There are two main ways massage therapists can do their work: in a private practice or working for someone else.
There are pros and cons to each, and different personality types and work styles will be a better fit for either option.
But one thing that massage therapists may be taking into consideration is how much money they'll make on their own vs. working for an employer.
In this article, we'll cover the factors that go into how much a massage therapist makes, and how that changes if they work for a massage company or if they're self-employed.
Massage Therapist Pay: Private Practice vs. Employee
According to reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average massage therapist hourly wage is $19.17 (2016). However, it's unclear if this rate is based on self-employed massage therapists or employees of massage companies. Or if it's an average of both types of worker.
The main financial difference between a self-employed massage therapist and a massage therapist who works for someone else is likely going to be the total amount of take-home pay the MT will make.
The BLS further states:
In addition to giving massages, therapists, especially those who are self-employed, may spend time recording clients’ notes, marketing, booking clients, washing linens, and conducting other general business tasks. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Massage Therapists
Let's dig into this a little more.
While a therapist in a private practice will set their own rates, there are additional tasks they'll do and expenses they'll have to cover that an employee-based massage therapist won't have.
One of our massage therapists at Incorporate Massage was curious about this, so she took out a calculator and did the math. Here's what she had to say:
"When I operated my own massage business I collected $60/hr for massage. The expenses below outline what that $60/hr paid for before my take-home amount," she said.
"I laid out all of my monthly and annual expenses. When I averaged everything out, I was taking home $34/hr, which is not much different from what I make as employee, but with extra work."
Independent Massage Therapist Expenses
- $293 rent (211 sqft office w/community lobby, bathroom, and kitchen)
- $110 parking
- $50 wifi
- $25-35 marketing
- $20 online scheduling service
- $3.99 Pandora/office music
- $20 Liability insurance/AMTA membership
- $0.99 iCloud Storage (for client files)
- 2.75% fee for ea/transaction w/Square (or 3.5% to key it in instead of swiping)
- $35-50 Laundry service (or for water and soap to do laundry at home)
- Quarterly Income Tax
- $70 state licensing
- $299 website
- $65 domain name/custom email address
- $100-300 Continuing Education (required for license renewal)
- $240 CPA
- $135 Occupational license for office
(Not included in these lists are expenses for office supplies, sheets, lotion/oil, or cleaning service for office space.)
Our therapist says: "They were my actual expenses for each year. I had my own business for 5 years and not all businesses will have all of those fees. Based off the city a massage therapist operates in, they may have more or less fees, but all in all that's a pretty average scenario."
What About Taxes for Massage Therapists?
What about taxes? If you have employee status with a company, your employer pays 6.2% of your federal taxes on each of your paychecks.
That means when it's time to pay your taxes, your employer will have already covered a portion of your taxes for you.
If you are a contractor with a company or you run a private practice, you'll be responsible for 100% of your taxes, though you may be able to write off some of your business expenses which would reduce your taxable income.
Which is Better for Massage Therapists:
Working for Yourself or Someone Else?
There's beauty of the thing is that every massage therapist can pick the option that works best for them.
You can run your own massage practice, work as a contractor for someone else, or work as an employee for a massage company.
You could also do any number of combinations, or try out different opportunities at different times of your career.
It all depends on what you want to do with your day-to-day work. Some massage therapists love tracking their client appointments, marketing their business, and keeping on top of all the little details that come with running a company.
Others just want to show up, provide some massage for clients, and then call it a day.
Still other massage therapists want to do a little of both. And that's ok too!
At Incorporate Massage, many of our massage therapists have their own private practice or work in a spa as well as working massage events with us. If you're interested in learning about what we look for in a massage therapist, click here.