the original kStyle blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Work work work

With a big nod to the interesting discussions over at Narya's.

I'm in the odd position of having three jobs. Well, that's not the odd part, really. The odd part is that I am in an entirely different position at the three jobs, in terms of structure, and doing very different work, and receiving very different pay.

1. Day Job: I am a salaried employee with great benefits, including 401K with employer matching, health insurance, and paid time off. But I feel stapled to my desk and trapped.

2. My Business: L'Etat c'est moi. I do what I like exactly how I like. I do all the marketing, the business planning--and I get excited about that part (sometimes more excited than about the actual shiatsu). Am I making a dime? No. Do I have to do X hours of unpaid work to bring in one hour of paid work? Yes. And then, the money that comes in goes back out to rent and liability. But I have fun. And someday I will profit. (I did double my revenue since last year, and increased spending by only about a third, so we're closer...)

3. The Spa: I walked into the spa yesterday, my first day, and had three clients. One booked in advance; two were basically walk-ins. A fourth wanted an appointment when I was working on someone else, and didn't return.

3a. Spa v Day Job: For three hours of actual work at the spa I made what I make in one whole day at Day Job. But--1. I was there all day even when not working, in case someone else came in, and no pay for those hours. 2. No benefits, no paid time off.

The other gals--the aestheticians--had fewer clients than I, maybe one client each. But they also answered the phones, made appointments, sold gift certificates, and so forth. I think that they receive an hourly wage in addition to whatever they make working on clients. And yet, I may well have netted more money than they did, I don't know. I got to rest between clients, they got hourly pay. Which is better? I think that soon I won't have downtime between clients. Tiring, but more pay.

3b. Spa v My Business: At the spa, I walk in, see the clients they've booked for me, under the auspices of their marketing, and leave at the end of the day anticipating a paycheck. The spa takes 50% of what the client pays, but charges the clients 30-50% more than I do. (Clients are paying for the "spa experience", which requires much more infrastructure and many more niceties than my practice, and I am A-OK with this. If clients want the spa experience, with all the robes, fountains, aromatherapy, soft music, etc., that entails, they should pay more. If they want an artsy, fun environment, and shiatsu done more traditionally, they should come to my private practice in the yoga studio and pay less.) The spa clients often tip 20%, essentially making up the difference in pay. And then, I have no overhead to pay, so I can just take the money. In my private practice, any money coming in pays rent for the space first, then filters down to the marketing budget.

However, I greatly modify my way of practicing shiatsu for the spa. In my practice, I do shiatsu old-school: comfy futon on the floor, client fully clothed, balancing qi using principles of East Asian medicine. At the spa, clients are expecting "massage" and aromatherapy. The first thing all spa clients do is to take off street clothes and put on a robe and slippers in the locker room. I get it; it's nice. It lets them move into a different mental space, it's a ritual. So then I'm left doing shiatsu through a sheet instead of through clothes, which limits the supported stretches I can do and the positions I can place the client in. (How to work in side position with a naked person on a table? How to stretch a leg to the side on a naked person? These techniques work much better with a fully clothed client on a wide futon on the floor.) Working on the table is the hardest modification for me. I was trained to work on the floor, from a kneeling position. Now I stand and bend over, sending happy thoughts to my lower back. Different!

And then, these clients want their muscles worked out. I don't usually focus on muscles, but rather on qi. So there I am, leaning my forearms as deeply as they'll go onto three different sets of sore shoulders. I find it a little tiring to work this way, to be honest. In my own practice, if someone needs really deep pressure, I stand one one foot and use the other to leeeeaaaan my body weight in through my sole. This, again, works best on the floor. Oh also, they keep the spa room sweltering hot because the clients are nude and laying still, but I am fully-clothed and moving a lot, such that the heat rather depleted me.

I do like the aromatherapy, though, and may incorporate it into my own practice. Scent is very powerful. I mix up a carrier oil (jojoba) with a couple drops of an essential oil or two (I used rosemary and lavender together yesterday, yummy). Then I apply when working on head, neck, hands, arms, and feet. I could see my private clients liking this, and I could even add a couple bucks to the treatment fee.

To sum up Spa v My Business: I get actual money from working at the spa, but less satisfaction, and it's more tiring.

Conclusion. Which is best? I have no idea.


Blogger Narya said...

A couple of thoughts, off the top of my head.

1. I think incorporating some of the niceties--especially the aroma--into your practice will be a nice touch. Smell is extremely powerful and extremely primal, and if you use high-quality oils, which I'm sure you would, you may be able to deepen the experience.

2. Can you take a laptop to the spa and do some other work there? Some paperwork for your other business, for example? If so, it's worth investing in a laptop--and writing it off as a business expense.

3. Perhaps you should speak to the spa owners about the nakedity issue. If you really think you can provide a better treatment with the person clothed, then you may be able to work something out--the spa may be willing to provide, or at least launder, some clothing for your clients. (alternatively, you may wish to invest in some such clothing for your own practice, and offer that as a benefit as well--and bring some of that clothing to the spa. I'm thinking hospital scrubs-type clothing, but there may be other alternatives. I sure do wish, sometimes, that I didn't have to drag a whole other set of clothing with me. and you probably have to have your sheets laundered already anyway.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Narya said...

I have more thoughts, but was afraid of truncation.

You may also be able to move your shiatsu sessions to the floor at the spa. What would that entail? And you could make up some flyers that explain the shiatsu experience, so that clients have a better idea what to expect. The spa may be willing to have them available, or post the info on the website, or whatever.

Personally, while I do like the occasional naked massage, I find it to be a different, and, in some sense, less therapeutic experience. I find the shiatsu does a much better job of making me feel better, but it's a different kind of "feel better." (let's face it, with a decent practitioner, ANY massage will make you feel better.)

1:13 PM  
Blogger Narya said...

And, you know, if you market the shiatsu well, the spa can use it as a marketing draw, too--rather than try to make your treatment more like the massage experience, that would enable you to provide the different experience.

1:14 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

All good thoughts, and I thank you. I think I need to feel it out a bit more before I make big changes.

Re giving out clothing: I do all my clinic laundry myself, and I hate that part. And, I would have to increase the session cost to justify that expense. I think my regulars would rather just wear their sweats.

The spa nudity doesn't bother me very much. It's more the working on a table that's hard. I'm hoping I'll feel that out better with practice. The rooms are really too small for a futon on the floor, especially since the rooms have big hydraulic tables that have nowhere else to go.

1:22 PM  

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