The pitfalls and rewards of doing out-call massage, sometimes called “in-home” massages are a relatively varied bag. I’ll start with the pros and work my way through the cons after. I’m writing this in the age of smart phones, so many of the irritations I had when I first started doing out-calls are now a thing of the distant past, like thumbing madly through a giant local atlas looking for a street name and a route to get to it.
1) Reduced overhead
2) Travel (for those that like it)
3) Additional Charge can mean more money
4) Great decoration ideas
1) Safety (assault & professional reputation)
2) Added wear and tear on the c.m.t.’s body
3) Additional travel time can mean less money
4) Severe bookcase envy
Out with the Pros:
The reduced overhead of out-call massage comes down to at most, a table, a vehicle and music/oils or lotion and linens. I say at the most because I’ve heard of some folks that have gotten their clients to buy a massage table, linens and the other accoutrements to keep on location. In those cases, all the massage therapist has to do is show up with hands ready to work. Some massage therapists have used public transportation, though lugging a massage table around on your local bus lines or subways is not for the faint of heart, it can be done. If you can’t get a space of your own, utilizing your clients homes and offices can definitely be a workaround.
Travel is an odd one. I know of some massage therapists that travel to Hawaii and bump around there doing massage. I think you’d need some good connections or history in a location to do this usually, but what a lovely way to pay for your time in a tropical paradise if you can get away with it. The travel I’ve done as a result of out-calls is mostly to some of the nicer areas of my locale. Beautiful homes on the side of Mt. Tamalpais, or in the heart of Sonoma wine country spring to mind. If you enjoy driving, and visiting some of the near local areas you live in, this can be a wonderfully relaxing way to do so. Another consideration is writing off some of your travel costs as business costs when you go places you’d have gone anyways. I’ve done a day or two of massage on visits to LA, which not only pays for the trip, but broadens the practice and provides an write off for the plane fare. Again, you’ll probably need a history or solid contact in an area to make this workable.
Charging extra for travel can increase your profit margin by a good bit. Some therapists roll this cost into the total price, I keep it broken out so folks know what they are paying for. I charge between $25 and $40 for the first client at a location based off distance and an additional $5 per person at that location. Something to keep in mind about this charge: if it doesn’t exceed the cost of fuel, wear and tear on your vehicle and gear and body, then it’s not actually making you money, its losing you money. These incremental costs are easy to ignore, but they do add up.
Interior decoration. Little secret here, when I was young I wanted desperately to be an interior decorator. I’m pretty sure I would have been horrible at it, but I can tell you this: good artists create, great artists steal (and I just stole that quote). I’ve seen some awful examples of what not to do in a home, (baskets everywhere…really…I did the massage in a tiny kitchen because it was the only place not covered, stacked and hung with baskets from around the world) and I’ve seen some stunning, simply beautiful uses and presentation of space. If you secretly love to see what people have done with their homes, doing out-call massage may provide you up front access to homes worthy of a layout in Interior Design.
On to the Cons:
Safety can be, and probably should be a serious consideration for any massage therapist going into someone’s home. Many massage therapists that I know won’t see clients that are “new” out of the office. Another precaution I see folks taking is making sure that all clients come from referral and are therefor accountable within a societal unit. Even with these precautions, people will still feel more free to be inappropriate in their own homes. I’ve been propositioned by first time clients in their home easily twice as often as in my office. While I’ve never felt at risk of physical harm, there is always the concern of professional harm, social harm and the like to give me pause.
Another aspect of safety as regards to in home massages is the environment your clients have available for you to work on. I’ve been asked to work outside on sloped yards, I’ve worked around pets I didn’t trust, I’ve worked in spaces so small I can’t use good body mechanics. All of these factors (and I’m sure others) can lead to injury.
Wear and tear on your body is one of the primary burnout/exit causes that I’ve seen in my peers. While tables have gotten lighter and there are now excellent carts for hauling them around, you are still picking up, setting up, tearing down and packing away a large ungainly object. At the same time, you’re likely dealing with sheets, a bag for your music and lotion, etc. If you happen to live in San Francisco, you’re searching for parking that may end up being long city blocks up or down hills from your work location. All these things take a toll and should be considered in your pricing structure and choices of how you want to do business.
Money again. While I mentioned that doing in home massages can make you more money, I’m now going to present the flip side of that coin. Doing in home massages can reduce your ability to make money just as easily. The reason for this is client density. If you you don’t have a full book of clients, adding in the convenience of out-call may increase your client load, and make you extra money from the travel charge. If you have a full book of clients, you would need to charge your hourly massage rate for your travel time to make it worthwhile.
For instance: Joe can do 6 hours of massage a day. If he works out of his office for the whole day (8 hours) he gets 15 minutes between clients and a 30 minute lunch hopefully and makes 6 x $80 for the day…that’s $480, not counting tips. In the same amount of time, Joe might only be able to do 4 hours of out-call massage.
15 minutes loading up your vehicle
45 minutes driving to first client
15 minutes parking and unloading vehicle, setting up at clients location
60 minutes massage
15 minutes packing up and dealing with payment.
That’s 2.5 hours for 60 minutes massage. Some days you’ll be able to double up at locations, plan a efficient route and get lucky with parking, but the above timeline has been pretty standard for me for the last 13 years. If you’re only charging $25 for that hour or 90 minutes of lost time, you’re down at least $55 dollars from what you’d have made at your office.
Severe bookcase envy–it’s a thing folks. This is probably the most debilitating aspect of doing in home massages that I’ve ever run into. There are folks out there who have walls and walls of books. Enough to make your eyes tear up and your mouth water. I’ve found myself slowly reading the titles as my hands do the work of massage. Whatever you do, don’t let your clients have you set up in their gorgeous, well lit floor to ceiling libraries…save yourself!
As always, if you have any questions or subjects regarding massage that you’d like me to cover, let me know in the comments.