Setting Fees - Six Tips for Deciding What to Charge

Updated: Oct 28

So, you’ve taken an inspiring continuing education class, performed the necessary practice sessions and have been talking it up around the office since you signed up for the class many months ago. You feel ready to offer your new service to your clients. Now what? In addition to some basic marketing and promotion you’ll need to determine what to charge. Here are 6 considerations for making a decision on your price.

1. The Myth of Charging What You’re Worth

I often notice massage therapists offering one hour sessions for ridiculously low prices. While this tactic may get clients in the door I wonder, does it pay the bills? I also wonder if the therapist is considering their own value as a person as separate from the service they provide. Many clients have said to me that they won’t go to a practitioner that charges such a low fee because they think that the service won’t be good. I am not so quick to judge on this point because I regularly see excellent massage therapists almost giving away their service then wondering why they can’t make a decent living doing the work they love and helping people. The myth of charging what you’re worth is a trap for mixing up self esteem with professional identity.

2. The Upgrade Model

At first you might consider charging more for a session that involves your newly acquired skills. I call this the spa upgrade model - the more frills and, sometimes the more pressure, that you add the more the service costs. Customers in this environment are generally accustomed to add on charges for essential oils, hot stones or deep tissue. This a la carte type of menu works well for clients who want to treat themselves by customizing their experience. However, when a higher price point is set for a service, such as ashiatsu or Thai massage, that service is perceived as having a higher value than the other services on the menu whether it’s the appropriate service for the client or not. Also, a higher price may deter clients from trying the service even though you are excited and want to share with them

3. Charging for Time

This model places more emphasis on the practitioner and the results of the session than on the modality of massage. One flat fee is set for the amount of time you spend with a client no matter what techniques you use. When determining how much to charge for your time consider the investment you’ve made in training, any special products and equipment you use and how much you enjoy providing certain techniques that you’ve seen get results time and again. Consider raising the overall amount charged for TIME then treat clients with the best possible tools that you have to help them.

4. Cancellation Policy

The cancellation policy is a contract between client and practitioner that sets professional boundaries and insures that you get compensated for your time. The purpose is to have clients recognize that this time has been reserved specifically for them and that someone is waiting to serve them. Therapists tell me that they are hesitant to enforce their cancellation policy because they are afraid that clients won’t come back. If the cancellation policy is unclear (or was never disclosed in the first place) then enforcement could come off as unfair. Present the cancellation policy upfront and be sure to remind regular clients every now and then. I update my existing client intake and consent at least once a year and I send out email reminders. The cancellation policy should state the amount of notice you require and how much you will charge if that amount of notice is not given. Remember that you’ll need a credit card on file for this so be sure to collect that information at booking.

5. The Base Formula

Monthly overhead expense + target monthly income goal / # of sessions per month

Ok, so I present the above formula not as a cure all, end all answer to the question of what to charge but as a method for demonstrating value. Let’s break it down.

Monthly Overhead Expense

Include rent or loan payments on your office space, utilities, internet, phone, supplies, contractor fees and really any expense that you pay for your business on a monthly basis. You may also choose to include the investment you've made in the training and required equipment. One way to do this is to determine the cost of the training over the course of the year then divide that number by 12 to get your monthly expense.

Target Monthly Income Goal

How much do you need to make to cover personal expenses such as home, car, groceries etc? How much do you want to make to put aside in savings for retirement or for your next vacation?

How Many Sessions Will You Do?

I find it helpful to first set up the business hours that you are willing to work. Then factor in 15-30 minutes between sessions and a comfortable lunch break. Let’s say you determine that you’ll give 15 one hour massages a week at a rate of $85 an hour. That’s 60 sessions a month and a gross profit of $5,100. Is that number the same as the sum of your monthly expenses and income goal that you calculated above? If you come up with a lower number then consider raising your rates and/or offering some 90 minute sessions.

6. Additional Influencing Factors

Now that you have a better idea of what you are going to charge you can factor in other things such as the cost your target market can support and your competitors prices. Remember that you can always set your prices a bit higher and run limited special offers to be more inclusive of the varied income present within your client base. I have one colleague that offers “Pay What You Can Wednesday” once a month and another that sells a limited number of packages in the Spring and Fall.


There are all kinds of creative ways to maintain a healthy, monetary exchange with your clients without devaluing your service. I hope this post inspires you to continue creating results-oriented experiences for your clients while making sure your own needs are met. Please get in touch and share your experiences!

NCTMB Approved CE Provider, Alliance for Massage Therapy Education Member, THAI Healing Alliance International Registered Instructor, Memphis Massage Professionals Ambassador, Reports to CE Broker Massage CE Classes,  

TN Massage and Bodywork