Massage Independent Contractors

Most massage jobs are usually massage independent contractor positions that are created by massage employers.  This topic is one that I have talked about frequently on my website and in the blog.  I am not a lawyer and in each situation you really should consult an attorney to help you figure out your correct status.  Even attorneys will have varying answers to the same situation.

Here are some references to what others are saying about IC vs massage employees so you can start to try to figure out what your status is.  (It is my personal belief that most IC positions should actually be paid employees with full employee benefits and that many employers are taking advantage of massage therapists.)  It is up to the employer to figure out the correct status as it is the employer who will be penalized by the IRS for back taxes and also the state unemployment taxes that would have to be paid.

Felica Brown says this from her article for Massage and Bodywork in 2003:

By definition, an independent contractor is a business (therapist) that works independently of the business, such as a salon, by which it has been contracted. What this means, more or less, is that the contracting business (salon) has a very marginal amount of control over the smaller independent business (therapist). This statement translates into a set of requirements (see box) instituted by the Internal Revenue Service to determine whether to classify workers as employees or independent contractors. For example, supplies, advertising and equipment should be provided by the independent contractor, not the salon. Additionally, uniforms, schedules and rules are not supposed to be required or imposed.

Ken Cassidy who is an advocate for spa professionals and also has a business kit for spa businesses to help them determine their status.  In his article for Massage and Bodywork Magazine” Independent Contractor, Employee, Booth Renter: Which Piece Am I?”

The alarming truth is 90 percent of all businesses in the beauty and wellness professions are operating incorrectly under the wrong classification, which can lead to trouble for both the owner and the renter when facing taxes, not to mention unemployment and/or disability.

In May 2000, the IRS published an educational pamphlet detailing the differences between an independent contractor, employee and booth renter (Publication 3518, Catalog 73164X). Regardless, many are still unknowingly operating illegally. Let’s take a closer look at the three categories in order to become more familiar with the similarities and differences.

Dixie Wall from Massage Today has this to say

The financial control category of an employee usually is seen as an extension of the employers set business structure. Independent contractors are more likely to have non-reimbursed expenses and an investment in the facilities he or she uses. Moreover, the method of payment from the business to worker is paid as a flat fee, rather than an hourly wage.

Future LMT at Massage Magazine has an outline of 20 things to consider to determine your status.  Massage and Bodywork Magazine has a short list of things to consider.

The IRS Website has a whole section on employees vs independent contractors.

The best description I have read is in the book “Therapeutic Chair Massage” by Ralph Stephens in which you can read the except at Google Books for free.

So with all of that how can you figure out what status you want and what you want to be paid?  What is a fair amount to make?  Is it legal to pay a percentage to an employer or to be paid a percentage of the massage fee by the employer as in IC?  I have heard so many different stories about different situations that arise.  It gets hard to make a decision when you need a job and money but going with your guts you will also be able to know if you think the offer is appropriate for you.  It is hard to pass up jobs that you have just an inkling that something that isn’t right.  If you have to take these jobs go into them knowing that you will be learning a lot and will have some difficult challenges ahead.  Take the time to figure out what it is that you really want to be getting out of a job or IC position and what you need to make to make a Great living or just get by until you find something better.   Here are some things to consider:

  • Who will provide things like the table, massage oils/lotions, pillows, sheets, laundry service, insurance billing?
  • Who will be doing what to get clients on the table?
  • Who does advertising, marketing and rebooking?
  • Who will book the appointments?
  • Who will collect the fees?
  • Who will do the insurance billing if any?
  • Who does the insurance money come to? You or the employer?  Who pays who what and when?
  • Who owns the chart notes and client files?
  • What do you need to make per hour?  How many hours do you need to work each week?
  • Who decides what hours you work?
  • Who pays taxes?

So being a massage independent contractor or being a massage employee is no simple answer.  Figure out what you want and then find a situation that you can live with.  I am also curious to hear more stories of different situations out there.  Post them here so others can learn!

It is the massage employers responsibility to actually figure this out as they will be the ones who will be penalized if they don’t have it set up right.  You can use that bit of info to your advantage.

Use this form at the IRS to determine Your status!
SS 8

Massage Therapists as Independent Contractors

Massage therapists are most commonly hired as independent contractors for a massage business.  That basically means you are self employed. I have written a lot about the independent contractor status and how to figure out if you are an employee or contractor.

What most massage therapists also want to know is how to set up the contract with the business and figure out what is fair and what works.  There is no set answer or any one answer.  What works best for you, is what works best for YOU!  There are so many different things to consider that only you can really know and decide what to put in the contract.   The first thing really is yes- get a written contract and even get an attorney to help you set it up if you are unsure of anything.

You have to consider what the employer will be doing for you.

  • Will they be sending you all the clients?
  • Will they be providing all of the supplies such as a table, sheets, pillows, lotion etc?
  • Will they have someone answering the phones to make your appointments?
  • If so, who will be training them on what to say about your work and availability etc?
  • Who will be collecting the money?
  • How will you be paid?  If you are an IC, you usually create an invoice and give it to the employer and get paid each week or whatever is determined.
  • Will there be insurance billing involved?  If so, ask who will be doing the billing and how much will be charged for the massage services?  Often employers will overcharge insurance companies mainly because the insurance companies will just usually pay, although they are starting to get wise to that.  (You will need my Insurance Billing 101 for Massage therapists)
  • How much marketing will you have to do?  Will you need your own website?  Will you need your own referral system?  Will you need to get doctors or others to refer to you?
  • Will you be doing laundry and bookkeeping in between clients or when you don’t have a client?
  • How much will you be paid when you have a client and how much will you be paid when you don’t have a client?
  • What happens when a client doesn’t show up or is late?  How much will you get paid?  How much will they charge for a no show?  Will they expect you to go the full time when someone is late?

When you take all of these things into consideration, you will have more info so that you can then do the math as to how much you should be paid per session.  How much time will you be putting into working there?  How much time will the employer be putting in?

How much do you need to make to make a living and pay the bills, take nice vacations, put the kids through college and retire someday?  What will you need to make per hour so you don’t feel resentful of the employer or the client?  How many clients can you reasonably (physically, mentally and emotionally) see each week?

Let me know if there are other things that you need to consider when signing a contract with an employer for an independent contractor position.


Massage Jobs – Working for chiropractors

Working for chiropractors is often challenging but if you like doing injury work and seeing a lot of clients who were in car accidents and who are in pain from sitting too much on the computer, a massage job in a chiropractors office could be what you are looking for.  Massage and chiropractic work can be very complimentary.  Massage loosens the tight muscles to help get better adjustments and help the adjustments hold longer.

Here are some of things to consider:

  • May be shorter 1/2 hour or even 15 minute sessions – can you work quickly and efficiently?
  • Work with chiropractor on each case or some difficult cases.  You could learn a lot from the right chiropractor.  It could also cause issues if the chiropractor is too controlling and doesn’t understand the full impact that massage has and what massage can do.
  • Must be efficient in taking chart notes and writing reports for insurance companies.   Charting will be what can make or break a case especially one that goes to court or arbitration/mediation.  SOAP notes is the most common form.  Learn how to chart quickly and accurately.  Read the information on SOAP notes and functional outcomes at
  • Most work as an independent contractor which can be very confusing to figure out.  As a contractor you should be able to come and go and set your own hours but it is often not the case.  It is up to the chiropractor (employer) to figure out the correct status as they will be paying for the fines if found to be using independent contractors illegally.
  • You will be working with conditions like whiplash, head injuries, broken bones and strains/sprains from car accidents.  Get more training in handling these conditions if needed.
  • Learn about billing insurance companies even though you most likely won’t have to bill yourself.   Chiropractors seem to be notorious for charging high amounts for sessions done and then turning around and not paying the massage therapist their fair share keeping a higher percentage of the fees for themselves.  While I am all for businesses making money, a massage employee will be much happier and stay longer when paid a decent salary so that they can make a living.  You should be able to make $35-$50 an hour depending on what the chiropractor charges for your services.   If you are doing heat/cold packs they can sometimes add charges for that.  The real problems happen when the client comes in with an insurance case and then later becomes a cash client.  Trying to explain a very large difference in price can be difficult
  • Get it all in writing.  Create a employment or subcontractor agreement and write down as many details as you can.  For more on employment contracts see the main site

Any other suggestions or ideas?

Common Sense Massage Job Interview Skills

Common Sense Massage Job Interview Skills should be taught in basic massage school.  In case you missed that class here is a list of my favorite simple things you can do to ace a massage job interview:

  • Dress as a business professional.  Even though you are doing relaxing massage doing massage for a living is about creating and running a business.  Show the employer that you are serious about your work.  Even though massage tends to be a casual dress environment you will be sure to stand out when you dress up and dress more like a business person.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Come with questions for the interviewer.  Find out if they are a match for you!
  • You don’t have to take the first job that is offered to you.  Make sure the job is a fit for you so you don’t waste your time or the managements time.  For more ideas on what to ask see my Massage Job Guide – How to Find or Create Your Ideal Massage Job.
  • Be on time!  Be early in fact!  That shows you are serious about your commitments and work.
  • Be prepared to do a massage as part of the interview.  Do a full intake as you would with a real client.  Show the interviewer that you know how to work with the conditions that clients bring to the table and know how to address their needs.  Learn how to do an interview that gets you the answers you need to work more efficiently and effectively to get the results that client is expecting.
  • Get a professional email address.  Don’t use your or address.

What tips to you have for people in a job interview?

Massage Therapy Job Interviews

I found this great list of massage therapy job interview questions on

  • What did you like about your massage school training?
  • Was there anything you felt was lacking in your training or something you would like to have been different?
  • Why did you choose massage therapy as your profession?
  • What do you like about it?
  • Do you get massage regularly yourself?
  • What do you do to maintain your own health?
  • How many clients do you typically see in a day?
  • Is that a good number of people for you to see in a day?
  • How long do you work on each person?
  • Have you had or do you have a private practice?
  • How many private clients do you see each week?
  • Why did you leave your various jobs?
  • Did you have any difficulty with the management at any of your other jobs? If so, can you describe that for me?
  • Can you give me an example of an area in yourself that you think could use some improvement or further development?
  • Were you ever fired? If so, why?
  • Have you ever been in an uncomfortable situation with a client asking for something inappropriate? If yes, what did you do?
  • Do you tend to make friends with your clients?
  • What are the pros and cons of making friends with clients?
  • If you got upset with me or any of the staff — for example, if you felt you had been spoken to disrespectfully — how might you handle that?
  • Have you ever felt attracted to any of your clients? If so, what did you do with those feelings?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had difficulty with a client or an employer and how you handled it?
  • How would you handle a client who arrived 20 minutes late for a 50-minute massage?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Did your school offer any classes pertaining to working?

I also have a list of massage therapy job interview questions on my website.

Then there are the obvious things like wear nice clothes, take your piercings out, don’t wear shorts and a tank top.  Also be prepared to do a massage as a part of your interview.

Go in knowing what you want from a job and what you need to make.  Tell them what you need to make an hour.  You can negotiate your salary but you will also need to give them some proof that you are worth it.  What will you do to help them build their buisiness?