Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I get irritated when what is charged for a massage session is equated to what one makes for massage. Regardless of being self-employed or being an employee, someone has to pay the overhead, taxes and clean the facility and attend to business management duties.  I get especially exasperated at the AMTA with the annual report to the profession which perpetuates this confusion.  See the quote below.

“Average hourly earnings of massage therapists increased in the past year

Therapists working in their client’s homes made the most, an average of $69.89 per

hour. Those working in massage only franchises and chains made the least, an average

The $69.89 mentioned above is what was CHARGED not what was MADE!  The same report says that the average gross income for massage is $21,871.   This is gross income. Taxes and other expenses need to be deducted.  How does $69.89 per hour only end up being $21,871 per year.

The $20.39 per hour (wage and tip) indicated for franchises and chains is much more accurate indicator of actual hourly income as an employee before taxes.

Yes I am yelling.

Below is a much more realistic evaluation of income potential.  Also when you compare the real information working for one of the franchises is not such a bad situation. 


Below is a breakdown of session lengths and client fees.  Now before you get your fascia in a twist when looking at the fee structure remember the fees are based on a retention client structure where they would get a massage a least every two weeks.   So for the typical hour massage at the average fee this is $100 a month commitment for a client.  That’s a lot based on the current economic status. Also this is based on a new graduate to the first 5 years or so in practice, so if you are charging more based on experience good for you  but this is a realistic view.

½  hr. (30 min)

$25 Low-end Fee

$35 High-end Fee

$30 Average


1 hr. (60 min)

$40 Low-end Fee

$60 High-end Fee

$50 Average


1 1/2 hr.      (90 min.)                             

$60 Low-end Fee

$80 High-end Fee

$70 Average


1-hr (60 min.)  on-site

$90 Low-end Fee

$150 High-end Fee

$120 Average

But this is only a start to figuring out how much you would be earning. You need to consider more than the time that is spent in the session—setup, possible travel, and other associated costs must be considered.

It is essential to consider “REAL TIME” when calculating income. There is always time between sessions and things to attend to. Below is a breakdown of massage session lengths, “real time” required, and the income generated based on the average earnings from above.

½ -hr. massage  Massage Duration

¾ hours (45 minutes) “Real Time” Required

$30 Average Rate

($40 per hour) Income Generated Based on Average Rate


1-hr. massage  1¼ hours (75 minutes)

 $50 ($40 per hour) Income Generated Based on Average Rate


 1 ½ -hr. massage Massage Duration

1¾ hours (105 minutes) “Real Time” Required

$70 Average Rate

($40 per hour) Income Generated Based on Average Rate


1-hr.  on-site massage  Massage Duration

3 hours (180 min) “Real Time” Required

$120 Average Rate

($40 per hour) Income Generated Based on Average Rate


Ok so $ 40 gross an hour for actually doing massage. BUT -- It takes approximately 32 hours of REAL TIME to complete 25 1-hr massage sessions ( full time ). In addition, it is necessary to manage the business and take care of office and cleaning responsibilities. At a minimum this would be 8 hrs. per week. The actual work week is 40 hrs. per week ( probable more).

Hourly income would come to $15.63.


A self-employed massage therapist does 25 1-hr massage sessions per week at $50 per massage, which equals $1250 in gross income. 50% of the gross income is deducted for overhead expenses and taxes. This leaves $625 of net income. The amount would result in an annual average net income (in pocket) of $32,500 if doing 25 sessions per week consistently. I have heard many say that that is too many sessions and that 20 massage sessions per week is more realistic. Well do the math on that---- $ 12.50 per hour -$ 26000 per year.

Is there increased potential for income generation for massage? Yes, you can raise rates and reduce overhead but both of these options would occur for the more experienced massage professional.  People always want to know what I charge—expert that I am after all with 34 years’ experience provided thousands of massage sessions.  $50 per hour and most of my sessions are onsite due to the client base I work with, so there is additional fee depending on the driving distance but for an hour  drive it is $50. The massage session is typically 90 min.  Then since I am in the client’s home there is some time with the spouse, kids, grandma or grandpa or the dog.   Typical fee is $175.  But if you come to me at my location the fee is $50 per hour and $75 for 90 min.  I do not feel I am undercharging.  I feel this fee structure is fair and supports retention clients.  I do not tell my students they are going to make $ 50 per hour.  I tell them that is the average charge for a massage. They will make between $12 and $15 per hour when they begin. This is the ethical thing to do.




Fritz. Mosby's Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage, 5th Edition. Mosby, 2013.


  1. Sandy,
    What you are sharing is true- there is a huge difference between 'what you make" and "what you keep", and the difference can be so great, that at times therapists might even be in the hole (losing money).

    However, I don't think you painted a fair picture, because EVERY business owner has associated costs, whether it's time, material, advertising and other over head costs to equate into the picture.

    There certainly is a great argument for working for someone or some other business owner, where you collect your pay and walk away without any more to think about. That is the beauty of being an employee. (a set salary or hourly wage and if you're lucky good benefits.)

    In your example: "$12 and $15 per hour" is not accurate because it does not factor in time washing linens, utilities, rent, etc...

    But one of the biggest eye-openers (and practice boosters) practitioners have is when they learn to leverage their time, by NOT only selling time for dollars, AND having the ability to outsource parts of their job that allow them to spend time doing what they enjoy, that brings in the bigger bucks (like their hands-on work) while someone else handles the other parts -- like laundry, re-setting the room between clients, scheduling, etc.

    Thanks for letting me share this concept here, written with an open heart!

  2. Here, here. :)
    Spoken like it is, regardless if anyone will actually listen.

  3. Bloody hell Sandy!!
    You guys need to move to Australia, average hourly rate $80 - 90 from single operator, day spa setting the charge is around $120 - 150 per hour and the therapist lucky to get $50 out of it.

  4. I believe your prices are set very low, for my area in FL anyway an affordable massage is anywhere from $65-$90 for 60 Minutes.

  5. You can charge what our market can pay. If you are booked to your maximum at the rate than your market can afford your rates. As I have said before-those areas where massage fees are higher- $60-100. overhead is also higher so the bottom line ends up about the same. This is tax time all. What did your bottom line end up being?

  6. I just did a rough calculation -- $70/hr $40 for 30 minutes, $100 for 90 -- and I'm booked 2 weeks in advance .. BUT -- here's the big BUT ... I also give a lot of discounts, barter massage for service and once a week, I give a free massage to an adult client with severe CP. I'm in the office for about 39 hours a week. My bottom line (and I consider myself successful) was about $25K. $13/hour. Certainly not what I was led to believe.

  7. Yep Becky. We have to be realistic but also remember we provide an important service. Good for you for your volunteer service to your CP client.

  8. At $30/half hour and $55/hour in rural, tourism-dependent northern Michigan, I charge what the market can bear year 'round. In the summer, clients who are used to paying much more elsewhere tip me VERY well because I give a helluva good massage, and that is the bonus (I tell them I had great teachers at HEC! :0) ). But in the winter slow time, I am the locals' best bargain...The next nearest massage therapist to me charges $65, and a spa in Traverse City will rock you $85 for a one-hour "therapeutic" massage ("relaxation" massage is a tad cheaper).
    It has been suggested to me to have a 'locals' rate and a 'tourist' rate so that I can charge more, but I don't have a good enough memory to remember who I charged what and what if two people I charge different rates talk?
    Nope, I just say to myself, "Hey, Aim...how else ya gonna make $55 an hour?" and it is with much gratitude that I found HEC 24 years ago and have been able to be self-employed doing something I love and am good at.
    Nope, not getting rich, but making around that $21,000 mark, living where I want, doing what I want. Pretty fair tradeoff, I'd say.

  9. This is very disheartening to hear as a new student studying to be a Massage Therapist and it is hard to believe that people are only making 1/4 of their actual charges. I do know people who own their own business who are Sole Practitioners, and are making 6 figure incomes. It's interesting how some can only make minimal income doing Massage Therapy while others are thriving.

  10. I am in my first year as a remedial massage therapist and have chosen to work under contract at a chiropractic clinic. Sure, the wage that I actually earn is only a portion of the charged fee however the only overheads that I raise are the supply and washing of my towels, oil and that's it. I don't have to worry about cash settlement, reception, electricity etc. I have a good feeder clientele and varied experience to boot - I don't feel the need to be my own boss but recognize that this doesn't suit everyone

  11. Good food for thought for anyone in massage school, new business owners and those therapists who want to be start their own business as well.

  12. In the early 70's we were lucky to get $ 25.00 an hour, and we had very little demand.
    Now depending on what area of the country we practice in, treatments range from $ 225.00 to $ 35. varied competition from Medi Spa's to Massage Chains as well as Groupon as well as independent practitioners are changing the face of our market place.

  13. Hey,Thanks for your most value able blog.I really like this.Your blog Idea is so
    follow able. Physio on Queens Rd

  14. I get irritated when what is charged for a massage session is equated ... chargehr.blogspot.com