Say what? On-demand massage is now a thing? Yes, and Sarina is loving it!
While large rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft take a lot of attention, many other companies are growing very fast and providing a welcome diversity for people with a different skillset.
The on-demand massage industry is definitely one of these industries. Quite a few companies, like Soothe on-demand massage, have emerged over the past few years and now connects certified and licensed massage professionals to consumers or businesses to provide a la carte and on-site massages.
We recently had a quick chat with Sarina, a mobile massage therapist in Atlanta, who shared her story and how it works behind the curtains...
So Sarina, tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Sarina Watson. I currently live in Atlanta, GA but I am originally from NYC, born and raised. After a long career in the telecom industry as an implementation consultant, I decided a few years ago that I needed a change in my professional life. I attended the New York College of Health Professions in Manhattan where I got my associate degree in Occupational Therapy. I have been a mobile massage therapist for about 5 years.
How hard was it to get that associate degree?
That was tough! NY laws for massage therapy degrees are very strict, probably the strictest in the country. To get your degree, you need a minimum of 1,000 hours of training and an internship. But I realize that this challenging training gave me an edge to start my career as a massage therapist and see the value of my degree now that I live in Atlanta.
Tell us more about your transition from NYC to Atlanta. How was it?
Having lived in NYC all my life, that was quite a change. Especially as I decided to bring my son and daughter along with me and wanted to take the Emblex test that would provide me the license to work as a massage therapist. But all worked out well. I got my license shortly after arriving in Atlanta and looked at my options. I knew straight away that I did not want to work in a spa from 9 to 5 as I truly valued my flexibility. I reached a point in my life where I put an emphasis on quality rather than quantity.
That’s interesting… can you tell us a bit more why you did not want to work in a spa?
Quite a few reasons come to mind actually! First, I did not want to wear myself out. Sometimes in spas, it is not unusual for massage therapists to do anywhere from 5 to 10 massages per day. Believe me, that’s a lot of wear and tear on your body! I did not want that. Secondly, the flexibility to work when you want and where you want was very appealing. Contrary to a spa where you are assigned to only one location, being a mobile massage therapist gives you the ability to go to different places and experience different settings. For example, I currently do a lot of massages at corporate offices but also do special events, massage celebrities and a lot more. That diversity is very interesting to me. Finally, I really wanted to work for myself and be my own boss. So all of these reasons led to me consider mobile massage therapy and I came across Soothe.
So how did you hear about Soothe?
I remember that I saw a job posting online and decided to apply. I was then invited to take my practical exam and was hired on the spot. I was among the very first massage therapists Soothe hired in 2015. I started working shortly after and I have been working with Soothe every since. Soothe has been a big contributor to my earnings.
Does that mean you have some other side hustles?
Yes! Right around the time I started with Soothe in 2015, I also decided to launch my own massage company. It is called “Calming Space Mobile Massage Services” and it serves the metro of Atlanta. I always knew I wanted to have my own business so it felt like the right thing to do. In addition, I also added a few more platforms to reach more customers.
Managing your schedule as an independent massage therapist does require some discipline. How do you approach your week?
As I work with a lot of corporate customers, I am fortunate to usually have a one to two week notice period so I have some visibility over the business coming in. Very rarely do I get last minute jobs but it can happen. I do get a lot of repeat customers via my own company and am able to fill in the gaps using platforms like Soothe so that works out pretty well. I am lucky that most of my weeks are busy and full! But then I adapt my business to my lifestyle. I usually work Mondays to Saturdays as I keep Sundays for my family. Some days, I have 2 or 3 gigs and others I only have one because I rejected a few additional gigs to do some things. But I will say that when your day is busy with a few gigs, you need to plan very carefully.
Very interesting! What do you mean exactly by planning very carefully?
If there is something I learned is that as a massage therapist is that you cannot be late, ever! And you cannot cancel otherwise it will reflect very poorly on you. So that means that you need to have a buffer period and coverage. Allowing enough time to travel between locations is crucial and I would say that having coverage in case you cannot make it is as important. I have a network of around 50 therapists I can reach out to so I am confident I will have a back-up. And that is probably why I am successful. I think people know that I am punctual and that I am resourceful.
So you have been working with Soothe since 2015. What do you like about platforms like that?
I like Soothe for several reasons. First, the volume of business has been very steady. I know I can check the platform and there will be some gigs for me. Also, the fact that the business is coming through the app makes it safer for us. As a massage therapist, going to people’s house is a risk as we never know what we will be facing. I think platforms like Soothe are helping to create some trust and additional safety for workers. As you also check-in and check-out of the gig, it lets Soothe know where you are in real-time so that again helps.
Based on what you now know, what advice would you give a young and ambitious licensed therapist looking to start a career as a mobile massage therapist?
Indeed, I realized a few things with time!
First, you have to realize that this a hustle. Business is not going to come by itself if you don’t put the work and if you are not smart about the way you approach it. People who understand that they are selling their skills and have some type of sales skills will be successful.
This is especially important for people who tend to be introverted and have not had much experience with customers before. But there are plenty of resources online about sales and marketing and I think that would have been super useful for me to know that prior. Nobody told that to me and I think it made my job harder at the beginning.
The other big aspect is to be tech-savvy. Today, jobs are coming not only by phone but also via emails or through mobile apps. Sometimes to accept a job, you need to navigate an online scheduling software. A lot of my friends are missing out on a lot of business because they are struggling with the technology and do not know how to use it. I found that the better you are with technology, the more business you will have, the more responsive you will be and the fast communication will reflect well on you.
Great tips Sarina! Now looking ahead, where do you see yourself going from here?
My goal has always been to have my own business and to grow it. I always say that people will always need 2 things: a place to live and a massage!
I’d like to succeed in the mobile massage business to save money for the future and for my family. I have always been interested in real estate and doing some investments in that space would be good.
Soothe is the world’s leading on-demand massage service, available in over 65 cities in 4 countries. It is a convenient and safe option because it delivers a licensed, insured massage therapist to one’s home or hotel within 60 minutes, and has over 13,000 background-checked therapists in its network.
If, like Sarina, you want to tell your story, please contact us at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you!
The house of gigs team
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