There is no denying the massage and wellness industry is here to stay. People are becoming far more proactive with their health care and are looking to alternatives to heavy medications and a costly doctor visit.
Recognizing there is opportunity for those who choose to chase it, there are many ways you can be involved in the massage health care field. You can be your own boss and open your own practice, you can contract your services to other entities, or you can become an employee. Let’s discuss these opportunities and I want to offer you some points to ponder as you are making your decisions regarding how you will proceed in your career.
While I am cognizant and wholly recognize and respect that those who choose to enter the massage field are compassionate, giving, kind and generous, I am also here to tell you that you must be able to make a living in order for you to be all these things while utilizing the education you have paid to obtain. I know many therapists who feel somewhat guilty for having to even charge for a massage and then hugely undervalue their services as a result. This makes making ends meet much harder than it should be. While I applaud this giving nature, and I certainly do not knock this in any way, (as heaven KNOWS the world could use more people with a giving heart) I would say this type of individual may not make the best entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur means building a business to make a profit. If you find you feel a twinge of guilt to charge the appropriate and customary rates to provide your skills, you might want to look at becoming an employee.
Entrepreneur or Employee Entrepreneurship means being competitive. Do not get me wrong, I do not consider being competitive a bad thing in the least! (I have been known to be quite competitive and it is part of my nature.) Nor do I consider it a bad thing to wish to provide your skills free or nearly free of charge. (I have also been known to do that on occasion as well.) What I am saying is it takes a specific mind set to build a prosperous and profitable practice. You must be willing to take chances, to take charge, to stand fast on your pricing, to manage your marketing, your brand, your retail, your facility, your overhead, your ordering of supplies, your capital expenditures for equipment, and your own bookkeeping to name just a few of the responsibilities of owning a thriving business. Many are satisfied with making only what is needed to survive, while others feel the drive to build a bigger, better, more “bionic” practice that can support them in a bit grander fashion. Neither is a bad decision, but being honest with yourself about the inner desires you have, as well as the skill set you have is paramount to your success in either direction.
As an employee, you have the luxury of not having to order your own products, you often have benefits and you can usually count on a pretty regular paycheck. This is less risky and can allow you to do that which you love while not having to work at the actual upkeep of a business. You come in, you do your thing, you complete your side work and you go home. You can leave it and not think about it again until you go back to work. For many, this is a blessing. I have to say I can certainly see the appeal of being an employee, especially from a personal time perspective. An entrepreneur rarely has the opportunity to “clock out” and not think about their business. It is always on their mind, and they are constantly vigilant for any opportunity they might find to increase traffic and support more clients. Rarely are they ever “off the clock.” The actual time performing massage is just the tip of the iceberg for the entrepreneur, while for an employee it is the crux of the job, with little or no additional responsibility for operational expenses or further financial risk. Depending on how your personality is wired, both might have appeal.
For those who see both sides of the coin as appealing and would really prefer to have a little bit of both worlds, I might suggest becoming a contract employee. Being a contract employee is really being your own boss, as you will regulate the hours you work, the facilities you will work within, and the number of clients you see daily. You may or may not have to provide your own equipment or supply, as those needs can change with the contracts in which you enter. You are responsible for your own taxes and reporting, but you get many perks from an earnings perspective that you can use at tax time. These should be discussed with your tax professional for greater clarity, but it is certainly something to entertain when you are deciding to become a contract employee. This can be a rewarding and positive way to enter into the field, but it is not without risk.
An example of a contractor relationship would be that of a chiropractic office that works closely with an independent therapist, sometimes even leasing them space within the facility, and paying them per client. Depending on the agreement with the doctor, you may receive all or only a portion of the charges to the client. You should be skilled at negotiation and not be afraid to ask for what you want. Contract employment is not for the timid, and you are your own best advocate. Without the ability to negotiate in the contractual relationship, you can often find yourself with the fuzzy end of the lollipop at the end of the day, working and making little for your efforts. Savvy relational skills are a must for a contractor.
Just as it is with the world around us, it takes all kinds of people to make a community. No way is better or more glamorous than another; it is simply a different means to the same end. We do not enter this field without the desire to help others. This is really the ultimate goal. How you go about finding your niche in this growing marketplace is really up to you. You need not choose only one option. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to try each of them on for size and see where you feel the most comfy. At the end of the day, you have to pay your bills and you need to be sure you are doing something that makes you happy. Find your happy spot and dig in. You can have it your own unique way, and never let anyone tell you otherwise.
By Angie Patrick, Director of Corporate Sales & Business Development, Massage Warehouse