Top Tech Tools

It is time – non-tech savvy massage therapists to get on board!  Technology can save you so much time and energy.  Don’t be afraid!

If you feel like you are overwhelmed by it all, just take one thing at a time.  There is a bit of a learning curve that will take time but the advantages far outweigh the benefits.

Online Scheduling

The first thing you will want to think about is online scheduling.   I was resistant to online scheduling for so long I couldn’t believe how much time it saved me.  I never have to call anyone and wait for return phone calls to fill my schedule.  It makes it so convenient for people to see your availability and schedule anytime.  Many companies have open work environments making privacy an issue meaning people can’t openly call to make their appointments because the whole office will hear them!   Here is more on how to choose an online scheduling system.

Credit Card Processing

If you haven’t gotten on this one yet – you don’t know what you are missing. Higher tips will outweigh the low cost of processing fees.   You don’t have to go to the bank to deposit checks.  The money is deposited directly into your checking account the next day usually (depending on time of transactions for that day). is the most popular.  You can also get $1000 worth of processing fees free when you sign up through this link.   You can also get an additional $1000 free every time you refer another person to sign up for a new account!  You can refer as many people as you want!

Websites that Work

Google is in the business of finding the best information for their searchers.  They want the information to be the most recent, the most informative while also providing the best user experience (fast loading times, mobile websites, easy to read and navigate.)   When people search for ‘massage your city’ and they find your website – they are already your ideal client – they already value massage and are looking for massage.  Your website needs to be on the first page of Google result for the best chances of getting new clients.  It will also need to make people want to click on the listing.  The best way to do that is to learn everything you can about building websites.  You can do that with SBI!  It isn’t just about hosting – it is about building an online business.  They will also teach you how to make money with your website.  Learn more about Massage Websites.

Website building/hosting and Search Engine Optimization.  Includes email newsletter system.  SBI! (Site Build it!)

Email Newsletters – It is free!  Keeping in touch with you clients is really a challenge these days with so many ways and social media taking over things, it can be difficult to get your message out to clients.  You can use social media but that is hit or miss as to who sees the posts.  Email newsletters are often left unread also.  The key is once again writing engaging content and sending out your newsletter to keep in touch.

Online Insurance Billing

Free and easy to use.  They will train you in using their system.


Online Scheduling Software for Massage Therapists

Online Scheduling Software for Massage Therapists is an important tool for your massage business.  With online scheduling it frees up your time and lets clients book appointments directly from your website.
There are so many different systems that is really difficult to choose.  You just have to start testing them one by one to see which one you like the best.  You have to know what it is that you want it to do and figuring out what you want is often a matter of seeing what they can do.

Last year I started my search and first I tried Genbook, but it didn’t work well with my Android Phone.  I kept getting error messages and really didn’t have the patience to figure it out.  That is one of my requirements.    Here are some other things to consider:

  • Do you want the ability to take credit cards to secure the appointment and reduce/eliminate no shows?  This will also create another barrier for clients in making appointments so it is a toss up as to whether to use it or not.
  • Do you have a computer at the office (I don’t!) that you can use for scheduling or will you be using your phone or tablet to set up the system and make all of the appointment/schedule changes you need to make?  If you are using only your smartphone, then the system really needs to have a mobile website or app for you to use.  Other systems are just too cumbersome to use.
  • How do you want to get notices of appointments that are made and canceled?  Text and email are your options.  Which one will work best?
  • Will you be using this for all your regular clients too?  You will have to set up each client in the system.
  • How much are you willing to pay?  The prices vary from free to I have seen like $79 a month but that probably includes more than just a booking system and there are free ones too.
  • Will you need a system to screen clients and ask them questions before or when they book?  Is there information you need to know, like I need to know what insurance they have if they have it and if they have their prescription.  Many insurance companies here will tell people that they don’t need a prescription and I won’t take anyone that doesn’t have one so with the contradictory information, some people just think it is OK because the insurance company said it was OK.
  • Will you be able to easily update your schedule from wherever you are – like to take yourself off the schedule or book a client who has called or that you run into in person somewhere?  Again a mobile website or app is necessary.
  • Is there just you or do you need to have it so employees/Independent Contractors can access the scheduling?  How many people will need to have their own schedule?
  • How easy is it to reach support?  Some only have email support and not live, phone support.

So I would recommend that you start with the companies that your association have networked with that provide you with a member discount.  For ABMP members it is  FullSlate.  AMTA offers discounts with Genbook. 

Also most companies will let you have a free trial which is good for you to see how it really works and if it will work for you.   Look at the actual process that people go through to make appointments – is it easy to follow and figure out how to make appointments?  Some are much better than others.  How many clicks does it take to make an actual appointment?

So after a few trials so far, I am settling into FullSlate – mainly because it was just the first one that worked with my phone.
There are also many, many others.  Here are a few: , ,,  


Some other things that I thought was that everyone would just start using this and it would make it so I wouldn’t be answering and returning phone calls.  That is not true so far.  People are still calling.  I am not sure if they don’t clearly see the button for booking even though I have it in about 3 different places or what it is.   I had people calling on Sunday when I don’t work and I have my hours clearly stated and set up accordingly on the scheduling system.  People will still call! and email!  I am not sure how much it is really cutting down my work time either.  I have to always remember to check the thing and also if I have an opening that doesn’t get filled, I have to remember to block it out.  I usually will leave early or go run errands when I don’t have an appointment.


 Chart last updated Dec 2013.Some info may vary. Cost Free Trials Take credit cards to secure appt.  reminders review appts. before accepting
Gen Book
$20/month one user
unlimited users
free trial,
no credit card
Yes Email
$19.95/month single user$39.95 multi-user 30 day no credit card  Yes Email
Full Slate
$29.95 per month
one schedule
Yes Email
Bodywork Monthly $35 every monthSemi-Annual  $179.70
every 6 months (averages out to $29.95/month)
Annual – $299.40 every year (averages out to $24.95/month)
15-day trial period   No  Email
Book Fresh
Free – $19.95/month 30 day free trial paypal Email
Appointment Plus

Up to 20 Users (staff/schedules)

15 day Free trial, no credit card, didn’t say how long Yes Email
free for under 50 appointments but with ads$8.00-$46.00
Spa Booker
Starts at $25.00/ month No Yes ??
$15 /month 30day Free trial coming soon Email,Text coming soon
Mind Body

Climbing out of the money fog

Climbing Out of the Money Fog
For some reason money seems to be a big issue for many massage therapists.  Many come to the profession because they want to “help’ others.  Helping others seems to become equated with you can’t make money for helping people.  It is common to hear ” I am not in this for the money” or “I didn’t become a massage therapist for the money” or the other common one  ” I just want everyone to be able to afford massage”.   Money Fog is all of your old false beliefs about money that keep you stuck from making and having the money you need.

Whenever people say that I think of what Harv Eker says in his book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth
You don’t have any money then, right? How does making money have so many different issues attached to it?  For the last 20 years or so I have been studying the psychology of money and find it interesting to see how different people think of money.  I have seen people who were millionaires complain about a $20 repair or a $5 increase in my rates.  I have seen people who have nothing to their name give their last $10 to someone on the street.  I have seen 80 year olds scrounge together the money to have a massage once a month.  I have seen single mom’s on minimum wage jobs save enough for that too.   I have heard it all in the massage profession and seen it all too in myself and when working with massage therapists in building their massage business/career.   Here are some of the issues I have seen:

  • Massage Therapists taking low paying jobs and resenting and complaining about how they are treated and what they make.
  • MT’s think it is better to NOT have money, thinking that money will cheapen what they do and the caring that is involved in this work.
  • MT’s thing that massage is such a loving and caring service that people should not have to pay for being cared for.
  • MT’s giving away their time doing free or low cost massages in an effort to get new clients or to help others when they are not in a secure enough position to help others.
  • MT’s who keep lowering their rates, trying to undercut other businesses out there and take business away from others because that is what they think they have to do to get new clients.
  • MT’s who don’t have a cancellation fee and some who have one but don’t enforce it.  Letting others walk all over you is not good for business.  When you don’t value your time, clients won’t either.
  • MT’s who work on less than their ideal client and then feel resentful and drained from doing so.
  • Massage schools even will tell you that massage is a part time career and that you can’t make money in this profession.  Some go the other way and say that you will make tons of money in this field because the field is growing so much.  Sure there are lots more jobs available than there were 24 years ago when I started out. (There were absolutely NO jobs.)
  • MT’s keep their rates low thinking that they want to be available for everyone.
  • Think money is somehow bad and that they shouldn’t have any.  When you think of money, you think of greed – not love.  You think that having money means you are greedy.

These are just a few of the things I have seen in Massage therapists and of course in myself.  I started out in my career choosing massage because of the art of being a massage therapist and the lifestyle it would allow me to live.  I also didn’t have  or need much money when I first started out and didn’t care much about the future.  I just thought it would all work itself out.  After all I was just “Doing what I loved so the money should be following” – Right!   Just be positive and have positive thoughts and you will have enough money.

Yeah Right! Well forget that stuff!  All the books on that are just a waste of money.  Thinking won’t bring you much.  Action will and being more conscious of your spending habits and also being aware of your needs instead of focusing on wants.  What will bring you more money is being money conscious and having a spending plan – not a budget.

  1. Create a spending plan.  Track your income and expenses down to the last dollar every month.  Know where your money is coming in from and going out to.  If you have extra expenses then you know you will need to make more money that month. Figure out a plan on how you are going to do that. Tracking money like this has helped me get out of the money fog.  The money fog is the place where you deny you have money problems, deny you are in debt or just sit around worrying about it and doing nothing about it.  It is the place where you are in denial about money.  You don’t know how much you have, how much you make or how much you need.  When you don’t know how much – exactly – that you need it keeps you just spinning your wheels saying “I need more money” or “I don’t have enough money”.  How much is enough?  How much do you need?  When you know exactly what you need, you can create a plan to get it.  When you see you are not fulfilling that plan, you can make adjustments in other areas or you will get motivated to do the things you need to do.  Tracking money in this way has also helped me to see that money and having money is just a math problem.  Taking all of the emotions out of money will allow you to see money in a different way.  You need money to stay in business, pay the bills, save for retirement, take vacations and the more money you have- the more you can help others.  You can help set up low cost clinics or teach groups of women how to do massage so they can build better communities.  You can give more when your basic needs for money are fulfilled.  Just like the old airplane warning – put your air mask on before helping others.
  2. Save for taxes.  Create a separate account for your tax money.  Set aside a calculated amount each week and don’t touch it so you have the money to pay the tax man each year.
  3. You charge for your time – not for caring.  The caring is FREE!  Your time is valuable.  It is time spent away from your family and friends.  It is time away from your life.  Yes massage isn’t so bad as some jobs/careers and can seem like it isn’t work, but your time is still valuable.  Charge what you need to make to stay in business.  Charge what you need to make so you don’t feel resentful. Do what you need to do to get to that level.  Learn more about setting your fees.
  4. Charge for no shows or last minute cancellations.  This is one of my pet peeves in the massage world.  When people don’t show up or cancel at the last minute and you don’t charge for your time – what are you saying about your time?  If you say something like It’s OK because I can use the time to do something else then something is wrong in your schedule or you need a vacation.  People who don’t pay for missed sessions, don’t respect your time.  I guarantee you that you will end up feeling resentful and burned out.  Learn more about setting cancellation policies and enforcing them.
  5. If you build it they will come.  This attitude seems to be prevalent with massage professionals.  Many therapists just think that clients will magically appear if they open their office.  They will come but you have to tell people about your services.  You have to get people in the door and on the table.  You have to be doing something every day to market or promote yourself.
  6. I just want to do massage.  Yes most massage therapists do.  What are you willing to do to make that happen?  What are you willing to do to get clients in the door?
  7. I don’t have a website – its too expensive.  Investing in your business is the best thing you can do for yourself and your business.  Investing in things like a website that will get you the clients you need is telling you that you are worth it.  It is telling yourself you are serious about what you are doing.  You can’t afford not to have a website.  You are missing out on all of the people who are searching for “Massage, your city”.  These people are already looking for massage.  It doesn’t get much easier than that and is worth investing in.  Learn more about creating a successful website for your massage business.
  8. Raising your rates every year or every other year is just a part of doing business.  I have heard some massage therapists proudly say that they have never raised their rates in 10 years.  They are still charging like $40 an hour and doing it proudly but they also don’t have anything to show for all the years of working so hard.  It is just part of doing business.  People expect you to raise your rates.  I have had the richest clients complain about me raising my rates.  I have had people tell me it was about time back in the early years when I didn’t raise my rates often.  I once had a client tell me that I don’t ever have to explain why I am raising my rates.  It is just business.  When I finally got that, I now raise my rates every two years at the first of the year. ( I now charge $85 an hour.)  Yes you might lose clients when you raise your rates.  You will also get new clients who will gladly pay your higher rates.  You don’t have to feel guilty about raising your rates.  Learn more about raising your rates.
  9. MT seem to be always giving their time away at free events – health fairs, sports events, conferences, charity events.  Putting your needs first before taking care of others is again the motto from the airlines. Could you be using this time somewhere to be working on people who are paying you?  Can you afford to give your time away?
  10. Trading for massage and other services is another issue quite common.  I am not saying bartering isn’t good but when you barter too much it will be hurting your business.  You might think you are saving money -but are you really? When I stopped trading massage with my friends and started paying for a regular weekly or every other week massage, I finally felt like I could relax for my massage.  I got much more out of it.  I would even go into places to get massage and not tell them that I was a massage therapist so I wouldn’t have to think or talk about being a massage therapist.  I got much more out of the massage than when I was trading.
  11. Marketing and promoting your business is a full time job in itself – well at least a part time job.  If you don’t have any clients, you need to be spending most of your day doing things to get clients until you get the clients you need.  Marketing is just telling people what you  do.  It is not about sales.  It is about building trust with potential clients and getting the word out there about what you do.  Having a clear marketing plan and being able to implement it is necessary for success.  See my big list of massage marketing ideas.
  12. Having money is OK and even GOOD for you.  Why does having money always have to be equated with being evil or thought of as bad?  Money is just money.  It is just a large math problem.  The idea that not having money is better is the way of Noble Poverty as Mikelann Valterra author of “Why Women Earn Less” calls it or being a Money Monk.   Living a simple life is one thing but living in poverty is another.  It is OK to have the money that you need.  It is OK to take nice vacations to HI, Costa Rica or other wonderful places.  It is OK to have a retirement account.  Some how many massage therapists have the idea that it is better to not have money.  It makes them somehow look better or more virtuous.  Having money is somehow being corrupt or wrong.  That just isn’t true.Noble Poverty is the continual practice of earning less then one needs based on the belief that there is virtue in not having money.
    Charging people who need help can seem cold and heartless.
    ~ Mikelann Valterra,
  13. The messages about money come from how you were brought up.  The things you learn along the way become your way of life without questioning if it is correct or not.  When you start looking at your deeper beliefs about money and what you think about money, you will become more aware of why you don’t have the money that you need.  It is a process of looking at the deeper aspects of yourself.  Working with a counselor and a money coach can help you to get a handle on your beliefs and start changing them and climb out of the money fog.  Work through your Money Autobiography.
  14. Are you waiting to be rescued?  Do you think that if you do what you love the money will follow?  Are you just thinking about money and waiting for the law of attraction to kick in?  This is one of the things I call the Code of the Caretaker. MT and other caretakers think that if they just do enough good, that money will come their way.  Thinking this way is really continuing the self fulfilling prophecy that you are not worthy of having money.  Thinking that way is just another way of beating yourself up.  It is also about if I do enough good things, that I will be loved and cared for.  It is many people’s  secret wish to be taken care of.  MT seem to have it too.  It is one of the things that come up when being a helper.  Helping professionals often fall into these traps of thinking that helping will get them the love and recognition that they need.  It usually ends up burning them out.
  15. Yes there is quite a bit of deception in the massage profession about just how much you can make as a MT.  Massage schools are advertising massage as the up and coming career with the demand for massage therapists growing every day.  Yes it is growing.  Entry level jobs start at $12 an hour.  Wahooo! You can make the same as a cashier at a grocery store.  The lure of careers in massage make it all sound and appear like such a relaxing, nurturing, high paying career.  They forget to tell you that you will be working harder than ever especially if you start your own business.
  16. Underearning or not making enough or having enough money serves you in someway.  Getting to the real reasons about why is a process of becoming more aware of the ways that you think about money and the ways that you handle money. What are you getting out of not having any money?  Uncover the deeper issues under the underearning and it will help you climb out of the money fog.  Do you think you have to sacrifice and give up yourself for money?  Do you let money or the lack of money continue to beat yourself up?  Does that little voice in your head constantly make you feel depressed about not having any money?  Do you not have money because you fear it will be taken away?  Do you fear you won’t be able to handle the money? What are you getting out of not having the money that you need?   It can be a very painful process to look at these deep underlying issues around money but can be well worth it.  We can begin by talking about money more honestly with other massage therapists.
  17. Helping – Oh boy!  This is the reason why many people get into careers in massage.  It is also the thing that will end many careers in massage.  Helping professionals are faced with the issue of helping others or making money.  You can do both, but many think that they can’t.  I created a long list of questions to ask yourself about why you like to help and what purpose it serves.  I use it when I work with massage therapists in building their business.  Coming to terms with helping and understanding the need to help can help people go beyond helping to a career in serving and Making money to boot!  The other part of helping is about the need to rescue others which often is associated with giving up one’s self and money to help others thinking that it will get them love.  Along with helping is the need to fix which is also about being a caretaker as compared to a caregiver.  When you are a caretaker – you are taking care of others at the expense of yourself.  When you are giving care you are taking care of yourself first and being more present with others on their healing path rather than feeling like you need to fix them.  See also:  The Code of the Caretaker.

    When we caretake we assume responsibility for our clients’ healing. When we caregive we support clients in assuming responsibility for their own healing.”   Jack Blackburn


The gift of selling massage gift certificates

massage gift certificate
ABMP Members Gift Certificate

Selling massage gift certificates can help to get you new clients as well as providing a influx of cash especially though holidays like Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

There are some things that you need to know about selling gift certificates that can help you take advantage of the holidays to help build your massage business.

The first thing you need to know about selling gift certificates is that you have to know what the gift certificate laws are in your state from the National State Legislators.   The thing you need to figure out is what expiration date can you have and what happens to the gift certificate when no one claims them.  There are a few state laws that said the GC became the property of the state after a certain time.  That is why you need to keep up on the laws regarding Gift Certificates and Gift Cards.  If you have any questions, be sure to contact your state Attorney General’s office.

After you have figured out your legal obligations, the next thing is to get a GC printed or find a company to buy them from.   ABMP has some free ones available in the members only section. (Not sure about AMTA but they might too.) You will also want to have your GC available for people to purchase online.  You can add them to your own website or use one of the many services to sell them for you.  There are a few companies that will also promote your gift certificates to stores that they are associated with like, and  Be sure to have all of your contact information on your GC and have a space for the recipients name and givers name and the service they are buying.  Have your website address.

You will also need some kind of system to track the sales of GC to make sure people don’t try to use them twice or do something like that. (I have never had a problem.)  You will also need to figure out how to keep your income balanced when you sell a lot of GC at one time like Christmas.  You will be getting quite a bit of money coming in and you will be having to do the massages during the next year which means you won’t get income then.  Putting the GC funds in an account where you can then pay yourself (or employee) when the Gift is actually used can help.  It will also take time away from your schedule later when the gifts are used so you have to take that into consideration.

Some of the other things you will need to do is figure out how to promote and sell gift certificates to your clients.  Here are some ideas:

  • Have a display set up in your office in the massage room or lobby.
  • Have signs up in other local businesses near you or in health clubs or health food stores.
  • Ask clients when they get a massage if they have family members who might like a massage gift certificate.
  • Be talking to your current clients about the gift certificates.
  • Try different promotions like buy 2 get 1/2 hour free or something like that.  Be careful with discounts and BYGO offers!  You may be overwhelmed with them in the new year! (if you bill insurance and are offering clients a discount, you have to offer it to the insurance companies too.)
  • Create an OFFER on Facebook.
  • Set a goal for how many you would like to sell for a specific holiday and work to achieve that.
  • Find other health care providers that may be interested in selling your gift certificates offering them a fee to do so.
  • Have an affiliate program set up on your website so that others can link to and promote your GC and get paid a referral fee for a sale.
  • Use Google Adwords to advertise your business and Gift Certificates
  • Use your Google Local or Yahoo Local listing to offer coupons for buying gift certificates
  • Make it easy for people to buy and receive the GC.  You can do that through your website or GC service and mail them directly or have them be able to print out a GC on their own to give at the last minute
  • Give regular clients a stack of GC to use and give to people when they want and just send them a bill when the GC is redeemed.
  • Try selling smaller time frames like the 1/2 hour massage to make it more affordable.
  • Sell Gift packages like buy 5 or 10 and get one free or save a significant amount.
  • Send letters to doctors offices, lawyers that you work with or other businesses that you work with as they might be interested in buying them for their office.  (I once had an office of lawyers who offered their employees a choice of gifts and I got myself on the list of options.  I also had a few business owners just buy a series for everyone in their office = Big $$$)
  • Send letters out to your mailing list or email list to tell them about buying GC and try different offers.  Send more than once! Send until you get the results you want testing various offers. (But don’t make them sick of you!)
  • Tell all your regular clients about GC when they come in.  They usually love to refer people to you and will like to give them to their friends as gifts.
  • Use a catchy slogan for your promotions like this person did.

    How To Get TONS More Affection From Your Loved One

    This Valentine’s Day”

    Are you busy? Pre-occupied with work? Too exhausted to even think about romance this Valentine’s Day? Maybe you’re tired of the typical ‘dinner and flowers’ idea year in, year out. If that’s the case…We Have The Perfect Solution For You!
  • Create a special offer for people but for order for them to get it they have to give you their email address or sign up on your Facebook Fan Page (or something like that.)
  • Use Facebook and Twitter to promote Gift Certificates
  • Try all of these things again.  That is one of the biggest things with MT  – they think that just because they tried it once and it didn’t get any clients that it won’t work.  Just change the offer or change the wording a little until it does work.
  • Create a couples massage class and sell them through gift certificates.
  • Run a groupon offer.

Another thing to remember is that many or even most gift certificates are not redeemed leaving you with the cash.  That can be good because you have the cash but it can also be detrimental because you lost the chance of getting a new regular client.  It may also be a problem if the law in your state says that you have to turn the GC over to the state after a certain period of time.   Create a follow up plan to contact the people who got the gift certificates.  You will need to track who is getting them from whom.  Also be careful about contacting the recipient and not letting the person who bought them know that the person did or didn’t come in.   It is important to protect people’s privacy even though they may be the one who bought the gift in the first place.   You will have to decide when and how it is best to contact people.

When the gift certificates start being redeemed make sure you have a system to educate clients and work with them during the session to help them see the results of massage to turn them into a regular massage client.  Your website is one way to do that by writing about what solutions you provide.  Many people do not realize that massage can be helpful for things like carpal tunnel or back pain or injuries.  Have a plan to convert GC clients into regular clients.  Keep track of who is buying the certificates and if you can who will be receiving them so you can call or send reminder cards for them to come in and get their massage.

To set up your website to sell gifts you can just use Paypal.  You will need a business account so that you can create a buy now button.  They take you through the steps of creating the button and you can select custom directions so people can leave their address so that you can mail them out.  If you want to be able to have the printed out directly I recommend that you use They are easy to use and implement into your website.  Just sign up and follow the step by step directions.  You only pay when someone orders a GC.

Another idea is to honor other people’s gift certificates especially when/if they are expired because you can convert them into a repeat client. Have a plan to create a repeat client out of every gift certificate redeemer.  There are many ways to do that like getting a new client packet of info together and giving it to them.  You could put articles about massage or your most recent newsletter in it.  You can also buy little gifts like a small aromatherapy oil, soap or even just plain massage lotion.  Follow up every appointment with a call, email or card and recap their session saying what areas you found were tight and what areas still need work.  Talk about what solution you provide.  Tell them what other conditions or diseases you work with.  It also helps to have your intake skills down and ask the right questions so that you can get the client engaged in their massage as well as work with them to show them the results of the massage.  Ask them about pain levels and restrictions of movement.  Show them afterward how things have improved or ask them to show you.

Many people also buy gifts for other people when they really need the massage.  You can do something like add an expiration date on the GC and then say if the person they give it to doesn’t redeem it by then, it will go back to the person who bought it.

Creating Regular Clients from Gift Certificate Sales

After the gift certificate is redeemed, you now also have the opportunity to get a regular client out of the offer.   The way to do that is just the same really as working with any other client.  Start with doing a thorough intake and understand their needs.  Make sure you explain what you do and how it can help them.  Find out if the ever get regular massage so you know what you are working with.  If they have gotten regular massage, ask them if they are now and if they aren’t – why have they stopped.  You can use this information to plan your session and follow up. Work with them during the massage to help them get a new awareness of just how the stress and tightness are affecting them in daily life.

The Downside of Selling Gift Certificates

Personally, I am not pushing Gift Certificates much at all these days.  I have been listed on a large law firms Gift List that got me hundreds of gift certificate sales many years ago.  I have sold gift certificates to owners of small law firms for them to give to all their employees.   I have sold many over the last 25 years but frankly I am done with them.

So often the people buying the gift is really the person who wants the massage.  That means a slew of unhappy people getting a massage when they would rather have the money or something else. So many gift certificates go unused because of that.  Yes, you get to keep the money, but the client never comes in for the massage – I just don’t feel right about that.  I know it is just the way business is done etc, but it just doesn’t sit well with me.  I wait all year for the client to come in and they usually scramble to get in at the last minute before the gift certificate expires and then are frustrated when they can’t.

It is also hard to keep the money paid for the certificates in a separate account so it feels like I am doing a massage for free when they actually come in later.  I know that may seem silly, but that’s just me of course.

I have had so many unhappy people on the massage table through the years also because of people giving the wrong gifts. These people also hardly ever become regular clients which is another reason for wanting to sell gift certificates.

It must just be me .  I would rather be making money giving massages.   You can make quite a bit on selling massage gift certificates for the holidays.

Here are some other articles on selling massage gift certificates:

Gift Certificates and Gift Cards business side By Laura Allen  Massage and Bodywork Magazine.
How to sell tons of Gift Certificates –
6 New Ideas for Using Posters to Sell Gift Certificates – Natural Touch Marketing

There are literally tons of opportunities for selling and promoting gift certificates especially for Christmas.  What is your goal?  How will you get there?  What have you done that you have found works?  Share your comments!

(originally posted in 2010 – updated 11/16/2015)

Massage Independent Contractors

Better Jobs for Massage Therapists-1

One of the biggest issues in the massage profession is that many employers of massage therapists will incorrectly classify their workers as independent contractors when they really should be employees.    It is important that you understand the difference between the two and know how to use this in your favor when looking for a job in massage.

First off there are Federal Requirements for Independent Contractors set up by the IRS and The Department of Labor.    There are also State requirements which may be a little bit different than the Federal requirements making it even more confusing.

Department of Labor and the Independent Contractor

Let’s start with the Department of Labor as one of their first points of clarification is what really affects all massage businesses that hire massage therapists.  In their fact sheet Fact Sheet #13: Am I an Employee? (PDF): Employment Relationship Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business. If the work performed by a worker is integral to the employer’s business, it is more likely that the worker is economically dependent on the employer and less likely that the worker is in business for himself or herself. For example, work is integral to the employer’s business if it is a part of its production process or if it is a service that the employer is in business to provide.
I don’t know of any massage or spa business where massage is not an integral part of the business.  End of any discussion right there.
The other 5 points in that fact sheet when applied to a massage business usually point to a massage therapist must be an employee.
#2. Does the Worker’s Managerial Skill Affect the Worker’s Opportunity for Profit or Loss? Massage therapists usually depend on the employer to bring clients in for them to make money.
#3 How does the Worker’s Business Investment Compare with the Employer’s Business Investments? The worker must share the risk of loss to be considered a true independent contractor.
#4 Does the Work Performed Require Special Skill and Initiative? Workers must not be economically dependent on the employer as in they have other jobs that bring in income.  Most IC positions in the massage profession depend on the employer
#5 Is the Relationship Between the Worker and Employer Permanent or Indefinite?   A true IC position will have a beginning and end date.
#6. What is the Nature and Degree of the Employer’s Control?

The IRS and Independent Contractors

The IRS also has their own requirement for independent contractors.  It is not enough to just get a 1099 to signify that you are and IC.  The IRS uses a 20 point questionnaire to determine status.  It matters to the IRS because they will make more money when people are classified as employees.  If you are misclassified, the IRS can come in and ask you to pay all of the back taxes and fees that will most likely put you out of business.  See:

Judge orders Redmond Herbal Spas to pay employees $135,536 in back wages and liquidated damages

1.Instructions: If the person for whom the services are performed has the right to require compliance with instructions, this indicates employee status.
2.Training: Worker training (e.g., by requiring attendance at training sessions) indicates that the person for whom services are performed wants the services performed in a particular manner (which indicates employee status).
3. Integration: Integration of the worker’s services into the business operations of the person for whom services are performed is an indication of employee status.
4. Services rendered personally: If the services are required to be performed personally, this is an indication that the person for whom services are performed is interested in the methods used to accomplish the work (which indicates employee status).
5.Hiring, supervision, and paying assistants: If the person for whom services are performed hires, supervises or pays assistants, this generally indicates employee status. However, if the worker hires and supervises others under a contract pursuant to which the worker agrees to provide material and labor and is only responsible for the result, this indicates independent contractor status.
6. Continuing relationship: A continuing relationship between the worker and the person for whom the services are performed indicates employee status.
7. Set hours of work: The establishment of set hours for the worker indicates employee  status.
8. Full time required: If the worker must devote substantially full time to the business of the person for whom services are performed, this indicates employee status. An independent contractor is free to work when and for whom he or she chooses.
9.Doing work on employer’s premises: If the work is performed on the premises of the person for whom the services are performed, this indicates employee status, especially if the work could be done elsewhere.
10. Order or sequence test: If a worker must perform services in the order or sequence set by the person for whom services are performed, that shows the worker is not free to follow his or her own pattern of work, and indicates employee status.
11. Oral or written reports: A requirement that the worker submit regular reports indicates employee status.
12.Payment by the hour, week, or month: Payment by the hour, week, or month generally points to employment status; payment by the job or a commission indicates independent contractor status.
13. Payment of business and/or traveling expenses. If the person for whom the services are performed pays expenses, this indicates employee status. An employer, to control expenses, generally retains the right to direct the worker.
14. Furnishing tools and materials:The provision of significant tools and materials to the worker indicates employee status.
15. Significant investment: Investment in facilities used by the worker indicates independent contractor status.
16. Realization of profit or loss: A worker who can realize a profit or suffer a loss as a result of the services (in addition to profit or loss ordinarily realized by employees) is generally an independent contractor.
17. Working for more than one firm at a time: If a worker performs more than deminimis services for multiple firms at the same time, that generally indicates independent contractor status.
 18. Making service available to the general public: If a worker makes his or her services available to the public on a regular and consistent basis, that indicates independent contractor status.
19. Right to discharge: The right to discharge a worker is a factor indicating that the worker is an employee.
20. Right to terminate: If a worker has the right to terminate the relationship with the person for whom services are performed at any time he or she wishes without incurring liability, that indicates employee status.

State Laws and the Independent Contractor

On top of the Department of Labor and the IRS you will also have state officials after you if have hired misclassified employees.  They will want their back unemployment insurance fees and workers compensation fees paid back.

Independent contractors

So who is and IC?  Personally, I think that they will be really rare instances of someone actually being an IC in the massage profession.  I actually can’t even think of a situation that would qualify.

Independent Contractors will have their own business and will set their own fees among other things.

They should have multiple businesses that they work for and not work at one place all of the time.   They are their own boss in every way and set their fees and send invoices to the business for payment of services.   They would provide all of the equipment – tables, lotions/oils, pillows etc.  They would do their own marketing and not depend on the owner for business.

For the most part from what I understand whenever you are a subcontractor it is best to be paid a flat rate for each massage that you do.  When you are paid a percentage of each massage the relationship with the employer becomes confusing to say the least.

The employer is responsible for knowing how to hire you as an independent contractor.  If they are trying to pay you a percentage you might want to bring the laws to their attention.  There are many reasons why an employer would try to pay you a percentage with the main reason usually about making money for themselves.  While an employer deserves to be paid for the use of the room and providing clients there should also be a limit.  It will also depend on what is provided by the employer.

Why does this matter?

Massage therapists may feel like an IC position is a better way to go but there are so many misclassified IC positions out there with massage therapists who are struggling to make ends meet.  They are being taken advantage of for all their hard work and time.   You deserve to be paid and paid well for what you do.

What this means for employers is that you will have to be sure you have the resources to hire massage therapists and be able to get them enough clients so that you can make enough to pay them fairly.  No more taking advantage of massage therapists and not paying them what they are worth.

For massage therapists starting out, having an IC position was often an easier way to start as you didn’t have to pay for space when you were not using it.  This just means that you will need to work harder to ensure you have clients if/when you want to open your own business.  As an employee you should get benefits such as vacation and sick time and see regular increases in pay as your skills and experience progress.


Thanks to Angela Lind and Della Szeszol Melville in the many Facebook forums for always taking time to explain this and gathering the information presented here.

Be sure to read as many articles and resources as you can about determining your status.  Here is a collection of them that I have found to provide solid information but again I am not an attorney!

I highly recommend these books and resources!

IRS Website – Employee vs Contractor

Form SS8 of the IRS to have them determine your status fill out this form.  Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding

Independent contractor status – -To assist your understanding of this vital topic, we are providing the following information (adapted with permission) from IRS Publication 937, Business Reporting

Employees and Independent Contractors, Part 1 Business Side By Felicia Brown Massage and Bodywork Magazine
Employees and Independent Contractors, Part 2 Business Side By Felicia Brown Massage and Bodywork Magazine
Success with the IRS by Dixie Wall Contributing Editor Massage Today
Independent Contractor, Employee, Booth Renter: Which Piece Am I? Business Side By Ken Cassidy Massage and Bodywork Magazine

Massage Business Basics

Massage Business Basics1
Understanding Massage Business Basics will help you in creating a strong foundation for your massage business.  Reading and learning everything you can about business will be an ongoing process and it will never end.  There is always something new to learn.

Here are some of the business basics to get you started:

  1. Figure out Your Ideal Client
  2. Creating a Business Plan
  3. Create a Spending Plan -not a budget!
  4. Creating a Vision for your Ideal Business
  5. Start Simply – Share office space
  6. Setting up your Massage Business Structure
  7. Independent Contractors
  8. How to make money and care
  9. Setting your fees for services
  10. Raising Your Rates
  11. Finding an office space
  12. Finding office space to share
  13. Setting up your office
  14. Setting up a home massage office
  15. Accepting Credit Cards
  16. Creating your Policies and ProceduresCancellation policies
  17. Tipping Policies – Yes or No?
  18. The Art of Making Appointments
  19. Choosing a Massage Business Name
  20. Creating your business cards, flyers and brochures
  21. Marketing Massage
  22. Long list of Massage marketing tips
  23. Getting Massage Clients to Rebook – Repeat Clients
  24. Starting a Website
  25. DIY  Massage Websites – Step by Step Websites
  26. Using WordPress for Your Website
  27. What to write on your Website – a long list of suggested articles/topics
  28. Using Facebook
  29. Using Massage Photos on Facebook
  30. Selling Your Massage Business
  31. For Male Massage Therapists
  32. Using Groupon
  33. Massage Gift Certificates
  34. Accepting Credit Cards
  35. Educating Massage Clients
  36. Evaluate if you want to learn massage insurance billing or not.
  37. The Dark Side of Billing Insurance


Massage Business Plans

massage business plansWhen starting a massage business you can start with a simple massage business plan to help you gather your thoughts and ideas about what you see for yourself and your massage business.  As a sole proprietor, doing this once a year or more if needed can help keep you on track for starting and building your massage business.

It really doesn’t have to be anything fancy unless you are planning on building a large office/spa and hiring other massage therapists.   For just starting your basic massage business, start with the basics and start where you are.  It doesn’t take much money to start a business, but it will take time and energy to get clients in the door and coming back.

The basic steps for creating a massage business plan are:
1. General Overview: Vision/Mission/Purpose and Values Statement. A vision statement is a few sentences that sums up what you see is possible in your business. It pulls you forward when the going gets tough and keeps you on track.

A purpose statement will talk about the things you will need to learn or become in order to fulfill your vision. You might need to take classes in marketing, website design, public speaking, massage techniques or whatever.

The mission statement will outline the specific steps you need to take to fulfill the vision and purpose. (Think about the phrase – ‘on a mission’)
2. Who Will Your Clients Be? Who is Your Ideal Client? What does your Ideal Massage Business Look like? It is not only about demographics but what your client values.
3. How will You Get Clients? Marketing, advertising and work of mouth is how you will get clients. Creating a marketing plan that is in tune with your vision and mission statements will allow you to make better decisions about your business and clients.
4. Financial Projections – what will your expenses be and how much do you plan to make?

5. Marketing Analysis. Doing a Marketing Analysis will help you understand what people want or if they even do want massage services. You can start by actually going door to door in your neighborhood and asking people for their feedback on specifically designed questions about massage. You can also do market research by using some keyword search tools and find out how many people are looking for massage online in your area.



Business Plan Manual How to Write and Market a Business Plan

Your Massage Business Plan : Dreaming Forward By Daryl Kulak at

Sample Massage Business Plan at Yahoo! Answers Complete Business Plan outlines by Cherie Sohnen-Moe

“A massage business plan serves many functions and it can dramatically increase your chances of success.  It’s a powerful declaration of your goals and intentions, a written summary of what you aim to accomplish and an overview of how you intend to organize your resources to attain those goals.

Business Mastery: A Guide for Creating a Fulfilling, Thriving Business and Keeping it Successful

“It is simply not possible for two businesses to serve the same client’s needs equally.  One will be a better fit that another; the best fit produces a perfect client or customer working with the perfect provider.”

Attracting Perfect Customers: The Power of Strategic Synchronicity
by Stacey Hall, Jan Brogniez

“A Business Plan is a Strategy Document.  It defines who your company is, what business you are in, the goals you have for yourself and your business, and how to accomplish those goals.”

Building A Business the Buddhist Way by Geri Larkin 

Spending Plans for a massage business

Every year I track my income and expenses on what is called a spending plan.  I learned this from a money coach – Mikelann Valterra who I worked with for a few years.  The system is quite unique in that it isn’t about creating a budget but it is about creating a plan of what you want in your life and in your business and learning to put it all together to make ends meet and also get ahead of the game.  For most of my career, I spent it just wishing that it were so and thinking that the whole law of attraction would see me through but frankly I dumped magical thinking for creating a plan and taking control of my finances and my life.

Here is how it works basically:

Each year I start out creating an annual spending plan. I can plan for my monthly expenses and also plan to go to conferences or go on vacation and guesstimate how much it will take to do that.  Each month I start out with planning my month and making my best guess at what expenses I will have and what my goal for income is. I can see a special tab in the worksheet that tally’s everything up and lets me know if that will work or not and then I can adjust accordingly.  Each week I track my income and expenses.  I have an Excel spread sheet that I work with ( a special one from the Financial Recovery Institute).  When I started tracking all my income and expenses both personal and business, I could finally really see what was going on in my money world.  The biggest thing I learned was that money is just basically a math problem!

So each month I start out with my plan.  Each week I tally my income and expenses and it then tells me if I am on target or not.  I can adjust as I go.  I either need to work more or find a way to make more money or I can cut back on something.  I already live pretty simply so it is more often just creating a way to make more!

Spending plans are a lot different than budgets.  I don’t like the word budget or I guess I don’t like having to budget!  A budget to me means that I have to stop having a latte or eating out for lunch everyday like I do when I am at the office.  A spending plan frees up your energy to become more creative and find new ways to make more money or get more massage clients!  A spending plan provides relief as you often may feel overwhelmed by bills or expenses but you can watch it all carefully on your spending plan.

The creator of the spending plan program I use has just written a book on the subject.  It is called Financial Recovery: Developing a Healthy Relationship with Money

The whole process is also about taking a good look at how you deal with money and your beliefs about money. For many massage therapists, the general saying seems to be – “It isn’t about the money”. Sorry, but it is. You are a business now and you need to have enough money to stay in business so that you can help your clients. It is as simple as that. Mikelann Valtera refers to this as “Noble Poverty” (in her boook –Why Women Earn Less: How to Make What You’re Really Worth) the idea that you have to give yourself away for little to nothing because of the unconscious beliefs that if you do, you will be loved or whatever it is that might be your take on it all.  Tracking your income and expenses will let you start seeing that making money is just a math problem. It doesn’t have anything to do with all of the fears that often are behind issues with money and how you value your time and money.


Raising your rates for massage

Raising your rates for massage can be an intimidating experience for massage therapists.  I recommend that you raise your rates every few years.  It is really a part of good self care while also just being a part of running a business. The cost of living goes up and your expenses go up each year so it is important that your business be able to meet your demands for money and heck you need to be able to stay in business.

One of the biggest challenges in raising your rates is that you will be faced with the possibility of losing clients.  No matter what you do, you may lose some clients.  It is just a fact.  The thing though is about timing your rate increase and balancing your client loads.  The best time to raise your rates is when you are really busy and your schedule is full.  Even better is to raise them when you are too busy.  That will weed out clients that don’t value your service and allow you to focus on those that do.  While that may sound mean and many massage therapists really think that they want to make massage be available to everyone, as a business that is just not possible or a good business practice. When you weed out clients that pay less it allows room in your schedule for those who will pay more.

The fact is that to be able to stay in business and continue providing service to your clients – you need money!  You won’t be much good to clients if you can’t stay in business or you can’t pay your own bills.

The best time to raise your rates is when you are really busy.  That way if you lose a few clients it won’t matter much.  Being really busy also may be a sign that your prices are too low.  I would recommend changing them sometime during the year and NOT at the beginning of the year after all the holiday spending sprees.  You just have to remember you will get new clients at the higher rate and make up for the losses.

Often when you do raise your rates you will find that most of your clients will tell you things like ” oh it’s about time” or “you deserve it”.

You can let clients know ahead of time so that they can be prepared.

  1. Set a date about a month away to raise your rates
  2. Announce it on your website.
  3. Post a notice in your office near the massage table and/or at the desk where they pay.
  4. Send out a mailing announcing your price increase but make it also a special offer like buy a series now at the lower rate or buy gift certificates at the lower rate.

I can guarantee you that you will have someone who balks at your new rates and threatens to leave or does just leave.  One of the biggest lessons I learned was that it is OK to have them go.

You don’t have to ever explain really why you are raising your massage fees.

You also do not have to explain why you are raising your rates.  People should understand that you are a business and that it is just a fact.  You never really need to explain or justify your rate increase.  Heck, you don’t even have to do all the things to announce it months ahead either.  I think we do all these things to make ourselves feel better about raising them!  If you have to explain why then maybe that client is not right for your business.  Does the gas station announce a month early that they will be raising their rates?

When I first started out in massage, I took over a business where the person was charging way below the going rate in the area.  I initially raised it a bit allowing people to get used to me and find me.  The next year I consulted with an accountant about raising my rates and he actually advised me not to.  He said I would lose too many clients and it would hurt me too much in the long run.  Well of course I didn’t listen to him.  Yes I lost clients who were used to paying less but I also gained many new clients who were willing to pay more thus increasing my income significantly.  It also in some way makes you feel better about yourself and deserving of more.  It is a way to acknowledge your own needs and work towards meeting them.  It is one of the highest forms of self care which is essential to making it in the massage profession.

I have also had some really well off clients who would complain when I did raise my rates.  Yes you will get all kinds.

You will have to weigh each objection to see if you will want to do something to keep the client as a client.  It will depend on how long they have been a client and what their financial situation is. How often do they come in – 1x a year or 1x a week or something in between? You will want to take into consideration whether they have been a good source of referrals for your business.  You can also assess the time it takes to deal with them as in are they always late or missing appointments or calling to reschedule. You will have to decide if you can afford to lose this client and if it would be worth your time to keep them.

To keep them, you could do a special package offer and let them buy like 10 massage sessions at your old price.   You could keep the price the same for them for awhile if you want to.

If they decide it is just time to go, then you will have to work on getting other clients in the door to replace them.  Always be working on your website to add new content.  Google likes that in particular.  Your website needs to be able to pass the E-A-T test – It needs to show that your Expertise, Authoritativeness or Trustworthiness.   Always be looking for ways to get your current clients to refer to you and get other people/businesses/doctors/health professionals to refer to you.   (See also:  how to create a referral network)



Setting Your Massage Fees

set your massage therapy fees

Setting your massage fees is one of the most basic things yet the most complicated.  You want to set your fees low enough so that you will get a steady stream of clients but not too high that you are not affordable by most people.  You also want to be able to make a living, pay your bills and stay in business.

Setting fees brings up so many unconscious beliefs and thoughts because of all of the things that we have been taught about money.  Money is the one place in the world where we project all of our beliefs about our self worth and value.  Money is the one thing that everyone in the world has to deal with.

One of the common things I hear massage therapists say is that they want to make their massage available to everyone so they set their rates really low thinking that is what will happen.  It is scary to charge what you think is a lot especially in the beginning.  Being available to everyone is a nice thought but sorry to say it just doesn’t work that way.   If you are independently wealthy, don’t need to make a living, don’t care about having money for retirement, nice vacations and such things then you probably can charge low fees.  I also realize that just saying low fees is not very exact because everyone has their own idea of low fees.  By low fees I am meaning less than the going rate in your area just for purposes of this article.

Your massage fees will reflect how you value yourself and your time.  It is really the time that you are getting paid for.  The caring that you give is actually Free and just comes with the massage.   Massage therapists can get this confused easily thinking that they should not charge much because the work is so caring.   Your time is what matters.   It is time away from your family and life.   Yes massage isn’t such an awful thing to be doing as far as work goes and being away from your family and rest of your life.  I think the problem often becomes when you think that massage is your life that charging for your time becomes more difficult.

The thing is that there is no right or wrong massage fee.  It is only a matter of figuring out what is right for you right now in this time in your life.  Here are some things to consider when setting your massage fees:

  • Call as many other massage therapists as you can or research online what other massage therapists are charging in your area.
  • Create a list of all of your business expenses.
  • Create a list of all of your personal needs that need to be covered as part of your salary or draw from your business.
  • Create a list of your dreams like vacations, travel, houses, cars.  This isn’t about being material.  It is OK to have desires for things.  It is when they become more important than everything else that you get into difficulties.
  • Figure out how many clients you need at week at what rate to get what you need to make.  Here is a breakdown of some rates and potential incomes from’s Facebook page. (His breakdowns are too low but it will give you something to think about.  I think the average massage fee is $60-$65 in the US so think higher!)

If you are just starting out setting your fees below the average will not necessarily get you the clients that you need.  It has much more to do with than just price.   What people want is the best massage ever.  What people want is a solution to their problem (whatever that really is).

You can create special introductory offers for a limited time to get people in the door to try your massage services.  After that you will need to have an effective follow up in place and also have created trust with your intake and your massage so that people will want to come back in and send in all of their friends.

When I first started out, I took over a practice in a health club from a guy who was charging a ridiculously low rate – something like $35 for an hour and even for 23 years ago that was unreasonably low.  I immediately raised it to $45 and worked to get new clients.  Each time I got to a place where my schedule was pretty full, I would raise the rates again.  My accountant even advised me not to.  The thing is that every time I raised my rates, I would lose a few people but I would also get new clients paying the higher rates making my income gradually increase each time!

When you charge more than the average there is also another concept going on.  People will perceive you to be a better massage therapist!

People who are only looking for the cheapest massage are looking for just that.  They may not have ever had a massage that really makes a difference.

So how are you going to set your fees?  If you have set your fees already, how did you come to what you are charging?   After reading this it are you re-evaluating what you do charge?

Also after setting your fees there is the next part of setting your cancellation and no show policies AND enforcing them!


Resources for getting over issues with money:

The Meaning of Money

Climbing out of the Money Fog

The Caring Business – How to make money and still care

This really could be called: Why Massage Therapists Earn Less.  This is the book that started me on my path of healing my issues around money.  It isn’t about creating a budget – it is about figuring out what you NEED to make to live comfortably and then figure out how to start making this. This book explains our love/hate relationship with money and why many choose to live in what Mikelann Valterra calls “Noble Poverty”.   It changes the motivation to make money to focusing on making more rather than living with a budget which is restrictive and comes from a place of lack.



Karen McCall is Mikelann Valterra’s Mentor and now partner in business, developing proprietary software for tracking money in a way that shows you how your money can really work for you and how to get a better handle on your income and expenses so you have money left at the end.  It is not about budgeting, but about planning and figuring out how to make what you need and end the noble poverty.