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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Massage Therapy: Independent Contractor or Employee? Weighing the Pros and Cons

You have your license and you are ready to start your career as a massage therapist. That’s great! You still have some tough choices to make though. You probably know that some massage therapists work as independent contractors while others work as employees for a spa or other established business. How should you choose?

First, you need to understand the basic differences between the two types of work. In general, an independent contractor either works on her own or leases out space within an establishment. The individual is responsible for her own expenses and drumming up her own clients. An employee may have set hours and established rules to follow based on the employer. In fact, the Department of Labor has a set of guidelines that distinguishes if a worker is an independent contractor or employee.

Once you are sure you understand the difference between the two, it’s time to weigh your pros and cons for each.

Independent Contractor

Think being your own boss is the way to go? Here are a few things to consider.

      Flexibility – You can set your own hours and work as much (or as little) as you like. This opens up a world of opportunity!
      No income limitations – You choose how much to charge your clients and how many clients you see each week. You don’t have to split that money with an employer.
      Taxes - You don’t have taxes taken out of each paycheck.
      No Non-compete - You won’t have to sign those pesky non-compete agreements if you want to move on to a new location.
      Full Cut – If you charge $60 for an hour-long massage, that’s how much you get to keep (for now).

      Less security – If you can’t find enough clients, you won’t make a lot of money. It’s all up to you.
      No benefits – If you want a 401K retirement plan or health insurance, you have to find it on your own and you won’t get the perks of employer matching. Paid time off or worker’s compensation? Forget about it.
      Equipment and supplies cost – You’re responsible for buying all of your own equipment and supplies from oils, candles, and music, to the right massage table.
      No training – You’re licensed, so you have the skills, but you won’t get any extra training that an experienced employer could provide.
      Taxes – While they don’t come out of each check, you will have to pay income tax as well as self-employment tax. Be ready for that.


Perhaps you’re looking into a job at an established spa. There are things to consider there, too.

      Set Hours – You won’t have to feel guilty for not working all of the time. You can get on a set schedule that works for you and your employer.
      No Client Hunting – Your employer is responsible for finding new clients, not you. For some massage therapists, that’s worth everything.
      Benefits – As an employee, you may get the perks of paid time off, 401K (with a matching percent), and health insurance.
      No Supply Costs – Your employer is responsible for purchasing all massage supplies and equipment.

      Schedule – As an employee, you may have a schedule that isn’t ideal for you. While you may have some paid leave, you won’t have the freedom to take off on a whim.
      You’ll Have a Boss – As an employee, you’ll have a boss and sometimes they’ll make you do things you’d rather not like work overtime.
      A Small Cut of the Massage Price – While the client may pay $60 or more for that hour-long massage, your cut of that may be less than half. The employer needs to pay for those supplies, the electric bill, and insurance, etc.

So what’s the verdict? There really is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on what you want out of your career. As an independent contractor, you may have to work a little harder to make it, but the sky's the limit. On the other hand, working as an employee offers consistency and stability that may appeal to you. Just because you choose one today, doesn’t mean you can’t make a change somewhere down the road.

Regardless of your choice, you are ready to enjoy a rewarding career in the field of massage therapy. Embrace it and enjoy all it has to offer!

About the Author
Robert Ellis is the owner of Massage Tables Now, an e-commerce store that offers massage tables and accessories for massage therapists.

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