Sue stepped away from a city career and began her journey into complementary therapies in 2019. Two years on she tells us how her new career is developing, and the obstacles she has overcome.
“I had an interest in massage and had been told that I was good at it by friends but had never undertaken any formal training prior to starting with Phoenix in 2019. I decided to see if there was anywhere local to me where I could train as I no longer wanted to travel into London. The opportunity to train with Phoenix presented itself to me because the dates of their course fitted with my diary well, and I took that as a sign from the universe that it was meant to happen. I began training in massage with Louise, which began with an interview. She assessed us and our learning skills, I joined the course and never looked back. I followed this up with Reflexology and whilst on that course did Mian Dui too.
I had been working in London for the best part of 25 years, and with the last company for 18 years as an Executive Assistant. I was made redundant in 2019 because the company closed, and that prompted me to do something completely different. Sadly, my mum passed away in 2015 and a combination of the money she left me, and my redundancy payout, meant I had a financial cushion, so I saw this as a chance. Initially, I did have some resistance from my husband. He thinks in facts and figures and so he was understandably concerned about the finances. In my head, I had already worked out how much time I could take off, what I could commit in hours doing the course and I knew I would be OK but initially, he was really not comfortable with it. It is only very recently that he has started to see that I could make a viable business out of this. It took a long time for him to get on board and I had to keep chipping away at him and pushing the boundaries. At first, he would say, ‘you are not seeing clients in their homes, you are not treating men etc.’ but now, finally, he has seen me working on friends and family and has overhead my conversations with people about posture and how to get over their problems and help them. I do have a bit of a track record of trying things and then not sticking with them so, in his defence, there was the possibility that I would say that after training I wasn’t sure about being a therapist, but that hasn’t happened. It sounds a cliché, but I wanted to get away from sitting in an office shovelling papers and helping rich people make more money. I wanted to do something worthwhile and make a difference to people.
After I completed my training, I sorted out my insurance, this was easy as Phoenix send you a link to all that information. I was ready to go, at which point I thought, right, what do I do now? I wanted to build my business, so I test ran it with the few people I had been seeing to decide if I was set up to do this full time. I worked on friends and family and used the First Steps Treatment opportunity at Phoenix. This was a scheme where they helped you get clients, and you could use the facilities to see those clients while you gain experience. That was really good for me and on Saturday mornings and some evenings I went to the college and gained experience. My clients knew where the college was, some of them were people I had worked on as models during training, so they already knew me, or they had heard about me through Phoenix. The advantage for them was that the massages were discounted, and it gave me a base and got me used to dealing with new people. A lot of them have stuck with me and I am really grateful to Phoenix for that.
I was working full time at a local company whilst I built the massage business up, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I was getting that sick Sunday night feeling that I didn’t want to go to work on Monday morning. I had realised that perhaps there were not enough clients out there for me to make it a full-time viable business, so I looked at what I could do to diversify. Once again, fate intervened. Very sadly my Nan died and left me some money, so I decided to train in Reflexology. I knew that Reflexology would involve a lot more anatomy and physiology, as it’s more in-depth than the Massage training, and after the class-based work is done you have to undertake 100 hours of case studies. I quit my office job on St. Valentine’s Day in 2020 to do the Reflexology training – then six weeks later we went into lockdown! We did most of our theory work as weekly zoom calls and as a group got to know each other probably more than if we’d just been in class. Our Educator was amazing. It developed into such a great friendship and support network. We are now looking at setting up a group where we can meet and chat about how we are developing, and anonymously discuss clients’ issues.
Luckily lockdown was so kind to me – not only did it mean that I couldn’t spend any money apart from on the household bills, but I had nothing else to do but crack on with my studying and practice on plastic feet. We had such fantastic weather that I was sat outside with my A&P textbooks getting a great tan – but I did end up with a book-shaped white patch!
I realised that the money I had saved and inherited wasn’t a bottomless pit, especially as during lockdown I couldn’t do any treatments. I took a part-time job and whilst it was not the salary level I was used to, it meant I had a steady (but small!) income whilst still having days available to do my therapies. There had to be a balance. Having invested the money in the courses I didn’t want to just waste that and not do anything with all that training. So for a while, I worked three days per week in administration and then had Thursdays and Fridays, plus the evenings and weekends, to see clients. It soon became clear though that the part-time money wasn’t enough to sustain my outgoings and had to revert to full-time work. Therefore, I’m now working with all my clients around that – my Husband is starting to complain that he never sees me!
Now I have the therapy going well I need to ensure that I have the business side of things running efficiently. That included finding a good accountant as I have no accountancy skills, and I am terrified of numbers. I keep all my records, but I needed someone to explain things to me in a simple way. I am learning what is tax-deductible, buying a bed, oils, uniform and so on. It is a fear factor for me. I’m sure it can’t be that difficult to add my details to the HMRC website, but I need someone to treat me like a child who is learning to ride their bike without stabilisers.
When I was made redundant, I went to the jobcentre and as they said I could claim some benefit, but only £70 per week as I had savings (which felt unfair). I was told there was a small business course I could do but then lockdown happened, so it stopped after two sessions. I have Instagram, a website, and the next thing is delivering locally the leaflets I have had produced. I am a little bit scared about that, in case the neighbours complain if they think I am littering them with junk mail but the estate I live on is a captive audience and I think I have nothing to lose by trying. I am not a big fan of Facebook, so I haven’t done advertising on there.
If I could build up my client base, then I would like to gradually drop my office job. I think our world is going to change when it comes to working patterns and for the better. The big bases are potentially a thing of the past and there will be more people who can come and have a treatment during the day as their hours will be more flexible. And what I like about my current job is I can do my seven hours a day and then walk away and forget about it and be ‘therapy me’.
I am building up contacts with other therapists to share knowledge and get advice. For example, one of my clients had undergone trauma and I could ask other therapists if they had had anything similar and what they found worked best and you learn from them. I have a client who has the start of arthritis. We cannot diagnose or fix bones. It is a shame as you can feel it with your hands. If someone has a trapped nerve it is sometimes made worse because the muscle goes into spasm. As a therapist, we know that if you can release that muscle tension you can help with the pain. The therapists I trained with all get on so well we have built up a network because it’s not a competition.
One of the challenges I have had to overcome is the layout of my home, which is a townhouse. My husband wasn’t keen on me using one of the rooms upstairs as a permanent therapy room, because he did not want people coming upstairs to the room adjacent to his office and where he plays music. It also wouldn’t be conducive to a relaxing treatment for a client (despite the fact he’s a talented musician). Plus, he wanted to keep our ‘home’ space separate and if I had clients coming upstairs it would have curtailed what he was able to do. I can’t try and have a relaxing therapy session if my husband is trying to watch an action movie. We have the space, but it isn’t in an ideal layout. We moved in here in 2003 and who knew that I’d be needing a room for therapies. What we do have is a very big kitchen with a dining area and so I use that dining area to set my bed up. I also do mobile treatments. The bed is quite heavy but it keeps me fit! I do enjoy this flexibility – however clients have to remember what you have asked them to have ready. Sometimes you arrive and they have forgotten something and it takes up time.
A question I am often asked is “Do you do Treatments for men?”, and the answer is “most definitely”. Male clients get sore, tense muscles as much as my female clients, more so in some cases, depending on what they do as a job, or hobbies they may have. When they come to me for a massage there is no danger that they will go away feeling like they haven’t had one. I am quite capable of giving a very firm, strong massage (it’s all about technique, not body size or strength). I have a selection of oils (all vegan), which are mostly unscented, but I also have some oils which have a woody, musky scent, which some male clients prefer.
I think Reflexology is still considered to be more aimed at women, but it shouldn’t be. I don’t care if toenails aren’t painted, or if the client has hard skin on their heels from work boots. They will still reap the benefits of a Reflexology session and if they doze off during the treatment, snoring is permitted!
More men are realising the benefits of taking care of their skin, it’s now common for men to use moisturiser and other products, and to have facials. A Mian Dui treatment is so much more than a facial though. Mian Dui incorporates facial massage, the Reflexology and Acupressure aspects to help to rebalance the whole body and the short Reiki treatment helps to balance the soul. It doesn’t matter if the client has facial hair, I can work with that.
When someone has a treatment with me, I will be led by how they want their treatment to be. Sometimes they may wish to chat, sometimes to use the session with me to have some quiet time and ponder on life. What is most satisfying is when I have a client who has gone from not being able to lift their arm to be able to move and feel their fingers again and that gives me a nice warm feeling that I am doing something worthwhile. No one is “just” a client to me, they are an individual with individual requirements, and I will do my very best to meet those and hope they leave me feeling like they have had an amazing treatment.
Perfect Pressure Therapies
https://perfectpressure.co.uk/ or 07966 963642