W-2 form - employee benefits

Most new massage therapists leave school wanting to work for themselves — and many times, this autonomy is part of the appeal of having a career in the massage industry.

Being an employee of someone else’s business may not seem as appealing, but in many ways spending some time working for a boss and having coworkers can enhance your massage skills and simplify your life, especially when you’re just starting out. Here, massage therapist Susan Barrick, CMT, who spent many years working in the spa industry before launching the business she co-owns, shares some surprising benefits of being an employee.

1. You Give Yourself (and Your Body) Experience

As an employee in a business run by someone else, you may be fully booked most of the time — and that’s good. Coming out of school, it’s really important to get your hands on as many bodies as you can. Working at an athletic club was good for me, but it was taxing on my body. You’re not conditioned to do that kind of work when you first come out of school; in fact, you’re not conditioned at all to be doing that much bodywork.

2. You Hone Your Customer Service Skills

I spent a few years working at spas. The director was very much hands-on with us, and we could see how gracious she was with guests. We were taught to keep every session client-focused. We would ask clients what they would like us to focus on. We’d check in; we were told to check in at least twice during the massage to make sure we got the pressure right. Do they want the heater on? Do they want an eye pillow? I would never give up my years in the spa for what it taught me.

3. You Make Money Without Spending Money

As an independent contractor, it may seem like you would make more money since you’re keeping 100% of your session fees, but you also have to pay for and track all business expenses, such as advertising, supplies, rent and utilities for your space, laundering linens, and anything else that comes up. And don’t forget taxes, which are automatically withheld from your check if you receive a W-2.

If you offer in-home massage, you can add to that list the cost of getting to appointments. When you get down to it, when you’re talking about the driving, and the gas, and the time you’re in your car, you’re making a little bit more than what you’d make in a spa, but you don’t have to pay for all those things.

4. Your Schedule Is Set

If you’re working for yourself, you have to be available when people want to book you. As an employee, once your schedule is determined, you know exactly when you have to show up, and when you’re going home. You’re also free from having to book and confirm appointments, or handle cancellations. 

5. You (Might) Get Employee Benefits

Many employers don’t offer employee benefits such as a 401(k), health insurance or paid time off — but some may offer employee benefits if you work there long enough. You have to give them a lot of your time. It depends on how long you’ve been there. The more you give, then they’ll give a little bit back.

6. You Don’t Have to Do Boss Stuff

Many, many tasks are involved in running a business — but as an employee, one benefit is you don’t have to worry about them. Now that I’m an owner, we are constantly meeting and talking about what to do to grow. We do the numbers for the payroll. We deal with all the resumes that come in, the phone screening, the face-to-face, the interview, the practical; then on top of it all, we’re doing massage. It’s a lot.

7. You Don’t Have to Market Yourself

Print ads, online ads, Google listings, online review sites, Groupon deals, the company Instagram page — your employer has to take on all those tasks. You just show up and do the work.

About the Author

Susan Barrick, CMT, is co-owner of BackSpace Mobile Massage in California’s San Francisco Bay Area.