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My name is Andrew Ward (“Wardy”), CEO and Founder or 3 Minute Angels and MassagePricer.com

I recently wrote a blog post “Dear Massage Therapist” that talked to Massage Therapists about the broader Massage Industry.

This was a departure from our normal blog post materials that talk to clients.

The post drew quite a good response.  Therapists seemed to like it.  It said what a lot of them thought, but hadn’t been able to articulate.  We had our biggest sign up of therapists to MassagePricer.com yet.  We had 400% increase of site traffic and many private messages saying “thanks”.

The Associations didn’t love it.  MMA (formerly Australian Association of Massage Therapists (AAMT)) met the post with “deafening silence” and the Association of Massage Therapists (AMT) lost their minds.

Within 36 hours I’d responded to over 100 Facebook comments from 5 people who were obviously offended on behalf of the AMT.  They told me to “have some respect” amongst other less flattering things before saying their own resources would be spent discrediting 3 Minute Angels and MassagePricer.  Clearly I hit a nerve.

Amongst the name-calling though was a genuine complaint that I sympathise with… in 3 Minute Angels we have a feedback mechanism called “Good, Bad and Better”.  All the attendees in our recurring meetings have to say something that was “good” and something that was “bad”.  For every “bad” we make it a rule that you have to come up with a genuine remedy (“better”) that you or someone can actually put in place to make it better.  We hold the position that “bad” without “better”, is just bitching.

In other words: It’s all well and good to point out problems, but what are your solutions?

So this post is going to address the “Good, Bad and Better” of the Industry and not just point out the bad.

The views are my own and you can take them or leave them.

I’ve used a structure to try and organise them.  You will find the issues and solutions are broken into 3 sections:

  • Issues and Opportunities for getting started and setting up in Massage
  • Issues and Opportunities for existing massage business owners
  • Issues and Opportunities for the industry as a whole

The Good

The massage industry is one of the oldest industries in the world.  It genuinely provides health benefits that affect the body and mind.  It’s a “natural”, “non-polluting”, “life-enhancing”, “feel-good” service that people are hard-wired to love.

What I love most about massage is the transformative ability of massage.  You can start off stressed, in pain, locked-up, negative and by the end of the massage feel completely different.

Some of these benefits are experienced immediately.  Given the prevalence of depression, negativity, ill-health and stress there’s certainly a market and for the instant gratification seeking world that we live in, the product of massage almost has super-powers.

The “product” of massage is awe-inspiring.  The “experience” of massage is awesome.  Very few products when consumed result in the customer saying “That was great!” or “I feel the difference”.

I love the people who provide massage.  There are exceptions to every generalisation, but I’ve found that most massage therapists regardless of if they are Australian or otherwise care deeply.  Whenever I travel, I make it a point to get a massage and talk with them (where possible).  Across the globe, I’ve found Massage is by its nature a touchy-feely job and it attracts touchy-feely people.

Generally Massage people have a desire to help others.  They have an interest in wellbeing and tend to be holistic thinkers.  Massage people are honest, hard-working and respond well to gratitude.  At least that is my experience of Massage Therapists.

The best thing about working in the massage industry, according to my 3 Minute Angels staff, is that clients say “thank you” – and mean it.

Modern “Work” is a “thankless” task for most people. So working in the massage industry is great because our customers usually appreciate what we do.  9 out of 10 times a customer says thank you and means it.  This goes some of the way to explain why most massage therapists report high levels of job satisfaction.

It felt very natural for me to work within the Massage Industry because of my upbringing.

At Christmas, when the family got together we would look like a troop of monkeys.  My Grandmother receiving foot massage from my aunt, whilst my cousin did head massage on my aunt and me going from relative to relative offering massages in exchange for sweets.

There is a saying amongst religious families that goes: “the family that prays together stays together”.  My family is not religious and I think massage became the substitute for prayer.  In our case, it was “the family that connects-via-massage stays together”.  Today that feeling of “connection” within the world, that is what drives me.

I think human connection is missing from society and massage is a service that restores that.

There are plenty of industries more lucrative than massage.  To some of my critics this will come as a shock, but it is true.  Please don’t get me wrong, money is important.  I’m an entrepreneur and there’s plenty going for money.  I like to make money, spend money and invest money.  But if money was the sole reason for being in the massage industry we would have only survived weeks or months.  I love massage.

That’s not to say I’m not frustrated.  I am.  My frustration is because I know in my bones there is a missed commercial opportunity for massage.  It defies “logic” to me that a product with so many benefits and so much customer love is not able to provide a decent living for those providing it. I’m actively trying to find a solution to this problem, but I don’t have the whole solution (yet) and may never will.

The Bad

It is worth noting some of the issues affecting Massage that will be discussed below were expanded upon in the original blog post Dear Massage Therapist.

I’m going to attempt to present the issues in 3 separate digestible chunks:

  1. The issues facing students and getting started
  2. The issues facing existing businesses and,
  3. The issues facing the industry as a whole.

Issues Facing Students and Getting Started

Graduate to industry participation low

Most people who gain qualifications are not part of the industry afterwards.  The “dropout rate” for the industry is embarrassingly high.  Getting data on this has proven hard, but estimates range from 80% – 95% of qualified students drop-out of the industry and aren’t earning income from their massage qualification within 3-years of graduating.

Most industry participants have to supplement their income with a complimentary income / job.  We call this Massage +.  Where the + is Personal Training, Yoga, Natural Health etc.

Why is this so?

When You Are A Student…

Most reputable Massage Therapy courses will provide you with VET/HELP assistance.  Deferring your tertiary education payments until you earn a certain income.  Massage Schools charge between $10,000 – $18,000 and graduating with your debt for study is just the beginning.

Whilst a student you will receive tutelage and be required to do 100-200 practical hours depending on the course.  Your ability to balance these studies and earn money outside the industry will be good practice for your life as a massage therapist. Where you will probably need to have something else like Yoga, Beauty, Personal Training or Natural Therapies to supplement your income.

A lot of students finish the course theory before they finish the supervised practical hours and end up in a limbo period unable to graduate on time and unable to work anywhere other than the student clinic.

Once a student graduates they may find that it’s worthless being qualified unless you join an Association, take a First Aid course and pay for insurance.  Assuming the paperwork comes from the college, associations and insurers in an expeditious manner this usually results in a 6-week delay from graduation to being able to earn.

Some students study massage for student visa reasons or because they want the skills and don’t intend to work in the industry.  However, most students you expect would want to be able to work in some way within the industry whilst studying and not have a “gap” after graduating.

The fact is there aren’t too many jobs for massage students within the massage industry.  Usually the part-time job they’ve had to take whilst studying is the only source of income during that “gap” until their paperwork, insurances and association dues are sorted.  I don’t have hard data on this “gap” but I’m sure this puts off some industry participants on day 1 of graduating.

Getting Started With A Client List

The typical graduate has not built a client list whilst studying and so usually they are coming from a very low base of customers.

As a graduate you either need marketing and business skills if setting up solo or realistically you are going to go and work for someone else.

When you go to work for someone else in a Spa, Practice or Clinic its usually done on a “one-in, one-out” hiring basis. Employers would rather not dilute the massages that support their current staff and prefer therapists that bring their own following.  Bringing on staff and carrying excess capacity puts big financial pressure on employers and creates cautious hiring policies.

When employers do bring on new staff and the work is not there to support the new staff then they usually have a “last-in, first-off” policy in response to down-turns.

These Spa, Practice and Clinic owners don’t want their employees sourcing work for themselves directly and have policies in place to prevent this occurring, so working for someone else doesn’t usually help you secure your own client list.

Multiple ineffective sales channels in marketplace

New therapists will often be taught the same marketing techniques.  The standard advice is list with a directory and print some flyers.

Flyers/Brochures don’t produce much work (despite the creativity, blood, sweat and tears poured into selecting images and words by most of us) and thus newer therapists get dis-heartened with marketing their business in general.  Words and static pictures have limited effectiveness at eliciting a “tactile response” in the client and often this first expenditure and its failure to generate a return on investment feeds into “Owner Overwhelm”.


One of the best ways to get the referral or foot traffic is to be located within a confined market i.e. within a Gym, Hotel or retail environment.  These co-located services offer greater marketing effectiveness but usually this is offset by rent costs.

Rent is a big deal in the business model of massage.  It adds a fixed cost that should be offset by the increased customers.  But what usually catches people out is having enough funds for a bond, doing a nice fit-out and being committed to the expense for 12-months or longer.  In my experience banks will not help you out with financing this type of business and so actually making a rented place work can be tough and risky.  It’s another reason getting started is so hard.

Issues Facing Existing Businesses

Owner Overwhelm 

The majority of businesses fail.

The most cited reasons for failure are i) sales and ii) financial management.

The Massage Schools don’t teach this stuff very well in my opinion.  And the professional Associations are generally geared towards skills development of the Therapist instead of business skills.

It could be argued that the type of person who wants to be a Massage Therapist is likely to be kinaesthetic in terms of learning, may not have a natural disposition towards sales and accounting.  When these businesses fail to get support, then they, fail.

It could also be argued that after being hands-on with clients each day, the “paperwork” for sales and accounting falls into the category “to do later”.  This “to do later” list grows over time to become overwhelm and procrastination.

It is difficult for Massage Therapists who are new to the business to find mentors who are actually successful.  There are some as will be discussed in the Solutions but they’re the exception and not the rule.

Modelling success works for most industries as way to lift the average.  As it stands the business models of Massage need to be discussed and seen for what they are before right-minded people will change their behaviour.  Change is hard but it’s necessary if we want to reduce the failure rate of massage businesses.

Weekly Utilisation

The average Therapist works between 12-20 hours in a 40-hour week.

There are market factors in place that affect Utilisation.

  1. Clients often work and are unavailable in work hours
  2. People like to get massage towards the end of the day
  3. People like to get massages towards the end of the week
  4. You can only massage one person at a time
  5. You probably don’t have a booking platform that references your diary that clients and prospects can use to make a booking

Can’t take bookings during treatment

Clients deserve better than having their massage interrupted by your taking an inbound customer call.

If you have the technology in place then this problem is easily resolved, but if you haven’t invested in the technology, it is basically impossible to personally take bookings whilst working.

If you can’t answer that inbound call it either goes to:

  1. Voicemail, which is ineffective
  2. Your competitor, which sucks
  3. Answered by a receptionist, which costs money.

Missed Sales for Massage Therapists where their business model is effectively swapping Time for Money is a big impact on earning ability.

Time Utilisation Per Therapist 

When you provide a direct personal service like massage: Time is Money.  In the very literal sense if you are not working you are not earning.  Time Management is not something therapists try and improve but if they did they would find it directly impacts earning ability…

Some Therapists may restrict their own hours because they get “worn out” and don’t want to “over-do” it.

In addition to the Utilisation issues and self-restriction there is a problem with the economics of 1-hour massage.

The Economics 1-Hr Massage 

  1. Massage is typically sold as a 1-hour consultation.  This means the revenue per hour is the price per hour.
  2. Massage is typically price sensitive meaning the higher the price the less frequent the purchase
  3. Massage is a 1:1 activity and can’t happen 1:Many (for most).

The interplay between the economic principles of Utilisation, Price Elasticity and Hourly-Revenue results in feedback loop where customers feel massage is too expensive and therefore don’t buy it frequently, which in turn results in low utilisation, which necessitates a high price.  This economic catch-22 keeps customers out of the market and therapists churning through it.

To illustrate the point, Chiros schedule their longer on-boarding consultations with new clients when it best suits the Chiro.  They, then have mornings and after work (the best hours for customer availability) free to batch the shorter ongoing adjustments they make for existing clients on treatment plans.  Judging from my own Chiros practice he can make 10x what a massage therapist could in the same hour-period.

Product Substitution

The 1-hour massage that is typically provided to clients feels amazing.  However, there are people who would pay $30 for 5-minutes of chiropractic adjustment instead of $80 for 1-hour of massage.  The market for full body massage is price-sensitive to substitution.



Insufficient Massage Revenue

As we’ve discussed previously Time Management and Time Utilisation are keys to improve the efficiency for Massage Businesses.

For every business the ways to grow revenue are actually fairly limited.  You can:

  • Charge more frequently (get more users)
  • Charge more regularly (get users to be repeat users i.e subscriptions)
  • Charge interest (get customers to owe you i.e vendor finance)
  • Charge more for less (reduce quantity of product sold per unit i.e. reduce the package size)
  • X-sell products and services to existing customers (i.e upsell or cross sell other products and services)
  • Charge more (increase prices)

Too often massage therapists invest in their education and skills as a therapist hoping that they can charge more as way of generating more income.  However, if the additional skills the therapist has acquired don’t translate to the customer as a better feeling at the end, then additional sales may not come and may not provide any return on investment.

The Business Model of Health Professionals

Most graduates and early stage massage therapists have not been taught about business.  The current paradigm is to teach students to start to be in the Health Profession, like Chiros.  Despite the fact that Chiros have different business models to massage therapists because they can offer shorter consultation times after an initial consult.

There are only a few business models in massage businesses.

Massage Only – 1-hr Massage done for customers who claim the massage as a rebate.  This is the most popular and most likely to fail.  You often see massage only businesses co-located with a mixed therapy business, gym or other suitable location.  The access to these customers is paid for by the rent costs and associated outgoings.  Some people avoid the fixed costs of rent and rent casually or operate as mobile therapist.  Sports massage often falls into this model too – albeit seasonally.

Given the economics of it, if you only sell 1-hour products using a Health Professional model, then you’re screwed.  I’m not exaggerating.  This is why 80%-95% of people dropout of the industry.

Massage + Retail.  Make Money from 1-hr Massage and Sell Products.  This makes you a retailer as well as service provider.  This is a common business model for beauty and aesthetics, where the massage introduces clients to products, which drive the revenue and margin of the business.  Many health retreats, resorts and spas are very sophisticated retailers and have actually in some cases relegated massage to a secondary product.  As an example: the whole medi aesthetics industry has emerged from the spa industry and that emerged from the massage industry.  Now massage is not central to the existence of the medi aesthetics industry which is being driven by a healthier and more self-conscious ageing population.

Massage + Other Services – there are some “other services” that compliment the massage because you can sell them at the same time as providing the massage.  For example: Massage and TCM often go hand in glove for regionally based massage therapists.

There’s some services where the peak time for them compliments the non-peak time for massage.  For example: a lot of people do personal training in the morning and massage in the afternoon.

Then, of course there is the other (i.e Sexual) “Other Services” and these are not what I support personally or professionally.

I don’t think there’s much confusion for customers these days about sexual and non-sexual massage.

If customers want that sort of sexual thing, then its usually easier to find a “rub and tug” via the internet than seeking a new massage therapist for all your family needs.

For the individual business owner it becomes a choice.  How much do they earn from the massage and how much do they earn from the products or services surrounding their massage?

If they aren’t open to “+ Products” or “+ Services” then they are by default “Massage Only” and this puts them at risk in my opinion.

As will be explored later in the Solutions, I think the business model stuff is pivotal to changing the outcomes for Massage Therapists.

Scaling Massage Businesses Is Hard

When you want to scale a massage business, with a standard 1-hr product, it is very difficult.  That is why so few massage businesses achieve scale.  If you look at the profit margin after sub-contracting labour on 1-hour product ($80 sale price, $50 labour price, $30 margin) you quickly realise you have to sell nearly 3 times more hours that sub-contractors work (on your behalf) than doing the work yourself directly in order to make the same net income.

Finding Staff and Sub-Contracting

As previously described, Massage Businesses have problems scaling because the margin on each hour is not great.  Unless you can provide a lot of hours to others then they have to charge a high rate because of the “opportunity cost” of working for someone else compared with working directly.

Hiring staff in established Spas, Practices and Clinics is usually done on a “one in, one out” basis.  This is so you don’t dilute the work available for staff already employed.

For independent operators they face other challenges like:

  1. Maintaining clients when on holidays or sick
  2. Servicing concurrently booked clients
  3. Handling high demand periods
  4. Cracking into Event or Corporate work or new markets generally

Marketing of Massage is difficult

Marketing a massage is different to marketing other products and services because the interplay between the Recipient and Therapist during the massage experience is so important to the product.

In some services “who” is providing the service doesn’t matter – the service is not that personal.  But Massage is personal and putting into words or static pictures what is special about a Therapist is difficult.

In the 15-years I’ve been running massage businesses I’ve tried nearly every medium: TV, Radio, Print, Online and most do not work very well for selling massage.

Trying to arouse in clients the tactile response that massage produces when it is experienced is difficult to do when you’re armed with only words and static imagery.


If you subscribe to the AMT Code of Ethics you are prohibited from getting client testimonials.  If you subscribe to MAA Code of Ethics then you can.

So if you’re a therapist I believe the decision to use or not use Testimonials to create marketing content is a personal commercial decision and is not an ethical dilemma that Associations should feel is necessary to regulate or dictate.

Testimonials done correctly are usually very effective marketing tools.  As long as the testimonial is genuine, the client gives permission and the client has the right to withdraw the testimonial, then there are no ethical issues.  You should go for it.

Issues facing the Whole Industry

Domination of Health Professional Business Model

There are some Massage Therapists (probably less than 2% of those ever trained) that have been in the industry for a long period 10+ years.  These people usually fall into niches or segments where they carve out a living.

Of these niches one the most profitable would be the medically referred massage therapy.  These Massage Therapists have succeeded because they sought out and secured a base of customers via referral relationships with other Health Professionals (Doctors, Physios, Chiros etc).  Naturally they want to see themselves as Health Professionals like their peers.

These Massage Therapists should be congratulated for what they have achieved but not become the accepted industry-wide model because not everyone can do primarily medically referred massage therapy.  There’s also plenty of customers who want massage for benefits like relaxation and treating oneself.  As an industry we must accept multiple models including Massage + Products and Massage + Other Services.

Industry Succession

When the participation rate in the industry is so low, when the income from massage alone is not secure, when the career opportunities are limited, when the business model doesn’t appeal to banks or financing companies, then you don’t get young and new business owners able and willing to buy out the established businesses.  In essence you don’t get “succession” within the industry.  You end up with a high churn rate of the younger players and this can’t go on indefinitely.


There are multiple Associations laying claim to represent Massage in Australia.  This means there isn’t consensus on how to best progress the industry.

Industry Associations in Australia include:

  • Australian Association of Massage Therapists or MMA (Formerly AAMT) – https://aamt.com.au/
  • Association of Massage Therapist AMT – http://www.amt.org.au/
  • Massage Association of Australia http://www.maa.org.au/
  • Australian Natural Therapists Association ANTA – http://www.australiannaturaltherapistsassociation.com.au/
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society – http://www.atms.com.au/
  • Massage Australia – https://www.massageaustralia.com.au/


There is some fundamentally different views held within the industry.  Some Associations would like to see their view enforced and anyone with a different view regulated out of existence.

The Schools and Associations (Educators and Leaders) try to control the behaviour of their participating students/members (rightly or wrongly) and include other Associations and their members in their plans.

AAMT (MMA) for example has sought to unify the industry by Trademarking a bunch of terms with a prefix “Certified Remedial Massage Therapist”, “Certified Soft Tissue Specialist”, Certified Chinese Massage etc…

AMT has claimed this is duplicating standards not unifying them.  The AMT has told members it will challenge the AAMT (MMA) on Trademarking these commonly used terms.

A “unified voice” or “choir” would better serve the industry than each Association trying to be a “single voice”.

Industry Vision

The Vision of AMT (one of the oldest Associations) is: “to establish massage therapy as an allied health profession in Australia”.  This vision is undoubtedly in line with what some Massage Therapists want.

This vision ignores large parts of the industry and large parts of the consumer base for massage.  It then compels all in the industry to operate according to standards applied to the Health Professionals using the ‘Massage Only’ business model.

It’s a vision that includes most of the very few that have built careers but excludes many from creating those careers in the first place.  It’s not an industry-wide vision.

This vision fails to translate commercially for most Massage Therapists as detailed in the Dear Massage Therapist blog.

This vision fails to be aspirational as most graduates find the “realities” of the industry are no longer what they want and leave the industry within 3 years of graduating…

Real Control

To position Massage as a Health Profession gives the Associations a job to do i.e Interface with Health Funds, implement rules applicable to other Health Practitioners, push for members to do continued education.  A lot of that identity relies on the self-serving policy objectives of the Health Funds.

Take away the health funds (or they withdraw eligibility) and you take away the basis for a lot of the current industry norms.  The Health Funds have no concern really about the Massage Industry, they are interested in their industry – insurance.

The argument for establishing Massage Therapy and Massage Therapists as Health Professionals is entrenched in the Massage Schools and Massage Associations.  Economic data

The Problem With “Health” Positioning

Health is used as the identity of professionals with better claim to it than massage.  These professionals (Physios, Doctors, Pharmacists etc) are much further up the ladder when it comes to salary range, trust and education attainment.  In other words Health is a stronger positioning for others than it is for massage.

Weak Positioning

We’ve already stated health is a massage benefit and it is.

Let’s be clear; massage promotes good health, massage restores damaged health and massage is by-and-large a healthy activity.

As detailed previously health benefits are not the exclusive domain of massage therapists.

Health benefits are transferred to your consumer regardless of what positioning you take.  Every massage has health benefits and so the logic goes that no massage business has health as what marketing people like to call a USP (unique selling proposition).

In other words if everyones benefit is health then nobody’s marketable difference can be health.

Positioning your small business around the health benefits has commercially not worked and that has contributed to thousands of well qualified and initially keen Therapists never making it past 2-3 years in the industry.

The massage industry should treat the health benefits of massage like the bottled water industry treats the quality of wetness in water.  Every water is wet and so no one says water makes you wet.  (For that matter none of them say water makes you healthy either, even though this is a big benefit water has over other drinks)

Instead the bottled water industry has “localised” positioning – Mount Franklin, Fiji and Evian.

Undoubtedly water is healthy and water is wet but the bottled water industry does not identify itself as being about either of these benefits and instead chooses something like “point of origin” that works commercially and resonates with clients.

Taking Health For Granted Doesn’t Make You A Sex Worker

If you take the health benefits of massage for granted it doesn’t mean you have to identify or position as a sex worker.

There is a fairly good chance that Massage Schools and Massage Associations will defend their advocacy for health as a marketing position and identity for the industry by saying that we need to distance ourselves and disassociate ourselves from sex workers.

The counter-argument is that the incidence of inappropriate client conduct is reducing, but not because of our desire at the Massage School or Massage Association level to promote health.  

It is reducing because there are less clients coming in asking massage therapists for “happy endings” since finding better-than-happy-ending services is much easier via the internet than at any other time in history.

I agree.  That as an industry we don’t need the hassle of people wanting “happy endings”, the safety issues of working in the sex industry or the compliance costs etc etc.

Promoting the need to choose consciously what position and identity each business chooses is not the same as saying we should just roll over and accept a proxy “sex worker” position and identity.


As with the Problems/Issues let’s break these down into 3 categories:

  1. Resolutions to the issues affecting students and getting started
  2. Resolutions to the issues affecting operating a massage business and
  3. Resolutions to issues affecting the industry at large.

Better Ways of Getting Started

Business Skills at Massage School

I believe that Massage Schools or Associations could teach presentation skills, networking, referral marketing and sales skills to students and members.

I’m also an advocate for digital marketing training such as how to build a website, Facebook page or social media profile.

Even with skills training in these areas for students, building a client list is still going to take new entrants time and work.  It’s not a free ticket that will magically make millions, but it will help.

Bridging the Gap

The usual “Gap” graduates experience between being qualified and being able to work is typically 6-weeks.  This barrier has been recognised by ATMS and with their insurance broker GSA they are now able to make the graduate insurable immediately on completion from a recognised provider and thus eliminate the gap.

ATMS are also showing initiative with the Education Provider Symposium.  This includes bringing therapists together with technology providers like 1st Appointment and insurers that mean no gap between graduating and earning.  Credit where credit is due for ATMS.  If you’re interested, check the symposium page here

Student and Industry Matching Service

The solution that I’ve been working on with a number of the Massage Schools is the Student and Industry Matching Service.

The essential idea is to have students generate new clients for an existing Massage Business.  The Student then does the physical work and provides the massage to this new client under supervision of the Massage Business owner.  The Business Owner gets a new client and the Student gets supervised Practical hours and real world experience.

Done correctly this gives the students something of value to existing businesses and vice versa.  A student could theoretically get experience across different practices, clinics, modalities and environments during the course of their study.  This is better equipping them for the choices that lay ahead in their career.

The big hurdle we were able to overcome with the Matching Service was how a student can economically generate business for the Business Owner.  The answer to this lay with the 3 Minute Angels style of work.

The opportunity is for Massage Businesses to get Corporate and Event work.  Usually clients on your table have jobs – and this is a secondary market mature practices can create with minimal effort.  Simply asking after a table-massage what massage the client gets at work is often enough to get started.

The business then has the students conduct shorter massages in the Corporate and Event market space.  Corporate and Event work specifically excludes treatment and is purely for relaxation.  It can be done by anyone (after a short training session).  Students like this type of work, after all it’s massage work, which is what they are studying and it pays them whilst studying.

As of now, Students convert 1:25 short massages done in these Corporate and Event environments to full body massages that then are supervised and counted towards their diploma requirements.  It’s early days but this is an exciting solution that will get better with time.

One of the drawbacks for business owners is having the recognition of the Schools as an assessor capable of determining what a good massage looks like.  You would have thought that being an owner and therapist may have been enough to create natural quality controls, but in most cases the owner needs to have further qualifications.  The cost and imposition of the qualification to assess is offset by the income and new customers the students bring with them.

What I’m going to say now is counter to my own commercial interests, but it would make most sense if the Associations and Schools worked together on this.  Association can introduce their business owning members to Students instead of a commercial organisation like MassagePricer.com.

The Associations would achieve scale and move quicker through RTO bureaucracy and the matching may be made easier.  The industry would be made better and the career path for students would be made better.  Its wins all round.

I would be happy to share what I know with any or all the Schools and Associations that are interested in taking this idea further.

Better Ways of Operating a Massage Business

Managing Time and Utilisation

Firstly, and importantly Massage Therapists (whose very incomes depend on their time) should have an electronic calendar.  These are generally free on your phone or with your email account.

Secondly, they should get the basics of Time Management right.  This starts with blocking out the “big rocks” like family, health, holidays, and any “unavailable time”.

Then add in recurring time-sensitive tasks.

The time left after deducting “big rocks” and “recurring time-sensitive tasks” is known as “capacity”.  The principle job of their business manager is to optimise that capacity.

Thirdly, use booking software…Elicia Crook’s Comparison article on software is great.

  • Make sure your calendar is made available to existing and prospective clients on your website
  • Make it easy for them to book in their first appointment in reference to your actual availability
  • Make it is easy after their first appointment for the client to schedule ongoing, recurring or next appointments

If you’re doing steps 1 – 3, you will now have the data you need to do step 4. which is Optimising your capacity.

  • Identify peak and non-peak hours for your target market.
  • Identify if there are other markets / services / products / activities that compliment your non-peak times.
  • Re-market yourself on other booking platforms.  This basically involves creating a profile and is well worth the effort.

MassagePricer.com unlike most of the other re-marketing options doesn’t charge for booking software or commissions when you get new clients.     MassagePricer.com is free.

But, if I was a therapist, I’d list on all the “discovery” platforms emerging like 1st Available, Vaniday, Wahanda, Mind Body Connect, Hon.ee and Therapair.  If they get you a client when you otherwise would have had no work then paying a commission for that work seems reasonable.

  • List on traditional directories like Natural Therapy Pages, WhiteCoat etc and less traditional ones like GumTree, Airtasker and Craigs List

The best of these re-marketing sites should dynamically reference your diary.  If they don’t then you can end up with double bookings.

Use group buying deal sites like Groupon as a last resort, as the margin is terrible and the redemption usually occurs in peak-times not off-peak times so it usually works out costing more than just the forgone margin.


As a business owner today there are so many great pieces of software that can help you manage your business professionally.  Most are free or very cheap.  On a daily basis I use the following

  • Google – Drive, Docs, Calendar and Mail ($5/mth)
  • WordPress – Website Content Management Software (free)
  • Slack – Team Management ($70/mth)
  • Canva – Design (free)
  • Skype – External Communications, Training and Sales tool (free)
  • Twillio – SMS for customers and staff (.02c/sms $1 for 500/sms)
  • Stupeflix – video-making software (free)
  • Facebook – Marketing (Free)
  • YouTube – The fantastic thing about YouTube is that you can find videos showing you how to use all of the above and you can go through these videos at your own pace (free).
  • Zapier / IFTTT – I use Zapier but lots of people I know use IFTTT.  These clever bits of software integrate other tools so they work with one another according to rules you setup.  An example of a rule could be “IF email comes in with this subject line ‘x’ (THIS), THEN put emil content into ‘y’ (THAT) folder on my Google Drive”.  Done correctly these rules save you a heap of time and administration ($80/mth)

Automated Booking

The piece of technology that you need most of all is “automated booking” software.  If you have witnessed the changes to the take away food market, airline, hotels or commercial hire industries then you know this bit of technology is revolutionary.

In essence you need a piece of technology that clients and prospects can use that will reference your actual diary and allow them to book themselves into an open appointment.

You should also direct your voicemail to this automated booking system and change your email footer / email signature to direct people to the web-based or app-based automated booking page.

If you are a larger business then you will probably have a clinic or practice management software that lets you keep track of multiple rooms and therapists.

Elicia Crook’s Comparison article on software is great.

Get Control. Get Coached

Check out Elicia Crook, Tim Cooper or Rubbed The Right Way and get a coach.

A Coach will help you cope with the changes you are making and at least the ones I’ve mentioned above have real world massage experience plus business experience that is valuable.

In order to get control you need to understand your finances.  Financial management (or lack of) is the main cause of business failure broadly and massage therapists aren’t well known for their accounting skills.

If financial management is important and you don’t know what you are doing then find someone that does.

If you use an online accounting package like Xero or MYOB you become an excellent client for book-keepers.  Massage is relatively simple type of business for book-keepers because most of the time its just revenue = hours x rate – costs = margin.

Personally, I use Your Portal in Sydney.  They not only look after the accounts better than I could do personally, they are cheaper than employing a dedicated person and have more know-how than an independent bookkeeper.

Find someone that you know and trust and get them to do the stuff around accounting that is vital to your business but has nothing to do with your massage.

Give them a piece of your company, regular massage or something of value if you don’t feel you can pay market rates.  Honestly, having a trusted financial resource is one of the keys to any business and equally so in massage businesses.

Marketing Boldness

Historically massage therapists have used fliers, chalk boards and directory listings as their go-to strategy for getting customers.  A lot of the words used in these advertisements are the same and overlaid with imagery.  Unfortunately this sameness hardly ever works.

So what does work?

  1. Boldness
  2. Regular client electronic newsletters
  3. Video Testimonials – This is what we do
  4. Social Media
  5. Local marketing
  6. Cross referring networks and

Massage Sells Massage

Yes.  Massage sells massage.  In fact nothing sells massage better than massage.  As you know Massage elicits a response in recipients that chemically releases oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine etc.  This means people actually love the product once they are experiencing it.

Short massage

When I started in the 3 Minute Angels back in Christmas 2001, I stumbled upon the idea of ‘pay what you think its worth’ pricing.

At least for short massages this pricing method is a great idea.  Bathed in the feel-good chemicals of a short massage a person is far more willing to a) pay more and b) refer you to friends.

The policy de-risks the experience. If you placed a price barrier to acceptance up front then you may end up with fewer people willing to give it a go.  Pricing according to customer satisfaction is the ultimate market-price.  By being bold with our marketing it paid off.

(Side note: ‘pay what you think its worth’ doesn’t work in corporate settings.  Paying an un-defined amount is a completely foreign concept when selling to businesses because companies operate on procurement principles like a Quote, Terms of Service and Invoice).

What also emerged from this pricing policy is that if you mess with one of the 4 P’s of Marketing (Product, Price, Position or Packaging) you can achieve cut-through in your marketing and stand out.  3 Minute Angels punches above our weight because we are bold not because we are better resourced.

Boldness is rewarded in marketing.  I’m not going to tell you exactly how to position, price, promote or what products to sell, but I recommend you are bold as brass balls with whatever you do.  Same-same marketing is counter-productive because you are spending money and think you’re doing something useful when in fact you’re not.

Fortunately being bold and appealing to niches works hand in glove.  Don’t just be a Massage Therapist.  Be the massage therapist that works with punks.  Don’t just be a spa.  Be the spa with virtual reality headsets that you can play with before waiting.  Don’t just be a clinic that provides 1-hr massages.  Be the clinic that provides group massage classes for cancer patients / people over 60 / new mums.  You get the idea.  Find a niche and be bold with your proposition when communicating.

The Price Solution

Most people in the industry believe we need to charge more in order to make more.  But charging more is just one of the ways to increase revenue and may in fact be counter productive if the market deems getting massages frequently as already cost-prohibitive.

I would argue that the price of massages needs to come down.  There is lot of market pressure for massage prices to come down.  Technology, group buying, large numbers of under-utilised but qualified massage therapists and the likely withdrawal of massage as a heath fund rebatable service to name a few.  These will all put pressure on prices to come down.  And just to mention it: the increased number of people from Asia operating in retail environments like large shopping centres is in a price-war with fully trained, fully qualified Massage Therapists operating in stand-alone retail environments and they seem to be winning.

Prices coming down is not that bad if Utilisation improves and offsets the cheaper hourly rate with more massages sold.  But relying on such a mechanism on its own would be unwise.

More than once I have suggested that Australians love massage – and when it is $5/hr overseas – they make it part of their daily ritual.

In Australia the price point for massage is between $50-$150/hr and is not part of everyone’s daily, weekly or monthly ritual.  In fact unless someone is using massage for injury treatment or sports then recurring massage at this frequency hardly ever takes place.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that we could offer $5/hr massages and all the problems of this industry would disappear, but I’m saying we have to meet the market.

Ultimately dynamic pricing like those offered on airline seats makes the most sense.  This allows the business the ability to charge more at peak and less at off peak but still optimise their capacity.

The Product Solution

We should all be reducing our standard appointment from 1-hour to 40-minutes.

This will immediately add 33% additional Capacity to your business (refer to time management).

Reducing the standard appointment time from 60 to 40 minutes whilst maintaining your prices (or reducing them by a smaller percentage) will help your business.

There are plenty of benefits received in 5-minutes of massage and plenty of benefits received after 30-minutes.  Is there a law of diminishing returns from 30-60 minutes?  Probably.

You can position your shorter-length standard massage product as more focused, specialised, deeper, or make the case that you’re good enough to do in 40 minutes what other take 1-hour to do.

You can also achieve a better economic mix whereby you can service more customers in the same amount of time – and as we have discussed ‘time is money’.

If you want keep your initial client appointments to 1-hour so that you can do an initial consult fair enough, but you should make your standard unit of sale shorter.

If you’re worried that every massage needs a long pre-massage consult then invest in technology like iPads and software that allow you to rapidly collect informed consent and store patient data.  That way getting upto speed on each massage session will be easier as a Massage Therapist and the time saving will add more time to service clients hands-on.

The Product Mix Solution

One of the best solutions is also one of the simplest.  Have a product mix.  Offering massage in shorter sessions or group sessions is also another mechanism for increasing your capacity and changing the economics of your business.

As an example, providing your clients shorter duration Massage (5- 15 minutes) done in the workplace during off-peak times will give you income when your clients are at work, but it will also give you the opportunity to “product sample” your massage skills to new clients.  Best of all you can be paid well by Corporate clients whilst generating your next direct long-format clients.  It’s cashflow positive marketing and it’s all made possible by extracting yourself from the tunnel vision of a 1-hour product.

The Revenue Solution

For every business the ways to grow revenue are actually fairly limited.  You can:

  • Charge more frequently (get more users)
  • Charge more regularly (get users to be repeat users i.e subscriptions)
  • Charge interest (get customers to owe you i.e vendor finance)
  • Charge more for less (reduce quantity of product sold per unit i.e reduce the package size)
  • Cross-sell
  • Charge more (increase prices)

Too often massage therapists invest in their education and skills as a therapist hoping that they can charge more as way of generating more income.

The opportunity is for businesses to look at the other methods for getting additional income like cross-selling short to long massages (office to table) and vice versa.  Or look at what products you can sell to your massage clients.  A $30 bottle of oil may make you almost as much as an hour massage if you’re using a sub-contractor.  So really, have a think about your segment – your niche – your economics.

Scaling Assistance

Depending on your segment within the massage industry you will have different fixed and variable costs.  You could be a mobile operator or work-from-home operator or operating from a co-located space or a specifically designed retail or clinic space.  Depending on your circumstances you will need to understand and model your capital requirements, cashflow and plans for growth.

But it is likely that MassagePricer.com can help you with scaling your business in at least 2 ways:

  1. If you have access to Students via the Student and Industry Matching Service then you get leverage.  In essence you get to earn without doing the same amount of time.  So long as you have the correct Certification IV in Assessment (8-days and $1000) you could have multiple Students that you are supervising so long as the standard of supervision was maintained.  This gives you leverage.
  2. When you need extra staff then using MassagePricer.com to assess, compare and select sub-contractors can help you. Most people will have peers that they can casually sub-contract work to.  This is often the simplest way to sub-contract locally.  There are some Facebook Groups too, but I don’t know much about those or their effectiveness.If you want to find someone quickly and be able to compare then go to MassagePricer.com and create a brief.  In your Brief detail that this is sub-contracting rates and see what the market of therapists in your area is willing to do for you.  Generally there’s a “what goes around comes around” attitude when it comes to sub-contracting work.  An added benefit of the MassagePricer.com methodology is that you can remain anonymous and so can the end client.  If you sub-contract you must pay properly and I suggest getting them to take a photo with their phone and sending you pictures of original qualifications, insurances etc.  Store these on your Google Drive or equivalent.

Better Ways Of Addressing Solutions Facing the Whole Industry

Better Segmentation

I’ve argued previously I think the positioning of Massage around health doesn’t provide us with an identity that is aspirational, commercial or unique.  I’ve backed this up by comparing the incomes of Massage Therapists to other Health Professionals and the career of Massage Therapists compared with other Health Professionals.

The best solution is to adopt appropriate segmented brand positions depending on your target client.

If a client is buying for treatment – sure position around health.  But if clients aren’t buying enough for you to make a living based on positioning for health, then try something else.  Try something niche and bold.

Don’t Just Settle for Positioning as Health

At this point I’m probably going to offend the Massage Therapists who are wedded to the idea of being a Health Professional.

When our predominate thought as an industry is to be like other Health Professionals, then we should be aware that most of our businesses (those providing mostly 1-hr products) is not like other Health Professionals (that have shorter consult times) at an economically fundamental level.

There are so few successful health-positioned Massage Therapists compared with unsuccessful Massage Therapists.  I’m not going to stay silent on what I think people should do, if I don’t think following in our ‘Educators and Leaders’ footsteps will help.

Most Massage Therapists are providing 1-hr treatments and these are being assessed by the client against cheaper, shorter treatments by other more recognised Health Professionals.  We (massage) looks like the inferior product that costs more.  If you are positioning yourself around health then you are positioning on the low-end of an industry with better resourced and respected Health Professionals competing for the customer dollar.

Each Massage Business instead should position itself depending on niche and join a segment.  The segments seem to boil down to Massage Only, Massage + Products or Massage + Other Services.  The exact positioning of the individual business will depend on at least 3 factors:

  • What is authentic
  • What is commercial
  • What resonates with customers

The niche or segment they choose must be based on commercial factors not just wishing.

The Transformation Vision

I have argued that the vision proposed by AMT and AAMT is not aspirational.  The AMT vision: “to establish massage therapy as an allied health profession in Australia” is deeply routed in health positioning and includes being classed specifically as ‘allied health professionals’ as the ultimate goal.


I have already proposed that Massage has health benefits and health should be treated as just one of many benefits from massage.

I have already proposed that Massage Business owners should position within a niche and that this should be something that is authentic, commercial and resonates with their customers.

I now propose that the vision of the industry should not be to become a “profession type” but should be: to transform the world through the medium of touch.

The key word being ‘transform’.

I propose simply that Massage consumers like to feel – and experience – the change that massage brings.

The same goes for those who consider their massage consumers as: “patients”.

Transforming people in our hands is an inclusive positioning that is not forcing people to become Transformation Professionals.

You can be a Health Professional and still work within Transformation.  You can be a Massage + Retail or Massage + Products and still work within Transformation.

Currently people providing Massage + Products or Massage + Services or Companies like 3 Minute Angels with a shorter products feel “left out” when massage = health.  You can bring everyone under the same tent when massage = Transformation.

When the vision stops being a “profession type” and instead focuses on the “customer experience” you can have a “choir” of industry voices.  You don’t have to all sing the same, but you all sing from the same hymn sheet.  It will allow AAMT members and AMT members to be different and yet united.  It will empower people – instead of regulate and dictate to them.

Whether you agree that ‘transformation’ is the best vision for the industry or not doesn’t matter.  It only matters how the customer sees us anyways.

And to find out how customers see us, here is a tool that you should consider using…

Make the Intangible Tangible

Prior to laying hands on, ask the client to identify how they feel.  At 3 Minute Angels we use emoji to assist this but you could use a number scale or whatever…Provide your massage and at the end ask them to identify how they feel.  The difference in how you made them feel pre and post, gets made tangible and the value of the massage for the client gets made tangible.

This simple tool will also give you valuable feedback from clients as to what they are experiencing.  You can know for sure if you are getting them the results that you think you are.  It could turn out you think they had a “normal experience” and they feel they had an “awesome experience” or vice versa.

As a purely economic piece if you are going to drop your treatment length to improve your utilisation then using a tool to make value of the session clear will help justify any price you charge.

You’re Imagining A Reputation Issue

The last thing I want to mention is that some of the ‘Educators and Leaders’ of this industry believe and promote to members that unless you are expressly aiming to be identified as a “Health Professional”, then “Massage Therapist” will be considered analogous to being a “Sex Worker” in the minds of customers.  That suddenly your specific business will be inundated with perverts and people looking for happy endings.  Frankly this is a scare tactic.

You define how your customers and prospects see you and what they read about your services.

You simply need clarity of what you offer when you do your marketing.  Hopefully your marketing will be niche and purpose-built around what is authentic, commercial and resonates with you and your customers.


It has been great fun writing this blog post and thank you for reading.

Some ideas in this blog post will not be new i.e Time Management.  Time Management is something we all studied at school if we were educated in the last 40 years.

However, some of the solutions are new and may be of use to you in building your career in Massage.  I hope you enjoyed them.

If you have read the whole post this table can act a mental note on what we have covered.

Summary of Issues (1)

P.S If you want to speak with me about MassagePricer.com or 3 Minute Angels call 1300 662 022 or connect via LinkedIn