Help is coming
The Federal CARES bill has just passed and has been signed to create one of the largest recovery efforts ever seen.
The bill will allow everyone working including people who are self employed to receive unemployment benefits in your state PLUS receive an additional $600 a week for 3 months. This is really unprecedented. Usually self employed people are not allowed to get unemployment benefits as they have not paid into the unemployment systems.
Your states unemployment offices will have more information. It will take time to implement this so you don’t count on it for income for right now.
Small business loans will also be available through the SBA and your local banks.
Here is the full bill text (PDF) if you have spare time and want to read it.
Maintain your business even while on pause
There are many things you can be doing to maintain your business and prepare it for coming off of pause. Keeping in contact with your clients individually or in a newsletter can help ease their fears of the possibility that your massage business many not be able to open when this is over. Many clients are offering to pay for packages to help massage therapists stay in business. It is also time to get creative. Can you do something like create an fundraiser to give gift certificates to nurses, doctors and hospital workers along with Fire and rescue departments after this is over?
Update your website page by page. If you are using WordPress the software sends a message to the search engines that new information has been posted or updated making your online presence stronger. It is a great time to continue adding content. A good website will have about 30 pages or more of content making it more attractive to search engines…they like content. Here is a big list of ideas for content. Your potential clients will also come to know that you are the expert in the area making you stand out from all of the others in the area. Start with creating a page of resources for your local massage therapists with information that you are finding about getting financial help and CE’s during this time. You might want to also consider creating a whole website for your local massage therapists like I have for WA State –-www.wamassagenetwork.com It started with focusing on CE classes and also way to connect local area groups of massage therapists. Right now with CE on hold, I am using it to create resources and provide updates on the coronavirus.
Restarting your massage business
The long term effects of the coronavirus on the massage profession is yet to be seen. There are many concerned that people won’t want to be touched after this. We have to start reframing their focus away from the touch aspect of massage and focus on the outcomes — less stress, less pain which means increased wellness as a result.
When will we be able to restart is a major concern of everyone’s. Everything you read anywhere is of course just conjecture so don’t let this get you overwhelmed.
Ideally going back to work will require that there be a vaccine and/or medication that can stop the virus. Could this ever get to a non-event and business will continue on as usual – with stringent cleaning protocols and clearer screening guidelines?
Learning to bill Insurance
Another concern is that many people are not working and the overall effect of this on people’s income and spending might change. As they become more frugal, it is again important to remember to focus on the outcomes– less stress, less pain and improved wellness. In some states, massage therapy is still seen more as a luxury although that seems to have changed over the years. Massage therapy is healthcare. It could be a big part of helping the Opioid Epidemic if only more doctors and health insurance companies saw it in that light. I have some ideas on how to make that happen and share the story of how WA State has been able to bill health insurance for over 20 years because of advocates in WA that made it happen.
In general, people who have their insurance paying for injuries sustained in car accidents or work accidents come in more often and the insurance will pay your going rate. Billing insurance in general could be a good way to stabilize your business. If you are not yet billing any insurance, you can start learning how to bill with my book The Massage Insurance Billing Manual. (I have checks coming in when we are on stay at home orders.)
Websites for making extra income
I have always recommended that massage therapists have another source of income. My personal second income is through things like this- having a website for massage therapists and writing ebooks etc. I also have a few other websites that I will now have more time to work on. Right now they have just been on hold and working on them very slowly so that they will be making me money when I planed to retire in 3 years. If you are an expert on a specific area of massage or any other topic, then maybe creating a website on that area/topic would be a great way to supplement your income. It won’t make you immediate income but when I started my first website to sell ebooks back in 2002, my first sales started coming in 4 months. Learn more about how to create residual income through a website. Here are some ideas for websites.Learn to bill insurance.
One of the things that is coming in handy right now is the fact that I have been billing insurance for clients – mainly health insurance which covers massage therapy in WA State. A few weeks ago and last week before everything went south, I billed insurance for about a dozen sessions. I will be getting paid in 2-4 weeks! Income doesn’t stop. People also will have a tendency to come in more often even during a recession when the insurance is paying. Learn to bill insurance (auto, workers comp and health insurance) and I wonder if we will find that more states need to adopt something like the Every Category Law like we have in WA that allows us to bill health insurance.
Some may close forever and change professions
It is inevitable that some massage therapists may have to close their business forever or some may want to come back only part time and choose another full time profession. As many close permanently, there will be less massage therapists in your area making YOU the expert. There has already been a big shortage of massage therapists that has been really affecting the massage franchises and small/large employers of massage. There will be more demand for massage therapists in the job arena making it so you can negotiate higher pay and benefits. What if massage therapists were also paid a fair hourly wage for every hour worked rather that the piecework method of pay?
Massage Schools. Many schools who were already struggling to attract people to the profession may close. The profession will need to change and adapt and come up with new ways of surviving. Schools are moving to online education. Why are they not doing this already for the anatomy, physiology and other non-handson subjects? Could that make massage school more attractive and less expensive? What if massage schools came together and created one online portal for all non-handson work so that everyone could be learning the same information and incorporating important things like the ELAP and the latest research into learning?
What does our profession need?
One of the things we are finding across the US is that governors and legislators really are not aware of who we are as massage therapists in healthcare. Here in WA State we have been considered to be essential workers during this time meaning that many are staying open until they are ordered to shut down. This is mainly massage therapists who work for chiropractors or others and don’t have a choice as to whether they should work or not. Read about the conundrum on my other website – www.wamassagenetwork.com
What if we had our associations or some association working to connect us to every governor and legislator to make them aware of what we do and who we are as a profession and were able to send one unified message to them all in the time of crises like this and anytime?
What if we had a National Political Action Committee who worked with the major massage associations to elect officials that understand and support massage therapists like the Physical therapists and chiropractors do? The PT’s and Chiro PACs raise a million or so each year for that reason and what if the massage profession could raise even more since there are about 350,00 of us around the US.
Help for this crisis was slow coming from our two major professional associations. Many massage therapists were looking for direction as to whether or not to close their business or how to handle this situation since the end of February and it was even mentioned in one local FB group at the end of January.
See also: Massage Therapists as Essential Workers