It’s never too late to change your life path. Just ask Sam Imperatrice, owner of Impress Bodywork. She went from community organizing to massage therapy (with a masters degree, part of a Ph.D., and a wellness license in between). “I wanted a job that challenged me while allowing me to work with my hands,” Sam says. Massage therapy was that job — a perfect blend of science, art and physical work. After graduating from the National Holistic Institute, the job was hers. Today, Sam’s small business (which has earned more than 50 Thumbtack reviews) specializes in helping clients with ongoing health challenges to find comfort and balance.
Here’s how the Top Pro massage therapist thinks about building a great profile, finding a good work-life balance and “living the dream” on Thumbtack.
How did you get started with Thumbtack?
I signed up for Thumbtack as soon as I completed my certification from the National Holistic Institute. I was at a time in my life where I wanted to take risks and explore — and as someone making a career switch, Thumbtack was a place to connect with private clients and build my confidence as a practitioner.
What advice would you give a pro just starting on Thumbtack?
Have faith in your skills and let your work speak for itself. Don’t oversell your services, don’t promise more than you can deliver. Customers want to hire someone with integrity and that they know they can trust.
The number one thing that is going to help you succeed are your reviews. Get used to asking customers to review your work after every job. It’s the only way to get the word around.
What makes a Top Pro a Top Pro?
It’s counterintuitive, but I think the most important thing you can do is draw boundaries. Make sure you’re working in a way you feel good about — that’s a big point of owning your own business. For example, I’m not a night person. In general, if a customer is looking for night appointments, I’m probably not their pro. And that’s a line I don’t step over.
Boundaries are good for all parties, but there’s tension. As a massage therapist, there’s an expectation of accommodation. But when you’re running a business, you can’t always be accommodating. You need to take care of yourself by setting limits and not bending over backward to accommodate every client.
What percentage of your work is from Thumbtack?
When I started, only around 15 percent of my business was from Thumbtack. As of December, it’s up to 50 percent. I think it’s a function of hitting a critical threshold in my reviews. Once I crossed the 30 reviews mark, things took off.
What are your best tips for getting reviews?
When you’re just getting started, ask for as many unverified reviews as you can. Even though they didn’t hire you through Thumbtack, unverified reviews help show off your pre-Thumbtack work history.
As a massage therapist, you’re going into a customer’s home and doing very intimate work. They want to see that you have a base of people who have worked with you and liked you. And keep at it. Once you cross the 15 mark, you get put into a different category of therapists. You’re more established. Once you cross the 25 to 30 mark, you’ll see business really take off.
Any advice for creating a great Thumbtack profile?
First: if you have a license, upload it! If you have any specialized training definitely showcase that as well. Show customers that you’re more than just qualified, you’re at the top of your game. If you do any sort of volunteering or pro-bono work, that’s also important to share on your profile. As a small business owner, you want to show customers that you give back to the larger community. And people who will hire you because your a small business will really care.
What goes into a great headshot?
The most important thing for your headshot is balancing approachability with professionalism. If you’re letting someone into your home, you want to know that they’re a warm, friendly person. But again, as someone entering another person’s home, you want to show your professionalism too.
How do you pick the photos you include in the media section of your profile?
I try to make sure the photos show my style of work and that I integrate a few different kinds of massage work. Not every therapist is going to get on the table and do the compressions that I do, so my photos show a little bit more about the experience.
A few other things worth showing includes pictures of your equipment, your space (if you have one), and images of you at work. No stock images. Everything should be personal to you and your business.
What is your most memorable job on Thumbtack?
Fairly early on I got a job working with an Alzheimer’s patient in her 80’s. Her grandson hired me and I was pretty new at the time. I got the sense that he hired me because I was comfortable with the situation, and not everyone was. He said, “This might be a lot to ask, but my grandmother loves getting massages and has been getting them regularly since she was a young woman. It’s part of her routine.” I ended up working with her three times a week for a pretty long time. I learned a lot in the process.
Has Thumbtack helped you do anything that you wouldn’t otherwise have done?
The advanced trainings I want to do are very expensive. Before Thumbtack I would have spent years in a spa or wellness center building up my clientele and saving to be able to go independent and get those advanced trainings.
Having direct access to clients has given me so much flexibility to invest in my education, upgrade my equipment and move at the pace that feels right for me.