When a person starts a new job or career, they will naturally want to know what they can expect to get paid, both now and in the future. How much does sports massage pay and what can therapists really expect to earn? These are questions that we’ll be exploring in this article.
One of the first things to note however is that most sports massage therapists don’t work 40 hours per week of massage treatments. If they did, they would probably burn out pretty quickly. 20-25 treatments in a week is a busy and demanding schedule and if you value your own musculoskeletal health, you probably wouldn’t want to perform much more than this. If you perform 20 treatments in a week and you charge £35.00 per treatment, then it’s likely that you’ll be earning around £700.00 per week. The following table gives you a summary of weekly sports massage pay based on different hours of work:
|£20 per massage||£25 per massage||£30 per massage|
|10 hours||£200 PW||£250 PW||£300 PW|
|15 hours||£300 PW||£375 PW||£450 PW|
|20 hours||£400 PW||£500 PW||£600 PW|
|25 hours||£500 PW||£625 PW||£750 PW|
However, there are a number of variables that will affect the earning potential and pay of a sports massage therapist and so it is important to consider these alongside the above calculations. Certainly, with freelance work, things are never as linear and clean-cut as the above table.
First of all, it’s important to consider whether you will be working in an employed capacity as an employee or on a self-employed basis. If you are employed, then the salary will normally be fixed, although there may be bonuses and commission based on upsells and overtime. While there are a lot of benefits to being employed, especially around security and certainty, it is often associated with a lower rate of pay than self-employed work because your employer will need to take their cut also. However, you will likely have a set number of hours, you’ll get a regular income and you will also benefit from other statutory benefits like a workplace pension, holidays and sick pay.
Most sports massage therapists working in an ‘employed’ capacity are paid somewhere between £22,000-£40,000 per annum. This is obviously a vast range and there are a number of factors that will influence what sports massage pays, including the employer and their business model, location, level of experience and expertise and the qualification of the therapist. Those with higher-level sports massage qualifications will naturally command more pay than those with only basic qualifications.
As a self-employed therapist, there is certainly much more potential to earn, especially when comparing the hourly rate of an employee against a self-employed therapist. However, it’s important to remember that you will need to account for other costs associated with providing your massage services, including your equipment, overheads and taxes (which are often paid retrospectively via self-assessment).
Being in self-employment will certainly give you more freedom to run the business how you want to but you will need to organise and manage yourself and your time effectively. You’ll also have to remember that unlike when you are an employee, if you are not treating clients then you are generally not earning, unless of course, you have therapists working for you. You’ll certainly need to allocate time and energy each week to advertising, promotion, replenishing stock, washing towels, accounting, prospecting with new clients and ensuring that your business is compliant with all legislation. You will also need to account for seasonal changes and times when there may be a slow period, ensuring that you have a personal survival budget. There really is lots to consider.
Most self-employed massage therapists will earn somewhere between £35.00-£50.00 per hour, although how much they actually make as profit will really depend on a number of factors, including the cost of their overheads, like rent, rates, equipment, travel and of course, tax.
The qualifications held and the level of experience and expertise held by a therapist will certainly influence the pay in sports massage, whether they are employed or self-employed. At this junction, it is important to distinguish between sports massage and sports therapy roles and the associated expectations and responsibilities.
Sports massage is mostly about manipulating soft tissues (skin, muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments) to provide relief from pain and release excessive tension. It can be used in preparation for sporting and athletic events, during events, post-event and as part of general musculoskeletal maintenance programmes.
Sports therapy on the other hand, is considered more of a holistic approach and involves considerably more emphasis on injury prevention strategies and rehabilitation. While sports therapy may include some sports massage, it will often include other treatments, such as cryotherapy, heat therapy and taping to name a few.
Sports therapists are normally trained to degree level and can be likened to a more sports-specific type of physiotherapist. There is no legislation relating to the sports therapy title and as such it is not considered a ‘protected title’ like other therapeutic titles are (e.g. physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath) and there is no single chartered institute governing or regulating its practice (e.g. Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and General Osteopathy Council).
The entry-level qualification is the Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy. This qualification is considered the minimum criteria required to practice as a sports massage therapist and is therefore essential for anyone looking to start a career in this area. Once the entry-level programme has been achieved, it is then possible to progress to the Level 4 Certificate in Sports Massage Therapy, a more advanced sports massage qualification. The subjects covered by these qualifications are somewhat similar, but as you might expect, the level 4 programme delves much deeper and covers a broader range of applications.
The following page of our website summarises our sports massage courses in much more detail.
Those who possess higher-level qualifications generally command a higher rate of pay, not merely because they are more qualified, but because they have a wider and broader skillset to offer their clients. They are therefore able to serve the needs of more complex and challenging customers.
Like property, geography and location play a key role in economic factors like pay. If you are located in more affluent areas, or you decide to travel to and promote your services in such areas, then you will be able to charge higher fees than you would be able to do in more socially or economically deprived areas. You’d probably also find that the clients in these areas have more disposable time to access your massage services.
Where you live or work can also influence the potential size of your client base. For example, if you live and work in an urban area then there is likely to be a greater density of people to market your services than there would be if you lived in a more rural area. A final location consideration is your cost to live, work and travel in that area.
Many people are attracted to the big cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham because there is a high-density of people to work with, especially office workers who probably need sports massage services more than those who are fairly active through the day. However, the costs of operating a business in these areas, let alone purchasing or renting a home, is often much greater and so you really will need to do the maths before you take that leap of faith.
If you are considering the self-employed sports massage route then a key consideration that you will need to give due care and attention to is the local competition and market saturation.
How many other sports massage therapists are working in your area? What are they charging for their services? Are they busy? These are all key questions to find accurate answers to because it will provide you with an insight into whether there is a demand for your sports massage services in that area.
If you are lucky enough to be the only person delivering a sports massage service then anyone needing that service will most likely come to you. If, however, there are more therapists offering the same or similar services as you, then it’s going to be a tougher challenge to establish yourself because customers will have more choice (greater market spread). You’ll probably have to rely more heavily on intensive promotional and marketing strategies in order to get your brand and services ahead of the competition. At least until you prove yourself as the superior service anyway.
At this point you’re probably asking yourself a very important question, ‘how much can I expect to earn?’ The short and honest answer is that it depends. It depends on all the factors and variables discussed above, and probably more.
If you were to do some research, as we have done, there is little doubt that you will find websites advertising inflates sports massage pay and salaries for their roles. When you scratch a little deeper, you’ll actually see that many of these jobs are in fact self-employed positions. To further illustrate the lack of accuracy and transparency in relation to sports massage pay, we visited a leading jobs website and there were 240 sports massage jobs advertised in the UK and the average salary for these jobs was £77,686.
Upon subsequent searches, on different days the number of jobs had actually decreased to 229, but the average salary had increased to £79,762. In just one day the average salary increased by £2076. According to this website, most of the jobs were in London and the South, with the East and Midlands trailing slightly behind. There were certainly comparatively fewer jobs in the North, Scotland and in Wales.
In order to achieve a salary anywhere near the above ranges, you would need to be charging around £60.00 per massage and be working 25 hours (assuming a massage is an hour) per week. This calculation leaves no room for holidays or sickness, and no overheads or tax have been factored in either! So, while this is possible, certainly in the south, you have to ask yourself the question – is it probable?
The following table provides the top-level earning potential for different price bandings based on a 20-hour week (4 massages on 5 days a week). If you were full-time, then 20 hours per week is probably about the most realistic as you will need to leave time for administration, promotion, accounting and general preparation (washing and cleaning equipment).
|Hourly rate||Weekly total||Monthly total||Yearly total|
|£30 per hour||£600||£2,400||£28,800|
|£40 per hour||£800||£3,200||£38,400|
|£50 per hour||£1,000||£4,000||£48,000|
While the above figures are certainly achievable, they are a far cry away from the £70-80K advertised on one of the leading jobs websites that is for sure! In the spirit of transparency, there is certainly a real prospect and potential to earn a good wage in sports massage and the above data demonstrates this.
One factor that hasn’t been accounted for is you! Your desires, ambitions, goals, motivation and determination will ultimately be the difference between a thriving business or failure. If you are passionate about exercise, fitness, sport and people then you certainly have the framework from which to build a massage business and maximise your earning potential.
Finally, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and it is important to ponder on that thought. Too many people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a week, month and year. Set yourself some realistic and exciting goals then hold yourself to account for their achievement each and every day. This is the true key to success in any job or business, whether you own it or work within it.
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