I’m excited to present to you the first interview of my new series, Insider Insights.
I met Chani Najar at a local meetup and liked her right away. Chani is a kind, generous, and open woman. She has all the qualities you would want in a massage therapist. And all the qualities you would want in a friend. I knew that she is someone who would be willing to go deeper with me and share the inside story of her business success. And luckily for you, I was right :)
We spoke about so many juicy topics – including her struggle with pricing, her secret to ensuring client satisfaction, her thoughts on self-care, and much more!
How did you get started in the business of massage therapy? It’s definitely unique.
My mom always loved getting massages. As a child, I would massage her all the time and loved doing it! I dreamed of doing massage therapy professionally when I grew up.
When I was 17 years old, I started studying massage therapy in Israel. After completing the course, I stayed in Israel another three years. In all that time I was not successful at building a business. There was so much competition, and it made it extremely hard for me to get clients. On the rare occasion that I did have a client, it did not even turn out to be profitable for me. I would have to take off from my job and rent a space. Yet I continued to take on clients, because I loved doing the work and I knew that I needed the practice.
When I moved to New Jersey I decided to get licensed in the State so that I can work legally as a massage therapist. My friends and family live in the area and they were my first clients. My first official client was a referral from my brother. That client recommended me to a second client, who then proceeded to refer me to ten new clients!
As I slowly grew my business, I maintained a full-time job. When I felt like things were taking off, I decided to take the risk and quit my job. I wanted to be able to put my whole self into my business. It was very scary, but once I did it, I grew faster than I could have imagined.
When you started your business, you mainly served just friends and family. Did they pay you?
Yes, I did charge them money, because I wanted it to be worth my time. But I gave them a great price. It was $45 an hour.
Pricing can be a really difficult issue for creative business owners. What was your experience with raising your rates?
Pricing is especially challenging for me as a massage therapist. I feel like I’m giving people love and I want them to know that it’s not about the money. In the beginning I would feel so bad charging money for my services. I would look for any way possible to give my clients a discount. As I raised my prices, I had to get myself comfortable sharing my new rates. I would say, “It’s $90 a session, but for the first time I will give you $15 off.”
I remember the first time I charged a flat $90 for a new client, without giving her an introductory discount. I felt like I was taking advantage of her. After the session, I tried to find a way to give her a discount. I asked her, “Are you a student? Because for students it’s $10 cheaper.” I think I creeped her out. But she paid the full amount, and I learned a lot from the experience.
In the past I would feel bad that my price was $90 for an hour session. I would often go overtime and never charge my clients extra. I finally built up the courage to begin asking potential clients, “Do you want a 60 or a 90 minute appointment?” This way, I would not have to go overtime. If they chose a longer appointment, that means they value my time and will pay for it. The first time I asked, I nervously waited for the response. Then I got the reply, “100 minutes.” I was surprised and excited to see that my strategy was working.
Since I began offering a choice of 60 or 90 minute appointment, my business has benefited greatly and became more profitable. Many people responded by saying, “I didn’t know you did a 90 minute session.”
I once had a client who would always negotiate with me. She would say, “What? You raised your prices? That’s crazy!” Finally, I told her, “I love doing massage, but I do have to make a living out of it. I actually know someone who is cheaper, and I heard that she is really good. Why don’t you try her out?”
I was happy for this woman to go elsewhere, because she was a very draining client. She would always complain about my work and ask me to go overtime. I know that she went somewhere else, because when she came back to me, she had no complaints. She even tipped me for the first time. I was shocked!
Interestingly, I find that I get more tips now than I got when I was cheaper. This made me start thinking, “Wow. I’m not that bad. They still want to tip me.”
I love that story. You weren’t afraid to lose your client to a competitor, because you knew your own value in the market.
What is your secret to creating an amazing client experience that keeps everyone coming back and referring their friends?
I think massage is all about being attentive to your clients.
It’s really the secret to every business. I find that so many business owners don’t listen to their clients. They act as if they can read your mind and know what you need. They think it makes them look more professional. But I feel that listening is the only thing that allows you to know what your client wants.
I try my best to listen to every single word that comes out of my clients’ mouth. Before I begin a new session, I ask my client, “What do you want to work on? Why are you here? What do you want to focus on?” Typically, they say, “I don’t know. Do whatever you think.” I have to convince them to tell me what is hurting them.
The clients feel much better when they get a chance to speak. Also, when a client feels heard they naturally become more invested in the work.
Chani, as a massage therapist, do you have any messages of encouragement for other business owners who struggle with self-care?
Honestly, I too struggle with self-care. My business is growing and I don’t want to miss a new client. It is helpful for me to remember that G-d doesn’t want me to exceed my limits. I need to put in the effort, but He doesn’t want more than that. Whatever money I am supposed to earn is the money that I will earn.
Practically speaking, I do make sure to include self-care in my daily life in the following ways:
I make sure to get massaged as well.
I’m very passionate about exercise. I believe that everyone should exercise. Obviously, everybody wants to lose weight and look great. But this is different story. It’s not for weight loss. Exercise is key to pain management and feeling good – both physically and emotionally.
It’s important for me to spend time with myself. Without my phone. Without my kids. Without my husband.
Those are three things that I feel that everyone can relate to. They are not complicated. You could exercise even 10 minutes a day, and that would be enough.
Wow. I learned so much from this conversation, and I know my readers will too. You have such great stories, and a great message. Chani, thank you so much for your time.
You can inquire regarding Chani’s massage services by calling her at 848-223-8599 or connecting with her on Instagram.
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