Diary of a Massage Therapist
Some of you know me already. My name is Jennifer Bonessi, formerly Shaw, and I’ve been a massage therapist with a private practice in Austin since 2007. You may also know, I was the Marketing Director at Lauterstein-Conway Massage School for several years. I have also worked for a massage chain but I also have experience in everything from childcare to cold-calling and sales, human resources and accounting. Currently, I am a blogger, freelance marketing consultant and yoga instructor.
Why is my job history relevant? Because, at one time or another, I did all these jobs while building and running a private massage practice. And, according to the American Massage Therapy Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), in 2012, so did 81 percent of all massage therapists.
While there is nothing easy about a job well done, it is absolutely possible to balance a second job and earn extra income as a licensed massage therapist. Like any job, there are barriers to success, but the benefits are worth it.
Benefits: How Much Do Massage Therapists Make?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get about being a massage therapist. People know what they pay a massage therapist to serve them, but often times, they don’t understand how often we work, therefore having no concept of our income potential as their massage therapist.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013 the median annual wage for massage therapists was just shy of $36,000. The highest earning 10 percent in the profession made just over $70,000, and the bottom 10 percent made a salary $18,400 annually.
The AMTA reports in 2012, the average massage therapist made an annual salary of more than $20,000 working, on average, 17 hours per week. The average hourly wage was $31/hour, taking into account therapists who work for themselves and those who work in other settings.
Personally, I charge $70 per hour for a Swedish massage. Though I have often had my own space, these days I rent a room by the hour to keep my overhead low, and like the industry average, I’ve worked anywhere from 4-20 hours each week, depending on my life and the time of the year. I live off my primary, freelance income and use the extra income I earn from massage to take trips, build my savings and manage common life issues like, for example, a broken down car.
The extra income massage affords me, and the control I have over it, is really helpful to my family.
Other Benefits of Massage as a Second Job
- Benefit: If you have to take a second job, shouldn’t it be something powerful? Performing massage therapy to relax or ease the pain of our fellow humans is hugely rewarding. For this reason, often times after a session I don’t feel like I’ve worked at all, but I’ve earned some money and helped someone in the process.
- Benefit: Massage therapy, even if you work for a chain, is very flexible. Often times you can make your own hours, even with clients clamoring for certain timeslots. If I have something happening one evening of the week, I just take it off. If I need a boost in income before the weekend, I make sure I’m working!
- Benefit: During your massage sessions, you design the pace and movement of your time with the client. If you need to sit, there are plenty of things you can do while sitting. If you’ve already been sitting all day, you can move around.
Barrier: Time Management
As with anything, there are struggles anyone with a second job faces that do apply to this profession, as well. The most hindering barrier I experienced to having a successful second career as a massage therapist was (and still is) related to time management.
Being available to your clients is critical to success, and with a primary job that is largely controlled by someone or something else – a boss or a deadline – it is often a complicated matter to be readily accessible to massage clients. In my early days, I found myself begging bosses to let me work during my lunch hour, so I could get off an hour early for a session or take a longer lunch, so I could squeeze a session in between work hours. But I did it! And one of those clients I smashed in between other obligations is still with me six years later.
Those interested in earning extra income working evenings and weekends should know, whether you work for yourself or a massage chain, this goal is completely achievable if you choose to pursue massage as a second career. Even if you need to perform massage during the daytime hours, eventually, regardless of your schedule, you will build a base of regular massage clients with whom you have rapport and who understand your availability and will be willing to accommodate you just as much as you are willing to accommodate them.
Other Barriers to Massage as a Second Job
- First, if you don’t make an effort, you will not get any of the benefits this career can offer you. If you can’t market yourself, organize your business or struggle with time management, consider working for a massage chain or spa. The chains manage all the grunt work. You just have to show up!
- If you are shy about talking with others about your work, you may struggle. Since referrals and regular clients are the foundation of your success, people have to know what you do.
- Don’t get rusty, either! When business is slow be sure to practice. Because massage as a second job means you are likely doing it less frequently than your day job and certainly less frequently than a full-time therapist, you need to keep your skills in tune.
Massage therapy is a rewarding second career. If you are seriously considering taking on a second job, I encourage you to learn more about this profession by talking to your massage therapist and by interviewing the admissions counselor at a local massage school. Finally, take a hard look at your income needs and current work schedule. Massage is a great second career, and even though it is still work, you can do it! It’s work worth doing.