25 Things Successful Massage Therapists Do Differently

Happy and successful massage therapist in doorway to her practice

What is it that makes one massage therapist successful while others seem to struggle? This “success” could be measured in terms of economic success, high quality of life, overall career satisfaction, or positive impact in their client’s lives and those around them. Or maybe a combination of these.

Why is it that some people achieve more? I’ve done a ton of research on this and here’s what I’ve come up with…

The massage therapists who achieve the most success do so because they think and act differently. They think differently about themselves and their practice. And they act differently because of how they think. Also, they have a strong belief in their own abilities and their resourcefulness, and have the persistence to endure.

All successful MTs, or people in any line of professional services for that matter, know exactly what they want, and have an organized plan to achieve it. This helps them to focus diligently on doing the most effective and productive things until they become a habit. You can start forming these habits of success in as little as 3 weeks. And then with repetition, solidify these habits until they become second nature.

Listed below are 25 learnable qualities that successful massage therapists demonstrate. This list was developed with self-employed practice owners in mind, but these characteristics are equally important to employed MTs.

1. Successful massage therapists know their objective and are goal oriented

They have defined what a successful practice means to them, and then focus and commit 100% to achieving their goal. They make very specific and measureable goals, and then write them down!

Keep your goals in front of you and stay focused on them. Set short-term goals or milestones to keep you moving forward. Also, have a long-term vision for your practice. Visualize how you want your business to be and any personal characteristics you want to have.

Set goals that are high enough to inspire you. A weak goal will not inspire you to take action. So always strive for excellence. Why strive to be average? The worst thing is to set very low goals and achieve them and not feel fulfilled. Even the most ambitious goals can be achieved with a reasonable timeframe.

2. They have a strong, personal and motivating reason to succeed

If someone told you to go get 10 new clients in the next two weeks or you’ll be living on the street, and you believed them, I guarantee you could do it. As long as this consequence was motivating enough for you. Or if they said that they would give you something that you really wanted if you went out and got 10 new clients in the next 2 weeks. These two consequences, loss/pain and gain/pleasure are our primary motivating forces. Psychology research estimates that motivation arising from fear of loss is about 5 times greater than the incentive of gaining something new. Use this to motivate yourself.

3. They are optimists and have developed a positive mental attitude

They believe in themselves, and that they can be successful. They use positive affirmations, self-talk or incantations to improve their state of mind.

You really can change your outlook. Just as your beliefs about other things can change, so can your beliefs about yourself change. There will inevitably be discouraging things that happen. You must be able to bounce back from disappointment.

Find ways to become optimistic. Meditate and reflect on good things. Optimists succeed far more often than pessimists. They encounter the same obstacles, but are able to recover more quickly from setbacks. They also focus on what they learned from this setback, and grow, so that next time they do better. The optimist is also open to new possibilities. The pessimist on the other hand, focuses on the problem and why it’s difficult.

4. They are confident in themselves

Successful therapists are confident in themselves

They let each success reinforce their belief that they can achieve their goal. Focusing on failure only reinforces self-doubt and lowers self-esteem. They say “Yes’ to new opportunities, even if it takes them out of their comfort zone.

5. Successful massage therapists make their clients feel important

The therapists that get the most repeat business and referrals are the ones who make their clients feel special. They make their clients feel like they are the most important person in the world.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to get in the habit of focusing on the person in front of you. Listen with intention. Remember the highlights of past conversations (do good documentation). Find ways to increase connection and build rapport.

Therapists that are distracted, self-centered, needy, uncaring, or have any number of negative personal qualities that make the client feel unimportant, will not get repeat business or referrals like those who make their clients fee special. These therapists are doomed to have to keep getting new clients the hard way, and their practice will never really get traction.

6. They are a pleasure to be around

They leave their problems at the door, and are always personable and pleasant.

A client on the table doesn’t want to hear about anyone else’s problem. He or she is there to have their problem solved. There are a lot of MTs in every town who have the technical skills. But clients go back to the ones that they like to be around. Your “presence” is part of your practice’s Brand. As a service professional, you are your brand. Being authentic, transparent and sincere will result in better connection with your people.

7. They exercise their self-discipline

Successful therapists and practice owners do what they should do, when they should do it. They choose to do what is necessary rather than what is easy. They work on marketing and promoting their practice daily, even when they are booked with clients.

Like a muscle, the more you exercise your self-discipline, the stronger it will get. This consistent discipline will help you to make better decisions about how they use your time and resources. So you will continue progressing towards your objective regardless of how you feel at any particular moment.

8. They take action

They have decided to become successful. They exercise their self-discipline and do what must be done. They realize that knowledge alone won’t bring success. Knowledge is knowing how to do something. Wisdom is knowing what to do and what not to do; and often comes from experience. Success comes only with putting this knowledge and wisdom into action.

The secret is to do the difficult but necessary actions for about 30-60 days. Then with repetition, it becomes easier, you get better at it, and it will become a habit.

9. Successful therapists work hard

They pay the price of success, because they realize the price of failure is much higher.

“If you don’t pay the price for success, you’ll pay the price for failure”

Zig Ziglar

Accept that it will take a lot of work to become successful, and put everything you have into this for 1 year. In other words, make a commitment to yourself and give it all you’ve got. People often overestimate what they can accomplish in 1 month, and underestimate what they can accomplish in 1 year.

10. They endure

Successful practice owners see difficult things as challenges and opportunities to grow. Anyone can do something hard when they feel like it, but successful people do what they should do even when they don’t feel like it.

In this competitive world, nothing worth achieving comes easy. Being a successful MT means taking some chances and getting out of your comfort zone. Be persistent. Don’t let “no” stop you.

11. They manage their time well

They plan their day. Their daily actions are prioritized and the successful person focuses on the most important task first.

Don’t waste time with mindless things. Identify your biggest time sinks and eliminate them. TV, social media, etc. Time is our most valuable resource. Be results oriented, not task oriented. Break down overwhelming tasks into something that they can begin taking action on and work on until completion. Work to increase productivity.

12. They are committed to continuous learning

They work on improving their technical skills, communication and personal development, as well as operating and marketing their business.

Be on the constant lookout for aspects of your business, or yourself, that you can improve. Take the time to understand yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

It’s ok to work on improving your weaknesses, especially if you have a couple of weak areas that are holding you back. *But the successful person recognizes where her true strengths are and focuses on using this strength to her greatest benefit.

If you’re great at building rapport in a 1 on 1 situation and weak at public speaking, then spend most of your energy leveraging your skill instead of struggling to become a great presenter. Be yourself, and be the best ‘you’ you can be.

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive. Because the world needs more people who have come alive”

Howard Thurman

Being successful at anything takes study and dedication. It doesn’t just happen by chance. Every successful person learns from his or her own successes and mistakes. Study your past results to improve your success/failure ratio.

13. They treat their practice like a business

Just like other service professional business owners like architects, design firms, doctors, lawyers, and accountants; massage professionals treat their practice as a genuine business, not a hobby. They don’t just put out a sign and hope for the best. That only works for kids with a lemonade stand.

Massage therapists have invested a significant amount of time and money to learn their skills, and this is just the beginning. Dedicate yourself to whatever you do; don’t dabble. This diligent effort can lead to a very rewarding future, both in terms of finances and personally fulfilling work.

14. They are comfortable with success

They acknowledge any conflicts of guilt about becoming successful and take actions to correct this.

Understand the self-sabotaging thermostat. Misconceptions about success. We often, on a subconscious level, believe we only deserve certain things in life. Some people get programmed from an early age that< “to be successful you have to give up everything else, and be ruthless to other people” or “get a stable job working at a big company and you will have financial security”.

15. Successful people give more value

They always give more than they’re paid for, because they realize that people go back to people and businesses where they got the most value. The successful massage therapists

Providing the minimum just doesn’t cut it in this competitive world. Be easy to work with and provide a great client/customer experience. Be remarkable.

16. They know when to decide quickly and when to take longer to make a decision

Decisions with few consequences can be made fairly quickly, and it is a waste of time to take too long pondering over it. This could include things like:

  • What to have for lunch
  • What color massage table to buy

Other decisions with potentially big and long-term consequences should be considered more slowly, to consider the possibilities and outcomes. Examples of these are:

  • Where to establish your practice
  • Do you want to partner with someone for your practice
  • When considering hiring employees

17. They are resourceful

They realize it isn’t a lack of resources that hold people back, but lack of resourcefulness. Lot’s of people who are successful today started out with very few resources. They focus on what they do have instead of what they feel they’re lacking.

The most important things that are needed for success are mindset and skills (like those listed in this blog post). These are all learnable! If you have a burning desire that is focused on a single purpose, you will see opportunities that most people overlook. Combine this with creativity and optimism and you cannot fail.

18. They manage their finances carefully

Successful practice owners watch their balance sheet (income and expenses) and cash flow carefully. They analyze key business metrics: ROI (return on investment), ROTI (return on time invested), etc., for each activity their business does. They did this when starting out and continue as their business grows.

Savvy money management is crucial whether you earn $100 per week or $2,000 per week. Many people make the mistake of letting their expenses rise at the same rate as their income. This means that they will have a lot of revenue but still be poor. It’s not just how much you make, but how much you keep.

19. They learn from their mistakes and successes

Mistakes, setbacks, and failures are inevitable. Successful business owners understand this and don’t let fear of failure stop them from taking action. The people who fail the most are often the ones who ultimately win. This is because they learn valuable lessons, and they develop resiliency that can only be learned by taking repeated action.

Learn to look at so-called “failures” as learning experiences. If you try something and it doesn’t work, then simply modify your approach and try again. Take responsibility for their successes and failures. Successful MTs also learn from other people. From successful MTs and other people in business. And they also learn what not to do by observing the mistakes of others and not making the same mistake.

20. They have a network of like-minded peers

Many successful people form what’s called Mastermind groups. Having people around us with similar ambitions is like having a support group, where each member helps and encourages the others.

Group members also hold each other accountable when they get off track, and then nudge them back in the right direction.

Although it can be tough to do, weeding out negative people with low standards from your life can make a big and positive difference in your success. As the saying goes, “If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.”

21. Successful massage therapists understand their target market

They have identified their ideal client and have taken the time to learn what their target market needs and wants. Also, they listen for opportunities.

Service professionals including those in the healthcare industry understand that they are primarily in the customer service business. Find ways to connect with your target market to turn them into raving fans.

22. They get up early

The most successful massage therapists are excited about their day and have a sense of urgency to start taking action. They understand, on an emotional level, that their action alone will be the cause of their success or failure.

I think the most important part of this is that successful people have a reason to get up early. They wake up excited to start their day because they are working towards goals that inspire them. There is a sense of urgency about them because they believe what they are doing has meaning and purpose.

23. They understand their own health needs

People who achieve long-term success make their own health a priority. This includes physical, mental, emotional, relationship and spiritual health. Without these, no amount of business or economic success is worth it.

It’s been said: “Young people trade their health for money, and old people trade their money for health”. Avoid this conundrum and make your health a priority now.

Eat for energy and vitality. Maintain a healthy weight. Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Recharge your inner battery because massage and healthcare can be physically and emotionally draining.

Receive massages for health maintenance. This can also increase empathy and help you develop a better intuition on what your own clients are feeling when they are on the table.

Exercise daily. Massage therapy is physically demanding, but is shouldn’t replace your personal exercise time. Taking some time for this every day will increase your confidence, mood and energy level.

24. They work with people they truly care about helping

They have discovered their target market and niche that inspires them. It is usually because of common interests or attributes.

Is there is a particular segment of the population that you really care about positively impacting with your work? Here’s the test: if you feel drained at the end of the day, you’re probably not working in your ideal environment or with your ideal massage clients.

On the other hand, if you feel energized at the end of the day, then you may have found your ideal target market. It may be working with athletes, pediatrics, seniors, office workers, new moms, people with emotional needs, or whoever you honestly feel passionate about helping. Remember, your clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

My passion is helping other small business owners and entrepreneurs. I get energized and love bringing value to them to help them achieve their goals. I love helping people solve problems and inspiring them.

25. They strive for excellence


The most successful massage therapists compete with themselves instead of others, and always strive to do their best.

Entering into a business venture with the mindset “I just want to put in minimal effort and be good enough to get by…” will be an uphill battle the entire way. Because no one ever says, “Go see John, he’s really average…”. Don’t settle for average. Commit to improving every day.

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.” –Steve Jobs


Take away

People aren’t just born with these success traits, they work to develop them. Some traits may come more naturally to you than others. But they are all learnable. Work on them until they become a part of you.

What traits can you think of that are critical to being a successful massage therapist? Please comment below.

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