Financially Surviving COVID-19
Crisis Management for Your PracticeBy Allissa Haines and Michael Reynolds
To say, “We’re in uncertain times” is the understatement of the decade. To me, it feels like weird, slow-moving chaos. This pandemic is unlike anything we have ever experienced, and many of us are feeling untethered and shocked. When bad and scary things happen, it is human nature to want to take action. We’re going to help you determine what action to take and how to work through the logistics of pausing a massage business.
Before and between handling all the things that need to be handled, take a break. Remember that not every decision needs to be made urgently right now. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll get more information about the trajectory of this pandemic and the resources available to help us all through.
Adjust your expectations for actually getting anything accomplished. If you’re home with kids or a partner or other family, it’s going to be hard to focus. If you’re secluded alone, it can be tough to get motivated to do anything (outside of Netflix, bottomless bowls of popcorn, and keeping the kids corralled).
Try to figure out a system that works best for you, whether it be a scheduled time to work when the kids are in front of the TV or asking a friend to check in and hold you accountable to your to-do list. None of us is getting a “full” workday in. Whatever that meant to you before, be flexible in your interpretation of productivity right now.
Communicate with Your Landlord(s)
If you rent your office space, the first step is to begin communicating with your landlord. Be clear about your situation, and if you are entirely out of work say so. Be clear that you have no idea how long you will be out of work or what relief will be available for small business owners. Ask if they have any guidance or solutions on how to proceed. Your landlord may be willing to work with you on reduced or suspended rent throughout this time.
If your landlord is not flexible, you have more difficult decisions to make about keeping your space or giving notice—and you may need to seek legal advice about breaking a lease if it comes to that. But you won’t know anything until you open that line of communication.
If you also rent your residence, a similar conversation may be necessary with that landlord. Do keep in mind that new state and federal regulations regarding evictions during the pandemic are coming out daily. If necessary, contact the office of your state attorney general for guidance on resources and applicable emergency regulations.
If you have mail delivered to your office and it will be difficult to collect, consider having it forwarded to your home temporarily. You can do this online at www.USPS.com.
Keep a list of any appointments you have canceled and the amount of income you would have received from them. You may do this in your scheduling software, on a spreadsheet, or by using old-style pen and paper. Do what works for you, but track cancellations as they occur so you don’t have to rely on your memory.
Lock Down Spending
Look at your last few months of transactions. Eliminate any auto-debits and subscriptions you can. If you have monthly subscription services, see if you can drop down to a cheaper or free level of service while your business is paused. Consider your bulk email provider, website hosting, bookkeeping software, scheduling system, phone, etc.
If you are paying utilities on your office space and can safely get to the office, turn the heat down, unplug everything possible, and consider canceling your internet service.
In your personal accounts, defer any payments you can, for as long as you can. You may be able to defer student loan payments or other debt. Drop your payments on credit card debt to the minimum amount required. If it makes sense for you and it is necessary to maintain a minimum cash flow for living expenses, pause your retirement investing temporarily (the key word being temporarily).
Do that math to figure out how long you can live on the cash you have. That will give you some perspective and help you make decisions moving forward.
Plan for Taxes
If you haven’t yet, file your taxes by April 15, 2020, as required. As of the writing of this piece, taxes must still be filed by April 15, however the IRS is allowing all individual filers to defer April 15, 2020, payments until July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest. This includes your first quarter estimated tax payments. Talk to your accountant or tax preparer regarding when, if, and how much to pay your first and second quarter estimated taxes now that your income projections for 2020 have changed. Visit www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the most current information regarding federal taxes, and visit your state’s website for their current updates.
Stay in Touch
Even when you’re not putting hands on clients, you’re still a massage therapist. And your clients know that you are still their massage therapist, so stay in touch with them. They could probably use a little reassurance from you.
Now is a good time to share all the self-care and wellness tips you’ve gathered in your career. Post these tips to your blog (or start one if you don’t currently have one!), and share them via email and social media. If you had to cancel clients, you might check in with them—at what was previously their appointment time—to see how they are doing.
Consider Additional Income Ideas
If your client base is economically diverse, you may be able to extend to virtual services that complement your practice or sell your retail products online. Flexible online work options are only growing.
A pause in massage may also give you time to consider an entirely new business. Many of us came to massage from other careers and will venture off into new ones. Now could be a good time to explore those options and brush up on the necessary skills. You may have the skills to teach online or offer online services like web design, copywriting, transcription, or virtual assistant services.
Plan to Rebuild Your Dream Practice
While massage is paused, do some work on your business. Consider what you love and what you don’t. An extended absence is a great time to think about what you would do differently if you were starting from scratch. Soon enough, we will be starting fresh, and the reemergence could be a great time to make the changes you’ve been thinking about for years.
Life probably won’t be the same as it was before this global crisis, and we need to continue to support each other with kindness and love. There will be a time when you can massage again. For now, let’s get ready for that day and use this time to prepare to emerge stronger than before.Find Allissa and Michael at www.massagebusinessblueprint.com, where you can catch up on all the latest podcast episodes and access resources to keep your massage business breathing.