Money. It’s been called a necessary evil, but is it really?
We need money in order to pay our bills, but beyond that, are we allowed to flourish? Does our culture support the idea of a massage therapist enjoying abundance?
When I first became a licensed massage therapist in the early 1990s, there was a prevailing notion that as a “healer,” my job was to serve. The average hourly rate for a massage therapist in my area was around $35-$40, which was barely enough to pay my rent, let alone support my single-parent family. I had owned other businesses prior to attending massage school, so I was determined to change this perception. There was no reason a massage therapist couldn’t enjoy a profitable business.
Less than a year after I was licensed, I created a workshop called “Launching a Career in Massage Therapy” so I could share my business knowledge with other new practitioners. I was astounded when 50 people showed up, all eager to learn how to thrive in this industry.
Since then, I have taught hundreds of classes in the business of massage. There was a need for business education then and there’s still a need now. Even though the industry has undergone many changes in the last two decades, knowing how to start, grow and sustain a lucrative practice is vital.
Pricing your services is one of the most important components of creating a successful business. If you price them too low, you won’t make enough to sustain your practice. Price them too high, and customers will find a cheaper alternative. It’s a delicate balance with a number of things to consider.
If you are a new therapist, the first thing you should consider when pricing your services is your level of training. Should you charge the same rate as someone with 10 years of experience? Probably not. From a consumer’s point of view, that wouldn’t be fair.
Even so, a fledgling therapist should never drastically undercut the market, because there’s something called perceived value at play here.
For instance, if the prevailing rate in your area is $65 for a one-hour massage and you set your price at $40, it may be perceived that your skills are subpar. If you lack experience, price your services at the lower end of the area’s median pricing but never undercut it drastically. However, if you work in a clinic or spa that sets pricing, you may not have a say. In this case, invest as much as you can in continuing education. Seek out seasoned therapists to mentor you. Watch, learn and hone your skills.
Your overhead costs should be factored into your pricing structure as well. If your clinic or spa is in a popular, well-trafficked area or in a newer facility, your rent likely will be higher than an out-of-the-way location. In addition to rent, add up all your expenses, including reception services, laundry, employee or contractor fees, taxes, insurance and supplies. After all expenses, you should be making a profit. If not, you may need to adjust your pricing. You won’t be in business long if you are losing money at the end of the day.
Other things to consider when pricing your services are the extras you provide for your clients. If the neighborhood day spa has a locker room with showers, steam room, sauna or other amenities, their prices will reflect these niceties. While you might not have the budget or space to add these luxuries, you can add value to your services for very little money.
Add Value to Your Services
It’s easy to add value to your services without adding a lot of expense. Simply using hot, moist towels during your treatment, for example, can add a luxurious feel that will justify a slightly higher price. Aromatherapy oils have an almost mysterious element that clients will pay more for. A pre-treatment foot soak will allow your clients to unwind while they wait and create a ritual that has a perceived value.
Services considered add-ons are those that can be done in the same amount of time as the regular session. Aromatherapy, hot towels, hot-oil scalp massage and a hydrating foot mask are examples of add-ons that clients will gladly pay for. You pay pennies for the product but the perceived value is much higher, allowing you to increase your treatment prices.
You may need to invest in additional equipment for these extra perks, but you don’t need to break the bank in doing so. An extra-large salad bowl can work well for foot soaks, for example. Set it on top of a rolling plant cart and make it easy to move out of the way. A turkey roaster or crock-pot can be used to heat moist towels, although you should save up to purchase a professional towel cabinet.
Another way to add perceived value is to give your massage space a facelift. Wrinkle-free sheets with a satiny feel and a warm, fuzzy blanket will make your clients feel as if they are in a resort spa. Flameless candles can add a nice, warm ambience and an aromatherapy diffuser in your waiting area will relax your clients before they enter the treatment room.
If you need inspiration, visit a couple high-end spas in your area and ask for a tour. Many of the elements they offer can be duplicated for very little investment on your part.
When to Adjust Prices
There comes a point in every therapist’s practice when prices need to be adjusted. But how do you know when the time is right and how much you should increase them? There are several factors to consider.
First, why are you thinking about increasing your prices? Are you fully booked and turning away clients? If so, increasing your prices is a savvy business decision. You may lose a client or two, but you’ll replace them with someone eager to work with you. When you raise your rates, your bottom line will immediately increase without adding any more hours to your day.
Are you working too hard and want to decrease your practice hours? Again, raising your prices can help relieve some of the strain of overwork. In this case, you don’t replace the clients who leave, but you maintain your level of income with the price increase. (Make sure you follow the suggestions above and take into consideration what your market will bear.)
Keep an eye out for any changes in your local market. When you notice a shift in prices, even a subtle one, it’s time to investigate. Maybe a fancy new day spa is driving up the prices in your local market or the demand for qualified therapists may be increasing. When you notice a scenario such as this, it might be a good time to follow suit by adjusting your prices, too.
Whenever you increase your prices, notify your regular clients in advance. Write a memo or email in an upbeat tone explaining your reason for the change. It’s OK to be honest. If your rent or other overhead expenses have increased, share that with your clients. They will understand and likely sympathize. If you’ve added staff that will make their visit a more pleasant experience, they will welcome the change.
Never apologize for a rate increase. You are simply doing what’s best for your business. Here is an example of a price increase notice:
Dear valued client,
First, let me thank you for being such a loyal customer of Healing Hands. Your satisfaction is very important to me. I have worked hard over the last 5 years to bring you quality massage therapy services at a reasonable price.
However, due to an increase in my overhead expenses and with the addition of our new (and fabulous) receptionist, I must increase my prices slightly. Effective January 1, my fees will be as follows:
60 min. massage: $75
90 min. massage: $110
75 min. body scrub & wrap: $95
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me immediately. Thank you for your continued patronage. I really appreciate it!
Warmly, Linda Beach
You Are Worth It
Do you have a scarcity mindset, or are you cultivating the qualities of someone destined for unlimited abundance? How do you know? And more importantly, how can you create a shift in your mindset so you can thrive in your business?
So many of our beliefs about money were ingrained in us as children. Others were acquired during stressful or painful times in our lives. It may be time to forgive the person or circumstances surrounding these events. Painful memories around money can involve parents, family members, spouses or partners, bosses or even yourself.
Write down any memory involving money that makes you feel anxious, stressed or frustrated. Create a forgiveness ritual to help you let go of these feelings. You might want to establish a mantra such as I forgive you or I’m sorry or simply shred or burn the list.
You could hold an image of this person or persons in your mind and imagine yourself practicing compassion. After all, they were probably re-creating patterns they learned when they were children.
Try changing your story about money. Do you catch yourself saying things like, I never have enough money, I can’t pay my bills with what I make or I’m always broke? Your words have power and what you focus on is what you will ultimately create. Change your story around money by saying things like, “I have everything I need…I am so blessed…I give to the world and I receive with open arms…All my needs are provided for…I am worthy of abundance.”
Practice gratitude. This is the simplest, yet most powerful way to create more abundance. Being thankful for every single thing in your life will open you up to receiving more. Oprah Winfrey once said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Spend some time every day in the practice of gratitude.
You can make a list of all the things in your life you appreciate or you can say them out loud. Tell others how much you value them. Notice all the little things that go right during your day. Is the sun shining? Are your kids listening today? Did the car start right up? Did you enjoy an easy commute to work? Express your thanks out loud as you move through your day. Being grateful for even the smallest blessings will open the doors for greater abundance to flow into your life.
About the Author
Linda Beach has been inspiring and educating massage therapists for more than 25 years. She recently sold her massage and esthetic school to follow her dream of living in Belize and traveling the world. She now spends her days teaching others how to create more time-and-money freedom through her new company, A Passionate Dream Life. Beach also hosts continuing education retreats in exotic locations.