Side hustles can be tough, especially when you keep having to explain what it is you do.
Just ask Toni George, professional back scratcher.
George and her daughters started the Miami-based business Scratcher Girls in 2016. For $50 per half hour session, they’ll scratch your back, head, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, hands and feet.
Starting a business is hard enough, but even more so when there aren’t any guides from others who’ve done it before.
“Because it is such a niche concept and service, there was really nothing that could serve as a precedent for what we’re offering,” George says.
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Do you have dreams of starting a business that’s a bit off the beaten career track? We have 16 tools to help your small business run smoothly.
But once you have the basics of setting up a business out of the way, how do you, you know, get people to pay you?
Here are four strategies for attracting customers to your unusual job.
Prepare to Educate
If you say you’re a dentist, there isn’t much need for explanation. But as a professional back scratcher, George knows she needs a longer elevator pitch.
“Because it is such a niche concept and service, there was really nothing that could serve as a precedent for what we’re offering.”
She opens by clarifying that she is not a doctor. However, she does have a background in cosmetology (she has another job as a makeup artist). That means she can’t make any medical claims, but she can speak to the feel-good benefits that people generally associate with spa sessions.
“We try to educate people as much as we can in regards to how the service that we offer can link to one’s mental and even physical wellness,” George says. “They’re a little bit skeptical, but I think so far we’ve been able to handle what would be the most difficult part.”
Utilize Word of Mouth
George uses social media to post testimonials from previous clients, but real-life word of mouth can also help build trust.
Daria Ortiz became a regular client after learning about Scratcher Girls from a friend who had been using the service for a few months.
Ortiz, who also works in the beauty industry, now recommends the service to her clients, describing her experience as “therapeutic and relaxing” to skeptics.
“Some people are a little scared because they think that it just sounds like it’s painful because you hear ‘scratches,’” says Ortiz, who tells her clients, “It’s definitely the new massage.”
Be Ready to Fail — and Try Again
What’s the old saying? If at first you don’t succeed, market, market again (or something like that).
George rattles off an array of strategies she has tried before and plans to implement, including creating introductory specials, redesigning the website and partnering with area hotels.
“We’re still trying to figure out the most effective prices that will bring people in to at least try the service,” says George, who’s also considering expanding to New York and California after receiving requests from those areas via social media.
However, even after a successful quarter last year — profits rose to $500 — the business still experiences peaks and valleys, according to George. In November, for instance, Scratcher Girls had just one client.
“It’s still touch and go,” says George, who also has a side gig as an Uber driver. “We haven’t quite gotten to the point of paying ourselves yet.”
Love What You Do
At the end of the day, if you’re doing something you love, you’ll find the passion to persevere, George says.
She’s noticed, for instance, that the results of scratch therapy leave her smiling by the end of a session.
“For all of my clients, their body goes limp… and I know that they’re there,” George says. “I’m almost arrogant because I know it’s an amazing experience. So even if it doesn’t help you in regards to wellness as far as your mental [health] is concerned, definitely your body is going to feel good.”
George hopes that she’ll someday be able to reach a broader audience so she can ditch her other gigs and make Scratcher Girls her full-time job.
“I stand behind my company and what we offer,” she says. “I just can’t wait for the rest of the world to experience it.”
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Find her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.