a community of practitioners
I moved into my studio into a commercial location in December 2008 after nearly a year providing seated massage and reflexology part-time at a Vitamin Cottage and providing bodywork and reflexology as house calls or in my home studio. In order to build my clientele I offered discount packages for new clients and discount packages for repeat clients. With each season, I raised my rates a little for both new clients and repeat clients. Now 14 months later, I provide about 25 sessions each week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and am completely booked about two weeks out, have a number of clients that I see regularly that are booked several sessions out, and a solid client base with ongoing referrals to new clients.
Beginning March 20, new clients have access to three hours of sessions at $42 per hour and repeat clients who pay or book in advance for multiple sessions pay either $45 or $48 per hour depending on the number of sessions. My single appointment rate is $60 per hour. I measure my financial progress by comparing monthly income to same month last year, long-term average income, and 6-month rolling average income. I am ahead for February 2010 on all fronts and that includes new clients coming in for their first appointments on certificates that were given to them in December 2009 (more than 40 hours of certificates were sold and about 50% have been used).
I moved my practice into a commercial location at a time that some considered to be the worst possible time for businesses and consumers. I thought, very briefly mind you, "What have I done?" Ten and a half months after setting up in this studio, I moved to a new location with a larger treatment room. I am delighted to be available to provide bodywork and reflexology on a full-time basis to the residents of Evergreen, Colorado.
Laura...one thing that bothers me that I see brought up in various posts here and there is this notion that because one cuts their cost that they 1. devalue the benefits of a massage and 2. intentionally take business away from other therapists.
I charge $45 for up to an hour and a half and $55 for 2 hours. i don't have a menu of modalities at different rates either...it's a straightforward integrated session where i will use whatever is in my toolbox to help whatever it is i find. I am also a relatively new practice and am still in the early stages of building up clientele. I currently could never afford to just jump into massage full time and quit the day job. So for now I am building up my clientele slowly. gradually. This process is a smart move for ME. not for everyone, since we all have different scenarios that we approach our new career at.
with that said...my rates are definitely below the average for a massage. and i'd like to think my massages are pretty high quality. i do this for several reasons.
one very big reason is that i want to make massage affordable so a person can come in more frequently than they would have normally. They will far benefit from massage if i can get them in more often than once every month or so. then I take that mindset and recognize just how difficult it is for me to afford a massage that often. I try to make it reasonable, while still making it bring in some money for myself.
I have found that most people will tip me to the point of what the going rate of massage is anyhow.
I also do this because at this stage in my practice I can afford to. Right now massage is supplementing my income. Down the road I expect things to flip flop and make massage my full time gig and freelance graphic design. but with 2 kids, bills and being a single mom...full time massage is just not in the cards. does that mean that i should not do it at all or only work in the parameters of what works for others?
right now i am able to offer what i offer. and in doing so i build strong repeat clients while educating them through experience, what the benefits of regular massage are. I also have a target market that leans to the athletic side and am still amazed at how many athletes train hard but don't get regular massages. most it's a financial thing. i am hoping that in the baby stages of my practice I can make solid long time clients by offering something they can't get many places that they can truly benefit from. and in doing so, when i DO make that transition, have loyal clients that will come with me on that journey. :)
anyhow i'm rambling now.
A case in point: A massage therapist called me in tears and wanted to know what she should do about the new business that opened down the road from her and put out a sign proclaiming massage for $20. Her own fee was $60, and incidentally worth every penny. I told her not to do anything, that it would come back to bite the undercutting therapist in the butt. Sure enough, the $20 therapist didn't last two months until she realized she couldn't maintain the pace at 20 bucks a throw and pay her bills. A few of the $60 therapist's clients went and tried her out, and came right back to the $60 therapist. That is an example of someone who thought they would put someone else out of business by undercutting their prices, and all it got her was a little old-fashioned karma coming down on her head. I don't object to therapists who work out of their homes or who only do outcalls charging a little bit less, because they don't have the overhead I do. Does that mean their service is less valuable, or their time not as valuable as mine? No. It's just a fact that they don't have the added expenses that those of us in a professional office have.
I have always offered package deals, and they account for a healthy chunk of business. It does lower the price per session, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that person is going to come in the door at least six times (my packages are buy 5, get one free). It helps them financially, and guarantees us a certain amount of business.
I like for massage to be affordable to the masses. However, a person who has a $200,000 a year income can certainly afford to pay the going rate for massage, while maybe the single mother with two kids and no child support cannot. I would prefer to charge what I'm worth, and give the price break to those who truly need it, than to just charge a cheap price to everyone across the board. There is no shame in making a good living. When you make a good living, you have extra money to give to charity, or to help your family, buy a new car, take a vacation, or whatever you want to do. You don't have to struggle and juggle a couple of jobs. Prosperity is not a bad word. Charging what you are worth is not a bad thing.
I'm surprised you don't have people standing knee-deep waiting to get a two-hour massage for 55 bucks. If I charged that kind of money, I could not pay my therapists the $30-45 an hour that they all make here, and I am fortunate enough to be able to provide employment for more than a dozen people. They are all making good money, our clients are loyal and happy, and no one seems to resent paying $60 an hour for massage. This is a small town--go 75 miles in any direction to a bigger city, and you'll pay more.
You have to charge whatever you feel good about charging. Just don't be afraid to put a good value on your services, or be afraid to raise your prices. You can still give a price break to those who are truly in need, but you needn't be massaging the bank president or other professional people who make a good living for $45. You deserve to make a good living, too.