When opening a new massage practice or flying solo for the first time it’s hard to know where to set your rates. Do you set your price point competitively or place yourself a little lower to compensate for your inexperience? Or you might be a massage vet that’s been around awhile but you feel your income may need a boost. But how much?
You might have an idea of what you’d like your pricing to look like. But are you factoring in all the other hours spent doing laundry, customer service, and marketing? What you make per session might not be enough to cover the effort to get the client in the door.
There are a variety of angles to take into account when gauging your rates. You may consider all of them or maybe just a few but at the end of the day, you have to live with what you’re charging* so you might as well feel good about it, right?
The first thing you have to realize is that when you give an hour treatment – you aren’t just working for an hour. Marketing, setup, cleanup, and how you got them there in the first place all matters. True, it would be next to impossible to track every minute you spent on each client in these regards but those minutes add up and you shouldn’t sell yourself short.
Here are some details to consider when creating a massage price list.
Where are you located? Rural? Urban? Somewhere in between? Your massage office location and standard of living in that area can greatly affect how much you can realistically charge. What a massage therapist charges in Millville, MA could differ significantly from a therapist in Beverly Hills, CA.
The best thing you can do is research other massage therapists that perform similar work in your town and surrounding areas. Pay attention to how they have their rates structured [by time or by service] and if they offer a sliding scale. By no means does this mean you have to mimic or do exactly as they do but get your feelers out there to see what’s being done and observe if it’s working for them.
The services you are offering could influence your rates as well. A hot stone massage has more prep and clean up than a basic Swedish massage so you should take that into account. Do you offer hot towels with all your treatments? I offer foot wraps as a complimentary add-on for clients but you may decide that charging a few extra bucks will make it worth the hassle [and extra laundry].
Your menu of services can help dictate at what price point you should offer them. If something is really popular in your area, you can jump on the bandwagon to earn some green that way. Or maybe you can offer something new, something fresh.
How long have you been doing massage? Is there a particular modality that you’ve put all your focus into and can’t get enough of? If you’ve got lots of hands-on experience, that plays a factor in your income. And if you’re brand new, don’t despair – know your worth and claim it! You can always nudge your rates up later on when you feel more confident.
If you feel like your experience could use a little boost, take continuing education classes in an existing modality you already offer or add a new tool to your toolbox. Become as knowledgeable as you can about conditions or injuries you are passionate about. Become the go-to person for that specific thing.
Operating and supporting your own office requires different tasks [and risks] than someone who is an independent contractor out of another establishment. Both have their challenges and their rewards but this can play a huge part in where to set your massage rates.
Look at what your monthly expenses are and how much you need to make to support that. Figure out how many clients you need to make that happen. Keep in mind, if you are working on commission be sure to base your figures on your pay since you won’t be keeping the entire fee.
Who is your target market? Do you have a niche? No, saying “all the rich people” doesn’t count, but it’s OK to focus your practice on clients that know the value of massage and have the money to pay for it. Likewise, if you want to cater your massage practice to populations that can’t afford it.
No matter your target market, it’s important to be realistic about what your situation is, if you have other sources of income, what your office overhead is like, and what your favorite type of client can afford. This is vital to make sure you can continue to provide massage and not worry if the lights will be turned off during a session.
Whether or not you accept insurance might depend on your state and/or the insurance company you are dealing with. To put it plainly: you don’t have the option to set your rates in this case. The insurance company dictates the amounts they will pay for a massage and that can vary from company to company and state to state.
Even though you can’t choose how much an insurance company will pay you – it still plays a factor in what your non-insurance clients will pay for a session since you need to know how much insurance you’ll be handling – essentially how much of your money will be tied up – and how many non-insurance clients you need [or don’t need] to make ends meet.
Deciding on your massage rates can tricky.
When you are just starting out or beginning your own massage business it’s difficult knowing how much to charge. Give it your best shot. Keep your rates reasonable to your clients but worth your time. A good rule of thumb in my practice was keeping tabs on how much I was making a session – per minute. So my shortest session (30 minutes) would be my most expensive session if you break it down by minute. The longer the session the more of a break on the rate. Consider it like this: if you buy in bulk you get a better price per unit. Make sense?
Oh and just one more thing…
You can be an expert on any modality or condition but if you don’t present yourself in a professional way you won’t get very far. No matter the price point, simple things like returning phone calls, speaking with confidence, keeping your space clean, and dressing appropriately will help ensure the clients that walked through your door – will do it again.
So imagine your ultimate rate. Now focus on that shiny number in your mind – and go get it!
*Packages and discounts aside. I will talk about those options in another post. Right now, I’m talking about a straight up treatment.Image courtesy of posterize / FreeDigitalPhotos.net