In April this year, the minimum wage in the UK will increase to £8.21 for workers over the age of 25 and £7.70 for those aged 21-24. Payscale estimates the average hourly salary for massage therapists working in the UK is £10.05. Considering the training and overheads required to run your own massage therapy business I think it is fair to say this is incredibly low!
One of the biggest challenges for massage therapists is setting our prices. Like all self-employed workers, it can be easy to overlook the costs inherent in running your massage therapy business and end up with a salary far lower than you desire or deserve! Add to this, pressures from clients who are always looking for a bargain and massage therapists can end up in a precarious position financially.
When we first read Shawn Kitzman’s blog post, we loved his no-nonsense approach to spelling out what actually goes into the cost of a massage. Shawn's post inspired the team at Massage Warehouse so much we wanted to create a version for our UK customers & community. So if you need to take a look at your rates or simply want to be able to tackle tricky customers, after these steps you can confidently demonstrate exactly what it takes to deliver their massage treatment and hopefully save a little money along the way!
We have based this article on an independent massage therapist operating their own clinic but there will be costs that will apply to mobile massage therapists and those working from home too!
Pull out all the costs which apply to your massage therapy business to total up your annual business costs before following this great post by The Design Trust. Originally written for freelance web designers, it has a lot of useful advice which is totally applicable to massage therapists trying to work out their hourly rates.
Once you are confident with your rates, memorise your list of expenses or have a customer friendly copy printed up. So next time a tricky customer is trying to bag a discount on their massage treatment you can politely and confidently explain why it is a no! If you have a facebook page, you can write your own friendly informative post so your customers know and will appreciate your time and service more!
So first up is...
Many massage therapists will choose to operate their business from a commercial space. These can vary widely in style and size but whichever type of space you opt for, rent will likely be your largest expense as a massage therapist. If you are a mobile therapist make sure you account for petrol, insurance, tax and the upkeep of your car or public transport costs,
As a massage therapist, you will need to take out some public liability insurance, to ensure your massage therapy business is protected in case someone is injured at your clinic or if the property itself is damaged at any time. Whilst this can start from as little as a £5 a month, it all adds up to your overall annual costs!
Belonging to an association is a great way to network with other massage therapists and to continue learning about your field, develop new skills and keep up to date with important changes in the massage industry.
In the UK, an annual membership to the National Association of Massage and Manipulative Therapists cost £45 or with The Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) you can become a member for £62.99 a year or pay a little extra and benefit from their assistance with your insurance. If you've trained with the Massage Training Institute, they are an excellent organisation offering great community support to therapists.
There are many ways to market your massage therapy business but they all have one thing in common, they all cost money!
Some therapists opt to print flyers or take out ads in local papers, both of which can be costly and tend to miss modern audiences. Most likely you have invested in a website and are trying to promote yourself on social media.
Whilst drag and drop sites like Squarespace and Wix can make getting your website up and running faster, annually they will cost you about three times as much as hosting a WordPress website.
Financially it is well worth the investment, either in time teaching yourself to set up a simple templated site or paying someone to do it for you, and hosting your website through 1&1 Ionos who can help you buy your website name, set up your website with WordPress and even set up a dedicated email address, all for around £30 a year.
The time you spend marketing your business also needs to be factored into your running costs. Total up the number of hours you spend each week marketing your business and give yourself a salary (you can use the national minimum wage as a baseline) and add this into your overall operating costs for your massage therapy business.
Whether you are paying for a landline at your clinic or using your mobile phone you need to add this expense to your overall massage therapy business costs.
If you accept credit cards payments from your clients then as you know this can easily add up as another unexpected cost.
Merchant Machine provides great advice on the top 5 credit card machine for small businesses but more and small businesses are switching over to online payments to save money. Get on top of your payment costs and add the average to your total.
Throughout the year, you will no doubt have to refresh some of the equipment you need to deliver your awesome massage treatments. The cost of massage oil, massage couch covers etc all adds up! On top of this, most massage therapists are responsible for washing their own towels or sheets. If this applies to you, you are no doubt adding significant costs to your water and electricity bills each month. So make a comprehensive list of all your equipment and utilities and add it to your total.
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Whether you pay for the help of an accountant or handle your own books with software like Quickbooks, there may well be costs involved in keeping the tax man away! Like your marketing time, add up the time spent on your accounts each year and give yourself a salary for this time.
In any career, it is important to keep your skills up to date. As massage therapists, we might choose to attend a course to refresh our knowledge or learn something new. With some courses in London costing £650 for 4 days, these are significant expenses for your massage therapy business. Depending on your level of experience and style of massage, take time to do some research and figure out what your budget for training is, whether this is annually or every couple of years and factor it into your costs.
Let your clients know you attend further training courses throughout the year which can all considerably add up!
Which estimated in 2018 that couples looking for a comfortable retirement need to be looking to save £26,000 for each year of their retirement. If you are looking to spend your retirement travelling to exotic long haul destinations and driving a new car every 5 years you need to be aiming for around £39,000 a year.
These are scary figures! Putting savings away for retirement is something that is easily overlooked by people who are self-employed. Everyone deserves security in their older years, so don’t be afraid to factor in retirement savings when determining your rate as a massage therapist and to include this when explaining to clients your massage treatment costs.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.