http://www.innerwestmassage.com.au/benefits.php.

Whilst there is a great deal of job satisfaction with being able to provide such a service, an additional benefit that I often feel is that there is more synergy with a home massage. The fact that someone is prepared to let a stranger into their home, then take off their clothes and permit this stranger to rub oil into their body provides a powerful message from the client to the therapist that there is trust. This element of trust is greater than in a clinic which can be, well, clinical.

Mobile massage clients are nice people to work with.

This is not to say that clients in clinics are not nice to work with but, for me, seeing people in their home provides that greater level of personal trust and permission to provide bodywork.

From my point of view as a mobile therapist the advantages include:
– no overheads. If you are paying rent at a clinic then there is a requirement to make sure that there is someone on your table as much as possible. No client means no money coming in to cover the money coming out. Whilst it is true that no body on the table for a mobile therapist means no money coming in, at least there is no money going out.
– I choose my hours. Yes I work what some may consider to be anti-social hours, late into the evening and weekends. But this suits me and my lifestyle at the moment. Being in a clinic and needing to be available at specific times is a constraint.
– physical demands are less. Although I have to lug my gear around, the physical demands on the body are less than if I was doing back to back to back… massages in a clinic. When I am providing mobile massage service then I am able to get a break when I am travelling between locations.
– you get to work in different and interesting locations. Not all massages are in homes. I’ve massaged in garages, outside, in theatres, on film-sets, hotels rooms of varying standards, etc.
– providing couples massage with another therapist is a pleasant experience.

  
I can’t say that I will be a mobile therapist indefinitely but I have been for the past years and have no yearning to go back into a clinic. I enjoy massage and I enjoy massaging clients in their homes.

By Richard Lane

3 hour massage offer

Please Note: This offer is no longer available – if you are interested in receiving a 3 hour massage then please call and we can discuss price/time etc.

Recently there was an online discussion about the merits or otherwise of giving and receiving a three hour massage. This as a result of someone getting rave reviews for three + hour massages that he was providing to his clients.

Whilst I have provided lengthy massages when I was based in a clinic, I have never given a 3 hour massage as a mobile massage and would be interested in trying to some to see
(a) if there is a demand for such experiences and
(b) whether I’m physically up to it!

So as a marketing exercise I would like to offer a couple of 3 hour massages for the price of 90 minutes hour (ie $130 which would also be covered under health funds if you could claim for remedial massage).

(now for the small print)
This offer is:
– made by Richard Lane and the 3 hour massage offer is not available for any other therapist who work with Inner West Mobile Massage.
– 3 hour massages are only available Monday to Friday during business hours. This offer is not available for evening/weekend appointments.
– suitable for someone who has deep tissue/remedial or sports massage on a (semi) regular basis. If you have not had a massage in a while then it is possible that a 3 hour session may be a little too strenous for the body. Also please be conscious of any massage contraindications that may impact on the suitability of receiving an extended massage (eg pregnancy, specific injuries or conditions, etc)
– initially available for one male and one female client who respond according to the instructions below (will add in the comment as and when booking is made with a male or female client).
– available for locations within the map below.


View 3 hour massage offer region in a larger map

If you wish to book a 3 hour massage or would like any more information then either send an email to richard@innerwestmassage.com.au with your location, contact details and times that may be suitable. As this is an offer with Richard Lane directly then we ask that you do not phone the Inner West Mobile Massage number directly.

Please Note: This offer is no longer available – if you are interested in receiving a 3 hour massage then please call and we can discuss price/time etc.

By Richard Lane

Sports Massage Does Work!

In recent years there seems to be have a move towards more evidence based practise for a range of practitioners. This is not a bad thing for the massage industry as many of the more spurious claims that are made can be challenged and dismissed. However, one of the problems that massage faces is that there is a dearth of quality research available.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case which include a lack of money when compared with the amount of funds available for pharmaceutical trials and also a fundamental problem with much of the research in the natural therapies domain in that designing standard treatment protocols is extremely difficult when most therapists’ practice is based on tailoring a treatment to an individual client’s needs at the time.

A 2012 study into the benefits of sports massage has attempted to redress the issue of quality massage research with findings that are encouraging for the industry.

Sports massage SydneyAfter a water skiing injury a researcher at McMaster University, Canada, Mark Tarnopolsky, found that massage therapy provided a significant amount of pain relief and he decided that he wanted to understand the underlying mechanism whereby massage aided his recovery.

Along with some colleagues, Tarnolpolsky decided to investigate why massage can reduce pain and the results (for massage therapists and for sports people) were encouraging (1).

For the study, 11 males were exercised to such an extent that they were affected by exercise-induced muscle damage after working out on an upright bicycle. One of their legs was then massaged for 10 minutes. The researchers took muscle biopsy samples from the participants’ vastus lateralis muscles at various times:
– at baseline
– immediately after the massage
– after 2.5 hours of recovery.

The results were extremely encouraging. There is strong support for the hypothesis that exercise can activate the genes which are associated with repair and inflammation and it was no surprise that the researchers observed there was significantly more indicators of cell repair and also inflammation in the biopsy samples post-exercise when compared with the pre-exercise measurements.

However, there was a clear distinction between the study participants’ legs that had been massaged and had not been.

They found that the legs which had received the 10 minutes of sports massage had:
– reduced the amount of exercise induced muscle inflammation by diminishing the activity of a protein, NF-kB
– increased by about 30% a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria, PGC-1
– modified levels of other proteins with similar roles in the body.

  
Although this is only one study and the massage protocol may not be relevant for all sports people, it does provide evidence supporting the use of massage therapy to reduce pain and encourage muscle repair. Further work would need to be carried out to assess the optimum pressure, length of massage and the commencement time after exercise.

But there are few who would argue that getting a massage to reduce pain from sport is a preferable alternative to anti-inflammatory medications.

(1) J. D. Crane, D. I Ogborn et al “Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signalling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage”. Science Translational Medicine 4, 119ra13 (2012).

By Richard Lane

What Suburbs Do We Visit?

Although we would like to cover as large as area as possible, the practicalities of providing mobile massage in Sydney means that we do have to limit what suburbs we do and do not visit. Our company name, Inner west mobile massage, gives a good indication of our service area.

However, the definition of what is and what is not the Inner West is a matter of conjecture. For our purposes we define the area covering from the city as far West as Homebush, south as far as Bexley, mainly on the south side of the Parramatta River (although we will go to suburbs such as Gladesville and Hunters Hill).

A map of our service area is shown below.


View Inner West Mobile Massage Sydney in a larger map

It should be noted that not all therapists will be available for all suburbs which are at the boundary of the area that we cover. If you live in a particular suburb and want a specific therapist then we will endeavour to make that happen but, because of distance and logistics, we cannot guarantee this.

We are often asked to provide service outside of our area. It may seem plausible that if we go to suburb “X” then we will go to the next suburb “Y” as it will only be another “5 minutes”, particularly if we add on a small travel surcharge say of $10 for the extra time/cost for the therapist.

Unfortunately the issue of travel surcharge is not as straightforward as adding the travel time from “X” to “Y”.
Our fee is based on an average travel cost for providing massages in the area we service. As it is impractical to vary the rate on a suburb by suburb basis then the upshot is that some suburbs are easier and cheaper for a therapist to get to, others are longer and effectively more expensive.

These are not actual figures but just shown for demonstration purposes. If our average cost of travel to an appointment is $30 then an “easy” location may only cost a therapist $10 in travel costs and time whereas suburb “X” on the fringe effectively costs $50. Going to suburb “Y” may have a true travel cost of $60.

So whilst we only charge a travel fee of $30 to go to “X” as part of our service area, we would need to charge $60 to go to “Y”. As this difference $30 for neighbouring suburbs may appear to be excessive, then, as a business we have taken the decision it is easier not to go outside of our area rather than have to try to justify a large surcharge for travel.

Having said that then if you do live outside of our area then by all means feel free to give us a call as individual therapists may be available for particular suburbs depending on their own circumstances (for example if they live at the fringe of our area then for them travelling a little outside is an option). It is just that we as a business do not guarantee that we can provide a suitable therapist.

Is it you who does the massage?

It is hard to succeed as a male massage therapist in Sydney. The demand for massages from males is significantly less than it is for females even for the best male massage therapists.

Men prefer to book massages from females and a reason often given is that they are “uncomfortable” being touched by another man. Male massage for women in Sydney is also less common, more because of a cross-gender touch considerations (although having said that, the majority of the clients I see are female). Men are uncomfortable with a male massage therapist providing bodywork to their wife, for example, even though the majority of my clients are females (and some men specifically book a guy to massage their wife).

male massage therapist given female sports massage

Whilst the demand for massage from masseurs is less than for masseuses that does not mean that it is impossible for a male to succeed. If you search clinics and for mobile massage in Sydney, then it is immediately apparent that there is an abundant supply of men providing remedial and therapeutic massage so there must be some demand there.

I have been working as therapist in Sydney for a few years now and, although I have and still regularly face the bias against male massage therapists, I have survived long enough to carve out a career. Once you realise that you have to target people who are more concerned with the quality of the massage rather than the gender of the therapist (or those who are specifically after a male massage therapist) then you have a chance.

If you imagine that you will be working in a swanky Sydney day spa giving relaxing massages to the beautiful people then you will be in for disappointment. People who are after a sports, deep tissue and remedial massage will much more likely be your customers.

Having said that I understand the favouritism that exists towards, I still bristle and take umbrage when someone rings up our mobile massage business and asks

“Is it you who does the massage?

There is no preamble, there are no niceties. There is no “Hi, my name is …. and do you mind me asking is it you who does the massage?” Instead they just immediately fire away with the question as their opening salvo.

I don’t know why it bothers me and annoys me but it does.

Maybe they are not expecting a male to answer their call and they struggle to find a polite way of asking the question they are really asking which is

  

Can I book a massage with a female?

I really do not have a problem with someone wishing to book a massage and their preference is to see a female. I’m a big boy, I wear big boy pants. I accept that is the way of the massage world. I have been providing massage in Sydney for long enough.

But

“Is it you who does the massage?

bugs me.

However, if you do specifically prefer to receive bodywork from a male massage therapist then please do not hesitate to give us a call on 0421 410057.

By Richard Lane

Online Bookings for
Mobile Massage in Sydney

A couple of the therapists who work with Inner West Mobile Massage have their diaries online and it is possible to book directly with them.

For a demonstration of how to make a booking then check out this video.


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