Can I make Gift Certificates work for my little biz?

I have never actively offered gift certificates for several reasons, but I’m starting to revisit my conclusions, which you are welcome to debate, since I’m hardly infallible:

  1. I’ve always thought of gift certificates for personal services as “girl” things, and over 80% of my clientele is male.
  2. I’m a person, not an establishment – when giving a gift, most people want some kind of selection.
  3. The kind of massage you get a gift certificate for is generally perceived as a pampering indulgence, and that’s getting frowned upon these days.
  4. I work from home, which is a setting that some people find strange or uncomfortable – which is not something that will occur to most gift-givers who like this environment. And there’s a significant price differential if I do a housecall.

Now, I have actually sold a couple of gift certificates, though I don’t even mention the option on my website. Both were for two massages. The first was purchased by a woman and her mother in Florida for her sister who lives in NYC. One of them had had Thai massage and wanted to introduce her sister to it as a Hannukah gift. I guess her mother didn’t have any good gift ideas and jumped on the idea. The other was quite a cute situation – I have a regular client in a nearby law office who raves about me to his co-workers and tries to convince them to stop wasting their money at the asian rub-and-tugs. A few of them come to see me when they’re in a lot of pain. One Christmas, two of them came over to buy a gift certificate for a 3rd guy (who had been to see me once or twice), and the recipient came in for his first massage within a week of getting the GC. He said it was the best gift he had gotten in several Christmases.

I’ve also had a few clients lately who have said they wish they could come more often, but they can only afford to indulge a few times a year. I really should have piped up about adding me to their wish list when people ask what they want for birthdays, Christmases, etc. but after giving a good session, I’m just not in sales mode. I need to change that just a tiny bit. I mean, I know massage therapists who get a bit heavy handed about scheduling your next appointment at the end of your current one, but that really wouldn’t work with the last-minute nature of how most of my business happens. Besides, most appointments made more than 24 hours in advance tend to get cancelled.

So, I would love to hear from anyone about their experiences -

  • Getting a massage/spa/personal services gift certificate, or
  • Giving a massage/spa/personal services gift certificate, or
  • Incorporating gift certificates into their own small businesses

And then starts the fun of determining Terms & Conditions…

Etiquette Dilemma: Mixing Biz with Non-Biz

I was going to write “mixing business with pleasure”, but given the business I’m in, you might have been expecting something much sleazier than this…

I mentioned that a client of mine offered to optimize my website and web presence for free – she sees it as a hobby of sorts, I suspect because she found it easy to teach herself (a talent I envy no end!). And she has just taken up home cooking as a new hobby, and to my knowledge has yet to fail in her experimentation. So on Monday night, I gave her a massage and we chatted SEO stuff, then she sent me home with leftover beef stew and bean soup. On Wednesday night, she invited me over to join her husband as an extra guinea pig for her cooking (yum!) and then take some initial SEO steps. Then on Friday night, with her husband out of town, we got together for Indian take-out, much yapping, and a little computer stuff. I learned about spiders and keyword tools and how freaking smart the Google geeks are.

She always sends me home with a ton of her leftover cooking. I think she makes, like, 8 servings of any recipe and sends me home with 2-3 meals’ worth. Of several things. More than once. The health value of my food intake is soaring (she’s dieting too) while at the same time, I’m spending peanuts on food. Last night she sent me home with half the leftover rice and sauces from two of the 5 dishes we’d shared. This afternoon I cooked up some chicken breasts from the freezer and shredded them into the sauces. This’ll be good for 3-4 medium-sized meals.

Before I headed over on Friday, she emailed me that she really wanted a massage because her back was acting up after her workout, but she didn’t know how to handle mixing business and pleasure. I had no idea either and said as much. Male clients are so much easier — their motivations are fairly obvious, and except for the one that reads this blog, it’s usually One Thing. So mixing ain’t happening. But this one is a girl, and once again I’m finding myself in a tentative friendship where I get the lion’s share of the benefit. She bought the Indian food, I brought brownies for dessert and also some Dawn dish liquid and Nivea shower gel because (a) she had asked if I knew of any dish soap deals because she was running out, and (b) they don’t keep soap in the bathroom and were almost out of shower gel – a problem for a massage therapist with greasy paws. A couple of hours after dinner, I gave her a 45-50 minute Thai massage. On my way home in a taxi, she called to say “I forgot to pay you!” I appreciated sooo much that she wasn’t making assumptions that it felt comfortable saying, “You weren’t allowed to pay – you bought dinner and you’re doing a huge, HUGE thing for my business.” She and I both engage in work where we are pushed for freebies, so we tend to have pretty stringent “No freebie” policies. The significance of this was not lost on her.

I anticipate similar moments of uncertainty and awkwardness in the near future. Any advice would be welcome – the more creative, the better!

It’s a Brave New Craigslist World

This morning, I finally bit the bullet and paid $10 to put an ad on Craigslist Therapeutic Services. I rewrote it in the morning, submitted it for approval at 1pm, and it went live at 3pm.  Within 90 minutes, I had 4 responses – saw one at 4:45pm, was unable to accommodate another due to a previous booking but anticipate he’ll try again tomorrow, and one was looking for a style I’m not trained in. AND it was a rainy day – notoriously bad for business. I haven’t had this kind of quality activity from craigslist in years.

For the past 8 months (when they started charging over on Erotic), the posting rate was such that, at 6 hours after posting, my little ad would be 15 pages back. Now, it’s still on the front page. And it will be for most of tomorrow if you click the tab for Manhattan results only. I’ll repost it on Thursday afternoon for $5.

I always knew that getting most of my business from one source – especially Craigslist – was a flawed situation. So the pricey changes to the system forced me to walk the walk and try other things. Luck conspired to set the stage for this just one day before Craigslist started treating massage like prostitution with their fees: my phone sex client (who might be reading this blog, so I’ll point out that she is the owner, not a phone-moaner) liked to optimize little people like me for search engine traffic and watch things take off.

She gave me my first lesson on Search Engine Optimization last night. Utterly fascinating. Honestly, it’s got me wanting to dust off my old master’s in linguistics and dissertation on writing for the internet, and hang out my cyber shingle for SEO-related writing services. It’s going to be especially easy for me to take advantage of SEO techniques for my NYC massage market because it looks like only one other massage service has made an attempt, leaving an awful lot of juicy material wide open for me. We massage therapists tend not to be terribly business-minded – in fact, that’s something that Bluejay mentioned when she told me about her business networking group. Anyway, upon hearing what kinds of domain names were still available, both my client and her husband just kept shaking their heads, saying I’d be so busy that I’d have to outsource. I don’t know about that, but a MoneyMate like me can dream :)

I’ll share one lesson I learned last night:  If you check the availability of a domain name and it is indeed available, buy it asap. I didn’t quite catch the ins and outs of how, but there are companies/individuals who track what has been searched for and not bought – and then buy it so that you’d have to pay them a premium rather than $8 or whatever to get it. Seriously, it can go within an hour. So if it’s important to you, don’t dither.

Kicked out of the massage community

Or perhaps a better title would be “I am incapable of communicating with women”. Thank god I’m heterosexual or I’d really be up a creek, but that’s beside the point of these juicy stories…

ROLFING WORKSHOP

First I was registered. Then I was rejected for not meeting a prerequisite. Then yesterday afternoon, the instructor (who rolfed me back to health 4 months ago) asked me to be the class demo model as a backdoor solution to my dilemma and his (odd number of participants). We arrive at the school, the owner throws a hissy fit and won’t allow me through the door. I was rejected for rudeness, cloaked in a “stricter admissions policy”.

February-March, I tried to contact the school on a weekly basis via email and voicemail. No one ever replied, no on ever answered the phone or returned my calls. This went on for 6 weeks. At the halfway point, my exasperation started to show, culminating in my last voicemail communication that earned me a fairly useless email reply: “Hi, it’s MMK. Again. My number is still XXX. I’ve been trying to get information about your structural integration course for the past six weeks, and no one responds to my emails or messages. Does your school even exist?”  It was a fair question. Their website hadn’t been updated in a year, but last year’s course started in late spring, so I figured this year’s would too and it was important to get the ball rolling. Now, had I not known the instructor, I would have given up at about the point where I got stroppy because I’d have concluded they were out of business. I also let my frustration show because I thought I was dealing with a lazy administrator. I was – but she was also the owner of the school, and a real prima donna as it turns out. Since she’s not interested in the thousands in fees that I’d be paying, I can only guess that she does her own admin because she’s a control freak rather than a cheapskate. Anyway, the “info@” email address is hers, she’s the one who deals with the phones – and therefore she took my rudeness personally and banned me from the premises. Kinda like the way the Bossy Mommy Brigade did when I used a $2-off-$10 coupon on a $9.99 item.

I did not know all this, but the instructor and the student-assistant who rode in the car with us did. I got an inkling of what was in store from the extreme nervousness of the student, who kept saying “I’m staying out of this, I’m staying out of this”. So I began mental preparations for sucking back my usual response to dealing with an inflated ego and its face-saving expectations and rehearsing an apology with a reasonable shot at sounding sincere. We got to the school, the instructor went in to speak with the owner (with whom he used to be in a 3-way partnership, but he and the other guy quit because she was awful to work with), and I could hear her shouting escalate through the door. The instructor came out and said, “She is only becoming more irrational by the minute, so it looks like you won’t be allowed in.” He then took me to the nearest train station to make my way home.

BLUEJAY (Fellow massage therapist / new friend)

Bluejay was contacted by the owner of a gym/wellness center last week about providing Thai massage services. The owner was looking for a few practitioners with 5+ years’ experience. There are only maybe a dozen of us who meet that criteria in the city, so she gives him my contact info. He tells her about a potential client the next day and says he’ll get back to her when he sorts it out. The following morning, he calls me and arranges to meet at my place for an intro and a 15-minute demonstration of my skills because he understandably can’t send someone to his client’s home without making sure they’re on the up-and-up. I pass muster, he gives me the details, and I realize it’s the same client he had told Bluejay about. I started talking her up as the better option, because it’s just not right that she gave him my name and thereby loses out. The client was described as having a huge apartment full of buddha statues, a fan of authentic Thai massage work, and I have to leave out the additional details that make him a lot like Bluejay at the risk of making him too identifiable to anyone who might know him. I actually said, “Bluejay might be a better match because she sticks closer to the way it’s taught and even includes some of the more traditional meditative and calming techniques.” It would appear that he interpreted that as “she doesn’t do deep work and meditates with the client”, which is definitely not the case – the girl can really put you to the pain! But I swear, I really was trying to talk her up and felt that personality-wise they’d be a better match. Gym Guy didn’t buy it.

How do I know all this? Because she was supposed to interview with him on Friday, but called to cancel because she didn’t want to deal with someone who operated like that. Gym Guy called her to see what was up, explained he felt I was a better match for the client. Since he’d never met her, he was going by my assessment of her style, and I think he told her that. I know all this because he told me about the call on Friday. I had texted her earlier to remind her to register for free M&Ms (a Friday freebie deal), no response but then none was necessary. Then I shot off a quick text about the odd conversation with Gym Guy, expressing my worries about our friendship. It’s been 48 hours, still no word from her.

The truth of the matter is that he decided before we met which one of us he wanted to try out on his client first. After all, he could have met with her even more easily than he met with me on Wednesday – I made him travel to my place, she was willing to go to his gym. I think I have two important things that tipped the balance in my favor:  I actually trained in Thailand, and I live 1.5 miles due north of the client’s apartment – 30 min walk or 8 min subway ride. She has “only” trained here in the States and lives at least 1 connection, probably two from the client’s location, which poses a lot of potential for delays.

In the past 7 days, she has been responsible for $550 of my income, turning a couple of “just made my expenses” weeks into solid earnings. All I did was lend her my massage supplies for an appointment and help her unpack a couple of lousy boxes at her new apartment. She took me to a Memorial Day barbecue, invited me to join her book club, gave me a little bag of fun make-uppy things for the teen shelter. I introduced her to CVSing. I definitely got way more out of our brief friendship than I’ll ever have a chance to give back, and that really bothers me. I’ve been taken advantage of an awful lot in the last 10 years, and I just wouldn’t deliberately visit that feeling on anyone else.

ADVERTISING

Craigslist has decided to treat the Therapeutic Services board like the Erotic Services board and charge $10 per post, coming down to $5 if we repost the same ad unchanged. This involves an approval process, though after looking at what gets approved as Therapeutic, I’d say it’s a pretty useless one. I haven’t put up an ad since they instituted this fee, waiting to see how it all shakes out. It looks like the posting rate is about 200 ads (2 pages) per day, and if you filter for Manhattan only, it’s about half that. If that doesn’t change too much, then it’s worth putting an ad up 3x a week.

SOLUTIONS?

Rolfing:  The instructor said he’d contact me about exchanging bodywork again and teach me a few myofascial techniques (the basis of rolfing). Then he gave me the name of someone in Boston who runs structural integration programs. Less convenient than New Jersey, but way more doable than Colorado. I’ve yet to google it up.

Bluejay:  I can only come up with one way to redress the imbalance, though I hold out little hope that the friendship can be salvaged. I think it would be perceived as an insult if I sent her a check to thank her for the referrals, but…well, you know all those donations I make? I could start collecting a few receipts and have her name put on them, then mail a bundle of $500-$1000 worth. She had mentioned claiming it as a tax deduction when we talked about CVSing for charity, so I can’t imagine she’d throw it out. From one angle, that looks cheap because it costs me nothing. From another angle, it’s face-saving because it’s not cold hard cash (well, it is, but indirectly).

Advertising:  I’ve been putting my ad in the Beauty Services section along with a bunch of shady massage parlors while I figure this out. I actually got a new client that way, much to my surprise. This week I’ll be taking up a client’s offer to do some search engine optimization stuff for my website. And I really should look into how Google advertising works.

This week has been weird in all directions, but I mostly mean that every day, something very out-of-the-ordinary and even bizarre happened. Like the truck driver did his “paid sleepover” thing again. And I took the tramway to Roosevelt Island for the first time and felt like a wet-behind-the-ears tourist. And I met my brother’s new boyfriend, with whom I have an inexplicable number of life experiences in common even though he’s all of 22 years old. And a few of my readers have contacted me about helping Ayten the Working Poor Mom in ways that suit their giving style and their resources (you all rock!!! – I’d mention your names, but most have expressed an interest in some degree of anonymity). And the only reason I’m going to a friend’s Tony Awards party tonight is that he lives near all three drug stores, and it’s Sunday – the day of New Stuff For Free. What can I say, I live in the theater district but I don’t like the theater…

Compromises & Quandaries: Scheduling, Sleep & Profiteering

Last night I got a call from a woman who was referred to me by my massage therapist friend Bluejay. Bluejay needs 4-5 appointments a week to break even with her basic expenses, and she’s had some pretty bad weeks lately. In fact, after speaking to her this morning, I know that she fell short by about 20%, which this one client would have satisfied. She needs 4 appointments a week to make her basic expenses, whereas I need 7-8 appointments because I charge significantly less and have a higher expense baseline due to rent differentials. But this is where the rent pays off.

Bluejay doesn’t – and really can’t – do last minute appointments, nor does she work late at night. She lives just over the bridge in Brooklyn, so any Manhattan work involves taking the subway in, getting her table that she stores at a client’s (which you just can’t do at midnight on a Saturday anyway), cab to and from with table, then subway home. For me, it’s two 10-minute cab rides door-to-door. Normally I would absolutely agree that it’s an awful lot of hassle to go through for a one-hour client, but if you’ve fallen way short of making your minimum 3 weeks out of the last 4, why wouldn’t you call your MoneyMate Kate and ask to borrow her table and do it yourself? Okay, so it turns out she had an 8am client this morning, but still, I’d have sucked it up and done it even if I had made enough money that week.

When we spoke this morning, she asked how much I had charged the client, and it was about 35% less than she would have. I sort of knew her in-office rate, but had no idea her outcall rate was so much higher, like $50-70/hour (most of us have a $30-ish charge for that – or so I thought). Here’s my dilemma: she said that when she sends me referrals, I should charge her rate. Well sure, I’d have LOVED to have made $60 more last night than I did, but I gave that woman my card…card has website listed…website has rates listed…see the problem? Now if the woman had been an existing client of Bluejay’s, I could have justified charging her rate and not giving her a card – not nice to steal clients, and there’s something akin to an oath about that for massage therapists. However, she was a new inquiry and will probably never be able to arrange an appointment under Bluejay’s conditions (advance notice, before 9pm, etc).

Thinking out loud here, but I can sort of come up with most of a solution – still, I have a feeling my brilliant readers might have some very useful advice on this. I could buy another domain name, copy my existing website but change the rates to be in line with Bluejay’s, and get some cards printed up. I’d also need to get my hands on a wheelie thing for my massage table (I don’t normally bring it for outcalls, hence the justifiably lower rate – that thing is a major pain in the shoulder, back, etc). Total cost for all this would be about $100, and I don’t know if she’ll ever send me another referral between now and her departure from NYC sometime between August and January. The other big potential glitch is that if a referral googles my phone number, they’ll find my main site with the lower rates. I know a lot of them do that kind of search to confirm that I’m not a provider of naughtiness, so this is not a silly concern.

Any advice?

Finally, some progress on professional training

January through March, I contacted a massage school in NJ every week by voicemail (they never answer the phone) and email about their Rolf Structural Integration program.  As if it wasn’t bad enough waiting 7 weeks to get nothing but a “we’ll let you know” email, they didn’t let me know. I kept in touch with the Rolfer who fixed the problem that 4 months of chiropractic adjustments and neurological testing could not resolve because he teaches at this school – otherwise, I wouldn’t know about the two-day intro workshop that starts in 12 days. I sent a pissy email to the “info” address about what it takes to get on their contact list, and dropped the person handling registration a direct email (already established that calling is futile). If they weren’t the only place to learn this particular skill this side of The Continental Divide, I’d have given up and walked away in response to their complete failure in communication and administration.

Okay, done venting. Now I’m freaking EXCITED that I will finally be taking the first step towards the closest thing my profession has to security: mastering a style where demand significantly outstrips supply, especially when it comes to female practitioners. The rough plan is to have all this training under my belt and the beginnings of a practice built by the time my lease is up for renewal again so I won’t pass out when the offer arrives in the mail…like I’ve done the last three years.

So fingers crossed that the registration email gets a better response than my inquiry emails. I’m guessing it will, since it will immediately add $325 to their bottom line.

My Micro-economy: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I’m in a little bit of a tizzy this morning (see The Ugly below), but yesterday I reviewed my income and investments so far this year and, I don’t know about the future, but the present is a little less bleak. I gave up two things – haircuts and travel – which, taking into account some sublet income, would have cost me $3500. And that is just about the sum total of…

THE GOOD

There’s a certain amount of money I need to make every week to cover all of my essential personal/business expenses – rent, health insurance, cell/internet/web hosting, food, laundry, etc. Four out of the first nineteen weeks of 2009, I failed to hit that number, while three of those weeks I exceeded that minimum by at least 75%. To put real numbers to this, I exceeded my survival-level income over those 19 weeks by $5000. So where is that money now?

-  $1000 finished off my 2008 Roth IRA contribution on April 1
–  $600 for the replacement laptop
–  $200 wasted on application fees for the apartment I decided not to take
–  $750 for professional services – accountant, doctor bills, 1 Rolfing session
–  $3000 is earmarked for my Whole Life policy premium due in September
–  $1350 “extra” sitting in my accounts waiting for me to do something with it

Umm…that adds up to $6900, not $5000. I’m doing something right and I have NO idea what. I might have to revisit my concept of survival-level expenses and see where I’m saving, like, $100/week. My income is down 20%, but I was worried it was going to be more like 40%, so this indeed all good news relative to the current environment.

Also, I’ll be making a passive $75-125/month handling the sublet of my soldier-friend’s apartment. I’ve already got two potential tenants lined up for viewing with the current sublettor, who it turns out gave the place a fresh coat of paint when he moved in. Assuming it’s not a bizarre color…phew! I’d have painted it, but didn’t really want to. Apparently the owner refuses to fix some constantly-running water problem in the bathtub, but I would gladly sacrifice some of my little side income to pay a plumber to take care of it. Heck, maybe I could hire one of my building’s maintenance men to do it on the side – I trust them.

THE BAD

My investments are still down about 40%, though my recent stock purchases are faring way better (one is down 17%, the other is up 360%). Despite the “leftover” money, I’m going to struggle to accomplish what I want to this year – $5K Roth IRA, $9K whole life, unknown amount towards tuition for Rolfing course (anticipating $3-4K). It’s killing me not to travel, but I can put that on the back burner for one year. I just can’t let it go on longer than that or else I start acting all nutso.

THE UGLY

Hoping it’s a minor obstacle, but since I’ve only known about it for a matter of hours, I don’t know yet. Although I wish it weren’t the case, I get most of my business through Craigslist – of all the places to look online or off for an independent massage therapist, this is the most high-profile site out there. I’m on others, but they’re only worth about 10% of my business. Yes, it’s that unbalanced.

I may have mentioned that since CL started charging to post in the Erotic (recently relabelled “Adult”) section last fall, the Therapeutic board has been swamped with massage parlor, escort and brothel spam. Traffic quadrupled overnight. Just to keep an ad in the first 200 (2 pages), you need to post every 45 mins. I technically break the rules by top-posting, but it’s really freaking minor compared to what everyone else is doing – seriously , is 175 live ads in a week not worse?? Well, in its unfathomable wisdom, CL decided to suspend two of my five accounts, and their help page pretty much said I had a snowball’s chance of getting it reinstated. Amazingly, in the midst of blogging, the ban was lifted on the one I emailed about, just hours after reminding them that they really need a lot more ads like mine, not less. Still, I’m quite sure this is only the beginning of the fallout from the Craigslist Killer and the ensuing negative press. It’s particularly ironic to be dumped on like this today – I got a thank-you note from a squash-playing doctor who came to me two hours before his tournament final last night a completely cramped up mess; he was an underdog, he won, and he was giving me some of the credit. And tonight I’m working on a high-profile retired 4-star general who, yes, found me on craigslist after sifting through about 60 pages of shady ladies. Bring on the ugliness…

Why I’m making it in this economy…I think

Ever since I reconnected with a fellow self-employed massage therapist (whom I’ll refer to as Bluejay) with whom I did some Thai training with 5 years ago, I’ve been wondering why I’m able to at least “break even” with my expenses every month in this nasty financial climate while she’s drowning. Bluejay has been participating in networking groups for over 3 years, has been licensed and practicing for 17 years, works from two spaces in Manhattan, and has a more comprehensive skillset than I do. While there is nothing wrong with her approach or business model, here’s why I think mine works better these days:

I work from home. This allows me to accept last-minute appointments, and by that I mean less than an hour’s notice. I don’t think Bluejay can do anything but housecalls on less than 24 hours’ notice, while 95% of my business is arranged within 4 hours of the appointment time. What can I say, this is New York City, people have trouble planning things like this more than 30 minutes in advance. I love emails that say “my 3pm conference call just got cancelled, can I come over right now”. Of course, when that happens as a text message, it looks more like a booty call, heh.

I am willing and able to work weird hours. Some weeks, late appointments are all I get – without them I’d be sunk. Not sure why, but those clients are the most compatible with my personality. Oh, and I charge a bit more after 9pm for a number of reasons, one of which is a supply-demand thing: I’m practically the only legitimate female massage therapist in the city who works after 8pm. There’s also an element of “battle pay” in there, as well as incentive to disrupt my circadian rhythms.

I only use the kind of “energy” that involves sweat. Bluejay both looks and behaves the part of a New Age healer, and her approach is spiritual even though she actually does phenomenal deep tissue, not Reiki or anything similarly nebulous. As such, she has a larger female clientele, and women tend to see massage as a luxury rather than a necessity. And we all know what’s happening to luxuries these days. Me, I make it clear that I’m a no-nonsense smartass, which is a personality trait that has attracted a predominantly male clientele, and they’re more likely to get a massage when things hurt rather than make do with a yoga class and a hot bath.

While all of this doesn’t mitigate the drawbacks (half of my clients work in the financial sector, most of them talk to me about very personal stuff and therefore won’t send me referrals, women aren’t comfortable with a “work from home” situation), it is enough to keep my head above water.

Sidebar: I’ve had a few people (mostly clients) lately ask what I do with so much downtime, and the truth is – not much. I’ve acquired a few close-to-home hobbies in the past 7 months, blogging and shopping for free being the main ones. Unfortunately, when I mention blogging, everyone wants to read my stuff because apparently I’m quite entertaining. I’m not sure I want them to know about my weird little coupon obsession, so I’m fending most of them off. However, I failed in that today (yes, Neil, I mean you!).

State of the MMK Union

According to the talking heads at CNBC (my commercial break channel surfing destination of choice before 4pm), that whole downturn thing is over and happy days are here again. So let’s pretend for a moment that I believe them and look at how it has affected my year thus far, as I sit here on the eve of my 39th birthday…

Income:  My income has taken a 20% hit, based on a year-on-year comparison for the Jan-April period. I predicted a percentage closer to 50%, so this is GREAT!!! I suspect it would have been higher if Feb 2008 hadn’t been so frighteningly dire in the immediate aftermath of the Bear Stearns collapse. Anyway, this means I’m making my expenses and a bit more, but not a whole lot more. And I’m hoarding it.

Career:  Looks like there will be a 2-day Rolfing workshop in June. Given the complexity of Rolfing, I suspect it’s an intro deal to market the big 300+ hour course, which bodes well for my financial future!

Investments:  GE is down 30% since I purchased it, and AIG is up 180%. And if business continues to show recovery, I just might be able to make that Whole Life premium in September (I’ll go monthly if I have to, but I feel like that’s just postponing the inevitable).

Health:  Still fighting to get my minor vascular procedure done – pain in the ass doctor won’t schedule a surgery date (it’s not just me). My weight is way up but, I think, no longer increasing…with Bridezilla’s big day looming, I really need to re-establish my good habits pronto. And thank whatever powers that be, I finally resolved the neck-shoulder-elbow pain in February…ahhh!

Home:  Re-upped in March for 18 months at an acceptable rent. In retrospect, I wish I’d shot for 20-24 months, ugh, what was I thinking. I do need to replace some dying items in here though, like a shelf unit that’s getting awfully rickety. But I tend not to get around to such things until they completely fall to pieces, which is really not a great plan when clients come to your home.

Travel:  No plans in the making, except for the non-negotiable trip to Colorado in September for the wedding. I really should do something the first week of July though, because I know I’ll be wasting my time waiting around for clients to call.

Charity::  I’ve funded several microloans at Kiva with money that had been repaid from other loans. I’ve made weekly deliveries of cereal, dairy products, condiments, toiletries and first aid items to a teen shelter and also cooked dinner there twice. My new shopping-for-free hobby has been fantastic in this respect! I’ve made one delivery, with another in preparation, of toiletries and beauty products to Bottomless Closet. I’ve done 4 ThaiForGood massages for $$ for my little charity projects. I sent a check for $80 to Thai Freedom House in February, with plans to send another $50 within the next 10 days.

CONCLUSION:  Despite the year’s craziness on a macro level (volatile markets, new president, Craigslist Killer, swine flu panic, etc), I’m doing just fine on a micro level. And you too can come to this conclusion if you restrict your news viewing to Comedy Central :)

I don’t want to die while making a living

Sometimes I truly hate those really scary news teasers that succeed in enticing me to watch their “real” news instead of The Daily Show. Most of the time it’s all hype no substance. However, there was one teaser tonight that made my heart flip-flop and scurry over to Google:  New York masseuse murdered in posh hotel.

I’m a massage therapist. I will see clients in their hotel rooms (they behave much better than New Yorkers!). And like this girl, I advertise on Craigslist.

But that’s where the similarities end, though I have to agree that there are already too many. First, the murder happened in Boston. I’m in Manhattan. Second, she’s a 26yo aspiring actress who “sounds like Paris Hilton” according to her friends. I’m a 38yo with a master’s degree in linguistics who has lived in 4 foreign countries, alone. Third, she did the kind of massage she was embarrased to tell her friends about. Ahem. I’ve been doing this for 6 years, have actually worked on my friends and family – and I specialize in a clothes-on style. Fourth, she puts photos in her craigslist ad. I put in a list of prohibited behaviors. Fifth, I’ve spent 8 years training in 3 different martial arts and can apply a blood-choke as well as any UFC contender. Plus, I don’t own a gun but I can shoot a pre-selected twig off a tree at 50 feet in a blizzard. And you would never guess it to look at me.

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