Are you a massage employee thinking of launching an independent practice as the next step in your massage career?
Are you ready to start your own business and just don’t know what you should do? Do the options seem vast and you don’t know where to start—or do you even know what your options are?
In this article, I would like to offer you some business knowledge if you are thinking it is the right time to venture out on your own and be your own boss.
There are primarily three location-based options for being self-employed that I am going to talk about: solo practice, group practice and on-site practice.
First, however, I am going to ask you some questions you need to think through when trying to decide what the best massage practice would be for your self-employment adventure:
• Do you like to work alone?
• Do you work better with a group of people?
• Do you need to have a sense of community or belonging to be successful?
• Do you maintain personal and professional boundaries well?
• Are you able to develop your own sales pieces and manage your office needs?
• Do you get bored easily and prefer variety in your work?
• Are you willing to put a business plan together and follow it?
As we move through the next section, I would like you to think about how the answers to these questions apply to the benefits and challenges of each of these self-employment options.
This is the type of practice where you are completely, 100 percent responsible for you, your environment and your business. For those who want true autonomy, this is the ultimate dream job.
This—solo practice—has been my experience for my entire career. This type of practice fits my personality. I am actually very content on my own with the ability to come and go as I please or need. I have learned the art of balancing my job with my personal life and can shift my thinking around for what each day requires.
Benefits of Solo Practice
• You are in complete control of your time and environment. You set the rules that govern your day and schedule. This business can be the most flexible around your personal life.
• If your business is located inside your home, you can cut down on expenses and travel (while getting your household chores done in between clients)
• You can write off a portion of your house payments and utility payments based on the square footage of your massage room.
• There are no other work-personalities you must deal with, so your environment can be more peaceful.
Challenges of a Solo Practice
• If you work from home, you may not feel like you ever go to work. Firm boundaries must be made to protect your personal space and life. How you handle yourself professionally is very important.
• If this is a rental space, it could be costlier. You may not be able to split any expenses with someone such as cleaning, bathroom, and office supplies or utilities and rent.
• You could be alone with your clients and will need to address this from a safety standpoint, for both you and the client. This makes live sales such as products or gift certificates more difficult.
• When it comes to advertising or developing business needs, you must find and pay for the resources to help you or teach yourself how to do these tasks.
This is where you have the opportunity to work with a group of therapists who are all independent contractors. There are room rentals, or possibly shared rooms, and potentially a set of group rules or agreements that apply to those who work within this establishment.
As it is considered employment if your work hours are predetermined, there can typically be shifts that people select to cover the needs of the establishment or you may just determine the days you are available. There can be a cooperative agreement in place so the group can maintain regular hours of operation and advertise as such.
Benefits of a Group Practice
• This environment can help you feel connected to other people working in your field. It is helpful to have the support of others to bounce ideas off of and be able to ask for business guidance from the other business owners.
• You have control over your business as long as it fits into the rental agreement.
• A secretary could be included in the rental agreement or each therapist may take turns running the welcome desk.
• Advertising expenses could be a shared expense along with access to better advertising avenues and knowledge.
• As there are other people in your office, being alone with a client is reduced.
Challenges of a Group Practice
• The workplace environment will always have personality conflicts and ethical dilemmas.
• Clients may want to change therapists inside your office, and you must be prepared to handle this professionally.
• Unless there is a chain of command or a detailed agreement, solving problems and the resolve process for intra-office issues could be a problem.
• As a newer therapist coming into the facility, you may have to agree to more evening and weekend shifts.
• The available room to rent may be the least comfortable space in the facility.
On-site massage is an effective way of offering the benefits of massage in the workplace and other public areas. A growing number of businesses are offering or providing this to their employees as part of an overall employee health and benefits program.
This may be a service paid fully by the employee or by the employer, or a split payment between the employer and employee.
Benefits of On-site Services
• If you like your work environment to change, and you have multiple offices you visit, this is a great way to add diversity into your work and day.
• This could be table massage, chair massage or a combination of both. The change can be helpful to both your mind and body.
• Depending on who is paying for the massage, if you offer on-site services and have a massage office, this can be an opportunity to build rapport with future office clients.
• This can be a transitional opportunity if you are just starting out with your business and need to build your clientele.
Challenges of On-Site Service
• You may not have control over the environment or room you are doing massage in. This includes noise levels, temperature and overall ambiance. It can be harder for massage to be therapeutic for the client when they are still at work.
• You may have to transport your entire room setup from office to office, including your massage table, sheets, music, lighting, etc. and will require non-paid setup and transport time.
• If this is a service paid for by the employer and if you choose to stop providing on-site services, the likelihood of the employees transitioning to your office is low.
Perhaps only one of these options fits you best, or there could potentially be a blend of these options that feels right to you.
Self-employment always presents several business possibilities and they are only limited by what you think you must do. I believe that to be happy with working for yourself, you should think about what you really want or need, and then choose the business that fits your life, not the other way around.
This business selection process can have a similar feeling to that of being a kid in a candy store who is trying to figure out which piece of candy he or she really wants. Some kids can’t seem to decide because there are too many options. In the end they finally settle on a piece of candy only to learn they didn’t really like that piece of candy and most likely wish they had picked their first choice. They got their candy, but they ended up regretting their decision.
Other kids look around at all the options for fun, but they already knew what they wanted before walking in the door. Those children get their piece of candy too, but they are much happier and satisfied with their choice because they knew going into the store what they would choose.
Just like the candy store, the selection process of what kind of self-employment opportunity to proceed into has to do with knowing yourself and what you want, not just in business, but in your life. This is your life and happiness you are selecting, not just a way to make money or control your schedule.
Two Additional Considerations
There are also two specific things about being self-employed that I want to address up-front. I have struggled with both of these issues and have had to learn to address them in order to successfully continue working for myself.
1. When people go out on their own, they don’t realize how lonely it is or can feel. While some people thrive on being the master of their own destiny, others can work hard to achieve a great business only to leave it and go back to an environment where they have more social interaction.
You should also consider what kind of social work environment you need to be fulfilled and make sure the business model you choose fits that need as well.
2. Being self-employed requires a strong relationship with yourself and your mind. Regardless of any of these options, being your own boss requires a very deep commitment from yourself.
When people talk about the freedom of working for themselves, this next statement is the reality of that freedom: In order to be successful, you must also be very disciplined because no one else is going to run your business for you.
If you understand that going into any of these opportunities, you will be more accepting of what owning a business requires of you. I really love and enjoy being self-employed because I understand and complete the actions of what it takes to be self-employed.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when deciding on which self-employment opportunity fits you best. You may find that in the timeline of your career, you transition through all three of these scenarios as your business and personal needs change. Again, the fluidity of it all is the beauty of being self-employed.
Remember, though: The biggest factor to being successfully self-employed is that you own the business. The business does not own you.
About the Author
Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB (ppsseminars.com), has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 25 years. She is the owner of Massage Business Methods and the developer of PPS (Pain Patterns and Solutions) Seminars CE courses and a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE provider. Her articles for this publication include “Start a Massage Practice. The MT’s Guide to Budgeting for Startup Costs & Monthly Expenses” and “The Client’s Body Does the Healing (The MT Provides the Opportunity).”