Read as Kris Kelley talks about his career as a Massage Therapist in Las Vegas, NV.  You can find Kris here  and on his Twitter @MassageInVegas or on the sidebar of this interview.  

What do you do for a living?

I am a certified and licensed massage therapist in Las Vegas, Nevada.

How would you describe what you do?

I provide massage stress relief, relaxation and eliminate dysfunction in the
human body, leading to acute and chronic pain. As a massage therapist I
manipulate soft tissue to accomplish the statement above.

What does your work entail?

As a business owner, my first priority is attracting prospective massage
clients. There are many methods of attracting massage clients, yet here is
what works best for me: The Internet with a quality massage website and
interacting on social media. I also have successfully used physical flyers
and letters to target all the businesses in my demographic area.

The biggest mistake massage therapists make is advertising the features of their
practice, such as ‘deep tissue massage,’ as opposed to listing the
benefits a client will receive, such as chronic muscle pain relief. Massage
clients receive a massage for the benefits of the massage, not a bunch of
words explaining the features of what it is they do. Once I have the
massage clients in the door, I ensure I provide the best massage I can,
based on both their wants and needs. Communication with the clients is very
important, and I think many massage therapists forget this.

Good communication needs to continue until after the actual massage session and
getting them to reschedule with you. Then, we need to put together a
program for existing clients in getting them to re-schedule with us. This
consists of follow-up phone calls, E-mails and physical flyers as well.
Yes, this is a PROCESS, and that’s the critical ingredient to making this
all work. We must realize and understand that clients are busy with their
own ‘life,’ and massage doesn’t always take priority. A gentle,
friendly reminder works best!

What’s a typical work week like?

I focus on three areas: Attracting massage clients (advertising and
marketing), performing actual massage, and improving my communication skills
with prospective clients and existing clients. A typical day for me would
consist of four hours of actual massage and at least four hours of
attracting clients to my massage website using social media and hand
delivering flyers to local businesses.

How did you get started?

I have always been interested in health and wellness and had a desire to
share this with other people. I graduated from massage therapy school in
2003. I began with my own massage practice performing outcall massage in
clients homes. I now have my own central location for massage therapy and
we are expanding our practice to include personal training, rehabilitation,
and low impact fitness training as a personal trainer.
This includes work on their mind, body & spirit!

What do you like about what you do?

What I enjoy the most is truly listening to clients explain to me what it is
they want and need, and then providing massage therapy appropriately.
It’s extremely important to really pay attention and listen to what
clients say, and then begin to work on their body and see what it is they
really need. What someone wants, and what it is they need, are often two
separate issues.

This is where exceptional communication skills enter the
picture. If you can communicate to the client how you can combine the two,
both wants and needs, they are much more likely to reschedule with you.
This demonstrates to the client that you actually listen to them, and that
you care about them. This is the art of building and developing
professional relationships with your clients. Attracting new clients is
much more expensive and time consuming than working with existing clients.
The art of rescheduling existing clients is extremely important!

What do you dislike?

The perception of massage therapy in the general public, as well as in the
health and wellness industry. Most consumers and Insurance companies
don’t know or understand the benefits of therapeutic and orthopedic
massage. Also, please understand that this burden also falls on our own
shoulders as massage therapists. I truly believe massage therapy and its
benefits are in the infancy stage as health and wellness providers, and as
we grow and expand as a profession, as knowledge, experience and perception
increases in regards to the benefits of massage therapy, we will then be
seen as a true ‘health & wellness’ professional industry.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

As a sole proprietor, I get paid only when I perform an actual massage.
Yet, a massage therapist can also supplement their income with Google
adsense on their web pages, selling products in their massage location, or
having other massage therapists work for you. The key to becoming very
successful is generating ‘passive income.’ This means you are earning
income when you are not working. Remember that if you are just performing
massage and getting paid for your time, you are still trading time for
money. Yet, what if you could earn income while you are doing nothing?

This is the key. Again, as mentioned above, if clients and prospective
clients are purchasing massage supplies off of your website, ordering
massage gift certificates off of your website, you are earning income from
visitors clicking on your adsense, this all adds up, regardless if you are
actually performing a massage therapy session.

How much money do Massage Therapists make?

There is a huge spectrum in regards to massage therapist income. Some
therapists practice part time, some are just beginning, some are very
successful and some own and operate their own massage establishment and earn
income off their employee’s work, as well as massage insurance billing and
coding. I have read that the average annual income of a massage therapist
is around $30,000.00 per year. Here in Las Vegas, Nevada, I believe the
average massage therapist earns approximately $45,000.00 per year, annually.

A more important question is, “Why does an individual massage therapist
earn a certain amount?” There are many factors involved in this and
I’ll list just a few, below:

• The demographic of your massage business
• If you work for yourself or someone else
• If you choose to work full time or part time
• The ability to advertise and market your business successfully
• The ability to reschedule existing clients
• How hard are you willing to work to generate a sustainable income in
this business?

How much money do/did you make starting out as a Massage Therapist?

I began my massage therapy career part time and generated only $100 – $200
per week in the beginning. I think if one chooses to go to work for someone
else right after being certified and licensed one can earn a good living.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to become a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapy requirements vary from state to state, anywhere from 500
hours of training to 1,000 hours of training. Education and experience
learned in school comes from classroom lecture to hands-on massage practice.

What is severely lacking in the massage therapy education system is
two-fold: Business courses for those who would like to be independent
contractors and communications classes so therapists can truly learn how to
effectively listen and speak to clients. Thus, if you are currently looking
to attend a massage school, I highly recommend you find one who has a good
business program. You can learn actual massage skills anywhere!

What is most challenging about what you do?

Getting clients to reschedule on a regular basis. There are many factors
involved in this:

• A clients financial status (Can they afford massage on a regular basis?)
• The massage therapist’s communication skills.
• Follow-up with existing clients who have not scheduled again.
• The value of massage vs. something else a client wishes to purchase.
• Is the client a local resident or just visiting the city in which you
• The massage therapist’s skill at performing actual massage.

What is most rewarding?

Communicating with clients and then delivering a quality massage that
exceeds their expectations. The ability to provide a service that many
other health and wellness practitioners cannot provide is truly rewarding.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

First, determine why you would want to enter this profession. Next,
determine if you wish to work for yourself or work for someone else. There
are benefits and pitfalls in regards to both options.
If you choose to own and operate your own business, please understand that
attracting prospective massage clients, and then getting them to reschedule
with you is much more important than your massage skill level or technique.

If you want to work for another, then your communication and personality are
still even more important than your actual massage technique.
In my humble opinion, and why most massage therapists fail in this industry,
is that they spend too much time focusing on their actual massage skills or
techniques, and not nearly enough time on attracting new massage clients, or
working on their communication skills getting existing clients to reschedule
with them. Yes, actual massage skills and techniques and massage continuing
education IS important. Yet, if therapists spend half as much time
correctly marketing and advertising themselves as opposed to worrying about
their actual massage technique, they’d be much further ahead financially.
If you don’t have any massage clients, who are you going to perform all
these special massage techniques on?!?

I have never, ever, received a ‘bad’ massage. Yet, on several
occasions, I’ve needed to change massage therapists because they didn’t
listen to what it is I wanted, they made no attempt to reschedule me with an
attitude of indifference if I returned or not, as well as, viewed their
massage as ‘work,’ rather than a true concern for what it is my body was
telling them what it needed.

How much time off do you get/take?

I take a couple weeks off per year for vacation. Understand that as an
independent contractor I can schedule time off as I please.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

Many people still think massage is just for an hour of ‘feel good’ time.
Most do not have an understanding of the benefits of massage therapy. As I
spend the majority of my time performing orthopedic massage, I take every
opportunity I can to ‘educate’ people in regards to the numerous
benefits the different styles of massage therapy provides.

Education and knowledge is power, and the more people who can truly understand that
massage is more than just an hour of relaxation time, the better! Once a
client can actually experience a quality massage, then they see these
benefits for themselves.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

My goals and dreams are to have a complete system of health & wellness
opportunities available for my massage clients. This includes but are not
limited to: Proper functional assessment of a client, provide specific
massage to the clients wants and needs, provide specific and proper
stretching & strengthening exercises for the client as personal training and
rehabilitation if an injury had occurred, provide a home self care program
that is easy to follow for the client that includes massage, physical
fitness and relaxation and self care methods.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

Massage therapy is much, much more than just providing a quality massage.
As mentioned above, this include being able to attract massage clients, the
ability to re-schedule existing massage clients, communication skills so one
can correctly interact with clients, educate clients about their own mind
and body, as well as provide the clients their own in-home self care program
that eliminates many of the reasons they visit us in the first place! We
are here not only to treat the ‘symptoms’ of why they are receiving a
massage in the first place, but to actually facilitate their entire health
and wellness.

If we can do this, if we can assist others with their health
& wellness in a larger scope than just massage therapy, then they are very
grateful for our services and will return for our massage services purely
out of gratitude.