Massage therapy training appeals to diverse students in part because as a profession, it is particularly flexible. Aside from an intrinsic appreciation of their vital role in the health care community, massage therapists also enjoy the freedom of selecting from a range of career possibilities. Graduates may prefer a stationary appointment at a sports massage clinic, a short term contract aboard a cruise ship – or a myriad of options in between. Whether it is mobility you’re after and the ability to set your own hours, or building long term relationships with a returning clientele, it’s critical that RMTs understand their business options as practitioners – and the pros and cons of those professional decisions.
Many registered massage therapists choose to join established clinics, which are often interdisciplinary in nature. In some cases, you will be the only MT on staff collaborating with other practitioners like chiropractors, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, and naturopathic physicians. On the plus side, you may benefit from an in-house referral process –if they’re advertising for an MT, chances are they have an established patient base to whom they will promote your services. Or perhaps you’re covering a parental leave and will inherit a loyal following. Certain practices have marketing strategies in place, like a website and social media presence, and you may be invited to use these to promote yourself.
It’s crucial to inquire about the existing (or non-existing) client base when you interview for a clinic position, because patients are not always a foregone conclusion. Some clinics are new, or a departing MT may have taken his/her clients with them. It come cases, you will need to develop self-marketing strategies in the local community, either to increase your current client list or build it up from scratch.
Another key aspect of becoming an independent contractor at a clinic is understanding the conditions of your contract. Clinics charge MTs a monthly fee, often a percentage of revenue, for a massage space - this fee may or may not include amenities such as massage oil, lotions, linens, massage table, online bookings, reception service, debit/credit machines, and on-site laundry. These essential extras may constitute additional costs that you’ll have to factor carefully into your budget, and should certainly be completely aware of before signing a contract. On the other hand, you may share the responsibility or cost of, say, reception services with other clinic practitioners or the cost of amenities could be included in your rent. Either way, you should have a sense of what these extras costs or responsibilities are so you can spot the very best deal for you.
Graduates of massage therapy certification programs often become independent contractors, leasing out their services to a range of clients. Resorts and cruise ships typically pay a small base salary, and the MTs main source of income is tips and commission. Clinics may offer a commission-based structure as well, pay the MT per massage, a flat rate, or offer them a percentage of the treatment price – usually starting at around 60%. Like many characteristics of the profession, there is wiggle room and flexibility when it comes to money matters. Understand your options to make the most personally beneficial arrangement.
For some MTs, operating as a sole practitioner is the most convenient, flexible, and rewarding business option, and could include a home-based or mobile business. You must arrange insurance and appropriate licensing, but you don’t have to worry about negotiating a contract with a clinic. You set your own rates and choose your own hours. However, without an established clinic behind you, with its associated credibility and potential referrals, marketing yourself will be almost a full time job. You’ll likely need to volunteer your services to start, and attend community networking events.
Also, you should consider the location of your clinic or home office and how easy it is for patients to access. If you’re traveling to clients, you will need to evaluate just how much time is spent in transit and calculate your rates accordingly - but you should be able to charge a premium for bringing your services right to their door. Many mobile MTs provide massages at sporting events like marathons and golf tournaments. They market their services to corporations and target trade shows and conventions. Choosing the home-based or mobile business option certainly provides freedom and flexibility, but it also takes steadfast dedication during the early stages of development.
Which massage therapy business option appeals most to you?