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.







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 use on
FB App review appts. before accepting
Gen Book
$20/month one user
unlimited users
free trial,
no credit card
Yes Email iphone and android Yes
$19.95/month single user$39.95 multi-user 30 day no credit card  Yes Email iphone and android  Yes
Full Slate
$29.95 per month
one schedule
Yes Email iphone and androidblackberry through Google calendar  Yes Yes
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 Yes but no app. No app but has mobile version
Book Fresh
Free – $19.95/month 30 day free trial paypal Email only Iphone?
Appointment Plus

Up to 20 Users (staff/schedules)

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

Create Powerful Policies

cancelation policies for massage therapistsMassage Cancellation and no show policies are perhaps the most important part of your massage business framework. Your business framework is what supports you in the process of doing business. These policies also bring up strong emotions and challenges in doing so.  How you set your cancellation and no show policies will affect the whole profession.  In essence you are teaching people how to treat you and the whole profession.

When you are first starting out and have the time available, you might think that is it OK to let people slide. Many also think ‘Oh, that must mean I am supposed to have time for myself”.  When you say things like that it may really be telling you that you need some time off yourself.  When you sacrifice your time for others and don’t respect your own time, people won’t respect your time or you either.  Only you can decide what is right for you.  You can set a policy that you can sleep with.  It will change over time as you get busier and also as you begin to understand the value of your time.  But I challenge you to take some time to really think about your cancellation and no show policies carefully.  The more you respect your time and teach people to respect your time, the better your chances of success.

Letting people go without paying or any penalty is telling them that your time is not important.  It is telling them that your work is not important.

If you are just starting out and don’t charge people anything at all just start thinking about how much you will lose in the long run.  If you plan on being in business 10, 15 or even 20 years that can add up.  If you had 4 cancellations a week for a year and charged $60 an hour that would be almost $15,000 a year.  Can you afford to lose that? It can  take its toll on your business.  Every time you get clearer around this boundary I believe you will see a change in your clients and in yourself.  Setting a fee for cancellations and no shows tells yourself that you respect your own time.  I see it as one of the highest forms of self care.  Massage therapists in general have a hard time charging for their time and services thinking that it is better to live without.  This idea of Noble Poverty has it’s roots in the way you were brought up.  Taking a look at your issues around money can help you to understand that money is just a math problem.  Learning to take the emotions out of money is an ongoing process since they are so ingrained in people.

Many will also use the standard claim – “Doing Massage isn’t about the money!”  Well I am here to tell you that it is and if you are saying it chances are you don’t have much money or don’t have what you need.  People will think that if they say it is about the money they are less giving or less caring.  You aren’t being paid to care.  You are being paid for your time – for your time you have to take away from your family or other things that you love.  And yes massage is one of those things that I am sure that you love but you only have so many hours in a day/week/year.  Your body will not hold up as long in this career.  Your time is usually limited to 25-30 of hands on time or even less.  You need money to pay the bills, save for retirement, pay for kid’s college, take nice vacations to rest – you deserve it all and that all takes money.

The Power Late Arrival Policy

The ideal late arrival policy says my time is valuable and I also respect my other clients time.  I know things happen – traffic, last minute phone calls, things at work/home, but people need to responsible for their own time.  The ideal late arrival policy states:

Your late arrival will require that I end the session at the scheduled time, meaning your session will unfortunately be shorter today.   I have reserved this time for you and only you and have other people scheduled after your time.

When clients arrive late, it can cause a real problem.  If you extend your session to go the full time, you may make the rest of your appointments late which won’t make anyone happy.  If you cut their time short and end at the scheduled time, you will need to explain your policies so that people will not be mad.  A mad client these days can lead to worse things like bad reviews and further problems.

You can take it on a case by case basis.  Sometimes you might not have a client right after or you may have breaks scheduled in between clients so that you can adapt for late arrivals.  If your schedule allows and you are trying to build a practice, working a little longer to the full time might help create a better relationship and a repeat client and all of the possible referrals they will potentially send your way.  (Remember a referral network is “Your people have people who have people”).

This is a basic boundary issue.   The thing with boundaries is that they will let you know what is going on by how you feel.

If you give them more time when you don’t have time or if you feel resentful that they are late and you think they are trying to take advantage of you, there are usually other things going on.  You may be needing more self care time to nurture yourself and get more Me time.

The Power No Show Policy

The top of the line no show policy is of course you miss the appointment, you pay for the Whole appointment!  Yes that means everything!

That is always easier said than done.  Making people pay for something that they did not receive can be challenging especially since they didn’t show up to charge them.  You can send them a bill or add it to their next appointment but the thing is that many will not come back in if they are made to pay.

The first thing is always to make sure they know the policy.  Regular clients and clients who value your time and massage work, will respect your policies and understand.  They will usually come with their no show payment in hand for the next appointment.  But how do you get people to that point of respecting you and actually paying.  Massage therapists are also hesitant to make people pay for a missed appointment.

Sometimes it means you start with where you are.   Try setting a now show fee like $25 or $35 or a portion of the full fee.   You may want to do that when starting out and training your clients.  As you get busier, it will be even more important to enforce because you will have people who are waiting to get in and you will be losing more money.

It is often a process of building up your self confidence and getting over your fear of rejection.  As you get more experience you will usually find that most are really willing to pay.  Those who don’t want to pay, just don’t understand and may not value your time.  You have to let them know what your policy is though in the first place.

Tell them the policy!

Clients are not mind readers.  They often just don’t know.  They might also have had other therapists who will let that slide because they are building their business or they don’t enforce those policies.  You can’t enforce what they don’t know!  It is usually in the they don’t know that they will be upset and mad!  The biggest mistake I see massage therapists making is that clients don’t know the policy in the first place and because everyone seems to have different policies you just have to clearly tell them so they understand yours.

  1. Put your policies on your website.
  2. Have people sign a copy of your policy when they come in.
  3. Put your policy on your phone message.  Say something like “Please be aware if you are calling to cancel that you will be charge xx.oo amount if you cancel in less than 24 hours  or if you are late, your appointment will end at the scheduled time.(or whatever you set up.)
  4. When new clients call to schedule an appointment, consider taking a credit card to secure their time and tell them of your policy right up front.  Tell them that you are reserving that time for them and them alone so that you will not take another client in that spot.  Some online scheduling systems will allow you to take credit cards to secure the appointment.

It things still go wrong and the client does not understand why they must pay or when they must pay, they might not be a good fit for your business.

Building your confidence in creating your policies and working to enforce them is best done with a support system in place.  Supervision can provide that exact place where you can present your policies and learn more about what it is that you really want while you build your confidence in creating and enforcing your policies.  Having a support system can can help you to create your policies and step by step learn to enforce them.

Share your no show and/or cancellation policy in the comments!

After the massage, there is the laundry

Yes indeed,  Laundry is one of the biggest indicators that your massage business is going well.  I bet you didn’t know that doing laundry would be such a big part of doing massage!  I probably would have went into something else! Haha!

Sheets are an important part of the process of the massage itself.  I purposely choose sheets for each client and think of them usually when putting the sheets on the table. Colors and textures can make an impression.  The way the sheets look on the table when the client first comes in to how they feel when they are on the table are all apart of creating an image.  Sheets and draping are one of the components that create a component of trust and help the client to feel secure on the table.  Men in particular are often more sensitive to thin sheets fearing the dreaded “E” during the massage.

What do you want your sheet to say?

What do your sheets say?

There is nothing worse than the oily smell of sheets or having sheets that are old and frayed.  Your sheets make an impression so why not start out on the right foot….er…sheet.

Not all sheets are created equal.  Your laundry job can be made much easier by getting the right sheets in the first place.  There are some sheets that just hold the oils/lotions more and just want to soak it all up!  You can almost tell by the feel of the sheets – they feel almost dry or scratchy in the wrapper.

Percale is one of the most basic types of sheets.  I had a client describe it as “Oh I got the crispy sheets today!”   Percale refers to the type of weave and they can be 100% cotton or a combination of materials.

A poly/cotton combo tends to clean easier than most but again it depends on the weave.

The new microfiber sheets tend to hold oil more which could also be a big problem in the dryer as in catching on fire!

Flannel sheets seem to be popular at many massage places because they are cozy feeling but there are also flannel sheets that sort of ‘stick together’ making it difficult for the client to turn over because the sheets don’t move easily.   They also pill easily and can be a problem for dryers because they are heavier and produce more lint.

The oils/lotions that you use also vary in how easy they come out of fabric.  Jojoba or Fractionated coconut oil seem to wash out the easiest with almond and grapeseed oils being the hardest to clean.  Some massage lotions/oils such as those made by Bon Vital have an additive that makes the lotions/oils come out of the sheets easier.

The sheets, pillow covers, face covers, blankets and the massage table itself are potential carriers of disease and body fluids (blood, sweat, seamen, mucous, tears) along with the shedding layers of skin cells.   The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says:massagetablecover

Some infections that can be transmitted through contact with blood and body fluids include: HIV, Hepatitis A, B, C, Staph and Strep infections, Gastroenteritis-salmonella, and shigella, Pneumonia, Syphilis, TB, Malaria, Measles, Chicken Pox, Herpes, Urinary tract infections, and Blood infections. The greatest risks are from HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

The thing though is that when it is on the sheets is it less of a problem as per the CDC.

Cleaning Sheets

Cleaning the sheets is an art form.  It is for sanitation and for the longevity of the sheets.   I have heard so many horror stories of massage therapists layering the sheets

on top of each other for efficiency of time which compromises cleanliness, that it really scares the heck out of me!  In WA State it is actually a law that there needs to be an impervious layer between the sheets and the massage table so sheets can remain clean which means you also have to clean the impervious layer!

(WAC 246-830-040)

(5) All single service materials and clean linen such as sheets, towels, gowns, pillow cases and all other linens used in the practice of massage, shall be furnished by the practitioner for the use of each client. Linens shall be stored in a sanitary manner.
(6) All towels and linens used for one person shall be laundered or cleaned before they are used by any other person.
(7) All soiled linens shall be immediately placed in a covered receptacle.
  • Use Warm water (71+ degrees)
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda
  • Borax
  • Washing Soda
  • Try dishwasher soap for sheets that seem to absorb oils more
  • Try Dawn Dish Soap (Blue Only) to treat spots like mascara in face rest covers.
  • Oxyclean can also work to get out oils/stains
  • Dry on High Temperatures
  • Remove from Dryer immediately to reduce wrinkling


Folding the Fitted Sheets

The easiest sheets to use on your massage table are the flat and fitted sheets that fit twin sized beds.  For the life of me, after 25 years of doing this, I still can’t fold a fitted sheet properly.  I usually try to get them out of the dryer and right onto the massage table to avoid folding.

I have watched a few videos and tried many times, but it is just not in my nature!  Well until I finally watched videos on Youtube for about an hour on how to fold a fitted sheet and found this guy!

See also:

Hygiene Fact and Fiction Taking Care of Us to Take Care of Them By Ruth Werner