‘Tis the season to celebrate all that is scary. As massage therapists, nothing conjures up fear quite like the creeper client (someone looking for sexual services). The history of massage being intermingled with prostitution is long and well-established. In many states, there are simply too many businesses combining them to combat this illicit activity effectively.
The fact that so many people are seeking out such services makes protecting ourselves even more challenging. Where there’s a demand, there will be businesses that meet it. Changing the perceptions and desires of this population may be beyond our control, but we can portray our practices in ways that discourage these kinds of clients from booking with us in the first place.
THERE IS SUCH A THING AS BAD PRESS
Be mindful about where you promote your practice. Certain publications and online directories cater to advertising for fringe businesses (Westword comes to mind). Even back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people used the Yellow Pages, there were different sections for massage therapy and massage parlors. Before signing up with any marketing platform, take the time to read through the current listings so you know the company you’ll be keeping there. If you have any doubts, don’t include your business in that roster.
WATCH YOUR WEBSITE
Having a website for your massage practice doesn’t increase the likelihood that you’ll attract creepers. It actually makes you appear more legitimate to potential clients who are on the up-and-up. The content you choose will determine who decides to contact you.
Be objective about the photos and videos you use on your website (and on social media). Some can have a sensual vibe that may be misconstrued by those looking for that. For instance, if you are a female, any photos of you should not show any cleavage; and if you are a male, be sure your pants aren’t form-fitting. It may seem like a small thing, but even something so subtle can send the wrong message to the wrong type of person.
The words you incorporate in your website and marketing copy should be nothing but professional. As much as we may want to stand out and express our personalities, it can backfire. When I opened my practice, I used the tagline “The only happy ending you’ll get is an end to your pain.” Although I thought it was clever, once my website had moved up the search engine I got a couple of suspicious inquiries from male clients whose first language wasn’t English. They must have Googled something like happy ending massage in my area and my website came up. Unfortunately, my joke didn’t translate. As soon as I removed that phrase from my website copy, page titles and page descriptions, those inquiries stopped completely and I haven’t had any since.
PROTECT YOURSELF WITH PRUDENT POLICIES
Using online scheduling doesn’t increase the likelihood of creeper clients either. Requiring all clients to provide their first and last name, a phone number and a valid email address sends those who want to fly under the radar elsewhere. Simply not taking walk-ins reduces these kinds of appointment requests dramatically, and having an intake form that all new clients complete is a serious turn off.
Should you get a questionable client despite your best efforts, don’t panic. As soon as you feel uncomfortable, discontinue the massage and ask them to leave. Chances are there won’t be any issues with them arguing or wanting to rebook. If you aren’t providing what they’re looking for, they’ll move on.
It’s too bad we have to deal with this concern lurking in the background, but it is a reality. By representing ourselves and our services in a way that leaves no question about what we do (and what we don’t), we aren’t just keeping unwanted clients out of our practices; we’re strengthening the integrity of our industry as a whole and sending the right message to the clients we want to serve.
Cath Cox has been a licensed massage therapist in Colorado since 1999 and is the creator of the Booked and Busy in 90 Days System™. Her mission is to heal the world by inspiring independent massage therapists to build thriving practices of their own so they can work authentically for as long as they desire. She currently provides ashiatsu barefoot deep tissue massage exclusively in her private practice. You can learn more about Cath and her journey at bookedandbusy.com.