If you’re a licensed massage therapist, you have a few different options when it comes to your career path.

You can be an independent massage therapist.

You can be an employee for a spa or massage studio.

Or… you can balance both. 

Check out the pros and cons of being an independent RMT vs an employee.

Plus, learn how you can make the switch from being an massage therapist independent contractor to an employee —  and vice versa!

Looking for specific info? Feel free to jump ahead. 👇

Massage Therapist Independent Contractor vs Employee

There are pros and cons to both massage therapy career paths: independent contractor and employee.

This simple +/- breakdown will help you choose the best option for you.

Pros of Being an Independent RMT

1. Flexibility

One of the biggest perks of being a massage therapist independent contractor is the flexibility it offers. 

You have control over your schedule, allowing you to work when it suits you best. 

If you’re a massage therapist who needs to balance work with other commitments or prefer non-traditional hours, an independent RMT career might be a great fit for you.

2. Higher Earning Potential

As an independent contractor, you have the opportunity to set your own rates and keep a larger portion of your earnings compared to being an employee at a spa.  

With savvy marketing and networking skills, you have the opportunity to attract more clients and increase your income as a massage therapist.

3. Business Ownership

Being an independent massage therapist means you are essentially your own boss. 

You have the freedom to build your brand, choose your clients, and tailor your services to your preferences. 

4. More Diverse Clientele

Independent RMTs often have the flexibility to work in various settings, from spas and medspas (as a contractor, not an employee) to private therapy practices to corporate events. 

This exposure to different working environments allows you to meet a diverse range of clients with unique needs and preferences, enriching your professional experience.

Cons of Being an Independent RMT

1. Self-Employment Responsibilities

Along with the freedom of being your own boss comes the responsibility of managing your massage therapy business affairs. 

This includes handling everything, from administrative tasks (like setting up online booking for appointments and tracking finances) to marketing your massage therapy services — which can feel time-consuming and challenging. 

2. Inconsistent Income

Unlike salaried employees who receive a steady paycheck, independent contractors’ income can fluctuate depending on client demand and seasonality. 

It may take time to build a steady client base, leading to periods of financial instability, especially in the initial stages of your career.

3. Lack of Benefits

Independent contractors typically do not receive employee benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, or retirement plans. 

You’re also responsible for covering your own business expenses, such as equipment, taxes, insurance, and professional development/education, which can definitely add up.

4. Isolation

Working independently can also feel isolating, especially if you primarily operate from a home office or travel to clients’ locations as a mobile massage therapist.

Without coworkers or a supportive team environment, you may miss out on opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and camaraderie.

Pros of Being a Massage Spa Employee

1. Steady Income and Benefits

Two of the main advantages to working as a massage employee are the stability of a steady income and access to employee benefits. 

Most spas and medspas offer benefits, such as health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans — providing financial security and peace of mind.

2. Professional Support

As a massage employee, you have access to a support network of colleagues, managers, and mentors who can offer guidance, feedback, and professional development opportunities. 

If you’re just starting out as a massage therapist, you may be looking for a more collaborative environment that fosters learning and growth.

Because of this professional support, you enhance your skills and advance in your career.

3. Infrastructure and Resources

Spas typically provide the necessary equipment, supplies, and facilities needed to perform your job effectively.

From massage tables and oils to administrative support, having access to these resources allows you to focus on delivering exceptional spa service to clients without worrying about logistical details.

4. Client Referrals

Working as a massage therapist in a spa setting exposes you to a steady stream of clients who are already seeking massage therapy services.

With effective marketing and top-notch customer service, you can build rapport with your clients and earn repeat business, leveraging the establishment’s reputation to grow your client base.

Cons of Being a Massage Spa Employee

1. Limited Autonomy

Unlike independent contractors who have full control over their businesses, employees in spas must adhere to company policies, procedures, and schedules.

This lack of autonomy can feel restrictive for massage therapists who prefer flexibility and autonomy in their work.

2. Lower Earning Potential

While employees may enjoy a steady paycheck and benefits, they often earn less per session compared to independent contractors.

Additionally, spas may take a percentage of your earnings or impose quotas, reducing your overall income potential.

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3. Limited Career Advancement

In some cases, advancement opportunities for employees in spas may be limited, especially if the establishment has a hierarchical structure or lacks opportunities for growth and professional development. 

This can be frustrating for ambitious massage therapists seeking to expand their skills and take on leadership roles.

4. Workplace Politics

Like any workplace, massage spas can have their share of workplace politics, conflicts, and interpersonal dynamics. 

Navigating these relationships and maintaining professionalism can be challenging, especially in close-knit environments with tight schedules and high client expectations.

How to Become a Massage Therapist Independent Contractor

When we talk about how to become a massage therapist independent contractor, we’re basically talking about how you can become a business — party of one.

But first, there are a few pieces to put in place before you start working solo.

Obtain Your Massage License & Certifications

If you’re already working as a massage therapist for a spa, you probably already have the proper massage license and/or certification to work in your area. 

If that’s the case, you’re ready for the next step!

If you’re not already licensed, learn all about massage licenses and certifications in our free guide: How to Become a Licensed Massage Therapist.

Develop a Business Plan

As a massage therapist independent contractor, you are running your own business, so it’s crucial to develop a business plan to guide your efforts.

Take the time to identify:

Determine whether you’ll operate from a home office, rent a studio space, or offer mobile massage services

And lastly… 

Outline your financial projections, budget, and operational logistics to ensure a solid foundation for your business.

Be sure to include line items for equipment, insurance and business licensing, rent and utilities (if you’re going with a studio), paid marketing efforts, and more.

Acquire Liability Insurance

Protecting yourself and your business is paramount when operating as an independent massage therapist. 

Before you start taking clients, be sure to obtain liability insurance tailored specifically to massage therapists to safeguard against potential risks and liabilities. 

Liability insurance provides financial protection in the event of accidents or injuries and enhances your credibility and professionalism in the eyes of clients and prospective employers.

💡Pro Tip: Don’t miss our full breakdown of salon and spa insurance costs: Do I Need Insurance for My Salon or Spa?

Build Your Brand & Online Presence

Establishing a strong brand identity and digital presence is essential for attracting new clients and distinguishing yourself from other massage therapists in your area.

Create a professional website showcasing your massage services, qualifications, testimonials, and contact information. 

Set up business profiles on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, to engage with your target audience, share valuable content, and promote your business. 

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Market Your Massage Services Effectively

Effective marketing is key to success as a massage therapist independent contractor.

On top of your website and social media efforts, explore:

  • Networking events
  • Community outreach
  • Referral programs
  • Partnerships with other local businesses

Maintain Professional Development & Compliance

Since you’re on your own, it’s important to stay up-to-date with industry regulations, best practices, and emerging massage trends to maintain compliance and elevate your skills as a massage therapist. 

Without a manager or business owner to lean on, it’s up to you to participate in continuing education courses, workshops, and seminars to expand your knowledge, refine your techniques, and learn about advancements in the massage industry. 

And of course…

Be sure to stay current with your licensure requirements, insurance coverage, and tax obligations to ensure legal compliance –– and peace of mind.

How to Switch from Massage Therapist Independent Contractor to Employee

If you’re seeking more stability, benefits, and/or professional growth opportunities, switching from an independent massage therapist to an employee can be a strategic move in your career. 

Here’s how to get prepared for the move…

Assess Your Motivation & Goals

Before making the switch, reflect on your motivations and career goals. 

Consider why you’re interested in becoming an employee. 

What specific benefits or opportunities do you hope to gain from this career transition?

Is it access to benefits? A more structured work environment?

Understanding your objectives will help guide your decision-making process.

Research Potential Employers

Research prospective employers in your area, including spas, medical spas, wellness centers, clinics, and massage therapy franchises.

(Check out our list of employment options to consider below!)

Evaluate factors, such as:

  • Reputation
  • Company culture
  • Employee benefits
  • Compensation structure
  • Opportunities for growth and development

💡Pro Tip: Look for organizations that align with your values, offer a supportive work environment, and provide opportunities for professional advancement.

Update Your Resumé & Portfolio

If you’re on the job hunt, a big step is updating your resume, cover letter, and portfolio to highlight your skills, qualifications, and relevant experience as a massage therapist.

When reaching out to potential employers, be sure to tailor your application materials to each prospective employer, emphasizing your strengths and how you can contribute to their team. 

Prepare for Interviews

Prepare for job interviews by: 

  1. Researching the company you’re interested in
  2. Practicing common massage therapist interview questions
  3. Preparing examples that demonstrate your skills and experience

Highlight your ability to work independently as well as collaboratively within a team, your strong communication and interpersonal skills, and your commitment to delivering exceptional client care. 

And of course: Be prepared to discuss your reasons for switching from independent contractor to employee and how you envision contributing to the organization’s success.

Embrace the Employee Mindset

As you transition from a massage therapist independent contractor to employee, our best advice is:

Embrace the employee mindset and approach your new role with enthusiasm, professionalism, and a willingness to learn and grow.

Collaborate with your colleagues and get to know them.

Seek feedback and guidance from your supervisor, and actively participate in team meetings and professional development opportunities. 

Demonstrate your commitment to the organization’s mission and values, and strive to exceed expectations in your role.

Evaluate & Adjust As You Go

As you settle into your new role as an employee, periodically evaluate your satisfaction and progress, and make adjustments as needed. 

Communicate openly with your supervisor about your professional aspirations, challenges, and opportunities for growth.

Seek support and guidance as needed to ensure a fulfilling and successful career journey.

Embrace Growth & Opportunity

Embrace the growth and opportunity that comes with transitioning from an massage therapist independent contractor to an employee. 

Take on new challenges, expand your skills, and seize opportunities for career advancement and personal development.

By embracing this transition with an open mind and a positive attitude, you can position yourself for long-term success and fulfillment in your career as a massage therapist.

Where Can I Work as a Massage Employee?

If you’re considering switching from an independent massage therapist to an employee, you’re likely wondering what your employment options are.

Here are five options for you to consider. 

1. Spas and Wellness Centers

Spas and wellness centers are popular venues for massage therapy employment. 

Massage employees working in spas often provide various types of massages, including Swedish, deep tissue, hot stone, and aromatherapy massages. 

2. Chiropractic Clinics

Massage therapy can be an integral part of chiropractic care. 

It can help patients relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, and enhance overall wellness. 

Working in a chiropractic clinic requires massage therapists to collaborate closely with chiropractors to develop treatment plans tailored to patients’ specific needs and conditions.

3. Fitness Centers and Gyms

Fitness centers and gyms often employ massage therapists to offer therapeutic massages to gym members and clients.

Massage therapy can play a crucial role in promoting post-workout recovery, reducing muscle soreness, and enhancing athletic performance. 

4. Medical Spas and Rehabilitation Facilities

Massage therapists employed in medical spas and rehabilitation facilities may work alongside medical professionals, such as doctors, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

This collaboration provides therapeutic massages for patients recovering from injuries, surgeries, or medical conditions.

5. Hotels and Resorts

Hotels and resorts often offer massage services as part of their amenities to enhance the guest experience and promote relaxation and well-being. 

As a massage therapist employed by a hotel or resort, you can expect to provide in-room or on-site massages to guests seeking relief from travel-related stress, jet lag, or fatigue. 

Massage services offered by hotels can include anything from traditional Swedish massages to specialty treatments, like couples massages or prenatal massages.

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