Thursday, November 29, 2012


Hang sign on the door, 
show up at the correct time, 
The myth of easy.  

It is supposed to be easy. According to school, if marketing is covered at all, it should be easy. Once you get a client, they will talk about how great you are to all of their friends, and those friends will schedule appointments, and before the week is out, the calendar will be full of strangers seeking massage. Easy. 
Except it does not work that way. Or, rather, it is not wise to assume it will work that way. 
Word of mouth is important. There is no more powerful advertising, really. Unfortunately, it seems people do not actually talk about the great massage they just got. And those that do, may or may not be talking to someone who is in the market for a massage. One of the secrets to massage therapy is that it is very much a matter of individual taste. 
I am very very good at what I do. I have a wide variety of skills, I am well trained in techniques both subtle and deep, I am strong and attentive. None of which means that every single person I see will respond well to the massage I give. Finding the right massage therapist for every individual is a challenge that cannot be underestimated. And it is not something that is well discussed. But the reality is, massage therapy is very much about finding the right individual to address the specific needs and concerns of each person. I am very good at what I do, and I work hard to expand the breadth and depth of my skill set (that is, learn new techniques, and practice the techniques I already have; mastery means is a very long road indeed). I still recommend other therapists, who practice other techniques and styles of massage, to specific clients. One size does not fit all. 
In the modern age, we have review sites, such as Yelp! Which is, in some ways, taking  the word of mouth idea to a larger audience. I have a number of reviews, from people who are very happy with what I have done. And those reviews have, over time, brought more people to my studio. I think a large part of that is that I try to be very clear about what kind of massage I do. I am provide therapeutic massage. Whether I am using techniques subtle (such as Cranio Sacral) or deep (such as passive stretching), the goal of my massage is to address specific concerns. I want and work for my clients to feel better at the end of the massage, for the massage to feel good. But I believe and practice the idea that it is not enough to feel good in the moment. I work to repair and release long held tensions, so that the good feeling of the massage lasts for more than just a few hours or a day. 
Of course, Yelp only works for people who look at it. And their business model includes selling advertising space, for other massage clinics and practitioners on my business page. Which causes some amount of confusion, in my experience. So, I have a website, a blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+. Daily posts and emails reminding people that I am here, waiting and eager and ready to lend my skills to solving your problems.
And, I have specials. Checkins via Yelp!, my weekly Tuesday "Wear a Kilt, Get a Discount" deal, and others in the works. Watch this space for more information, coming soon.
The work of Massage is not Massage. 

Monday, November 5, 2012


Table chair or floor,
Use the right tool for the job
To get best results.
Massage is not a hardware intensive kind of job. Unlike, say, technical writing (my former profession), massage is something that should be doable anywhere with anyone who is willing. And that is certainly true to an extent. At home with my love, when she needs some massage on her shoulders and neck, it's not necessarily worth the time to get out the massage table, sheets, oils etc. She sits down on the floor in front of me, and I get to work. Or she lies down on the bed and I rub her feet. The skills I have are far more important than the tools I use.
Which is not to say that my tools are irrelevant. All the skill in the world is for naught if there is no way to bring it to bear on the problem at hand. So, what are the "tools" that make for a great massage? <br>
First and foremost, obviously, my hands. My hands are where I make contact, though I actually do not really use my hands in the way many people seem to expect; I am frequently asked, don't your hands get tired from doing this all day. And the true answer is, no. Not at all. I learned techniques and styles of massage that emphasize proper body mechanics and the application of leverage. This, combined with a knowledge of anatomy, the ability to listen and respond to subtle responses, and an awareness of the flow of energy through the body has far more to do with the giving of a good massage than how large or strong my hands are. Of course, having big, strong hands is not a disadvantage.
Then there is the studio. Having a separate, unique space just for massage does a lot to enhance the experience. It is my way of creating a professional and respectful space where people feel safe and comfortable relaxing. Having it clean, well lit, and in a good accessible location (with free parking) is all a part of making the process of getting a massage as stress free and enjoyable an experience as possible. Having it furnished and decorated in a way that reflects what I do and how I practice is all a part of demonstrating my commitment to providing the best massage possible.
Finally, there is the table. Which is heated, and set low enough to the ground as to be to easy to get on and off of, as well as providing me the leverage I need to bring the appropriate pressure to bear.
For those times when there's less time for a massage, I have my massage chair. Two and a half plus years of practice have taught me to be able to do more in ten minutes of chair massage than some people can do in sixty. Sometimes, a ten minute snack sized massage is all that there is time to do. That does not mean it should be done with anything less than my fullest attention to detail. I believe in making every minute count, no matter how many minutes there are in the massage session. People should not pay for time their massage therapist wastes. Most recently, I have brought in a floor mat. There are some techniques and styles of massage that are simply better done on the floor than on the table; Shiatsu, myofascial release, and many others. Having a simple futon is a vast improvement over the hardwood floor, while at the same time providing better leverage for massage than the table.

It is as Scotty once said, You have to have the right tool for the job.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


rain falls from the sky,
gathers into a river,
line around the block

Working, as I do, on my own and in my own space, I have the distinct advantage of setting my own rates, and creating my own specials. If I want to offer a friend a discount, or barter for services, I have that option, as well. By the same token, I am solely responsible for my expenses. I have to pay the rent on my space, take care of the laundry, maintain my supply of ... supplies. It all falls on me, and I have to be the one to balance it all.
Fortunately, my expenses are not overwhelming, and I am good enough at math to be able to set reasonable rates without breaking anyone's bank.
My basic, off the street rate is $65 for 60 minutes, $95 for 90 minutes, $130 for 120 minutes. I accept Visa, Master Card, Discover and American Express. Of course, if you decide to pay cash, I give a $5 discount.
Also, if you rebook with me within a month of your appointment, I will get you in for $55 an hour, $80 for 90 minutes, $95 for 120 Minutes.
And if you wake up one day, or you are at work, and you decide or find that you really  need a massage, and you need to see me today, I offer Same Day special rate of $35 an hour, $50 for 90 Minutes, $70 for 120 minutes (same price, cash or credit). Call it a reward for procrastinating, but the offer is subject to availability. No other discounts apply.
As for specials, I have a few. I give a "Check in" special discount as well as gift certificates through Yelp!. Also, I have a Groupon Deal coming soon. And I have a few other special deals in the works. Watch this space for new and announcements as they happen.
Finally, there is barter. I happily accept service for service. In particular, I need to talk to someone about  book keeping and accounting, as well as seeking some interior decoration. Feel free to drop me a line and ask, if you have goods or services to trade. We may be able to make a deal.

(Update 11-2-12)
I should maybe make this a separate post, but I have no wish to waste your time and bandwidth. And it is, frankly, a short addition.
With the new location, I am offering a new referral program. After you come to see me, tell your friends. When they come to see me, have your friends tell me you sent them. Five referrals and you get a free 60 minute massage. Or, if 7 people come in (for at least an hour each), they you get a free 90 Minute massage. I keep track of it all. No cards to carry, no online services to check in with, no apps to download. Easy, convenient and rewarding. Just as it should be.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Step on to the path

the road rise up to meet you

sometimes it's easy

I have a studio now, and it is awesome.

It is bigger, at least twice as much square footage as my previous location. While that is not going to have much effect, make much difference to my clients, it means I do not bang into walls, or kick my shelf units, or make a lot of extraneous noise while I am moving around the table. It means I can position myself to get better leverage, and really dig deeply into those stubborn muscular knots that require more attention.

It is more central. Being in Ballard, I am closer to and more accessible. Of course, since I am not in the middle of Ballard, there is plenty of free parking (around the back). Also, close by the #40 bus line, and only a few blocks from the D Line Rapid Ride (at NW Leary Way & 15th Ave NW). Right off the Burke Gillman trail, it is easy to get to no matter how you get around.

It less expensive. Literally, less than half my previous rent (in fairness, rent at my previous location was enough to pay for a studio apartment on Capitol Hill). Being independent, I can set my own hours, and my own rates. And pass the savings in rent and overhead on to my clients.

My website has all the location, contact and booking information. Check it out and ping me if you have any questions.

Monday, October 15, 2012


South Side Seattle
Airplanes screaming overhead
Plum blossoms blooming

When the summer began, I worked at the airport, as I had for the last two and a half years.
Then that ended.
I started working with a small clinic in Georgetown.
Yesterday, that ended.
Massage is a strange business. Those of us who are doing the work tend to be of a particular mindset. To say that many massage therapists are a bit flakey is not an unfair generalization. Not all of us, of course, but enough to lend credence to the cliche. And so, we tend to need help with the business aspect of running a business. Scheduling, billing, maintaining supplies and clean sheets and clean space... a thousand and one little things that are all very important, but are easily overlooked.
Often, it is easier to let someone else do that, so we can focus on the art and science and practice of massage.
The downside to that is that relying on someone else to do the business work, means losing control over the business. It means, not setting ones own prices, schedule, priorities. It means being answerable to someone other than the clients one sees, everyday. If a person has a question, rather than asking the therapist directly, they can (and often do) bring it to "management". And if the management is not an especially adept business person, problems can arise.
It is a job, for everyone involved. If the management is doing their half, things run smoothly. Concerns are addressed in a reasonable manner, supplies and schedules are kept an maintained. Bills gets paid, therapists get paid, everyone works and everyone benefits.
And when management falls down on the job, it is the therapist who suffers. Lack of supplies, changes of schedule or pricing or client expectations, increases in rent or decrease in pay. A thousand and one little things that can go wrong, and in the short term at least, the clients and the therapists are the ones dealing with the consequences.
Well, no more. One thing I have learned this summer is that I do not want to work for anyone but me. I can handle the extra work of maintaining my own  schedule, of renting a space (in a location to be determined, but Ballard is looking good right about now), paying rent and keeping supplies and maintaing client lists and schedules and everything I have yet to learn.
I am not going to pretend I will not make mistakes. I will not say I will never have to apologize to a client. But I can say this, that I will always do my best to make things right, when I am wrong. I will never deliberately do wrong by anyone I work on, and I will maintain the highest standards of professionalism.
Besides, how hard can it be, really?

Sunday, May 27, 2012


think about money
must have before you make it
creative finance

So. I just learned that is a valid way of funding a local start up business. Such as, for example, a massage studio. Like mine.
At the moment, I have a space, I have all the equipment I need, I advertise and spread the word as best as I can. And I have, in the four months I have been open for business, had exactly three paying clients. Additionally, I have done some trades, part of getting the word out.
I knew that getting this studio started was going to be slow. I expected that. I had hopes of maybe having three paying client hours a week within six months, and I thought I was being realistic in that assessment. Not so much.
I think there are a lot of factors here. One is that there is a lot of competition. People find a therapist they like, and they stick with that person. Which is as it should be; there is nothing more important, no technique or trick or tool in a massage therapists bag that is more vital than the ability to connect with their client, and do what the client needs. For a client, finding someone who works with you, who you respond to, is worth any price.
For those who have not yet found that person, there are literally dozens of local massage studios and spas and chiropractors who have a massage therapist on staff. And, of the latter, they take insurance, which lowers the out of pocket expenses for the client. For those without insurance, or who do not want to, or cannot use their insurance, there are still coupons and deals and discounts. There are always ways to lower the prices of massage, to get bodies on the table.
And of course, that is part of the issue, as well. I am not cheap. I have a day job, so I have decided to set my prices to a level where it is worthwhile for me to work, where I would (were I working full time) be able to support myself on this alone. I have realized / concluded, there is no one I want to work for as much as I want to work for myself. Which means, of course, many people who might come to me otherwise find me too expensive.
Part of that is the prevailing wisdom of the profession. Within the massage community of practitioners says ... well, many things. One is a kind of agreement about setting prices. Nothing so formal or legal as price fixing. There are no consequences to giving away massage at lower than the going rate. Just ... a kind of social pressure, a constant message that says "low prices equals bad quality".
Aside from that, setting a lower price point for my services means, having to work more hours for the same result. To a very real extent, the nature of the work requires that I only work a particular number of hours, per week, at top form. In a nutshell, I can only do my best for a while. Working too much means not working as hard and not doing good work. So... the price I charge is, in part, determined by how much I can work, in a week, and still do the quality of work that I willing to accept. Frankly, I have a very high standard I set for myself.

So, yah. In a nutshell, getting a massage studio started and making a living at it is difficult. This is not news to me. More difficult than I even expected? Not really much of a surprise, I tend to underestimate the difficulty of tasks that I choose for myself.

And then there is Kickstarter.
I could, in theory, create a project, to fund the foundation and funding of a new massage studio. Get rent paid (on the studio space) for six months, or a year. Get more linens, oils, maybe a washer dryer, other supplies (better table). Kickstarter seems to work best with  rewards for people who fund it. But that is easy enough. Discounts, and free massages, for those who contribute at various levels. T shirts, even, because any studio I do is going to be geek centric, and we do love our T shirts.
Right now, today, I am just realizing that such a thing is possible. I was kind of under the impression that Kickstarter projects needed to have a wider appeal, that intrinsically local projects were not really a feasible or worthwhile project. Discovering that this is not  the case .,. opens possibilities.
No idea what I will do with it, yet. But there it is. A possibility. Maybe an opportunity.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


touch skin muscle bone
deep tissue subtle movement
fixing when it hurts

I know what it feels like hurt.
My first job was doing Tech Support, then Tech Writing. I filled in for the manuals that people never read, then I started writing them.
I was laid off four times in four years. I lived in constant tug of war between the hope of a huge public IPO, and the dread of the failure of the company (you can guess which one actually happened).
I spent hours a day in front of the computer. For work, for fun, for communication and socialization.
My shoulders became one with my ears. My lower back, my arms and wrists and hands. My knees. I understood the idea of ergonomic seating. I just never actually practiced it. It was not a big deal. It was just my job, finding a way to fix the problems people had with their computers, so they could do their jobs.

I know what it feels like to stop hurting.
I never got massaged as much as I should have, but every time I did, I swore I would not go so long before the next one.
It felt good to be relaxed. To be able to move more normally. To lose the tensions I had spent months holding on to, to let go of aches and pains I as not aware I even had. The healing process was begun, and I knew it was as important to healthy functioning as drinking enough water and eating right.
The fact I lived on Jolt Cola and Pizza was probably pretty telling.

I know what to do to make it stop hurting.
After the last layoff, after the divorce and the moving out and starting over, I studied massage. I started with studying anatomy, the way the human body is put together and how the bones and muscles all move together. Then I studied Deep Tissue, Passive stretching and focussed resistance, swedish, Prenatal. And even now, my education continues. Everything I learn, building on everything I have already learned.
I started my Massage career where I ened my Tech Career, in Silicon Valley. My clients were mostly tech workers, and worked at relaxing the same kinds of tense shoulders and sore lower back issues that I knew so well from the inside. I found that those kinds of tension were not limited or unique to high tech professionals.
The solutions are not unique, either. I listen to what you say is bothering you, I observe the way you hold yourself and how you move, and I spend the first few minutes of the massage finding and tracing the tensions in your muscles, and then the rest releasing them from the source.

I used to make computers better.
Now I  make life better.
Tech Support for Human Hardware.
Touch Fusion Massage.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


You can go harder
touching the skin feeling muscles
reaching for the bone

Something I ask all of my clients, a couple times through the course of a massage, is how is this pressure. And all too often, the answer is. "You can go harder, if you want." And I have to bit my tongue, a bit. Because, yes, I could go harder, apply more pressure, if I wanted too; but whether or not I can, and whether or not I want to, are not really the issue here.
It is true, as people look at me, and see a big (6'1") guy, and think that I must be able to give a good, deep massage. And i can, but not because I all that big and strong. The fact is, the best deep tissue massage I ever got was from a woman who is about five foot nothing, and basically pretty tiny. But, she knows her anatomy, and she knows how to apply the right pressure to the right places in the right ways. Fortunately for me, she was also one of my teachers.
Specifically, she was one of the people who taught the Deep Tissue classes I took. The emphasis, here, was not on finding a knot in the muscle, and trying to grind it out. It was in understanding what muscle (or, much more frequently, muscles) was having a problem, and using a variety of techniques to get that tension to release. 
Anatomy, in this case, means knowing what muscles are where, and how they all function.  In nearly everything we do, there are a lot of muscles working together to make it happen. Typing this, my hands are moving, but my shoulders are tense, keeping my arms in place on the desk, my neck is holding my head up high (and at a bit of an angle, my computers monitor is set a bit wrong, must see to that...), my ankles are crossed under my desk, which skews the way my lower back is held.... etc. If I go into a massage therapist, tomorrow, and tell her to work on my shoulders, and Only my shoulders,  I will be doing myself a grave disservice. 
If, on the other hand, I tell her that I am feeling it in my shoulders, but it stems from spending hours at a time in front of the computer, then I can trust her to know what that means, and take the appropriate steps. If nothing else, she will ask me the questions she needs to ask to be able to address all of the problems and all of the tensions that are contributing to the issues at hand. 
Likewise, how pressure is applied is as important as where it is applied. I was taught to use long, slow strokes, with a very broad hand. The idea of using our elbows, or (god forbid) our thumbs, was completely ruled out. By using the whole hand, preferably supported by the other hand, I get much more complete feedback. Not just from the muscle I am working on, but from the surrounding muscles and tissues as well. And by using slow strokes, the muscles have time to warm up, feel the heat from my hands, and be more able to relax as I apply the pressure through the whole fiber of the muscles. 
Or sometimes, it is not about touching the muscles directly at all. I use a variety of techniques, where I will pull on arms or legs, or reposition them, to better expose and stretch the muscles. Sometimes, all I want to do is stretch the arms out, and hold them in that stretch for a minute or two. Sometimes, once I have the legs repositioned, I can access muscles that are otherwise not accessible. And sometimes, I will ask you to resist the pressures I am applying. I will say I want you to shrug, while i am pressing your shoulders down, while you are breathing in. There are a lot of things going on, when doing that, but it boils down to being another way of getting your muscles to relax.
And then there is the issues of leverage. Getting at the knot, at the muscle, from a variety of different angles is as important as finding the muscle itself. When you are on the table, I will often walk around, or back and forth, to find the right place to put myself so I can access the muscle from where I want to apply the pressure, so I can get the tension to release.
There are a wide range of other factors, in addition to these, that make for a good deep tissue massage. Certainly, it is something I will revisit in later posts. The most important thing, though, is to remember that the thing that makes a deep tissue massage, any massage, effective is simply telling your therapist if there is anything I can do to make it better. More pressure or less, more heat, less music, anything I can do to make it better. Tell me and I will do my best. 
And remember, always drink water.