Getting Paid Per Massage vs. per Hour vs. a Fixed Salary

There is little doubt that massage therapy is a lucrative field. Once you start working as a massage therapist, you will realize that there is a strong potential for the amount of money you can make.

Although many contemplate the sustainability of a full time income when starting their business, working as a therapist can provide a stable and steady source of income, at least initially.

That being said, when it comes to remuneration, there are different payment structures used by massage facilities. Not all of them pay a fixed salary nor do all massage therapists get paid on a per massage basis.

This is something you need to understand about being a massage therapist. At the end of the day, you have to think about maximizing your earnings and this may not be possible with the current pay structure you are working on.

There are three main ways in which wages are disbursed to massage therapists:

  • Getting Paid Per Massage: As the title indicates, you are paid based on the number of massages you perform in a day. There is a fixed price for each massage, which the clients have to pay. The establishment you are working for deducts a certain portion of the money received from each massage and pays you the rest. Usually, massage therapists working in small massage facilities or in places like spas, health clubs and gyms are paid per massage.
  • Getting Paid Per Hour: In some cases, massage therapists are paid by the hour. Generally, a massage session lasts for an hour, unless in exceptional circumstances. Therefore, the amount of money you are paid per massage would be similar to what you are paid per hour. That being said, if a massage session does not last an hour, getting paid by the hour might prove to be more lucrative. This is often the situation with massage therapists working for massage facilities.
  • Getting A Fixed Salary: Some massage therapists receive a fixed salary from their employers. In this case, you might be able to supplement your income through tips received from clients. Getting a fixed salary ensures that you have a steady stream of income. As compared to getting paid per hour or per massage, getting a fixed salary could prove to be a more stable option.

So, what is the best option for you? Without going into any details, it is obvious that the one which enables you to make the most money is the best option for you – at least from a financial perspective. However, you need to know the pros and cons of all three options listed above for making an informed decision.

Getting Paid Per Massage Session or Appointment

Getting paid per massage is the best option if you have a large number of regular customers. This way, you can rest assured that the number of massages you perform could only increase and not decrease in the future.

If you are paid per massage, the amount of money you make will increase as you attract more and more clients. On the other hand, it could reduce the amount of money you make if your regular customers switch to a different massage therapist. This is a risky situation as the number of massages you perform will determine the amount of money you make.

This could also be the situation, if you decide to set up your own massage business. In that case, you will receive money for each massage you perform, unless you choose to be paid by the hour. The risk is all yours but the profit is all yours too.

You will receive the full amount paid per massage so, the more massages you perform, the more money you will make. That being said, it is for you to decide whether you can get through the rough phase which you are bound to encounter at some point in time. There might come a time when you don’t make as much money as you had hoped for.

Getting Paid Per Hour of Massage

Getting paid per hour has pretty much the same pros and cons as getting paid per massage. However, there is one distinct advantage here. In the event that your massage sessions last less than an hour, you will mostly be paid for the full hour.

Of course, if the massage lasted for less than 30 minutes, then you will be paid half. This way, you can make more money while working for less time. Generally, the rates charged per hour tend to be higher than what massage therapists charge per massage.

Getting a Fixed Salary as a Full Time Massage Therapist

You might be paid a fixed salary if you choose to work for a massage facility. In that case, you will receive a fixed paycheck at the end of the week or month. You can be assured that you will get your salary regardless of the volume of work you have handled.

For instance, even if there are several slow days during a month, you will still receive compensation for being present at work during those days. This isn’t the case when you are getting paid per hour or per massage.

However, this is also a drawback of sorts. You will not benefit from working hard. If you get through more clients in a day, there is no extra compensation in it for you.

That being said, if you feel that you need a stable income to get by every month, it is best that you work for fixed salary. As mentioned earlier, there are many businesses that offer a fixed salary to the massage therapists who work for them.

In most instances, you will receive tips from your customers. Depending on the number of regular customers you have, you can make hundreds of dollars in tips over the course of a month. There is also a good chance that you will receive some additional perks for working for a massage facility such as health insurance and retirement accounts.

It is up to you to decide which option is the best one for you and allows you to make the most money. The pros and cons of all three have been listed in depth above so that you can make an informed decision.

With all that said, sometimes when keeping the long term picture in mind, you realize that it is not all about the short term salary that matters rather than the connections you make and experience you gain. Read this to understand why it sometimes is desirable to take a lower paying job in the interest of future success.

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

Posted in Career Considerations
10 comments on “Getting Paid Per Massage vs. per Hour vs. a Fixed Salary
  1. Yee says:

    I am a independent contractor working under a business. I get paid per session but i dont get paid while sitting/waiting for last min bookings/walk ins. Is it legal for the business to not pay me while im sitting/waiting?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Yee – it is if you are a 1099 independent contractor. there are places that pay hourly salary as well. you just have to weigh out pros and cons. the hourly salaries are generally lower whereas you get paid a higher amount per massage.

  2. Sonya says:

    In Maryland, Can you suggest hrly wage. So right now I’m on on as contractor but they want me to sign on . Start as a fill in made what the massage therapist was making $60 a hour. No tips. So that what I was paid for two weeks I work. Then she had a baby I filled in 2 months straight 4 day then 5 next week. Every other week that was scheduled and they said they could only afford .68 cent a minutes which is hourly $37.80. I should up early stayed late can into snow and I believe they are gonna cut my wage. They want me now on payroll with they will kill me in taxes plus can’t write off mileage on car. I went $60 if I got to go on payroll. Or atleast $50 and Ask after 6 months a $5 more $55. And if after a year , I want $60. I want u to be honest take ur time if u were in my shoes. I got to know by Sunday . And I’m working on people that was been on the streets or jail plus metal health issues. Can you help?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Sonya, lots of information here that you have shared. But we are not clear on the specific question. If you are asking what an hourly wage should be, this could range across a wife spectrum. W2 employees make less per hour and 1099 contractors make more (you are on your own for all expenses as well as income taxes)

  3. Candice Hethcoat says:

    Should we be paid for time we work, doing laundry etc when we aren’t in a session? We are employees at a major franchise.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Candice – that’s up to you and your employer to decide. read our article on employees vs independent contractors. both are very common in the massage profession. it really is all about the agreement / deal you have with your employer and what you are paid for (for a task or for your time)

  4. Victoria says:

    I am attempting to write an independent contractor agreement with a small business gym. I would like to pay the “company” 30% every massage session that in performed. I would also like to keep all of my tips. of course, I will be doing my own laundry and providing my own supplies.

    Is that a fair exchange between “company” and “contractor” as a massage therapist?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      this varies across the board, but if you are using their facility and clientele and don’t have to pay rent then it sounds quite attractive. if the clients like you they will follow you in the future even if you were no longer working inside the gym

  5. Manny montes says:

    Hi, I came across this interesting article, as I’m trying to figure my best options, financially and legally. I have my own business, with three rooms at the moment and the possibility to expand up to 5-6 rooms in the next year. I have two therapist leasing one room each, and planing to bring couple more therapist to fill the gap, and busy times. ). One person, which owns a hair salon, suggested I should charge in the per session basis, where the therapist will be paying me, at the end of the week for the sessions performed during that week, instead of me collecting and then distribute their percentage. I’m doing this, one, because some had shown not interest in paying full lease or long term contracts, which it works for me. Any thoughts, ideas about this form of payment, and also, how do I calculate this into my taxes and earnings? Thanks and hope this makes sense 🙂

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Manny – that sounds like the most simple approach. the portion you collect from them will be taxable proceeds to you that you will have to claim on your taxes. keep it simple 🙂

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