Time matters. It’s what gives structure to our daily lives. For most massage practitioners, it’s the way we sell our services. Our clients aren’t just paying for our skills; they’re paying for how much time those skills are applied. And for many of them, the time is just as significant as the effects of our work.

One of the most expressed reasons for not getting regular massage is not having the time. So for our clients who opt to spend time (and money) on their well-being, we are paid to practice our expertise for an agreed upon price in predetermined blocks of time. Those appointments on our schedules belong to our clients. Therefore, we are being relied upon to make the most of that time for them.

Staying on top of our schedules is a hallmark of being a professional, and can be accomplished consistently with a few good habits. By managing our time well, we uphold healthy boundaries and send a message that we value our clients’ time (while they are there as well as away from our treatment room). This dynamic creates solid therapeutic relationships that enhance and sustain our practice.

DON’T KEEP THEM WAITING

Have you ever shown up for an appointment only to have the provider not there yet or still with another customer at your start time? As a client, it’s frustrating. As a provider, it’s stressful. Giving or receiving a good massage is difficult under such circumstances, and persistently running late is a real turn off to those who are waiting on us.

Obviously, the occasional glitch happens. But if you’re constantly running behind on your schedule, you’re disrespecting your clients. Pay attention to when things begin to go off course. You may need to leave for work earlier or find a more predictable route. Maybe you need a longer lunch break or more time in between certain clients.

The franchise model of 10-15 minutes between appointments is only realistic for more than two clients in a row if you have someone else taking payment and booking for you (even then, it’s challenging to stay on time). Chances are your retention will improve with more breathing room in your schedule, resulting in an increase in income even if you have one less slot per day available to make more time between appointments. If losing out on that income will cause you hardship, a slight price increase will balance it out.

AGREE ON A FINISH TIME

When we make appointments, the start time is always a known. The finish time is determined by adding the length of the massage to the start time. But that’s not always when we finish.

Time management during massages can be tricky. Sometimes the client has a long list of issues they want resolved, and each of them takes time. It’s also easy to get lost in our work and have the time get away from us, forcing us to scramble at the end of the session or leave things out.

We may have started late because the client was running behind or we spent too much time chatting before their massage. First-time clients’ appointments often begin late because we’re gathering more information from them than we do from return clients. Not knowing a massage is going to take longer than planned can turn an otherwise relaxing experience into a domino effect for a rushed rest of the day.

If the appointment starts a few minutes late, tell your client when you’ll be finishing up at the beginning of the session. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to adjust your treatment plan should your client’s schedule not accommodate that. Once you get their approval, keep your word.

WHEN MORE ISN’T BETTER

Most of us wish we had more time, and so do our clients. But that doesn’t mean our clients want to spend more time with us than they anticipated. It’s likely they have other commitments following their appointment with us that may be just as (or possibly more) important than a massage. Since they are checking out for a while, managing their time is our responsibility. Like babysitting, we’re being entrusted with something valuable and are obligated by agreement to treat it as if it were precious.

Should you find that you need more time to fulfill your treatment plan, let your client know with at least ten minutes left in the session. This gives them the opportunity to choose how they want the remaining time spent or to get a longer massage (if they have time and it won’t affect your next client). Blazing through the remaining areas to get a full body massage in or leaving sections untouched may not be what the client really wants, and since they’re paying for it, it’s their decision. Simply asking if they’d prefer a little time spent on each remaining area or more time in a particular area is usually enough to meet their needs.

Recently, I scheduled appointments with a physical therapist and a bodyworker I had never met. Although I was impressed with their knowledge and skills, I’m hesitant to book with either of them again for the same reason: they both went WAY over on time. I wasn’t watching the clock, but I knew we were going past the time I thought we’d be ending. Not only did it make me feel awkward paying them for less time than they actually spent with me, it also made me responsible for establishing a professional boundary they should have been monitoring. In both situations I happened to have free time after our appointment, but what if I hadn’t? We shouldn’t assume everybody perceives a longer appointment as a bonus.

There are so many quotes and clichés about how dear time is because it’s irreplaceable. By treating our appointment times as moments our clients will never get back, we come to value our own time more. Spending the time we share together as if it were sacred brings calm to our practices (for us and our clients) and supports sound businesses that truly honor our customers.


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.