If you feel undervalued as a massage therapist there’s one sure way to change things. Create leverage.
Early on in my massage career I thought that leverage meant that one person had the upper-hand and the other person (me) was basically screwed.
But I was wrong. Very wrong.
Leverage, an advantage or power to accomplish something, doesn’t have to be one sided. And in my experience, if you want a win/win in any relationship, it shouldn’t be.
Unfortunately, it took me a long time to get comfortable with idea of leverage. During that time, I made some bad deals, including being locked in a rent contract with a fitness center that cost me thousands of dollars. Another time I did a lot of free massage to build a clientele that ultimately wasn’t mine. All these bad deals involved a misunderstanding of leverage.
My first glimpse that leverage could be a good thing happened accidentally. I worked for chiropractors when I started as a massage therapist. It was a great learning experience, but at one point I felt trapped. I thought Ed, the chiropractor I was working for at the time, was underpaying me.
You Have More Power Than You Think
I didn’t approach Ed for more money because I didn’t think that I had any leverage. For one, Ed, could hire another MT to take my place for the amount he was paying me. And secondly, I lacked confidence in my massage work which translated into me thinking that Ed didn’t value me.
But after talking to my wife, Lisa, I realized that my perceived leverage was off the mark. Yes, Ed could hire someone else to replace me—but besides making a mess in the sink when I washed my hands after a massage—I was a decent employee. Also, Ed often thanked me for my work. So, he actually did value me—he was just a little on the cheap side.
Make Yourself More Valuable
Coincidentally, at this time, I began training as a neuromuscular massage therapist (NMT). I loved NMT and I immediately incorporated it into my massage at Ed’s office. Suddenly my client base grew. (Not because I was practicing NMT. It was because NMT taught how me to deliver the full range of pressures. I explain how to do this in Competing with Bob for Clients).
Though unintentional, I now was a more valuable employee to Ed because I made him more money. And, subsequently, I had more leverage.
Eventually, I used my leverage. I went to Ed for a raise and we negotiated. I got enough of a raise to keep me happy, and he knew that he could continue to count on me to grow his practice.
Over the next decade it was two steps forward and one step back until I finally embraced the good of having leverage to create fair deals. Here are my leverage steps for negotiating:
Step #1 : Accept The Need For Leverage
If the idea of leverage still bothers you, try thinking about it this way. Leverage (power) is neutral until you use it. Use your leverage to create a win/win (fair deal)—and at the end of the day, you’ll feel really good for taking care of yourself while not compromising your integrity!
Step #2 : Understand Current Leverage Points
It’s not easy to see your leverage points. When in doubt, ask someone who you can trust to give you an honest appraisal of your work situation. It could be a work colleague. Or it could be someone completely removed from the situation. The key is to find someone who can see your situation as an observer.
Step #3: Create Leverage By Adding Value
It only works as leverage if the value you are creating is meaningful to the person you’re trying to influence. If I had studied to be an esthetician instead of a neuromuscular therapist, I wouldn’t have had any more leverage with Ed because selling adjustments and massages paid his bills—not facials and peels.
You’re Not Ruthless
Let’s face it, in our business, a boss, whether it be an employer or a client, is NOT going to voluntarily hand out raises. At some point, if you want more money, you’re simply going to have to ask for it.
Before you do, evaluate your leverage situation. If you need to tweak your massage (to get more repeat clients) before you go to your boss for a raise, check out New Therapists Can Be Good Therapists.
If your massage is good to go, you may already have enough leverage to negotiate for a raise or to raise your price.
I promise you that when you find your leverage points, you won’t turn into Montgomery Burns. In fact, you’re probably going to become more empathic as you work towards getting a fair deal.
Do you have a work situation now where you’re feeling a little stuck? Let me know what’s happening—and let’s get you unstuck!