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The Cons of Working for Yourself as a Massage Therapist

Updated on September 15, 2018
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Leeann Hysaw has earned 11 years of experience in massage therapy having graduated from Lincoln Technical Institute in 2007.

Cons of Self-Employment in Massage Therapy

  • Harder to break into when you are just starting out
  • Higher set up costs
  • Cost of linens and sanitation and keeping your space in compliance with laws and health codes is your problem
  • Income is not guaranteed to come in
  • Advertisements and getting clients in the door is all on you
  • You are the one responsible for keeping up with changing massage laws
  • You are the one who must remember to renew your license, insurances and keep up with CE courses on your own (some employers offer CE courses to their massage therapists)
  • You are the one required to directly deal with problems with clients and client complaints and lawsuits
  • Longer hours working on the business aspects of things
  • You have far more paperwork
  • Loss of community at times, i.e., not having other therapists around to encourage you and exchange techniques, information and ideas.

Harder to Break into When Starting Out

One of the scariest drawbacks to being a self-employed massage therapist is the initial step. It can be challenging to move from a position as a therapist where there is a relative guarantee of clients and income to one where, not only is there no guarantee, but finding clients is all on you. It is essential to build your business up as quickly and effectively as possible, but the biggest hurdle to that is that breaking into a market is hard. Not only do you have to start the business from scratch you also are not well known by the people in the area in an industry where trust is a largely responsible for a person’s bookings. It will take time for people to begin to trust you as a therapist and time for you to iron out all the initial kinks of starting a company so if you want to take this route be sure to start advertising early and have money saved in case the income is slow in coming. An excellent way to counteract this problem is to move to part-time at your place of employment and work part time for yourself for a while. This way, when you're ready to make your own business your priority, you will have most of the marketing aspect of things worked out, and you would have begun building clientele who trust you so that the transition will be easier.

Higher Costs All Around With No Guarantees

When working for a company or massage establishment you usually have the advantage of being able to walk into an already set up building with fresh sheets, lotion and other supplies waiting for you. These things can be expensive particularly if you are starting a new business for yourself and must buy everything from scratch on your own. Not only do you have to buy a whole list of supplies like lotions and oils, sheets, blankets, and pillows but you also must purchase the products and services needed to keep these items and your workspace clean and hygienic at all times. There is a lot of time and money that goes into starting a business that a therapist working for an employer normally does not have to worry about but should begin putting money aside for if they do plan to strike out on their own one day.

It is also important, when talking about costs, to remember that the biggest downside to working for yourself, particularly when you are just starting out, is that your income is going to be inconsistent for a while. Even when larger businesses open their doors, clientele can be spars at first, so a smaller business owner must prepare for a slow start. Business should pick up as time goes on, but it can take a few months or longer in some circumstances for your income to become steady enough to be considered reliable from month to month.

Advertisements and Getting Clients Is On You

Another disadvantage to being a self-employed massage therapist is not having built-in advertisements and clientele. When working for yourself as a therapist, it is essential to get your name out there so that you can bring in clients and make money. This can be difficult and sometimes expensive to accomplish on your own, but when you work for another person or a company, this is typically a responsibility that falls on them and not you. Sometimes these aspects of a business can take up a significant amount of time while you research advertising options, prices and draft up a proper marketing technique. Being able to focus on massage and your clients alone can be ideal for some therapist so, before you leave your job, be sure to consider whether you are willing to take on these responsibilities and pressures and if you even have the time in your day to do it.

Laws, Licenses, Insurance and CE Courses

Most therapists must keep track of when its time to renew their license and their insurances but when working for yourself there are many other things one must keep track of to keep things legal. Laws change often. Sometimes laws regarding how a massage business should run or licenses they are required to have will be switched up as will the amount of education necessary to keep your license. The downside to working for yourself can come I this way, no one helping you manage these changes and expectations. Many businesses will have managers keep track of their therapist’s credentials and then give them reminders when specific deadlines are coming up. Many also will offer courses for their therapists that will keep them up to date on new laws and information as well as help them keep up with their required CE courses. These reminders can be very helpful for a person who is busy or forgetful and something that may be difficult for such a person to adjust to if they leave a traditional job to be self-employed.

Client Problems, Complaints and Lawsuits

Self-employment also requires the therapist to be more directly involved with the clients when it comes to business matters. It can be nice, when seeing your clients, to focus on the session and to help them feel better but when you work on your own and you also have to manage a business and that sometimes means your clients are not going to be happy, and that is going to be your problem. Many therapists have a hard time trying to sell memberships let alone explaining to an irritated client why their session time needs rescheduling or why you can't give them a free massage because of it. The business still must run as a business if you are to be successful and that can be hard to manage for some therapists. It is essential to know what you are going to need to deal with as a self-employed therapist and whether you feel you can handle that. Some businesses often will aide their therapists in lawsuits as well but if you are on your own that can all fall on you so do your research and be prepared.

Longer Hours and Paperwork

Of course, everyone knows that when working for yourself you inevitably take on many more responsibilities, meaning, the work that is generally distributed among many workers within a business would mostly have to settle all upon you. The work of the cleaner, the therapist, the manager, the laundress, and the marketing team is all your work plus so much else. Be prepared when working for yourself for many more hours of work than you usually would because your work will no longer be the massage alone. You will be receiving more money for the work you do so you may not have to massage as often as it is. However, many self-employed individuals still consider that they work more than 40 hours a week, often well over it, to complete all the tasks they need to to keep their business going and keep it healthy.

Loss of Community at Times

Despite all the other drawbacks to being self-employed, there is one that is probably more detrimental to your state of mind. That is the loss of community. When working for an employer, you get to communicate with other therapists on a regular. This interaction allows you to converse with them, exchange techniques and ideas and help each other through tough times or other problems. This is a community that often helps each other. It can be difficult for a therapist to lose this connection with other therapists though there are ways around it. One can find friends in the field and work at keeping these friendships however it can be easier when you are continually working side by side. If you do decide to work for yourself, try to make strong connections with other therapists because they are a great way of keeping yourself healthy and happy.


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