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Newbie Confusion: Knowing Your Worth And Other Considerations

by Lisa Rose February 29, 2016

Newbie Confusion: Knowing Your Worth And Other Considerations

There are so many questions that a new therapist faces when starting out, that it can be migraine-inducing even figuring out where to start. It wouldn’t be possible to address all of these in one blog, so we’ve offered a few main points to consider for those who are not oozing confidence in kicking off their new career. Perhaps the most obvious question of all is:

How much should I charge?

Assuming that you’ve decided to go it alone, one of the most pressing questions for any therapist at the beginning of their career is always "How much should I charge?”

At face value, this might seem like a simple equation, but there is more to consider than just going onto Google and finding out the going rate. There are so many variables; how much experience do you have, what is on your menu, what area of the UK are you in? What honest feedback have you had about your ability? Are you going to be mobile, and if you have a treatment room, is it the kind of environment that people would pay good money to relax in? How expensive are your products and what about when people want packages, extra time etc.? There is a great deal to consider, and nobody wants to be selling themselves short. So how to get around it?

Firstly, and especially if you’re a total newbie, it would pay to get some honest feedback. You could do this by offering services to friends for an honest review – making them promise to drop the bias! You’ll of course have to make sure your face doesn’t drop too, if they deliver a bit of (hopefully constructive) criticism. This may sound daunting, but it’s worth the effort – after all, your value is mainly in your technique. Also, if you’re new and only qualified to do Swedish Massage, you might not be at the top of your customer’s speed dial list. To get your foot in the door, you could consider offering new customer discounts, loyalty schemes (think five visits, one free) or just charging a little less than some of the more established therapists in your area. Don’t price yourself too low though – people won’t trust you if you’re perceived as cheap. People generally believe what you believe about yourself, and they’ll be suspicious as to why you’re so much cheaper than others. Remember that massage is still considered a luxury, and people expect to pay for a good experience.

Vouchers and offers make people feel that they are getting a bargain, whereas dirt-cheap prices make them question the quality. You want to come across as ‘value for money’ and not ‘bargain basement’ though, so do your homework when it comes to pricing and don’t forget that your perceived value can diminish if you don’t get some of the other factors right. As with everything in life, balance is key, and your responses to the below questions will all have some level of impact on your worth as a therapist, from the customers’ points of view.

What premises should I use, and what equipment should I invest in?

If you’re going to go mobile-only, this takes out a chunk of set-up costs, but I’ll cover that later. If you’re going to have a treatment room, any rent this entails will have to be incorporated into your pricing. People expect to pay more in a proper therapy room, so if you’re going down that road, make sure that you make realistic projections about potential earnings – do some market research to see what local customers are looking for, and see if you can find out how busy your local competitors are – and of course what they are doing right in terms of environment and marketing. Don’t forget to try and negotiate on rent costs if that’s an option. You could even offer the landlord and his or her family regular treatments for a rental discount! Be creative and remember that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

If you’re going to go with the cheaper, more convenient option of a home therapy room, with a bit of creative flair you might be able to bump your prices up a little. Check out images on line of your ideal treatment room, and then – especially if you’re on a budget – get dreaming about creative ways to mimic something luxury. The chances are your clients aren’t going to be examining the place in detail, so as long as you can create ambiance and provide physical comfort, you can duck into Ikea to see what budget décor options they have, and have fun getting creative. If you can put a unique spin on your therapy room, all the better. Make it your own, and it might just encourage some repeat business.

The equipment and products you choose are of course incredibly important. Getting the environment and your techniques right, but performing treatments on an unstable, uncomfortable budget massage table will send your clients packing. Imagine: If your customer is fidgeting their way through your massage because the you haven’t used bolsters and are pressing their leg down onto a too-firm massage couch, they will be willing the treatment to end. Word of mouth is everything, so you need to make sure you aren’t cutting corners and are choosing quality products, even if it means it takes longer to get set up properly. Likewise, cheap lotions and oils, or highly scented products can really turn customers off, or worse – they could react badly to them. It’s not worth the damage to your new business, so factor quality product costs into your pricing so that you’re not left out of pocket.

Should I go mobile?

If you’re going to find it easy to get around, and you are going to be working in generally safe, suburban areas, then why not? You are more vulnerable as a new therapist though, and you may not have thought of some of the pitfalls that mobile therapists face. Obviously it’s time consuming and more physically draining, which will be reflected in your pricing. Make sure you include transport costs and the time on average it takes you to move from place to place. Make sure your table is lightweight – the last thing you need is a back injury putting you out of business before you’ve started. And of course, safety is paramount – vet your customers carefully and make sure that someone knows your timetable and whereabouts, and is checking on your wellbeing at the end of your treatments.

A couple of other things worth considering…

Confidence is key. When not feeling confident, you’ll find it even harder to know your value and price your treatments properly. Asking for money seems to be a big challenge for quite a lot of people – it’s funny how we don’t feel comfortable doing it! But we need to get over that. Your presentation is also important - if you’re flustered and haven’t got your routine down, it will show. As they say, fake it until you make it. Ensure you’ve carefully noted your clients’ requirements and focus on giving your best shot every time – they’ll be watching you if it’s their first treatment with you but at the same time, worrying that you’ll make a mistake will only bring it about. Make sure you’ve practiced enough outside of the course, be smiley and polite, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Soon enough your confidence will be real. Word of mouth is hands down the best way to get more business, so offer introductory discounts to clients who give you good feedback, and don’t throw money and time away on putting masses of leaflets through doors – it rarely brings much return and a few strategically placed, simple ads would suffice.

Lisa Rose
Lisa Rose


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Massage Table Size Guide

Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!

A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.

The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because

  1.  They are smaller in size (normally around 61cms wide) and as such have less materials
  2. They are sold by specialist retailers who also sell anything else they can import and turn a profit on. As such they just buy the cheapest massage tables they can find in China. They go for smaller sizes as they are cheaper.

Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.


The Width of the Massage Table:

Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.

Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.

Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.

Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.

If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:

Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.

measuring the width of a massage table

Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.

The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.

You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.


The Height Of the Massage Table

Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.

A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:

1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.

The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.

You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!

There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.

1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):

If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.

2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):

The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.


Massage Table Shape:

The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.

1. Rectangle shaped with square corners 

This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.

2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners

Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.


3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient 

A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.

This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.


4. Hour glass shaped with sharp gradient
Same as point above but instead of the it gradually going from wide to narrow, the massage table changes quickly from normal width to narrow width so people of very short stature can get in close.
5. Oval Shaped

 The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.

oval massage table


Have any questions or comments about anything above? Please let us know in the comments below!