Compromises & Quandaries: Scheduling, Sleep & Profiteering

Last night I got a call from a woman who was referred to me by my massage therapist friend Bluejay. Bluejay needs 4-5 appointments a week to break even with her basic expenses, and she’s had some pretty bad weeks lately. In fact, after speaking to her this morning, I know that she fell short by about 20%, which this one client would have satisfied. She needs 4 appointments a week to make her basic expenses, whereas I need 7-8 appointments because I charge significantly less and have a higher expense baseline due to rent differentials. But this is where the rent pays off.

Bluejay doesn’t – and really can’t – do last minute appointments, nor does she work late at night. She lives just over the bridge in Brooklyn, so any Manhattan work involves taking the subway in, getting her table that she stores at a client’s (which you just can’t do at midnight on a Saturday anyway), cab to and from with table, then subway home. For me, it’s two 10-minute cab rides door-to-door. Normally I would absolutely agree that it’s an awful lot of hassle to go through for a one-hour client, but if you’ve fallen way short of making your minimum 3 weeks out of the last 4, why wouldn’t you call your MoneyMate Kate and ask to borrow her table and do it yourself? Okay, so it turns out she had an 8am client this morning, but still, I’d have sucked it up and done it even if I had made enough money that week.

When we spoke this morning, she asked how much I had charged the client, and it was about 35% less than she would have. I sort of knew her in-office rate, but had no idea her outcall rate was so much higher, like $50-70/hour (most of us have a $30-ish charge for that – or so I thought). Here’s my dilemma: she said that when she sends me referrals, I should charge her rate. Well sure, I’d have LOVED to have made $60 more last night than I did, but I gave that woman my card…card has website listed…website has rates listed…see the problem? Now if the woman had been an existing client of Bluejay’s, I could have justified charging her rate and not giving her a card – not nice to steal clients, and there’s something akin to an oath about that for massage therapists. However, she was a new inquiry and will probably never be able to arrange an appointment under Bluejay’s conditions (advance notice, before 9pm, etc).

Thinking out loud here, but I can sort of come up with most of a solution – still, I have a feeling my brilliant readers might have some very useful advice on this. I could buy another domain name, copy my existing website but change the rates to be in line with Bluejay’s, and get some cards printed up. I’d also need to get my hands on a wheelie thing for my massage table (I don’t normally bring it for outcalls, hence the justifiably lower rate – that thing is a major pain in the shoulder, back, etc). Total cost for all this would be about $100, and I don’t know if she’ll ever send me another referral between now and her departure from NYC sometime between August and January. The other big potential glitch is that if a referral googles my phone number, they’ll find my main site with the lower rates. I know a lot of them do that kind of search to confirm that I’m not a provider of naughtiness, so this is not a silly concern.

Any advice?

6 Responses

  1. I say stick to your guns, unless its an established client of Bluejays. You shouldn’t have to put on a facade and pretend to be something you’re not. And like you said who knows if you’ll get another referral anyway, then you are out that 100$ for no real reason.

    • Well, $80 of that would be for the wheelie table cart – not a terrible investment on its own. But I feel that running two sets of rates is duplicitous, and it makes me very uncomfortable.

  2. Another option– and one that would be cheaper for you– would be to ask Bluejay to give you 10-20 of her cards for when she refers someone to you. Then when you do the referral work, you hand them Bluejay’s card and charge Bluejay’s rate. You can explain that since you’re doing the work on her behalf, it’s sort of like she subcontracted the work to you, and you want to be sure that they know how to reach her the next time they would like work done. If they want to know your name, you can write your name on the back of the card.

    You might also want to look into whether or not your outcall rate is as high as it should be. You said, “or so I thought,” which suggests that you may have some uncertainty now that you’ve heard how much Bluejay charges. If it turns out that the market will bear a higher rate, that would be pretty good for you.

    • We met up last night when she returned my spare table, and that’s exactly what she did – gave me a few of her cards. This way I look like an associate of sorts.

      I know I’m at the low end of average and she’s at the high end of average. What can I say, I have self-worth issues. Plus, even fairly well-off types are “downsizing” their expenses just in case, so price is more of an issue that it used to be.

  3. You didn’t mention that one of your options is to slowly bump up your rates for new clients. You want to keep your current clientele happy, but eventually because of inflation, you are going to have to raise them anyway. I doubt $5 more for each hour is going to make someone stop their massage service if they are inclined to use one.

  4. I agree that having the two rates is rather duplicitous and I don’t think you should do that. I like the idea of handing out Bluejay’s card with your contact information on the back; however, my advice overall is to raise your rates. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but just a little at a time. Self-worth issues not withstanding, after you factor in cab rides and such, you’re only making a marginal profit – not to mention if you invest in this wheelie thing. If you don’t raise the rates on in-house calls, definitely consider it for the outcalls. But, you’re in business for yourself and you’re a very important asset in making that business thrive. Gotta take care of yourself. 7-8 appointments per week is a lot for a freelancer, but if you’re on the low end anyway, you might want to bring yourself up to separate yourself from the escorts and such.

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