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As a student massage therapist, I have been wondering about the competitiveness in the real world as a massage therapist. Is there a lot of competition for clients? My class is less than a week away from finishing school. However, I am finding myself having to ever so slightly distance myself from my fellow classmates as once we are out of school, we would technically be competing for clients. Am I over thinking this or what? 

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It’s good to think on things, but I think you are over thinking.  First of all.  If all you guys/gals hang your shingle out the door of your own clinic, who is going to come to any of you?  Most of the population that gets massage on a regular basis, already has a therapist or establishment they go to.  Your competition is not going to be your fellow graduates.  It’s going to be the therapist or establishment that’s been in business for several years.  I mean if you are looking to get a massage.  And didn’t have a massage therapist.  Are you going to go to the therapist just out of school, or the one that’s been doing it for ten years.  Or would you go to a spa, or perhaps chiropractic clinic that has a good reputation for massages?

  In my opinion, your best bet out of school, is to find employment in an established businesses.  A chiropractic clinic or a spa.  Build up experience, clientele, then maybe branch out on your own.  I wouldn’t be worried about competition from your fellow students.  They aren’t going to be your problem.  Unless they take that opening in the spa or chiropractic clinic. 

Yes, Gordon is right, you are overthinking it. His advice is sound. Some things to keep in mind...

In most areas of the country there is a shortage of therapists. Right out of the gate a small percentage of your of your classmates may not even take their first job for any number of reasons. Statistically speaking, in two years, half of your graduating class will drop out of the profession. A lot of spas and even chiro's have a pretty large turnover in therapists for any number of reasons, some of its seasonal, low pay, poor management, therapists start their own biz, or therapist burn out. I know a therapist or two that are just sort of MT gypsies, they work at one spa for awhile and then just move on to another because they like a lot of change, often coming back to places they have worked at before after a time.

Don't worry and don't self doubt, you will be fine. Just trust in yourself.

There really isn't much competition between therapists who are good at their craft.  The same can't be said for therapists who are not.

You are not competing for clients with your classmates. 

And, both responses above mine are good. 

Below, I'll extrapolate on some other ideas, for you to think about.

You will find that no matter how much you want a client to be "yours", in the end the client will find who's personality, touch and space they like best.  They may even use you for one type of work, and another therapist for another type of work.  They may use a student clinic for base work and you for more technical work.  They may use you when they want a male therapist, and on other days see a female therapist.  They may see you once and never come back, no matter how good you think the session was.  They may use you because they like your lower back work, but prefer someone else for neck work --- and therefore buddy sessions between you and another therapist.  They may like you for a while, and then not show up for years, if they get miffed by some little something.  We don't own our clients.  They choose us, depending on their needs and preferences and some can be finicky.

What I highly suggest, is that you groom your clients and create a practice with the clientele you want.  From the beginning.  Like brings like.  If you don't like gritchy clients... move out the first one that comes in - move them out of your practice.  Don't entertain them because you need the clients and money. You'll have a devil of a time brining in nice clients if your practice becomes filled with the problematic ones.  Build a clientele of people you like, and in 10- 20 years you'll still have a full practice of amazing people.  

Many years ago, I leased space to a veteran massage therapist of 20 years (she has since passed away).  I had not been seeing massage therapy clients at the time (only chiropractic patients... although I was licensed as an LMT).  One of my patients found out I had my massage therapy license and asked if I would work on them.  [ at the time, I had been building my chiropractic practice from the ground up, and was working a part-time job as a massage therapist to help pay the bills... and I really needed the massage therapist who was renting with me, to stay happy.  I was used to the whole chiropractors-hate-competition thing, that unfortunately, we have going on ]  So, I asked her, if she would be ok with this, because I didn't want there to step on her toes, but was open to seeing this patient as a client. 

Her response was a healthy laugh.  She said:  "Oh, don't worry.  There is no way my clients will ever see you for massage.  And, if they decide to, that is fine by me.  It means they need something I am not able to provide."

I was surprised she didn't care.  But, as I grew as a massage therapist, I found she was absolutely correct. 

The work I do is specific.  It is why people come to me.  If people don't like something about my work, of course I try to create a situation where they are pleased, if it is in my power and works with my technique.  If not, I am happy to help them locate a therapist that suits their needs, or wish them the best as they search for someone else.  It's rare my clients need someone else, but sometimes it happens.  

I also go out of my way to refer my clients to others, when they go out of town or move.  And, I always ask my clients who have had massage previously, if they liked their present/prior therapist, if I am a fill-in because their therapist is out of town, if they are trying me out hoping to use me as their new regular therapist, and/or if there is anything they want me to try to duplicate.  If their therapist was in another area of my city, had different hours than myself or was in another city or state (and the client liked them), I ask if they would be open to letting me know more about the therapist and if they would be comfortable with my putting that therapist on my referral list.

really do want my clients to have the care they need and want. Even if that means they leave me.  I find it is the best policy for my practice, and I am comfortable doing business this way.

So, yes, you are over-thinking it.  Keep in touch with any therapists you like in your class.  You can always use them as a referral base.  You may have someone who comes to you and can benefit from their care, and vice versa.  Additionally, you may just have a personality conflict.  Don't like "high-maintenance", don't want to do some style of work?  Maybe Mary from your class will be the perfect fit!  :)

I think all of that has been sound advice.  At one spa I worked they had me signing a form saying I won't try to steal the clients I worked on for at least a year.  During school I was told that odds are you can't take clients with you when you leave a spa. 

The the reason is that they choose that spa for a reason.  While you might give good massages, that wasn't the original reason the spa in particular was chosen.  Unless you provide something special and or unique odds are the clients original reason for choosing that spa won't change.

It could be something as simple as the location of the spa.  Maybe it's even the days or hours they are open.

Best thing you could do is find something you do really well, or a unique nitch for the area your in.  Once you find it, run wild with it.  Everyone does things differently.  This profession isn't about the therapist, it's about helping the clients.  If  you do that well enough, word does eventually get around.  Everything I have read say's it takes 2 - 3 years to start  your own business.

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