The on-demand economy is booming, and on-demand massage companies—those that use an application, massage apps, to schedule mobile massage—are no exception.

The on-demand economy is booming, and on-demand massage companies—those that use an application, or app, to schedule mobile massage—are no exception.

With such businesses serving clients throughout the U.S., it’s no surprise that three massage therapists employed by a large on-demand company were able to successfully strike out on their own.

With their company, BackSpace Mobile Massage, those three certified massage therapists—Susan Barrick, Catherine Elumba and Liam Casey—are bringing clients in the San Francisco Bay Area convenient massage, while also taking care of their therapists.

Building Relationships

BackSpace’s co-founders met while working for a mobile-massage company, and struck out on their own after that company was acquired by a competitor.

With BackSpace, described on its website as a “collaborative community of mobile bodyworkers,” they prioritize being reachable: A direct phone number and email address are readily accessible if clients need help.

The scheduling process shows available therapists’ names and photos, so clients can easily re-book with a therapist they like. Many clients, Barrick said, love being able to choose the therapist they want, and building an ongoing therapist-client relationship opens the door for massage to be more than just a quick, convenient luxury.

“It works better when there is a relationship involved,” Elumba said. “They’re more willing to accept the education that we give them, the tips and tools for self-care.”

Clients also enjoy the diversity of expertise within the BackSpace network of therapists, and the company encourages therapists to explore training in areas of interest; BackSpace may then promote therapists’ new services to clients, provided they fall within scope of practice and insurance coverage boundaries.

Services offered include chair massage at offices and events, as well as 60-, 90- and 120-minute in-home table massage.

“That’s the collaborative nature we talk about,” said Elumba, “letting therapists shine where they do well … and work with the clients they want.”

Independent Contractors

Currently, BackSpace’s therapists operate as independent contractors, said Casey; receive about 80 percent of each session fee plus tips; and have at least three hours’ notice before an appointment.

“If you want a session [and] it’s 4:45 in the afternoon, the earliest you’d be able to book with us is 8:00 p.m.,” Casey explained.

He said he feels this three-hour buffer helps therapists plan their workdays and cuts down on bookings from sketchy clients. (BackSpace does not offer appointments after 8:00 p.m.)

The Gig Economy

The gig economy—the umbrella under which such job types as freelancing, contracting and “side hustling” reside—is expected to grow. A lot.

According to Lexology, a disseminator of legal news and analysis, the gig economy now comprises 60 million people in the US. A Dec. 31, 2018, article on the site noted, “The gig economy workforce is currently growing three times faster than the traditional U.S. workforce, and businesses should not expect this trend to slow down anytime soon. By 2027, half of U.S. workers are expected to be freelancers.”

In the almost four years since its inception, BackSpace has grown to serve the greater San Francisco Bay area, both individual clients and corporate clients. They are always on the lookout for talented therapists—and while a lot of experience can be a plus, they also welcome those early in their careers.

To learn more about the on-demand industry and working for a mobile massage app company, read MASSAGE Magazine’s “Mobile Massage Apps: The Complete Guide for Massage Therapists.”

About the Author:

Allison M. Payne is online & associate editor for MASSAGE Magazine and Chiropractic Economics. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine and massagemag.com, including “Independent Contractors in California Could Be Affected by Supreme Court Decision.”

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