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Have you lowered your fees due to the recession? I personally have not, and the county I live in has the second highest rate of unemployment in NC, out of 100 counties. We still came out ahead for the year, which I am thankful for and thought was no little feat.

What I have done is host more special events with one-day special pricing. I recently held a "Ladies Day" that sold out 61 appointments in one day, offering discounted massage and package sales for that one day only. We got 12 or so new people in the door for appointments, several of whom bought packages. I had vendors there, mini-makeovers from a cosmetic artist, handmade jewelry...every one profited and the clients lapped it up. I had to call in two more therapists from out of town to come and supplement my staff. It was so successful, I'm planning one for men soon. I also ran a one-week promo offering 10% off on Valentine's Day gift certificates. I absorbed the discount, and did not pass that on to my therapists, who will still get their usual fee.

It has distressed me to see people cutting the price of their massage down to $39, and I am not talking about a one-day special, but a more permanent move.....I've seen a few therapists on my FB page doing just that, and I don't know if they live in a town where they're trying to compete with Massage Envy, or just otherwise trying to survive. 

I've also seen approved providers of continuing ed cutting way down on their class prices. I have offered some scholarships in my classes to try and help the therapists who are struggling, and I host a lot of other teachers in my facility. It is their choice of what to charge for their classes and whether or not to give scholarships.

I know times are tough, but I do not want massage therapists, or teachers, to place such a low value on themselves, or to cut their prices down so low just to try to take business away from other therapists in town who charge more. That usually comes back to bite you in one way or another. When you cut the price way down, you have to work harder and have to do more appointments just to pay your bills. That's not a good thing.

What have you done to deal with the recession?

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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.

Namaste!
Great post and agreed Laura.

I've always preferred to add value over lowering price.

Here in 'vegas the economy is still very tough on the locals. If I'm not mistaken, we're still #1 in foreclosures, top of the list in filing for bankruptcies, unemployment is around 13%, etc., etc.

Over the past year and a half during this economic mess I've actually raised my hourly rate by $10.

Provide a great service, find out what people really want and deliver it to 'm in a professional manner.

Kris
Good for you, Harry! Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith!

Harry Banek said:
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.

Namaste!
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.
Great post. I did lower my rates for a while as the banks were collapsing and many of my clients were getting furloughed and/or laid off. I now realize that I probably got to caught up in the discussions of "in this economy. . ." and that those words influenced my decisions. But I came to my senses and discovered that it did not make sense to do an across the board cut because living in the Bay Area many people can afford to pay the going rate and I was working more for basically the same income that I was previously making. So I adjusted them back up and now offer a one-time only new client special of 20 dollars off a first massage. That way if someone really cannot afford the top rate they can get a massage one time and if in the sampling of a massage they feel that they can afford it, then great I have a new client. I also agree with adding more value as a way to retain clients whether or not we are in a recession. It is too easy to get caught up in the treadmill and forget to do that I think the recession is a good reminder and while it has been tough that it will make many of us better business people. Some special stuff I have done this year is buying some Aveda products to I had not used in a decade to highlight the massage and also bought a new towel warmer.
I have not lowered my fees, however, did send out two annual e-mails letting my clients know I'd be happy to lower their individual rate if needed. I've only had one person take me up on it as she's now on disability.

I have not raised by rates over the past 3 years but have noticed several clients are tipping me substantially, even though I've told them tips are not expected with therapeutic massage. I charge the going rate for my experience and education in this area and offer a discount for a pre-paid package of four (only a few regulars do this). I do plan on raising my rates next year. In the past when I've raised rates, no one has objected.

My menu has been slashed down, over the years, to individualized, integrated, therapeutic massage only; for either one hour or 90 minute sessions.
Lisa, the price of massage varies very widely across the US. I recently did a scientific study on Facebook (LOL) to find out the going rate, for inclusion in my new book that will be published by LWW later this year. $45 is the going rate in some places. In others it's twice that.

I have always maintained that if you are called to serving the poor, go ahead and charge 10.00 if you want to and don't pay any attention to what anyone says. Every therapist in my clinic has the discretion to give someone who is in need a price break, or a freebie, for that matter, if they feel that they really need it and can't afford it.

That being said, it is my opinion that it does devalue our work when we don't charge enough for our services. We can just agree to disagree on that. You're certainly entitled to your own opinion.

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.


Lisa said:
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.
I charge $60 and hour, have done for ages, but I've been thinking of increasing it to $65.

I sell 4 for 3 packages a lot of the time,which really knocks the prices down to $45, but it's easier for me to change packages than individual massage price - plus I run it as a "special", that way no one will be annoyed if I change it or discontinue it for a bit.
I give $10 off first massages and I give big discounts on packages to my prenatal women - there are 4 main reasons for that:
- I really want pregnant women to have regular massage since I really think it helps them and the baby
- I think that they should be given a break since having a baby costs a fortune
- I love working on pregnant women since basically I love to work on 2 people at the same time and the thought of multitasking just tickles me
- doesn't matter what the economy is doing, people will always be doing the horizontal mambo and making babies

So I concentrated a lot on the prenatal massage part of my business. I have a prenatal yoga teacher who sends me a LOT of clients and it nearly seems like word spreads like wildfire amonst the preggers population. If you like working on pregnant women, your business can be recession-proof in my opinion. It's not ALL of my business, but it's a big chunk of it.

Texas wasn't as badly hit as other states, but I wouldn't lower my prices because it would just feel weird to do so.

As for looking at the competition and what they're charging, I think that maybe we have a tendency to concentrate a little too much on that. One new massage franchise down the road from me opened up about 7 or 8 months ago and are charging $29.95. Now, normally I don't let the franchises upset me, but I had a bit of a moan to myself over that, but then I got over it. Why? When I dirve past them I don't see many cars outside their office - and I'm kept busy. I know that what keeps me busy is the fact that I'm doing my best to look after people. Corny, I know, but at the end of the day, it's all that matters. I had a client that went to a franchise for a year, but came back to me. I didn't get upset that she went, but I smiled to myself when she came back!
i don't know anyone that makes $200,000 for a living!! perhaps that's why i market the way i do.

i'm curious why you assume the therapist was deliberately trying to undermine the other therapist with the price cut? maybe she/he was doing it because she/he wasn't getting anywhere at a higher rate? did the therapist know of the other therapist and the close proximity to each other's business? there are so many aspects to why someone puts their rate where they put it. why is the assumption that it's done maliciously?

bottom line...a client therapist relationship thrives or fails based on the interpersonal therapeutic connection between the two more than the price IMO. i charge $45 but most times i make $60. If someone came along and charged $20 for the same service, my guess is i would still make $60 with the clients that come to me because they come to me for ME. and that's what i'm gonna build my business on. and i'll wish all the luck and offer all the advice to the therapist that offers $20. there is a market for them as well.


Laura Allen said:
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.
Here in the Bay Area over the past eight years we had wild inflation of massage rates that trended pretty much lockstep up with housing prices, rents and the ever increasing Bay Bridge tolls. Many of the massage clients were paying these prices because they were house rich and/or had taken out home equity loans and were living beyond their means. Defying econ 101 when the floor fell out on housing prices in Northern California many MT's kept their prices at $125 and up for a 90 minute although some have had to adjust their prices as they were not getting enough clients. I assume that eventually the massage rates well trend down again and it won't have to do with undercutting or therapists not valuing themselves but simply due to the fact that massage therapy is not divorced from the laws of economics and we may well be in for a double dip recession.
Also, I do not see why someone who has outside income (A housewife, house husband or former IT executive) who took up massage school as an avocation should be pressured to charge the same price as a career therapist who needs every cent. I think it is wonderful when a therapist who has outside sources of income does "seva" by making massage more accessible. Pressure to fix prices is not free market economics and someone charging less has every right to do so. For the most part people charge what they are worth and/or can get as it is deeply ingrained in human nature. And, just like not every car cost 9,999 dollars, not every massage costs or is worth one dollar a minute and someone paying 45 dollars may actually get a worse massage per dollar then someone who pays 75 dollars. That is why we have free markets and it is generally a wonderful system that finds center when not messed with.
This is an excellent discussion thread. I live in Northern California, in a somewhat affluent area. I have many clients who are retired, health-conscious, etc. I also have many working folks. I have never lowered my rates in 22 years and am in the process of raising my fees $5-10.00. I have a specialized practice where I perform clinical and orthopedic massage. Many of my clients are referred by PTs, MDs, etc. I do believe that in bodywork one gets what is paid for-as with any quality, professional product or service. There are few MTs in my area that practice like I do. When my clients have visited Massage Envy, they tell me not to worry. That's great.
I usually suggest that clients come for 3-4 visits initially, then taper off. I have found that about 50% follow this and the rest leave feeling better after the third visit. I think it's important to suggest a number of sessions to a new client-if they comply-that's great. I have found that I can let go of the "shoppers and looky-loos."
Working on my own self-esteem has helped the most.

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