Is it Better to Work as an Independent Massage Therapist?

The massage therapy industry is in the middle of a boom. Part of it has to do with new medical research, which continues to show the benefits of massage therapy. Part of it also has to do with the growing popularity of wellness and self-care techniques. A regular massage therapy session is a great way not only to receive great physical benefits, but also to help reduce stress and anxiety. People know this, and are coming out in unprecedented numbers to reap the benefits.

This means that it’s good time to be a massage therapist, or to be considering massage therapy as a career. As massage continues to gain relevance and credibility as an important health and wellness tool, the opportunities for career success in this field will multiply. It deserves to be said up front, however, that wanting to be part of a thriving industry is not enough. The massage therapists that really do well over the long term are always those who have a genuine passion for their work.

But let’s say you’re ready to commit and enroll in a school. Or perhaps you’re already in a program, or have graduation, and are wondering what your first (or next) move is going to be. Are you going to work for a spa or wellness center, and be part of a team? Or are you going to step out on your own and work as a freelance massage therapist?

The benefits of going freelance are tempting. You set your own schedule and prices, and you get to keep all of the money you earn. You can work hard and building a dedicated clientele, and over time, you can do quite well for yourself. You may have heard some success stories of freelance massage therapists who love what they do and earn a very good living doing it. These stories are true.

But consider the importance of experience, ongoing training, and dedication to the healing art of massage therapy. Many of the most highly-successful freelance therapists have years of experience working in hotels or spas. The truth is that for many new therapists who are just starting out, working with a team of professionals is a good way to gain vital experience and hone your skills. You’re in touch with other therapists every day, and you can share knowledge and techniques. Like any working relationships, some are smoother than others, but the experience is all worthwhile.

Other people are a knack for building their own clientele, and for delivering quality massage. People respond to them right away, and they quickly form a solid reputation. It’s definitely possible to be a good freelancer out of the gate, but it’s not for everyone.

This brings us to a final point, which is that a good massage therapy school will always include “real world” and business knowledge into the coursework. Too often, students enter the field with the technical skills they need, but without any knowledge of the various business choices involved in the career of a massage therapist. That’s definitely something to think about as you choose a school and embark on the beginning of your career in this booming industry.