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 a weird, slow-moving chaos. This pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and many of us are feeling untethered and shocked. 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 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 watching Netflix and bottomless bowls of popcorn.
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.
If you rent your office space, the first step is to begin communicating with your landlord, if you haven’t already. 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 and that you are exploring relief options 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 communication. It could be more cost-effective to give up your space and start fresh when it is safe to work again, and there will likely be plenty of commercial spaces available as the economy rebounds.
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 your state’s attorney general office for guidance on resources and applicable emergency regulations.
Get Your Numbers Together
Now is a great time to get up to date on your bookkeeping for 2020 so far. It will also be helpful to have your 2019 taxes complete and to know your last 12 months of income and expenses in order to file for any loans or grants you may be eligible for.
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.
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, a spreadsheet, or old-style pen and paper. Do what works for you, but track it as you cancel appointments now, so you don’t have to rely on your memory later.
Know What the CARES Act Means to You
The CARES Act is a massive piece of legislation designed to help individuals and businesses weather this unprecedented halt to our normal lives and work. It contains information regarding direct cash payments you can expect, expanded unemployment benefits (including those for the self-employed), and SBA loans available through the CARES Act. There are a variety of programs that may help you and your business survive this extended time away from work.
As part of the CARES Act, most (but not all) federally issued student loans will pause required payments now through September 30, 2020, and interest will not accrue during that time. Check with your lender to see if your loans qualify. If they do not, you may still be eligible to have a few payments deferred with no additional fees or penalties.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) has also been expanded and the application process streamlined. Visit www.fns.usda.gov/snap/state-directory to find your state’s resources for SNAP benefits.
If you decide to use a loan to cover business expenses while you are out of work, be mindful about the repayment structure. Make sure you will be comfortable making loan payments as you slowly rebuild your business in a recovering economy.
For more information on the CARES Act, read “The CARES Act.”
Lock Down Your Spending
Look at your last few months of transactions. Eliminate any of your auto-debits and subscriptions that you can. If you have monthly subscription services, try to drop down to a cheaper (or, better yet, 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 delay auto loans and reduce credit card payments with no penalties or fees. If it makes sense for you—and it’s necessary to maintain 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.
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. A pause in massage may also give you time to consider an entirely new business.
Flexible online work options are only growing. You may have the skills to teach online or offer online services like web design, copywriting, transcription, or virtual assistant services.
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. Keep in mind, if you are receiving unemployment or SNAP benefits, you may also be eligible for free or very low-cost career training and education.
You’re Still a Massage Therapist
Even when you’re not putting your hands on your clients, you’re still a massage therapist. And your clients know that you are still their massage therapist.
Stay in touch with your clients. 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 to your blog (or finally start one!) and share via email and social media. If you had to cancel clients, you could even check in with them at what was previously their appointment time.
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 in your career that 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. But there will be a time when you can massage again. Let’s get ready for that day and use this time to prepare to emerge stronger than before.
This article also appeared in the special COVID-19 issue of Massage & Bodywork.www.massagebusinessblueprint.com, where you can catch up on all the latest podcast episodes and access resources to keep your massage business breathing.