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Finding a Job in Massage Therapy

Massage Therapists are currently in demand. Massage therapy is being recognized as a health care profession in many states. More and more physicians are becoming aware of the necessity of massage in healing back pain, neck pain along with supporting the healing process of many other diseases and conditions. Massage therapy is being used in resorts and spas as a part of stress reduction programs and relaxation therapy. More people are searching out massage when all other therapies have left them struggling to find an answer. Massage is no longer considered the luxury service that it once was. Massage therapy is now an integral part of health and is a necessity in today’s world of stress and conflict.

While the massage profession may seem to be booming, jobs are still hard to find. Jobs in massage are often low paying ($10.00 -$25 per hour) with long hours and difficult hours (weekends and evenings!). Most massage therapists start their own business as it is usually much more financially and emotionally rewarding than working for someone. But starting and running a business is not for everyone. If you would rather find a job, it will help you to first understand the job market and get a clear vision of what you want to be doing.

A great massage employer will understand that a massage therapist is worth more than that because the employee is the key to building a successful business. They will also want to build a team or community of massage therapist employees who are willing to make the extra efforts to provide service to their clients. Allowing massage therapists to provide their input and resources will make for a much happier massage therapist. This is the kind of job I recommend looking for!

Finding a job in the massage profession will require you to be creative and knowledgeable. You will need to be persistent and patient while you find or create the job of your dreams! You will need to be knowledgeable in business building skills and customer service skills. You will have to be motivated and have a passion for doing massage. The success of any business you work for will depend on your skills as a massage therapist and a business person. It is you who will get clients to keep coming in because of your great skill and kind heart. They will refer all of their friends and associates because of you! It is you who can really make or break the business.

Pros and Cons of working for someone as an employee.

As with anything else, getting a job in massage has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Some of the responsibilities may include: selling retail products, selling additional services to increase the value of the massage, setting up the room, doing laundry, answering phones and booking appointments and other various duties. It is also important to be aware of the fact that when you go to work for someone, they will have more control over what you do. They may make you dress a certain way, behave a certain way and do certain types of treatments. They will set your hours and the days that you work. They will set up how long appointments are and how much time you have between clients. Most facilities will likely want you to work evenings and weekends. Job pay is usually between $10-$25 per hour, which is really low for what a massage therapist does. Benefits may be slim to none. Employers are able to charge anywhere from $60-$135 per session and more if there are extra services such as bodywraps, aromatherapy or special techniques used. There are higher paying massage jobs out there that will pay $25-$45 per hour or more. I highly recommend holding out to find one of those! Taking a job for less money makes it harder for the profession in general. It creates an image of not being valued. 

The one thing that you don’t have to deal with as an employee is the overhead and expenses involved. The employer is taking the risk of starting and building the business. While most employers will take care of advertising and marketing, you will still have a large role to play in creating a successful business. You may still be taking a risk by taking a job with some employers who are not very business savvy or interested in helping you to advance and make more money. The company may go out of business itself and leave you stranded without a paycheck. Doing your research about the company before accepting a job can reduce the chances of this happening, but nothing can really guarantee your future with the company.

Finding a place to work with higher pay and added benefits such as vacation pay, sick pay, health care insurance and profit sharing is possible if you take the initiative to find one or create one.

Who is hiring massage therapists?

  • Day spas, health resorts, cruise ships, hotels, salons, casinos
  • On-site chair massage businesses at airports and downtown business centers
  •   Chiropractors, physical therapists, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, MDs
  •   Dentists
  • Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement communities
  • Hospitals; for hospital employees, infants centers, hospice centers
  • Massage Clinics, Multi-practice clinics
  • Veterinarians, Animal Rescue Facilities, Race tracks
  •   Health clubs, Gyms, High School, College and Professional Athletic Teams
  • High stress businesses

More and more people are hiring massage therapists. There are as many opportunities as you can imagine. Job opportunities are everywhere. You just need to know where to look. I advise starting with creating a vision about what you want. That way you will know where to look or how to create it!

Creating a Job Vision

Just like anything else, you need to start out looking for a job with a vision of what you want. Creating the vision will bring you clarity and a place to set a bottom line. The bottom line will be the place where your needs will still be met. A bottom line will let you know when you are settling for less than what you really want. Settling for less can lead to dissatisfaction, unhappiness and possibly burn out. You will most likely not last long at a job that goes below that bottom line.

  • What kind of place do you want to work in?

  •   Where will it be located? In a strip mall? In a small commercial house? In the country? In a fancy resort?

  •   How far away from home do you want to work?

  • What days do you want to work? Weekends? Weekdays? Evenings?

  • What kind of clients do you want to work with? Injuries? Relaxation?

  •   How much do you need to get paid?

  • What benefits do you need? Vacations? Health care?

  • How big of a space do you need to work in?

  •   What do you want the office to look like?

  •   What other kinds of practitioners do you want to work with?

Start really dreaming! Go for everything you have always wanted!! Be wildly creative!

Also, when you create a vision you can take it with you to job interviews. An employer may be more likely to hire someone who knows what they want. You may also be able to give ideas to the employer – things that they may have never thought about.

Mission Statements and Purpose/Philosophy Statements.

Creating a mission statement will give you some added perspective and direction. Mission statements are often used by businesses to create a guideline to doing business. You can create a personal mission statement that will summarize your vision. It should communicate the essence of who you are and what you want to do. I feel that it can be helpful when looking for a job to discover your mission. That way you it will make it easier to decide if you want to go to work for someone when the offer arrives.

To write a mission statement, it is necessary to find out about yourself and make meaning of what you are doing.
bullet What do you feel is your goal in doing massage?
bullet What brought you to massage in the first place?
bullet What does doing massage mean to you?
bullet What do you think that you bring to your clients (or will)?

For more suggestions see: http://www.quintcareers.com/mission_statement_exercises.html

Or just do a search on google.com for mission statements.

Write out the answers to the questions and then start combining all of the answers into one or two sentences.

Your philosophy statement is just that – what do you believe in?

Knowing what you believe in and making a statement about it will also add clarity to your vision.

  •   What is your philosophy about what massage does for people?

  • What physical effects does massage have?

  • What emotional effects does massage have?

  •   What spiritual effects does massage have?

  •   What does getting a massage mean to you?

  • What has becoming a massage therapist meant to you? 

  •   How has massage changed your life?

Again, you can combine the answers to these questions into one or two sentences to add clarity to your vision.

Finding a Place to Work

So now that you know what you want to do you can begin researching places that might hire you or you can start thinking about how and where to create your own job!

Start with the graduates services department at your massage school! They are your number one resource. You need to become best friends with this person as they will most likely know of the most job opportunities.

If you don’t have a graduate services department there are many other things you can start with.

Locate businesses that you are interested in working for according to your vision. Look in the phone book or online.

Drive around the neighborhood that you would love to work in and look for opportunities – massage clinics, chiropractors, physical therapists.

Start collecting names, addresses and phone numbers of all possibilities. Even if you don’t think you want to work someplace, they may have connections for you with some other places. Start collecting information.

Informational Interviewing

Once you have collected some ideas on where you would like to work start narrowing the search down by doing some informational interviewing. This is the process of contacting places just to find out information about them. It doesn’t really matter if they are hiring or not. You just want to find out if you really want to work for them or not.

Some suggestions of what to ask and what to do:

  •   Call places and ask about their services, hours of operation and prices.

  • Make an appointment and get a massage or chiropractic treatment or whatever service.

  •   Find out what they do – What service do they provide and to whom? What is their philosophy on health and healing? Who are the people who work for them?

  •   Do they ever hire massage therapists or have they ever thought of hiring massage therapists?

Once you narrow your search down to places that you feel have integrity, a high level of service and the atmosphere that you envisioned, you can start making efforts to contact them for the purpose of getting a job. The first thing you need to find out is who does the hiring?

The next step can be the most intimidating because you are going to start asking for what you want – a job in massage therapy with the company of your dreams!!

You can contact them by phone, email, in person or my mail. You can start with a resume and cover letter or a phone call asking about employment. Don’t expect them to get back to you!! If you really want to work there, it may take some perseverance and commitment.

There are many places out there hiring massage therapists who are paying very low wages and charging very low prices for their massage services. It is important to consider all the pros and cons of working for such a place. What image are they portraying about massage? How do they treat their therapists? Do they understand the meaning of massage and what it really does for people? Do they respect the work of massage therapists and support the massage profession? One of the best ways to find out what is really going on inside these places is to talk to their therapists or go in and get a massage from a few different therapists. Are the therapists friendly or are they just there biding their time? Are they passionate about what they do and feel good about themselves while only getting paid the low rates that they do? On one hand it will give you an excellent opportunity to work on many clients and get experience. You can learn all the ropes of running a business with the intention of going out on your own. 

Resumes/Cover letters.

I can't tell you how many resumes I get at my office where there are no employees.  The resumes are often without cover letters or any mention of what the heck they are looking for or wanting from me.  And since I don't hire anyone, but do have some space for subleasing occasionally, I am really discouraged by the quality of professionalism of these massage therapists.

While I don’t really want to go into writing resumes as there are many sources out there, I do want to mention a few things about them.

  •   Be sure to include your mission or philosophy statement.

  • The old way of doing resumes of just listing your past experience is not very efficient. You need to write more about who you are than what you have done or where you have worked.

  •   Take your past experiences and write about how they will complement you as an employee.

  • Be sure to include a cover letter! Write about who you are and what you want and what your ideas are. You need to tell them what makes you different from everyone else out there. You need to convey to them that you are seriously interested in working there.

  • Above all what solution do you provide for people's problems?

Be prepared to go to an interview.

With so many options it is often difficult to find a place to work that fits with your personality and the way you want to do massage. When you do get an interview opportunity, go into it prepared to ask them questions to see if you want to work there (if you haven’t already). It will show them that you are really interested in what you do and where you will work. You may also be able to create your own job or bring new ideas to the employer if you can get an idea of what is needed there.

Interviewing the employer

  •   What image do they portray to the community in their marketing/advertising?

  •   What is their reputation in the massage community? 

  • Will they supply all the clients?

  •   How will they get you the clients? What marketing/advertising will they be doing?

  •   Where will they get referrals from? What people are they networking with?

  •   Is there an incentive for you to bring your own clients in like a higher hourly wage or bonus?

  • What incentives will there be for you to build a practice? One company I read about tracked the number of repeat clients per month and gave incentives for therapists who improved their numbers each month.

  •   Will they make you sign a non-compete clause that states that you can not take clients with you if you leave the office or start your own practice within X-amount of miles from the office? Some places may ask you to do this. It is difficult to enforce, as clients will go where they want anyway. You may also be able to leave and tell clients where you are going but not be able to solicit their following you to your new location. Check with an attorney on this before signing a non-compete clause.

  • What benefits will you have? vacations, retirement accounts, sick days, etc.

  • What support will they provide to assist you in working with clients and understanding the therapeutic process? Weekly meetings to keep you informed of what is going on in the company would be beneficial. Supervision? Peer Groups?

  •   Will they do the insurance billing and bookkeeping or teach you to do it?

  • Will they supply the table, linens, lotions, music, stereo and other accessories or will you?

  •   One thing you need to make sure of is what your official status is – employee or sub-contractor. I have seen many places say that you are an employee but in reality they should be sub-contractors.

Employees vs. Sub-contractors.

There is also a lot of confusion about whether or not you will be an employee or a sub-contractor. I have seen many people hired as sub-contractors who should have been hired as employees. Learn the basics about whether or not you are an employee or sub-contractor. You can get some ideas from the IRS website http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=115045,00.html or my website


"The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if you (the person for whom the services are performed) have the right to control or direct only the result of the work, and not what will be done and how it will be done or method of accomplishing the result."
From the IRS Website listed above

Many employers (office owners) may want you to be a sub-contractor so they don't have to pay the extra fees involved in hiring an employee like the unemployment fees and social security taxes and health care benefits.

As a sub-contractor, you are self-employed. You just pay a flat fee or a percentage of your income to the business owner. The business owner takes the risk of signing a lease or buying the property and setting up the business. You may or may not have a furnished room. You will most likely have to do all of your own marketing and business building. You will be required to pay your own taxes, licensing and other expenses. Beware of new franchises or operations that will only pay you $12-$15 per hour as a sub-contractor. Figure out what your other expenses are and deduct that from your hourly pay. Read the fine print in the contract!!

If you have any questions about whether or not you will be an employee or a sub-contractor, please consult an attorney.

Be prepared for what questions might they ask you.

  • The typical what type of massage do you do? Where and when did you go to school? What classes have you taken?

  •   What does doing massage mean to you?

  • How has being a massage therapist changed your life?

  •   Put what you do into one or two sentences.

  •   What do you want to get out of this job?

  •   Why do you want to work here?

  • What are you going to do for this company? Why should they hire you?

  •   What will you do to build clientele? An employer will be more motivated to hire you knowing you know what you are doing and are motivated to be a part of the company.

  •   Create your own vision for the office. Where do you see it going?

  •   What marketing, advertising or networking ideas do you have?

  •   What are you going to do that is different from everyone else?

  •   You may also be asked to do a massage on the owner or someone who works there. 

Presenting yourself to an employer or business owner.

Part of the job interview is how you present yourself to the employer. Most massage employers are looking for someone who can professionally represent their company.

So here are some tips for presenting yourself to a potential employer or business owner:

  •   Know what your ideal office space and practice looks like!

  • Create your vision before you start looking for a job or space. Knowing what you want can save time. Settling for less usually has consequences. 

  • Answer in the manner that the ad requests. 

  • If you are cold calling (not knowing if they have a position or space available) ask when a convenient time to call is and set up a phone meeting. Keep calling to show you mean it and are serious, but don't over do it and be obnoxious.

  • Write a resume that tells who you are, not just what you have done. Resumes of the old chronological, here's what I have done type are outdated. Write to tell who you are, what massage means to you, how has it changed your life, what your goals are, what is your philosophy when working with clients. Show how you love what you do and who you are!!

  • If you are cold calling, try calling just asking for information (informational interviewing). Start a conversation to find out more about the office you are looking at. Don't mention that you are looking for work or an office space. Ask questions about the person's practice and what they do there. Go get a massage there ! See if you want to participate in or be associated with that office! People respond when they can tell you are interested in them. One of the basic needs of people is to be of value. If you can show you are sincerely interested and not out to get something from them other than information, both parties will benefit from the connection.

  •   Get to know them.

  •   Then there are the standard rules: be on time for the interview, dress appropriately. (Even though massage tends to be an informal business, looking good is important and shows your respect).
    bullet After the interview, send some kind of acknowledgment - a thank you card, an email, a phone call something!! Even if they said something like "We'll contact you". 

  •   Even if you don't get the space or job, send a follow up after that. You never know what will happen. Something may not work out with the new person, things may change or there may be more opportunities in the future. Don't give up!

  • Suggest creating an employee contract so that you will know exactly what is expected of you and what is expected of the employer. Don’t leave anything to guessing. It is always better to get things in writing. If you are sub-contracting, a contract will be a necessary part of the agreement and will also thoroughly outline the details. Know what your contract says and what every line means!

  • Don't ever give up until you get exactly what you want!!  Don't settle for less!

Suggestions for Writing a Contractual Agreement
with an employer on Independent Contractor

Having a contract with your employer or independent contractor is a necessary business procedure. You may think you don't need one, but often times find out the hard way that you do. Planning ahead can reduce the stress and build better business relationships.

1. Consult a legal professional to make sure all issues are covered and the financial agreements are favorable
2. These are only suggestions. The agreement can be anything you really want, keeping in mind that it remains a win/win situation and both parties are willing to work together.
3. Even if you are going into business with a friend or someone who you highly respect, it is still necessary to spell things out so neither party is taken advantage of if things go wrong or the situation changes.
4. Clarify the work situation. Are you an employee or sub-contractor. See guidelines and the IRS website for more information. Outline duties and responsibilities of each party. Will you answer phones or do filing or make phone calls when not busy?
5. What is each party
6. responsible for? Be exact so there is no room for confusion. Supplies, Billing, Marketing, advertising, collecting fees, linens, oil, massage table, utilities, bottled water and any other business related article or activity. Work hours, vacation times, sick days, back-up personnel, cancellation policies must be
7. predetermined. What hours do they work or what hours do they have available for their use? How are appointments made? ( a central booking person or does each person have their own phone/phone line). How does one know when they have an appointment? Are they supposed to come in when they don't have an appointment? What is the rate of pay and pay schedule? What other benefits are involved for an employee? sick pay, vacation pay, retirement, health care?
8. What insurance is needed for liability coverage (practitioner and premise) and property loss or damage? Disability or workman's compensation? Who is responsible for paying the fees for insurance?
9. Watch for non-compete clauses that will determine where you can practice if you leave the office for any reason. You may not be allowed to take clients with you within a certain mileage range of the office for a certain amount of time.
10. What marketing/advertising will you do to provide clients for the employee/subcontractor? What will the employee/sub-contractor be responsible for?
11. If insurance billing is involved - who does that and on what timetable? Monthly, weekly, bi-weekly, mid-month, end of month?
12. What financial motivations will be involved? Raises, bonuses for having so many clients? bonuses for have a client become a repeat customer?
13. What happens when one party wants to get out of the agreement? You can sometimes make an agreement as to who will be responsible for getting a replacement.
14. How long will the contract be for? Will there be a trial period like 3-6 months where both parties can end the contract if they are not happy with the provisions or situation?
15. Is there a renewal date? Is there an option for renewal?
16. There are standard lease forms available at office supply stores that can be used if you are self employed and just leasing office space. You can make additions and set financial responsibilities and have them signed and notarized just like any other contract.

You really don't need fancy legal terminology.

Just write down what you want to happen

Creating your own job

Basically, there are not as many jobs available in massage as one might think. If you want to go to work for someone such as a doctor's office, dentist, physical therapist or chiropractor you can really set up your own arrangements as most don't really know what to do with an employee doing massage. Write up a proposal as to what you think massage can do for their clients, patients and office overall. Include a business plan and potential earnings and benefits for the company or clinic. If the employer can charge clients $70+ per hour, what would you be willing to be paid per hour for you work? If you are doing work for a client that was in a motor vehicle accident or billing an insurance company for services, you can usually bill slightly more than your cash clients because of the extra work involved in billing.

Working for someone else is a great way to get into the massage business. You can work for someone and not take any of the risks involved in starting a business while learning everything you can about the business. When you are ready, you can move out on your own or stay right where you are.

Don’t just find a job - Find a Community of Massage Therapists

Most clinics that hire massage therapists as employees or sub-contractors (from what I have seen) are doing so mainly as a business venture, hoping to make a lot of money which is usually at the massage therapists’ expense. There are many places out there who don't really know what they are doing and don't respect massage therapists. 

A community of massage therapists are an essential part of a successful business. Building community takes time and effort. A community is where one can go for support and nurturing. It is the process of building connection with others in your community that will build better therapists and a more successful business. If you have therapists that are taking better care of the clients because their needs are being taken care of creating a win-win situation for all.

It is important to find employment with a business that can treat you with respect and gratitude. Being a part of a community or Team will allow you to build a successful, rewarding practice even though you work for someone else.

Feeling like you are a valued employee should be your bottom line in seeking employment in the massage profession.

Settling for less than your dream will make for a short career.

A dream is a wish that your heart makes.

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