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Stop bullying other therapists with meaningless numbers!

I shared an old video and blog the other day over in our Facebook group and it got some good conversation going about defining success by a number. And this is probably going to be a little ranty, with some tough love, and whatever, but I want to make something abundantly clear…you will never, and I mean never, hear me say in this general advice format that you should charge a certain amount for your massage; like “everyone should charge at least $60 an hour for a massage” or that you should make a certain amount like $50k a year or something. I will never say that. And if I do, feel free to reach on over and remind me of these words with a swift smack upside the head; because none of that is ok. Let me explain…

In the real world we all have very different scenarios. What is right for one person will be absolutely wrong for another. And we can get so fixated on numbers, especially when it comes to goals and our idea of success, that it can cloud reality, and we base our advice to someone across the globe on our very finite experiences and situations. So before I get into my explanation here on why we shouldn’t throw around some arbitrary numbers as “should”s, let me preface so y’all aren’t coming at me with a bunch of hate when misinterpreting my intent here…

If you charge a super high fee. Great. Do that. Go for it. There’s likely nothing wrong with it. Have at it.
If you make a super high income. Great Do that. Go for it. There’s likely nothing wrong with it. Have at it.
But what we have to stop doing is putting arbitrary numbers out like they apply to everyone when they don’t.

First point I want to make abundantly clear…everyone’s needs are different. I’ve heard people say things like “$60/hr should be the absolute minimum” or “it’s been $1 a minute for 30 years and you should be way above that now”. And I’ve seen people saying $50,000 a year should be minimum income for a massage therapist. And I completely understand the sentiment here. I do. And pushing people to move outside their comfort zone and charge more and therefore make more is a great idea. But it ignores all nuance and individual circumstances when we use these numbers with no real basis; and that is why I take this stance of never giving you some arbitrary number like this. Let me give you two scenarios…

One is a single mom of two, living in San Diego, California, which has a population of 1.4 million. Her ideal clientele is made up primarily of desk workers in the tech industries and those looking for luxury spa services. The median income there is around $85,000 a year, and the median property value is over 7x that amount at around $660,000.

The other is married with no kids, living in a little town near me, let’s say Rutledge, TN where the population is 1,587. Her ideal clientele is made up of farmers and factory workers who need pain relief. The median income here is around $36,000 a year, and the median property value is only 2 and ½ times that at about $92,000.

You see the reason I mention property value in relation to income is because that’s a good indication of the cost of living. The closer those numbers are to each other, generally speaking, the lower the cost of living in that area. Electric, water, groceries, all those things are going to be a bit more relational to income.

Now, should those people charge the same prices? No.
Should make the same income? No.
Do they have the same personal income needs? Absolutely not. One is married with no kids and one is a single mom.
Do they have the same clientele? No. One is likely a much higher income that can afford a much higher price point.
Do they have the same expenses? Nowhere near. One is in one of the most expensive areas in the country, and the other is in one of the least expensive.

This is the point y’all. I’m not going to give you arbitrary numbers to charge or to hit as a goal because I don’t know. No one does unless they’re digging deep into your specific situation and numbers. And people need to stop acting like they do know. Unless someone sits with you and goes over every expense, understands the cost of living in your area, and I don’t know, here’s a thought, understands your personal goals and dreams, then they have absolutely no insight into what you should charge or what you should make. There are people perfectly content with making $30,000 a year. That is plenty to suit their personal needs. And there are those who need at least $100,000 a year to suit their personal needs, and that’s great too.

We can and should celebrate those charging more, making more, and attaining what many think is impossible to do as a massage therapist, especially as a solo therapist. Absolutely!
But the bullying I see going toward the other end of the spectrum, that’s got to stop y’all. And I know I’m going to get some hate for this statement, but saying that someone’s pricing is devaluing our industry, no. That’s not ok. They’re not devaluing it. They’re charging less than you think is ok. That’s your opinion. Seriously, that’s like saying Aldi is devaluing groceries. Like Trader Joes and the like have a harder time selling their high priced stuff because someone else is charging less. That’s not how it works. Their clientele is going to resonate with their pricing and experience. Your clientele is going to resonate with your pricing and experience. If their clients are going to them solely for their lower price point, and you want to charge exorbitantly more, then those aren’t your ideal clients anyway. So it doesn’t directly effect your sales. Your marketing, your clientele, your pricing, your client experience, all those things have to line up; whether that’s on the lower end of things or the higher end of things. There are plenty of clients to go around.

Y’all, I will stand up and celebrate and cheer on anyone willing to move past their money mindset issues, step out of their comfort zone, and I’m all about encouraging people to raise their prices….WHEN IT SUITS THEIR NEEDS AND GOALS. But I’m also going to respect those who don’t or can’t raise their prices or increase their income. It’s like, I love seeing people bring in higher profits so they can turn around and be charitable with those profits or with their time and give free or super low priced massage to those who normally can’t afford it at all. But there’s an entire sect of the population that doesn’t want or really need the charity, but they can’t afford a really high priced massage either. They need those lower prices in order to obtain pain relief, or relaxation, or whatever else. And so many act like it’s only one extreme or the other and every client in the middle of the income spectrum gets lost and we act as if they’re just not prioritizing their health or managing their finances – when we have no clue what their situation is, just like we don’t have a clue about other therapists’.

There are so many nuances, so many personal situations, expenses, and things we simply don’t understand, that we can’t throw around these arbitrary numbers. So please; we shouldn’t shame someone for charging super high fees or tailoring to a high income clientele. Those clients need massage just like any other. And those therapists have specific needs and goals they’re working to achieve. The same goes for the other side. We shouldn’t shame someone for charging low fees or tailoring to a middle to low income clientele. Those clients need massage just like any other. And those therapists have specific needs and goals they’re working to achieve.

So y’all….be kind. And be reasonable. Stop projecting your own very finite experience, goals, needs, and situations onto every random therapist you come across and assuming things that don’t necessarily apply. Instead, dig deep with them and help or point them in the direction of someone who can do that with them.

Savanna Bell LMT

Hey there! I'm a massage therapist, educator, writer, and business pro helping massage therapists around the world build successful businesses. My goal is to give you everything you need to start, run, and grow a profitable massage practice that supports a life you love, all without the headaches I went through learning how to do it myself.

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