Increase Your Bottom Line

By Laura Allen
[Business Side]

Massage therapists are a special group of people who often have a motivation other than making money for doing what they do.

While the desire to help people feel better and provide a service that improves the quality of life for those we touch is a noble aspiration, most of us need to earn money in order to maintain our own lives and meet our obligations—and hopefully have some left over for those things we’d like to do.

There are only two basic principles to increasing your profit: bring in more money and spend less money. Ideally, you want to do both of those things at the same time. Take action now, and by next year at this time, your paycheck could be substantially more than it is now.

How to Get More Income

There are more ways than you think to cultivate extra money. You’re more apt to follow through if you have a specific goal in mind. Name a dollar figure you want to achieve. Do you want $5,000 more a year or $20,000? Whatever it is, write it down and date it. You’ll want to revisit your goal every month to see how much progress you’re making.

Raise Prices

If you already have as many clients as you can handle, but you still aren’t making enough money, analyze the situation. Is it time to raise your prices? Therapists often hesitate to bump up their rates, thinking clients will be upset or maybe stop coming altogether. But remember, you’re not just a massage therapist; you’re a consumer as well. Aren’t you paying more for a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk than you did a couple of years ago? Haven’t your power and your telephone bills increased? Of course they have and your clients understand that. Don’t make a drastic increase, but make an increase, especially if it’s been more than two years since you raised your rates. If you see 25 clients a week, and you increase that by just $5, that’s $125 more a week, $500 more a month, $6,000 more a year. If you’ve set $20,000 more as your goal, you’re more than one-third of the way there.

When you decide to raise your fees, inform your clients through word of mouth, your newsletter, email, and office signage: “Effective July 1, the rate for massage is $70 per hour.” Give a few weeks lead time. You won’t lose any clients over it. If anyone expresses disappointment, you can point out to them that you offer package deals.

Package Deals

You may have the immediate reaction of wondering how discounting massage will increase your bottom line. But offering package deals is a smart strategy. I personally use the “Buy 5, Get 6” method. Yes, it cuts the price of each massage; however, I know I’m going to get those people in the door at least six times and, hopefully in the process, illustrate the benefits of frequent massage. They’ve made the commitment by buying the package. Half the time, they end up sharing it with a friend or family member, who’s apt to purchase a package of their own. Packages bring in business and cultivate customer loyalty.


It’s easy and inexpensive to incorporate some adjunct treatments into your practice. For example, I invested in a professional paraffin setup. I can give a paraffin treatment on the hands for the princely sum of $.018. If you sell a paraffin treatment for $5, that’s a 450 percent profit. There are lots of other things that complement massage therapy as well. Craigslist and eBay and often have items such as saunas and foot detoxification baths that people are trying to sell at steeply discounted prices.

You can also expand your menu of services. A salt scrub on the feet at the end of a massage is an added-value service that many clients enjoy. If you get just $10–20 per person from a few clients a week for additional services, that amount really adds up over time.

Don’t overlook selling longer sessions, too. If you have clients whose pain always seems to return between sessions, suggest they may want to upgrade to 90 minutes for the next few sessions. When someone who has received a gift certificate makes an appointment, upsell to them since the appointment isn’t costing anything and they’re more inclined to spend a little of their own money in order to extend the session or enhance it with an add-on service.

Share Space

If you’re a lone practitioner, surely there are times when you’re not using your office. Yet, you still have the overhead 24/7. Why not optimize the space? Get another practitioner to share your facility. Are you a morning person? Someone out there wants to work in the evenings. Someone could be there on your days off. It doesn’t even have to be another massage therapist. It could be any other type of holistic practitioner. By sharing the space and charging a percentage, or a flat rental rate, you’ll bring in additional income and make maximum use of something for which you’re already paying. 

Sell Products

Selling products can mean retailing or getting involved with multi-level marketing (selling products and signing up new distributors). Either method can supplement your income, with a couple of caveats.

First and foremost, marketing products to clients places you in the position of being in a dual relationship—therapist and salesperson. As long as you don’t pressure anyone to buy anything or tell them they “need” to be taking so-and-so (prescribing is prohibited, even more so than pressure selling), you’ll come out on top. Selling items you actually use in your practice is ideal—the essential oils, the buckwheat neck pillow, the hot/cold packs, or other items. If they’ve actually experienced it and you’ve inherently approved it, clients are more likely to be interested and buy it.

Second, you’re trying to bring money in, so be careful about investing in a huge amount of inventory you may not be able to sell. Test the retail waters by starting out slowly, buying just a few items, and keeping a low inventory. Better to order a little, and often, than to order a huge amount and be stressed because you haven’t gotten your money back as quickly as you had hoped.

Accept Credit Cards

Credit card acceptance is almost expected of any business. If you’re not yet set up to accept them, get on the ball. Check with your bank to see if it will provide you with a processor at no charge other than transaction fees. It should. Run from any company that wants to lease you a machine; any credit card processor you are going to do business with should provide the machine at no charge. Some companies even allow you to use your Touch-Tone telephone for transactions, which makes it feasible for people who do outcalls. Shop around for the best deal. Transaction fees and service charges vary widely from company to company.

When you accept credit cards, you open your business to more people who may not have the cash on hand to pay for an appointment. And if you’re selling packages, how many clients are carrying around several hundred dollars in cash to pay you? Most people prefer to use debit cards in the interest of saving trees and leaving the checkbook at home.

Cut Your Expenses

The best way to cut costs is to analyze your expenses line by line, with a hard look at economizing wherever possible. Perhaps you’ve never thought of asking your landlord to cut the rent, but one enterprising therapist recently told me she did just that. The recession had affected her business, and she was looking at moving to a cheaper (although less ideal) location. When she mentioned her challenges to her landlord, he told her she had been such a good tenant that he didn’t want to lose her. He actually cut her rent in half. This scenario is just proof that it never hurts to ask.

Advertising: The Bottomless Pit

Advertising has the potential to be the most out of control of your expenditures. The only way for you to figure out which strategies are cost-effective and which are not is by tracking clients. Ask each new client where they heard about your business, and record their responses. Within two to three months, you should have an accurate picture of where your new clients are coming from.

It’s tempting to advertise anywhere and everywhere, but if your message only reaches a tiny segment of the population or it’s not reaching your target market, you’re throwing money away. The cheapest advertising is, of course, word of mouth and the longer you stay in business that should become the avenue most new clients take to get to you. Otherwise, you have to realize that taking advantage of all these advertising “opportunities” is putting you in the hole. Focus on low-cost and no-cost ways to promote yourself. Learn to say no: “I’m sorry, but I’m unable to buy an ad on the bowling alley scorecards; my budget for this year has already been spent.” Stick to your guns. And never, ever, pay for advertising with a credit card. You do not want to be paying for last Sunday’s newspaper ad a year from now, with interest.

Save on Utilities

The first step is to call your utility companies (water, power, gas, even the phone company) and renegotiate, just as the therapist above did with her landlord. Then, ask them to bill you the same amount every month. At the end of the year, they’ll credit you for what you’ve overpaid, or send you a bill for what you’ve underpaid. This will help control your cash flow, you’ll know that you’re paying the least amount possible, and you have a certain amount going out every month. (While you’re at it, call your credit card company as well and demand a reduction in interest rates.)

People are much more “green” these days when it comes to conserving; if you’re not one of those people, make it a point to become one. Turn out lights and appliances when you’re not in the room. Do the laundry only when you have a full load. Turn the heat down or the air conditioner up when it’s time to go home.

Other Places to Save

Prosperity isn’t just the result of making money, it’s also the art of using the money you have wisely. No one’s going to know if you buy your office furnishings at the thrift store, purchase office supplies at garage sales, or find linens at the discount store, unless you tell them. The more money you save, the more you can spend on the things that are really important to you. And isn’t that what you’d rather be working for?


Laura Allen is the author of Plain & Simple Guide to Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Examinations (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009) and One Year to a Successful Massage Therapy Practice (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008). A third book, A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Business, will be published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. She is the owner of THERA-SSAGE, a continuing education facility and alternative wellness clinic of more than a dozen practitioners of different disciplines in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Visit her website at