If you’re an MT who is thinking about making a move from self-employment to massage franchise employment, there are many things to consider.

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Like many massage therapists just starting out, Tiffany Brooks, L.M.T., chose self-employment.

“It was pretty much right out of school,” she said.

Working alongside a business partner who leased session-room space from a chiropractor, Brooks built her client list—but although she enjoyed working for herself, her work situation felt less than ideal, and she soon contemplated making a change.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go,” she said.

Her colleague suggested applying for a job with a franchise company that offers massage therapy and skin care services. At first, Brooks, a graduate of the massage therapy program at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan, was skeptical.

“I always had such a negative outlook on franchise employment,” she said. Working for a massage franchise, Brooks imagined, could mean less income as well as less flexibility and control over her working hours and conditions. Then she went in for an interview.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I loved the office, I loved the people, everything about it.” Brooks now works at a massage franchise in Plymouth, Michigan.

Practicing massage as an independent contractor appeals to and is an ideal choice for many massage therapists—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, about half of massage therapists are self-employed—but working for a massage franchise can offer many benefits, including some not-so-obvious job perks.

If you’re a massage therapist who is thinking about making a move from self-employment to franchise employment, you probably have many questions, beginning with a major one:

Does Massage Franchise Employment Mean I Will Make Less Money?

Short answer: Yes—in a way. Obviously, a self-employed massage therapist collects the entire fee for each session, while an employee will only collect a portion of each massage session fee.

It’s worth remembering, though, that a self-employed massage therapist is also responsible for all overhead costs, such as purchasing massage tables and chairs, session space rental and utility expenses, buying and laundering linens, supplying massage oil and tools, paying self-employment taxes, covering fees for legal permits, and all the other costs of doing business, including advertising and marketing.

For an employee, these costs are borne by the employer, and the employer handles withholding income tax.

“I definitely had to take a pretty normal pay cut from going from self-employment to franchise employment,” Brooks said. “It was a little stressful in the beginning. I was like, oh, man, that’s a lot of money going out the door that I could have been making before. But [the company is] taking care of all those other things that I would normally have to.”


How Will I Get New Clients? What Will Happen to My Current Clients?

Brooks’ transition from self-employment to employee status did mean leaving some clients behind. Since her new work location was 20-plus minutes away from where she had practiced before, “trying to get clients to follow [me] wasn’t the easiest thing,” she admitted. “So I lost some clients, of course.”

While building clientele can be frustrating, time-consuming and expensive for massage therapists who are self-employed, working for a massage franchise means tapping into an established stable of clients who already know and trust the franchise brand name.

Therapists also benefit from the larger-scale marketing efforts a franchise can afford, which can bring in clients consistently over the long term. In addition to advertising, franchises can usually absorb the cost of offering first-time client discounts, as well as discounts for massage package deals, membership in client loyalty programs, and gift card purchases.

The organized, targeted client acquisition and retention methods a massage franchise can provide usually equals a steady stream of clients through the door.

“Knowing I have that stability and they’re always going to guarantee me to have clients that book me—that’s a definite plus,” Brooks said.

Does Franchise Employment Mean Working Long Hours?

This is what a typical massage franchise workday looks like for Brooks:

“I work about five to six hours in a day, usually about four to five clients,” she said. “Anywhere from an hour massage to 90 minutes.”

The location budgets 15 minutes between clients, which she said allows plenty of time for her to complete session notes and prepare herself for upcoming clients.

She said massage therapists can use that time to “get water, eat, [write] your notes, ground and center yourself, meditate, whatever you want to do.”

Do I Need to Make a Résumé? Will I Have to Go on a Job Interview?

Before applying for franchise employment, you should have a résumé showcasing your work experience, both in massage therapy and in other areas that could have relevance to your new position. (Think customer service experience.)

You should also be ready to talk about—and demonstrate—your massage skills and techniques.

“I had to do a hands-on, 30-minute massage showing every technique that I knew,” Brooks said of her interview with a massage franchise.

Even though she landed the job, Brooks admits the interview experience didn’t go perfectly smoothly. At one point, the sheet got stuck underneath the table legs and, unfamiliar with that model of massage table, she had a moment of panic in trying to handle it.

The interviewer “noticed it, but she was like, ‘you did good; you worked through that really well,’” Brooks remembered.

While different massage franchises will possess different workplace cultures, and no one culture is right for everyone, Brooks’ decision to work for a franchise ultimately hinged on her feeling that the environment was an all-around good fit for her.

“Everybody’s nice, it’s clean, it’s beautiful,” she thought during her interview. “I had interviews other places, and I just didn’t get that comfortable vibe that you feel, like you felt like you belonged there.”

Will I Still Be Able to Focus on My Clients?

Self-employment appeals to many massage therapists because every aspect of business is up to them: what services to offer, how much to charge, and which days and hours to work, for example. Controlling those details can mean freedom—but it can also mean additional stress.

For Brooks, who was inspired to become a massage therapist after seeing firsthand the difference massage therapy made when her mother injured her back, one big difference between self-employment and working for a franchise has been the ability to let go of handling every detail and focus solely on her clients’ massage therapy needs.

Working at a franchise, she and her colleagues have a front desk person who handles details such as answering the phone, collecting client payments, and scheduling and confirming client appointments. Like many massage therapy businesses, the company also offers clients online booking options, including a mobile app for Mac iOS and Android devices.

At first, having someone else handle her bookings and deal with clients was “weird,” she said—but she soon realized it actually allowed her to be more present during her massages.

“Instead of [thinking], ‘Hurry, my next client’s here, I’ve got to take the phone,’” Brooks said, “I was more mindful, I was more there and a part of my client’s session than before … making sure they’re helped, taken care of and relaxed.”

Some Other Benefits of Working for a Massage Franchise

Flexibility. (Really!)

Franchises typically offer flexible scheduling. And in an emergency, “if you’re not available, somebody can cover you,” Brooks said.

More time for yourself when you need it.

If you are self-employed, “when you’re sick, you’re sick,” said Brooks. “You’ve got to call your clients and say hey, I can’t come in, and nobody can give you a massage today.” Not only do you lose that income while you’re out; one illness could mean a client can’t get an appointment with you for weeks or even a month if your appointment book is full.

“That’s pretty upsetting,” Brooks noted. “In a franchise, you’ve got 10, 12 other therapists that they can get in with in the next couple of days or even that day. Right there, that’s awesome.”

Opportunities to collaborate.

“When you work in a franchise with other therapists you can talk to them and [get advice], like, ‘Hey, my client’s got frozen shoulder; what do you do for that?’”

Way less laundry.

As a self-employed massage therapist, Brooks, like many of her colleagues, spent a significant portion of time laundering massage-table linens. Now that she’s an employee, someone else tackles those chores.

So, how is life without all that laundry?

“Not having to do sheets every day?” she said. “That is great!”

About the Author

Allison Payne, a former Online & Associate Editor for MASSAGE Magazine, is now a freelance writer and editor based in central Florida. She has written many articles for massagemag.com and MASSAGE Magazine, including “What Do the New Hospital Massage Competencies Mean for Massage?” (June 21) and “Massage Therapy Schools: Everything You Need to Know

About LaVida Massage

LaVida Massage is a leading provider of health and wellness services. Offering an array of affordable and convenient therapeutic massage modalities, LaVida Massage caters to busy, active lifestyles in gender and age-neutral settings. Founded in 2007 in Brighton, Michigan, LaVida Massage is dedicated to the ideal that massage should be an affordable part of an overall healthy lifestyle and wellness plan.

As more consumers understand and seek the mental and physical health benefits that massage therapy has been proven time and again to offer, the LaVida Massage Corporation franchise continues to grow to meet this demand in the thriving holistic health and wellness industry. LaVida Massage, a member of the International Franchise Association (IFA), has more than 50 centers in 20 U.S. states and in Canada.