Comparing Private Massage Practice to Massage Envy—one therapist’s perspective

Massage Envy Northgate therapist Sarah Palmer_3811 cropby Sara Palmer, LMT
Massage Envy, Northgate Mall in Seattle

I was born with a genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlose Syndrome… I can dislocate a joint at any time, and have broken more than 25 bones. Throughout my life I’ve received massage, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative treatment to help me recover from these injuries. Thanks to the many positive experiences I had in receiving treatment, I was inspired to go into the field myself.

In 2009, I enrolled in Bellevue Massage School as I felt I would receive the best education there, due to their smaller, more personal class sizes, maximum hands-on time, and partnership with Bastyr University.

As a student, I began thinking about what type of massage career would eventually suit me… not just in terms of my body, but in terms of my personality and strengths.

Massage practitioner therapist position job seattle massage envy_3812I love to learn… I’m the type of person who always has a million questions, and I felt that if I worked on my own, or in a chiropractor’s or other medical professional’s office, I would have less opportunities to learn from other therapists.

I am also a social butterfly. Working in a small practice with only a few coworkers would have been hard for me.

One week, Bellevue Massage School had a massage therapist named Steven Wadsworth come in to teach a special class on Manual Ligament Therapy. During the class he happened to mention that he was an employee at one of the Massage Envy locations, so after class I asked him what working for a massage franchise was like.

His response was encouraging: “You’ll be as busy as you want to be, you get to choose the schedule you wanna have, and at the end of the day you walk out and you’re done.”

Upon graduating I decided to give Massage Envy a try… working first at Bellevue, then at the Queen Anne location as the Lead Massage Therapist, and now at the Northgate location. Here are three of the many things I’ve learned:

1) Do a Realistic Wage Comparison

On the surface, working for Massage Envy might look like you’re going to earn less per hour.

But when I compared it to working on my own — factoring in all of the time I would have to spend doing advertising, booking, confirming appointments, managing paperwork (I hate paperwork with a passion!), laundry, and cleaning the room, not to mention room rental, massage supplies, business license, insurance, and taxes — I realized the comparison was not equal.

I did the math on being self-employed. Getting started, getting my business set up… for every hour of massage I would get paid for, I would have 2 additional hours of unpaid administrative and upkeep. That ratio wasn’t worth my time.

So yes, you might be able to charge $70 an hour if you’re own your own, but don’t forget those dollars must cover all of the extra time you’ll spend running your business.

2) Not Every Massage Envy is Created Equal

Every Massage Envy franchise is a small family run business. Some are really great, some are not so great. It really does matter who the individual franchise owner is.

Do your research. Try to find out from people who have worked at a specific location what the owner is like. If you can, find someone who works there to sit down with and interview. Ask about hours, schedules, and expectations, but most of all, ask about benefits.

Very few Massage Envy franchises provide the level of amazing healthcare benefits (including dental and vision!) that our franchise owner does here at our Shoreline and Northgate locations… not to mention paid sick leave, and free or significantly reduced Continuing Education.

When you find an amazing owner (like the one we have here at Shoreline and Northgate), working for a Massage Envy franchise means you get to have a relationship with the owner. Not only is that pretty unique in a corporate setting, but the right owner can be a tremendous source of learning and support for you as a therapist… especially in our case, where our owner is a Massage Therapist herself.

3) Not Everyone is Cut Out to Run a Business

When I clock out at end of my work day at Massage Envy, my only thoughts are about my life. I don’t have to worry about the business, think about getting new clients, hassle with insurance companies, juggle a million loads of laundry, or deal with administrative tasks.

My clients are found and scheduled for me. My room is cleaned, equipped, heated, and supplied for me. My marketing, advertising, and website are done for me. My hours are flexible — I can work as much or as little as I need to. When I’m sick, I have healthcare coverage and sick pay. When it’s time to take a class, I get a reduced rate.

All I have to do is be a responsible employee… change massage table linens, put face cradles into the washing machine now and then, coordinate with the staff to set my schedule, and keep my license, skills and education up to date. Being a good therapist goes without saying.

Working at Massage Envy, all I need to do is focus on healing and learning more about massage. Which is why I got into the business in the first place!