I was a brand new, rising star of a massage therapist . . . OK, who are we kidding, I was just starting off and only had two regular clients. I had all the time in the world, and I had an awesome connection with one of my new clients. I did what any new massage therapist would do—I talked to the client for an hour, then got her on the table for her one-hour massage. As I got busier, I struggled with spending less time talking with this client. It put a strain on our relationship as client/therapist and there was a wishy-washy boundary between a professional relationship and a friendship because we spent so much time before her weekly massage talking about our lives.
Running a tight schedule is an extremely important part of having a successful massage practice. If you do not stick to the agreed-upon appointment time, it can be harmful to your business. Just so we are all on the same page, the scenario I am citing in this article is about running over on time when the client is unaware, and you do not intend on charging them for it. The time overflow could be anywhere from five minutes to an hour. It has happened to all of us, but here is why you should stop.
- It is Disrespectful of Their Time
I know you think you’re doing the client a favor by giving them bonus time, but they have places to be. Nothing ruins a great massage like looking at the clock at the end and realizing you’re going to be rushed off the table and out the door because you have somewhere to be.
This has happened to me as a client—I had a massage therapist go over on time as a bonus to me because she appreciated me as a client. I got off the table all dreamy and relaxed, eased my way out of the room, checked out, and floated to my car. ERRRRR! My world came to a screeching halt when I turned on my car and the little digital clock showed a time that was way later than I expected. She’d given me extra time, and I had no idea. Then I was late for the thing I had to go to.
2. It Makes It About You and Not Them
When treating clients, it’s easy for our egos to slip into the picture. We feel like we can heal everyone with the beautiful gift of massage. The more seasoned you become as a massage therapist, however, the more you realize you cannot heal everyone. Giving someone extra time because they “need the work” is led by the ego. It’s your ego saying, “I can heal this person if I just have 10 more minutes.” Let it go and work on it in the next session.
3. You Get Less of a Break Between Clients
Giving a client more time on the table means less of a break between clients for you. This is a recipe for burnout.
4. You Are Setting the Expectation for it to Happen Every Time
Spending extra time with a client turns into an expectation. It is going to put stress on your therapist–client relationship if there comes an appointment where you can’t give the extra time.
5. It Encourages Lateness or Clients Arriving Early
When therapists end up running over appointment times, it’s usually because the client arrived late and we feel bad that the client is not getting their full table time. But this encourages the client to be careless about punctuality. They learn that even if they are late, they’ll still get their full time. What is the incentive for them to be on time? The same goes for clients who arrive very early. If you take a client in early and give them their full appointment time plus the extra time at the beginning, they will be encouraged to continue the behavior. They will realize the earlier they arrive, the more free table time they will receive.
6. It Makes It Less Likely for Them to Rebook
Clients are coming to see you because you provide structure, respect, and care. Being clear about the amount of time you spend with a client is a great way to have firm boundaries. Ending a session when there is still work to do is a great opportunity to educate your client. It took months or years to create the patterns we are addressing in the body. You cannot be expected to “fix” it all in an hour. Give them something to look forward to the next time and a reason to rebook.
7. It Puts Pressure on Your Clients to Spend More Money Than They Planned For
When you give a client extra time, it puts pressure on them to tip you more or to pay for the extra time, even if that is not your intention. This situation can put undue stress on your therapist-client relationship. Remedy this potentially awkward situation in advance by asking the client if they would like to upgrade their session before the session begins.
8. It Makes It Harder to Upsell the Client to Buy a Longer Session in the Future
It is simple to say, “we keep running out of time, you should consider coming in for a 90-minute session next time.” It is impossible to upsell if you are turning their 60-minute massage into a 90-minute massage by going over on time and not charging them.
9. It Cuts Into Your Bottom Line
Most massage therapists charge by the hour. Every minute you go over is another minute you are not being paid. Employees with other jobs would not dream of working for free—why should you? If it looks like you’re about to go over on time, a great alternative is to simply ask the client if they would like to upgrade their massage to a longer session. Tell them the price difference and see if they are OK with it. This is a way to increase your revenue and build your business. If a client is late, be up front with them that you cannot give them extra time, even if you do have the time. Setting that boundary with everyone is extremely important. Trust me, I struggled with late clients for years. It is extremely freeing when you stick to your boundaries and have clear rules for all your clients, no matter how much you like them.