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For many students entering the world of massage therapy, the thought of opening a private practice is often foremost in the plans after graduation. For some it may happen right away and for others it may be after a period of time spent working for someone else. In any case it is often the goal to have professional freedom. That freedom comes with a price. As a person in private practice you are also responsible for all the costs that come with having your own business – the rent, the utilities, supplies and more.
There are times when business is good and clients are plentiful – and then there are times when clients are scarce, perhaps because of holidays or bad weather, or just a slump in the economy. Those are the times when you may start thinking about how to increase your revenue. There are several ways to do this. You can try to increase your client base through various marketing techniques. Raising prices is an option, but may scare some clients away. You could also hire one or more massage therapists to work with you and hope they bring in additional clients.
Another option is to sell products. It is one that often brings some debate. There are those on the side of offering bodywork services only along with the occasional gift certificate and feel as if there is a professional conflict. Selling products cannot only increase your yearly profits, it can bump up your income during times when client bookings are slow. In the end it is up to you to do what you are comfortable with and what is best for your clients.
Helpful Hints for Selling Products
If you decide that adding retail to your practice is worth looking into there are some things to consider:
- Sell products that you use in your practice – This will ensure that you sell products you believe in and know about.
- Know your products – Learn all you can about the products you sell. The manufacturer or wholesaler may offer classes or instructions on the item. They may have handouts you can copy and give to with clients. Make sure you are able to answer any questions a client may have about a product, whether it be a tool, massage oil or a book.
- Sell products that aren’t readily available locally – This means don’t sell items that can be purchased at the local drug store or mega-mart.
- Sell items that are relevant to your practice – Items such as eye pillows, cold/hot packs, essential oils and music CDs are things you would use during a session. Offering them for sale allows the client to use them at home and prolong the benefits of your massage.
- Make sure you are permitted to have a retail establishment in your location – You need to be in an area of town that is zoned as retail. You also need to get a retail/sales tax license.
How many times have you recommended something to a client, such as a heat pack? Perhaps your clients love a particular piece of music you play during a session and ask where to buy it. Maybe it’s a candle or the scent of an essential oil they find relaxing. It could simply be an extension of the service you offer as a massage therapist to be able to sell what they are looking for, rather than have a client frustratingly search through the neighborhood for a shop that sells something similar (or not at all).
The selection you sell doesn’t have to be large and the items don’t have to be expensive, but it should be relevant to your work. You also want the products you sell to be ethical and compatible with your own principles. Do you want the products to be vegan, sustainably harvested, chemical free, organic? How far you extend that is up to you. The important thing is that the products you sell should reflect both who you are as a person and who you are as a business, as well as whom your clients are. Keeping your product sales ethical also means charging a fair price. Typically, retailers double their wholesale cost for items. This is a rule that is somewhat flexible. Very expensive items often get marked up less than inexpensive items. Some wholesalers will request that you sell items at a specific price; others will allow you to charge whatever you want.
Personalizing the Experience
Whenever possible you should personalize the products you sell by adding a tag or label with your business name and contact information. This way, when the client uses the item at home, he or she will make a positive connection between the product and the massage experience. Many companies offer special labeling services, so an essential oil, soap or massage crème container can be branded with your company name. Many suppliers will also help you market their items. They will supply counter displays, posters and even free samples for clients to try.
The thought of selling products in addition to doing bodywork can, at first, seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be. Take it one small step at a time. In doing so, you will soon see your profits increase and your clients even happier.
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