Like the gowns worn at the Golden Globes Awards for Actors…
A professional appearance for team members, therapists and other wellness providers is important!
Can you say, Dress Code!
(Also important for Office Managers and other Staff)
I‘m warning you now…
This is where I get a ton of flack from therapists and staff.
This is also where I say – “Trust me and do it”.
Most of you will probably agree that clothing choice all makes common sense in how we’re perceived – but over my years as a business coach, I hear some of you say, “It doesn’t matter what I wear!”
I say, “YES! It absolutely DOES matter what you wear!”
(Irene’s Note: A few scenarios have been brought to my attention, so I added and clarified a few things below to reflect — thanks peeps!)
I know clothing is what makes you unique and who you are.
I’m not saying dress like a fuddy-duddy.
Be as cool as you want – just put thought into it, and make it look good and appropriate for your business brand!
What you wear is one of the first things clients, prospects, and referring partners notice about you either consciously or unconsciously.
We are judged on what we ‘appear’ to be, and your appearance can turn off or attract someone before you even have the chance to prove yourself!
When someone new meets you, or if a current client comes to see you today, some of their feelings will be subconscious, but some thoughts will be on a conscious level, like:
- “She looks like she just woke up!”
- “I wish he would put on a clean shirt, I can smell the sweat.”
- “She looks so professional and successful – she must be a good therapist…”
The Way You Look, Affects Your Income Potential!
Often-times your lack of ‘proper’ appearance will actually lose you clients. At their first session with you, a new client makes a decision as to whether or not you are the right provider for them… and like it or not, a lot of their decision to stay with you is based on their perception of us.
You most probably will not gain clients if they meet you and merely based on what you wear, decide you’re not for them.
Think of the professional athletic coaches:
They’re always dressed in suits even on the field or court.
Because it shows respect for their job AND it commands respect from the players and spectators!
I can’t tell you the number of clients who have commented on my choice of clothing as one way they knew I was a “cut above” the other therapists around.
Also, imagine if you step out to grab lunch and run into the head of the orthopedic department at the hospital downtown or the principal of the school in your town… wouldn’t looking professional make a better impression when you are speaking about how effective you are with handling clients? Of course it will!
When I first started my practice, I wore black workout pants (that actually had stirrups to hold them down under my feet) and a tucked in cotton, plain white shirt with dress shoes. (Don’t hate me — it was the 80’s!)
I looked clean, sporty/athletic (since professional and amateur athletes were my target market) and it was comfortable to move in.
I didn’t really think anything about it and already had a full load of clients. Then one day I met a super popular chiropractor and noticed she looked really good in a stylish outfit. Each time I saw her — she was always dressed nicely — clean, classy, in clothes that she could easily move in.
I thought I would copy her — so I started to dress better.
(I went to discount stores like Ross Dress for Less, Target, and thrift stores and found a few ‘designer’ labels made of good fabric and high-end detailed work.)
Within a few weeks, I began to get even busier with more clients AND my tips went up!
(note: I now don’t accept tips at all, but at the time, it was great to easily generate more $$!)
Clients started to comment on how they appreciated my attention to my clothes because it reflected on their belief that I would take care of them better too, plus they felt more comfortable referring their friends to me since their friends were wealthy people.
Since I wanted to work with Health Care Providers, if they ever stopped by to introduce themselves, I knew I would make an excellent first impression!
Choose YOUR Style:
You can be as creative, arty, funky, sporty or conservative as you wish – but just be sure your clothes are clean, no holes, torn or missing buttons.
- Make sure they pass the sniff-test — no sweat-smell embedded into the fabric, cigarette burns, or bleach stains!
(Yes, I’ve seen therapists come to work with all of those!)
- It’s best to wear cotton or any of the new, breathable fabrics that you can wash easily and won’t show any stains from lotion or oils.
- If you use your arms in your work as a tool, be sure your sleeves can be rolled up, or are short.
- Don’t let your shirt brush into their face or head as you lean over them, so decide if you will tuck it in, belt it, or something else.
I suggest you preplan and have a few outfits picked out that you know fit well, allow you to move in, and breathe.
Create 2 or 3 ‘work outfits’ to make it a no-brainer so you don’t need to think about it. You can always grow your ‘work wardrobe’ as you go.
If you sweat a lot during the day — bring a change of shirt.
The Recommendations Below are for In-Clinic.
(Working at sports events, and in your home might require a different choice, but even so, please choose your wardrobe with care.)
Pants or Skirts (women & men)
- Slacks, skirts, dresses, shorts if appropriate and not too short, or trousers
No blue jeans
No close/skin-tight fitting pants/skirts/leggins (unless your butt and crotch are covered <– yes, I had to say that)
No sweat pants
(Not crazy about scrubs. I understand the thought of it signifying a medical specialty but since you are not doing surgery, I think it’s not appropriate. Even in hospitals and medical clinics, they are only worn when needed, and then only once they enter the operating room.)
No T-shirts with pictures or words across the front (unless it’s your own logo or business slogan.
No sweatshirts /hoodies (unless they’re stylish)
No shirts that allow midriff to show
No tank tops or short sleeves that expose your underarm, unless it’s 100 degrees, but then be careful of sweat dripping!
No bra straps poking out
(short sleeves and tanks are ok while in the office, but leaning over clients so they look up and see your pits, in my opinion, is not acceptable.)
Comfortable, clean, non-scuffed up, good condition
No tennis shoes (unless they are black or solid in color)
Be very selective with open toe shoes and sandals
No slippers or flip-flops
Wash off mud and dirt and keep polished.
Bare feet? No… No… and No… (see exceptions below)
I know a lot of schools teach you to give a session with no shoes, but I think it is entirely unprofessional.
You will learn to be “grounded” with shoes on – just start now.
Bare Feet “Tricks”:
- Now, if it is a scorcher-hot day and you’ve already established a relationship with a client, my thought is you can take off your shoes for the session, but only once you are in the treatment room. If it is a new client- don’t. Since they don’t know, love and trust you yet, it could be a turn-off.
- If your work is barefooted style, of course that’s different, but even then, I say, walk with shoes and take off just for the session only after you’ve explained what you will do to the client. You can take off your shoes ONCE you are in the therapy room, but don’t walk around the clinic barefooted.
- If you’re hot, or your feet are sore, and the client is on the table and won’t see your feet are unshod, you can take your shoes off just for that portion — but slip them back on before the client knows they were off.
- If you get on the table or put a foot up on the table (as I often do for leverage & better body-mechanics) slide shoe off for that section and then pop ’em back on once you move on.
Who do you know?
I want you all to be charging top-dollar per session (if you aren’t already.)
Who do you know and trust that you pay over $100/hour who works with no shoes, comes to work sloppy or unkempt, with hair a mess?
My guess is no-one.
All of the professionals who command top-dollar from you, wear shoes and nice clothes! (Lawyer, dentist, banker, realtor, etc…) So should you!
(This ties in with my concept that I teach my high-level coaching clients about “Embrace Your Role: Adviser Role vs. Order Taker Role.)
Big Money — Full Client Load:
Once you are making big money, and have a full load of great clients, you can begin to experiment with how you look. We all know eccentric multimillionaires who dress in schlubby clothes… once you are a multimillionaire — knock yourself out and dress how you wish.
Wash and Comb your hair, keep long hair back, off the client.
Don’t have visible cuts, acne, open infections. Clean and cover them – including men who cut themselves shaving in the morning… I do not want to see a little bit of tissue on your cheek to stop the blood. (yes, I’ve seen that!)
Clean the damn dirt from under your fingernails, and keep them shaped!
The Nose Knows:
If you smoke — stop now. I have a fox’s nose that can pick up cigarette and pot smell from a mile away. I know when a client or therapist walks in who has and who hasn’t been smoking, even if it was earlier in the day.
Those of us who are sensitive to those smells, won’t want you to be their therapist. Plain and simple, you won’t get me and others like me to rebook with you, no matter how well you wash your hands because it reeks out your pores. (same with garlic if you eat a ton o’ regularly.)
Perfume and Cologne:
No — and that goes for laundry soap or dryer sheets, body lotion, hair cream, and other stuff that has a strong fragrance.
Bathe your body every day
Wash your hair as often as needed
Wash clothes after each wearing or at least air out to be sure there are no smells
Really? Extra Lotion on Arm Until Needed?
Why in the world do some schools teach massage therapists to put a dollop of lotion on your arm so you have it handy? This lotion-on-the-arm-thing drives me absolutely bonkers!
Don’t do it.
Instead of a dollop of lotion on your arm, keep it in a holster, or a small dish or container beside you or on the counter or table (that won’t spill if it tips) and use that to dip into.
Lotion on your arm looks messy (and is messy) and the clients have no idea why you have cream on your arm!
What I Know:
- My income went up once I “dressed the part”.
- I felt better about myself, and people perceived me as a successful professional.
- People like to do business with people who are similar to themselves, and clothing is one way they decide if you are like them. (It makes them feel more comfortable to be in similar company, or it can help them feel special to be with someone who is perceived to be more successful.)
- People in-the-know appreciate good quality fabric and detail (even on a subconscious level)
- You should dress at least one notch higher than the people you want as clients, but if they are very wealthy and wear designer clothes, you will decide what ‘level’ of dress is best for you, and that you can do your work in. The key though is not to dress too casual.
If you work out of your home, it’s probably fine to take off your shoes… but that brings up a whole new level of how to establish professionalism when you are not in a professional office.
(It IS possible to be perceived as a professional, just much harder when they see you in your personal space.)
Don’t Shoot The Messenger:
Remember gang, I’m not saying dress like I am in the image above.
You absolutely must wear clothes that fit your body, style, and needs.
All I’m saying is in my own experience, and with my coaching clients who have incorporated dressing up more, themselves in their businesses, almost instantly they’ve noticed an increase in income, tips, and client referrals.
My thought is if changing our appearance allows us to earn more by simply changing the outward appearance — why not give it a try and see if it does anything. If not, you can always go back to the old way, right?
If your business is as successful as you want it to be — don’t change a thing. However, if you are wondering how to improve your business, I suggest you include up-leveling your appearance as just one of the success strategies.
Your Assignment To Be More Brilliant:
- Pick out at least one or two “Work Outfits, including shoes” so you won’t need to think about it when you get dressed in the morning. (If you see clients every day — find a few outfits that will work, and interchange them.)
- Decide how you will dispense your lotion, cream, oil, products, so they are in a clean, professional container that won’t spill.
- If you don’t now, start wearing shoes while you give your sessions.
- Commit to ALWAYS looking professional if you will be where clients and referring partners will be.
A Note to Schools & Students:
The same concepts apply. Select a color combo that matches your school’s color or branding — and let students wear their choice of clothes, but in keeping with your parameters.
Your clothes, how you look, what you say, and what you do are all so integral with earning a high 5-6 figure business…
If you want to know ALL the secrets to take your business to the next level, I’m now accepting a hand-full of new members into my Dream Practice Mastery Academy group coaching program. If you want to see if it might be a good fit for you, send me an email and we’ll set up a time to have a quick chat.
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts below…
(as the song goes, “& the haters gonna hate…”)
Thank you Irene for this posting.
I am still fairly new in my journey as a private practice LMT. I am learning so much and having a blast.
So far I have attracted some wonderful clients that challenge me perfectly as I grow in my new field. I was, however, wearing scrubs. It seemed appropriate to me, others in the center I rent from wear scrubs and I think they look great, they are super comfortable and do not restrict my movements. That being said, I took your posting to heart and I remembered back in the beginning of my Corporate career being told by my mentor to dress for the position I want and not the position I have. I listened to that advice back then and it worked. Every time I climbed another rung on the Corporate Ladder I would evaluate my wardrobe and make the necessary changes.
Hearing this from you brought that memory back so I decided to follow your advice. I noticed an immediate change in my how my current clients were interacting with me, I also noticed with my new clients they seem to be listening to my advice more (I also embraced your “advisor” role), I have seen great improvement in my rebooking ratio this month too.
Even more important I notice that I feel differently as well. My “work” clothes I chose do not feel any differently when I’m working, they are breathable and move well with me. However, when I am in consultation I FEEL like a professional advisor, which makes me one. I am now having new pics taken for my website and promotional materials so they reflect this new, even more professional me.
Thank you again for your advice, it truly works! (but you already knew that. lol)
So glad to hear of your success so far with what you’ve learned from your other mentors and me.
Clothes can be so subtle but powerful! (And it doesn’t have to be boring either, right?)
Thanks for the article. Will definitely be uping my game in this area since at times I can get a little relaxed (nice jeans and top). Great tip on already knowing what you are wearing for the day cuts down on using mental energy for decision making.
What about wearing an apron as a boost to professional appearance?
Some people prefer to wear an apron to protect their clothes, and I don’t see a problem in that.
The bottom line in all of this is to think out what you wear. Whatever it is, be sure it is alignment with your ‘brand’.
Hello, Irene. Thans for this article. I think you make some very good points. I’m already pretty neatly dressed at work but I’m going to up may game a little after reading this. I have a couple of outfits that are slightly dressier than my norm and I’ve sometimes wondered if they were appropriate for the office. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I don’t usually see other massage therapists dressed that way. After reading your article, I absolutely will have no qualms about it.
I have a resale shop around the corner from my office that gets contributions from some affluent people. They raise money for scholarships and have patrons who donate some very nice clothes. I have found some really nice work clothes there. In particular, I really like Chico’s pants, which are $65 or more at the mall but I get them in good condition for $10 at this shop. They are plain, black, never fade, the wrinkles fall out, they’re very comfortable, last for several years, and they launder beautifully. I’ve also found nice tops there hat are comfortable for working and launder well. I found some tops that I liked but the sleeves were long; I got a pair of sleeve garters and they keep the sleeves up when I push them up.
One thing you didn’t mention is necklines. I used to notice in workshops that some women seemed completely oblivious to how much showed when they bent over. Low cut necklines have gotten quite fashionable and sometimes I find a really nice top but the neckline is too low for work, so I’ve got a couple of camisoles that will fill in the space.
By the way, I completely agree about scrubs. I think they are unattractive on just about everyone. At their best, they look like pajamas.
Great article. I’m sharing it with some of my FaceBook friends.
Glad you agree, and you’re right, the majority of practitioners look like they really don’t care much, and that translates LOUDLY to clients.
Necklines do need to be considered, but I suppose if it’s just you and the client and if they’re down on the table, they won’t see much, it’s when we bend over to change the music or grab a towel when their eyes are open…
It applies to adults – just as I tell my 14 yo daughter, “No boobs, no bra straps, no belly, no butt’!
You have some very good advice here, and thank you for that. But seriously, $100 per hour? That sounds very greedy to me.
Glad you’re liking the info – hope you get a lot out of it.
2 things come to mind when I hear you say $100 an hour sounds greedy to you. #1. That is actually on the low end rate for many of the therapists who I coach who practice across the US, Canada, Australia and a few other countries.They can command a nice fee because they deliver that much in value to their clients.
#2- I don’t think it’s possible to say any amount is too much (or too little) without knowing what you are buying. (And actually if you’re positioned correctly it’s never an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison, because what you offer is completely different from your neighbor down the street.)
That is an advanced concept — but a true one.
(look at a Mac computer vs a Dell- 2 computers, but completely different ‘apples’!
Best wishes and thanks for the comment!