or……. Can you do it any cheaper?

Any variation of this question chills me. The fee anyone who is self employed charges has to cover much more than the time or piece of work being paid for. 

Hard times can fall on any of us, at any time and I, and probably most therapists, honestly sympathise and will do our best. There are however, people who are outstandingly outrageous.

For instance, someone rang to talk about Mizan. I spent a long time listening to her symptoms before explaining how I thought I could help, what would be involved, how much time would be taken in the first treatment (three hours), the products that I would give her to take home (worth £20), the long personalised email, links to videos I was asked how much it would be. When I told her the fee there was a short silence followed by, “I thought it would be about £5”. Really.

Then there was the time a new client asked for a discount because she was having a conservatory built. And when someone told me she’d had to pay £150 to get her hair done so was a bit short. 

There are employed people forced to accept bad conditions, such as zero-rate contracts; I wish their employers had better ethics towards those who make them their profits rather than the shareholders who get to spend them. I am fortunate to be supporting myself financially whilst doing what I love. Not everyone is so lucky. I don’t want this to sound like I’m moaning when there are people in much worse positions, but rather to draw attention to some of the hidden costs that we have to cover that our clients – and even the self-empoyed themselves – may not consider.

Tax and National Insurance

We have to pay tax and national insurance. If you work for an employer your tax and national insurance contributions are deducted automatically, so freelancers have to put something aside to cover this liability. The self employed have to take out public liability insurance in case of an accident to a client and also personal insurance in case we can’t work. Because of the cost of personal insurance, we’ll only claim if something means we can’t work long term so we don’t get paid for odd days off for a sore throat or stomach bug represent a loss of earnings. At the same time, we’re still paying overheads such as rent and power.

Holidays

This is a biggie for the self employed: no paid annual leave. Every holiday means nothing coming in. And worse, you need to earn three weeks’ income for every week off: once before you go, once for while you’re away, and the last when you return.

On the plus side, there is the advantage of flexibility to take time off when you want, avoid school holidays for cheaper flights and accommodation.

Washing!

I know a lot of massage therapists use paper to cover the couch, but I don’t; cotton sheets are much more comfortable. That means I have lots of sets of sheets, blankets, pillow cases that all need washing after every client. And no cool, minimum wash setting either, but at least 40o  and a weekly 60o wash.

My heating bills are incredibly high. No one enjoys a massage in a cold room, so the heating is on full blast – not just for the treatment for but a couple of hours beforehand – and there is an electric blanket on the couch. Strings and strings of fairy lights cost more to run than a ceiling light but keep the room cosy, giving a gentle glow. Also part of the ambience is the expensive pure frankincense I burn before a session.

Then there’s the massage oils. It’s remarkable how much fully organic base and essential oils I get through.

So if anyone doesn’t turn up for an appointment, I have not only lost the fee for the missed for that session, but also the cost of lighting, heating and setting up the room. Money out, no money in.

Keeping up to date

Every book I buy to ensure I can give clients the best advice and knowledge; every training course to improve my skills to give clients the best treatment possible; all the ink for the printer; every piece of paper or note pad; every pen I write with….in short, everything that is needed to run a business comes out of the massage fee.

Running a business takes more time than only seeing the client. Each client will take up time before the session in planning and after the session in follow up emails and contact. Record keeping, making sure that I’m up to date with privacy laws, for instance.

It is harder for someone who is self employed to rent a house or get a mortgage. Anyone new to self employment will find it particularly difficult as most lenders will need two years of accounts; those that require less often charge premium rates because they think they’re taking a risk.

Even with this list I know there will be freelancers saying “What about…….?” Or “You forgot…….”

Myth

There is a perception that the self-employed earn more per day or per hour than their employed counterparts. Statistics just don’t back that up: on average the self employed earn half that of an employee. And not for part time work, this is for full time.

The reason? We don’t charge enough to cover all the additional costs that those of you in full-time (or even part-time) employment take for granted.

So next time you use the services of someone who is self employed, please remember how much you are paying for and be grateful that you’re probably being under-charged.