Seated Solution

The Ideal Niche Service

By Loren Blowers

Whether your practice is flourishing or floundering or if you’re just starting out, I have good news and profitable suggestions for your business. There is one area of consumerism still holding its own in this unsteady economy: demand for the affordably priced item that is of acceptable quality, offering maximum gratification. Sales of affordable, enjoyable items, such as books and gourmet coffee drinks, are in this category. In our field, the ideal niche service is seated massage.

Yes, you’ve heard of it. And no, don’t turn up your nose (like I did). Long, long ago, I maintained the staunch prejudice that seated massage was massage lite, perfectly acceptable as a compromise offering to clients, but lacking the authenticity, professionalism, and efficacy of skilled table work. Not so. But I tend to learn things the hard way. 

To be perfectly clear, I’m suggesting a creative alternative, a widely distributable, professionally enjoyable, and suitably profitable application of seated massage. I refer to this as on-site seated massage—massage in the workplace. There are still plenty of profitable, wellness-oriented firms in business.

Any prosperous industry offers several advantages, including a workforce that can actually afford to regularly (e.g., once/week, twice/month) purchase a seated massage. The setting is especially beneficial. In order to build and maintain a clientele and make money, you need a convenient surplus of potential customers who don’t move around a lot. They’re not getting in and out of planes, catching cabs, hurrying from one store to the next. They’re at their desks (quite literally stuck), shouldering phones to ear while typing and working long hours more diligently than ever to ensure job security. Cutbacks have left remaining employees overburdened, but uncomplaining, which brings up our first business concern.

Is there a demand? Based on my personal experience, there is. Given the unparalleled anxiety and stress levels generated by today’s economy, massage is a physical and psychological health imperative. So, our first business concern has been addressed. The demand for massage is there. More than ever, the need is there.

Next hurdles: time and money. Taking your services to the customer and making your product affordable, convenient, and uniquely desirable can overcome the combined paucity of these two vital consumer resources. Plenty of businesses will welcome your services. I recommend the banking industry (yes, it still has money), the defense industry, factory workers, the insurance industry, law firms, mortgage companies, medical manufacturers, practitioners (including hospitals), and software companies. The list of potential markets is limited only by your geographic location and imagination. Do some research to find out who is in your neighborhood. 

Selling Your Product

How do you get your foot in the door? You may already have your foot in the door and not know it. Check with your existing clients. Perhaps you perform bodywork on a paralegal, a nurse, a bank executive. That is how I acquired my first on-site contract. One of my clients asked if I would consider (imagine that!) offering seated massage at her office.

With or without this advantage, you must sell yourself and your product. Professionalism in every aspect of your presentation is paramount. Sadly, disreputable stowaways have plagued massage therapy. However, suspicions will evaporate quickly if you present yourself as a respectable, highly qualified therapist. Nevertheless, most offices today require background checks. In addition to legitimate trade-generated suspicions, the company you approach will want to know it’s not subcontracting to a criminal.

If you don’t have a client referral, there are several well-traveled marketing paths. Introduce yourself with a creative mailer, including a few business cards. One mailing may not be enough, but since this is not mass marketing, the cost will not crush you. I utilize my own publishing software, which keeps overhead at a minimum. E-mail also works nicely. You must convince your target audience that massage improves health, elevates mood, and thus can boost office morale, diminish interoffice tensions, and help improve job performance and production. Convince your desired site that your services will benefit their company. Show them the research. You won’t be treading on company time because a 10-minute massage can be performed during breaks mandated by state labor laws. 

Most likely, you will interview with an office manager. It’s possible you will face a panel of upper-level human resource personnel. Arrive prepared to impress.

I caution against wearing your favorite toga, even if it matches the Dalai Lama’s. I’m half-teasing. After all, I have been referred to as “the lady with blue hair,” but, I try to keep my eccentricities in check, especially in this competitive market. With the ability to comfortably perform bodywork in mind, dress as you would for your first day of employment in a conservative office.

Have your professional portfolio ready. It is much more than a resume. I have an attractive leather, window-front binder. It doesn’t take a lot of money to look professional. (See Your Portfolio on page 62.)

This next recommendation may not seem obvious until after I mention it: get a seated massage! Get several. It feels good and it’s a tax write-off. Diploma and all, I felt inadequately prepared for my first day of work. You can learn some wonderful techniques from others. 

Captivating Clients

Now that you’ve arrived, how do you build your business? How do you keep your clients coming back weekly, vying for coveted positions on your sign-up sheet? Day one (and every day thereafter), you will want to fill your schedule and leave with money in your pocket. These goals go hand in hand. It is extremely important, however, to seek management approval for everything you do, from including mild aromatherapy in your work to using the refrigerator to store your lunch.

Post your sign-up sheet at least one week in advance. As with everything you’ve done so far, make it exceptional. If possible, create your own easily seen and accessible wall space, next to the bulletin board, next to the water cooler or coffee maker, wherever you can be featured (not just seen). After all, you are not part of the labor grind with its endless demands. You are the soft breeze, the calming respite, the sympathetic ear.

Make your sign-up sheet eye-catching. Post an inspiring or humorous thought or comic next to your sign-up sheet, something that can be regularly changed. Have an attractive display of your business cards or business fliers next to your sign-up sheet. These can feature your website and off-site location with a full spectrum of services.

Your eagerly anticipated first visit may also be announced with an office memo or e-mail, complete with introductory, as well as regular, pricing. The distribution of this notice will most likely be the responsibility of one of the office personnel. In an executive environment, it is generally not acceptable to approach employees for business. What a relief!

Some companies will pay for or subsidize each employee’s first massage. This is a lucky break. You may choose not to ask this of management yourself, but there are other ways to get the idea approved. If you have the benefit of a client introduction, your client can safely present the idea of the company footing the bill. It is a write-off. And it makes the boss look like a champ.

If that doesn’t happen, I recommend a 50 percent discount for each first visit. With rare exception, I do not recommend offering free massages, not even for 10 minutes. It’s unnecessary. If, however, you feel compelled to offer a free massage in order to generate interest, call it complimentary. And cut back your time. For example, the first five minutes are complimentary. I’m confident at the end of those five minutes your client is going to ask for another five and be willing to pay for the entire session (at the introductory rate). Regular pricing will vary according to clientele and area. I charge one or two dollars less per session than the local mall, striking a deal without scalping myself.

I recommend setting a minimum number of appointments per day. For example, if you’re performing four  10-minute massages per hour with a five-minute break in-between each, you may want to set a minimum of six appointments to make it worth your while. Otherwise, explain you will not be coming that day. Check your sign-up sheets 24–48 hours in advance. I’ve been practicing on-site for about a year and have never had to cancel due to lack of interest. There’s also an inherent advantage to setting a minimum number of appointments. Not wanting to miss out on their own massage, your most loyal clients will urge others to sign up. With a full schedule, you will disburse your product as widely as possible, thus meeting your first marketing objective, client referral.

Seated Massage with a Spa Mind-set

You don’t have to miss out on the joy of providing a luxurious, pampering massage. Bring the spa to your clients. This will set your seated massage apart from all the rest and make it absolutely irresistible.

Most offices feature a conference room. This is an ideal spot in which to work. You can transform it into cloud nine for your clients while working with the space available. Here are my top picks. Work with a fresh cut flower (be mindful of allergies) or slices of lemon or orange floating in an attractive bowl. I always use aromatherapy with a lightly scented cloth, immaculately white and neatly folded over the face cradle bar. I restrict my aromatherapy to citrus, lavender, or vanilla. A small, portable sound dock and iPod provide soft background music. In an environment where music cannot be used, I offer headphones (for hygiene’s sake, use the kind that don’t go into the ears).

The massage itself does not have to be unadorned. I almost always use a back warmer and occasionally   hand warmers as well. Sore hands are common in an office. Because of time constraints, I offer hand warmers by request, gently reminding clients that an extended hand massage takes away from another aspect of the massage. Slide the warmer onto your client right when he or she sits down and later your praises will be sung throughout the office.

Along with an outstanding seated massage, these luxuries will transport your clients to a realm far beyond the aggravations of the workplace. Extra touches include: a bowl for jewelry during the work, a hand mirror to refresh hair and makeup afterward, and a mint and a drink of fresh water to go.     

Professional Boundaries and Confidentiality

Now that everyone is crazy about you, you’re going to run into some manageable problems. The one with the most destructive potential is office gossip. As nice as your clients are, you will be on the receiving end of gossip, anything from office relationships to “I’m quitting this miserable job and not giving notice.” Clients will often say in a belated moment of self-awareness, “ I shouldn’t have said …” Reassure clients that whatever they’ve told you will not be repeated. Their trust will deepen and so—perhaps unfortunately—will their confidences.

Secondly, hone your passive listening skills. In such a close environment, you cannot pick sides and agree that “Yes, the boss does seem like a jerk,” because by now he’s one of your best clients. Instead, a sincere, “I’m so sorry to hear he treats you like that,” offers sympathy without partiality. There are several good books on the subject of passive listening.

As time goes by, it’s likely you’ll be invited to lunch or some other social function. As a personal choice, I always decline, citing scheduling conflicts. You’ll be pleased to discover that once you’ve graciously made yourself unavailable, no one will hound you. Your desire for distance will be amicably respected. Socializing in an office microcosm opens Pandora’s box and results in making friends and losing business.

Occasionally, work or other pressures overwhelm and one of your clients may start to cry during the massage. This presents another unique challenge. You have 10 short minutes, clients waiting, and your present client must soon return dry-eyed to face her coworkers. In microwave time, you must provide compassion while helping your client to quickly pull herself back together. No doubt you’re adequately trained to handle the emotional aspect of this situation. However, the practical, business consequence is your schedule will be thrown off by several critical minutes, perhaps an entire appointment. Don’t panic. Go with it. Let all of your subsequent clients know you’re running behind. You will find they are very understanding.

In turn, you will also need to be flexible. Office employees are prisoners of the telephone. Furthermore, they cannot always drop what they’re doing and lope off to the conference room (much as they would love to). Be creative and ready to trade one client’s massage time for another. Make it clear that signing up does not lock a client into a time slot. Business obligations come first. You will work around their schedule. Otherwise they will not sign up again. Watch out for abusers though. I have one client who almost never makes his appointment time. I keep him at a low priority, often moving him to the end of my full schedule. To this he takes no offense. We seem to have developed an unspoken agreement.

A Profitable Future

By now, it has probably occurred to you that your on-site seated clients may easily be converted to off-site table clientele. To facilitate this, on the cloud nine conference table (or elsewhere), display attractive, holiday-specific gift certificates. If there’s no upcoming holiday, exhibit a birthday or anniversary certificate. These can be for either location, 60 minutes at the spa or for coworkers who want to purchase on-site massages for one another.

There are several other tributaries for branching and building your business. Another company recently recruited one of my best clients. I am now in the process of acquiring his new workplace as an on-site business. Other companies in the same building where you’re already working may be interested in on-site massage. Do your job well and your services will be highly recommended.

Fondly recalling my first on-site day, I remember being uncomfortably submerged in a sea of suits, ties, dresses, and makeup. As I walked through the office, I received many suspicious glances that said quite loudly, “Oh dear, it’s the weird massage lady.” And I felt like the weird massage lady. I was out of my element (or so I thought). That day turned out to be a raging success. My on-site practice was an instant delight—personally, professionally, and financially. Since then, it has helped to restore my previously dwindling income, and through it I’ve rebuilt a respectable table practice. Best of all, the opportunities seem to be limitless. Now that’s a sweet sound.


 Loren Blowers, MS, CMT, is a practicing massage therapist and freelance writer in California. A graduate of the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in biometry, she has published research findings
in medical journals such as the American Journal of Cardiology and Cancer Causes
and Control. Contact her at



Your Portfolio

Presentation is everything when you’re introducing yourself to a corporation’s managers. Your professional portfolio shows you’ve done your research and you’re ready to contribute to employee wellness.

Purchase a quality binder and only include pristine copies of your materials.

For the front cover, a quality photograph of you performing seated massage would work nicely, or utilize one of the many beautiful pictures featuring bodywork (not a lot of skin) available online.

The first page should be a letter, an introduction, or your resume.

The next pages are your clearance credentials, any and all licensing and security or health screenings required in your area, including proof of liability insurance. You may want to include a sample intake form, if applicable.

Include your relevant diplomas in clear, protective pockets. The first diploma on display is for seated massage. However, in my neighborhood you do not need to have a certificate in seated massage to practice. Check the specific requirements in your area.

Have at least one article or newsletter verifying the health benefits of massage therapy—something that applies to the workplace. Keep an extra copy or two on hand to leave with your potential on-site executives.

Include a few letters of praise from clients. Start collecting them now, if you haven’t already.

Bring a blank sign-up sheet. You never know, they might want you to start right away.