Many Paths to a Massage Career: Advice on the Way

Massage Therapy

Jeri Hudson has covered all the angles in her 23-year career as a massage therapist.

She’s worked for herself; been employed by others; run a retail massage supply shop. During her stint as an on-call therapist, she once found herself in the hotel room of a celebrated singer.

These days, Jeri practices in her home studio and at a corporate office, where cubicle workers melt under her 15-minute chair massages.

We asked Jeri to weigh in on the huge variety of career paths open to massage therapists today, including:

On-Site Chair Massage

Massage is a solitary profession. It’s just you and your client, often working in silence. But, in a corporate setting, chair massage lends itself to a lighter, convivial vibe. “On-site massage fulfills my social needs,” laughs Jeri. She enjoys getting to know people in 15-minute bursts, hearing about their lives and families, remembering their sore spots from one month to the next.

Before you jump into on-site office massage, ask about the space you’ll be using: Is it private and quiet, located far from the office kitchen or water cooler? How will you access the space with your chair? What about parking?

On-Call Massage

Some therapists never know from day to day who they’ll be touching or where they’ll be working – and they like it that way. On-call massage therapists might practice at clients’ homes, in hotel rooms or resorts. The downsides? Lugging equipment around town and sometimes working in cramped, unsuitable spaces. Pets can also be a nuisance.

On the other hand, on-call massage is often more lucrative than other settings. Therapists can charge more for those last-minute services, and they often bill clients for travel time.

Self-Employment

“Working for yourself sounds great,” says Jeri, “but it’s really hard.”  For new massage therapists, the self-employment route is probably the hardest way to build a career. Sure, you’ve got all the flexibility you could want, but you have to juggle all the roles that keep a business in the black: bookkeeping, insurance billing, marketing, receptionist and paperwork, to name a few.

Consider partnering with another therapist as you build your client base, or work in a medical or chiropractic office with a reliable flow of potential massage seekers.

Self-Care Counts

In the early days, Jeri knew massage therapists who would book eight services a day. “You’ll never make it,” she recalls thinking. And she was right. They didn’t.

No matter where you offer massage, self-care is paramount. It’s a physically taxing profession, and practitioners run a significant risk of repetitive-motion injuries. Set yourself a reasonable schedule and allow down time. Remember why you wanted to become a massage therapist in the first place.

It’s an approach that has worked for Jeri throughout the twists and turns of her career. When a client arrives in pain, sits in her massage chair and walks out feeling better, she smiles in satisfaction. “That’s the payoff for me,” says Jeri.  “I can’t see myself not doing massage.”

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