Massage Franchise Jobs – The good, the bad and the downright ugly.

massage franchise jobsMassage Franchise Jobs have changed the job market in the massage profession.  Every year, more and more franchises open up around the US, making massage more popular and providing plenty of jobs for massage therapists.

The thing is that jobs at massage franchises entry level pay is $8-$15 an hour.  You can really get a massage at Walmart instead and be better off.  The franchises claim that you make up the difference in tips but tipping is really optional and not the norm especially when the massage is so inexpensive to start with.

Massage Franchises have been such a mixed blessing for the massage profession.  More and more are popping up all over the US and Canada.  You might have seen one or been to one.  Massage Heights, Massage Envy, Elements Massage, MassageLuxe, Lavida, and many others are opening up shops and are growing like crazy.

A franchise is really just a proven system for doing business – everything from the business set up, getting clients and building the business are laid out in the franchise system.  The thing is that each franchise is owned by someone different or sometimes one person will own a few in a specific area of town.  Each owner will run their business slightly different but still with the same basic model of operations.

The franchises offer low cost massage on a membership basis with people paying a monthly fee to receive one massage a month.  Sounds good so far – more people getting more massage.

The Good

 Franchises have indeed provided many more jobs for people in the massage profession.  In the mid-90s when there was a significant increase in the number of schools with everyone jumping on the band wagon because massage was becoming more popular.  With the increase in the number of students, the schools needed places for these people to work so that they could be successful.  There were also more younger people going to massage school when it always has been more of second career option or a part time career option.  In a way, it was perfect timing for one of the first massage franchises – Massage Envy to start.  It was started by John Leonesio in about 2002. It has been through a few different owners and is currently owned by the same company that owns Cinnabon -Roark Capital. (I am waiting for them to start offering cinnamon rolls at every Massage Envy!)

Massage franchises continue to grow with new franchises and new locations starting very frequently.  They offer low cost massage – usually $25-$60 an hour (with most other massage businesses charging between $60-$150 an hour for a massage) and hire massage therapists to be employees at the hourly salary of about $12-$20 an hour. On that wage, massage therapists income will then depend on tips which then actually make the price of the massage around the same amount as other massage businesses.  Many of these franchises also offer other benefits like continuing education training.

Franchises have also done so much good by donating money and time to foundations and associations.  They also will advertise on TV and in major magazines such as Oprah to give the massage profession more exposure.  It was once mentioned that all this advertising is giving the profession so much exposure because only about 25% of the people who go into a franchise become paying monthly members.

Sound good so far?

The Bad

How can something that sounds so good, become a bad thing for the massage profession?  The issue really is – does the low cost massage make it harder for other massage businesses to succeed?  Most independently owned massage businesses can not stay in business if they charged such low fees.  They need to make a living on their massage work.  Since most massage therapists can not work more than about 30 hours max doing actual hands on work because of the physical demands of the job, most will need to charge more to make ends meet.

Are the low fees hurting the massage profession?  Does it de-value what massage therapists do?

Yes.  Anytime a business starts lowering fees, other businesses will lower their fees to compete.  It is just business basics.  When businesses compete on price, no one wins.  It takes a toll on the people who work at the business, on the company itself and on the profession as a whole.

Are people really getting the best massage possible under such circumstances?  When you start paying employees less and less, they are less inspired to give their best work to a company.  I am not saying that all massage therapists who work at a franchise do this and I am not trying to bash the people who work there.  I know that there not many other options for better paying jobs.

The many complaint boards online and reviews on review sites often show a different story.  How can something so good, get so many complaints.  Yes, I realize that the complaints are getting out of hand with being able to do it anonymously online but just compare it to other businesses.

If it isn’t the low fees, it is the low pay for therapists.  You just can’t make a living wage there for the most part.

The turnover of therapists is usually high at these businesses making it difficult to establish a working relationship with a really good massage therapist.  When someone leaves, the client has to start the process of finding a good match all over again.

Massage is also really coming to be a part of healthcare and it requires that massage therapists be more educated and experienced to be able to deal with injuries and health issues.  Many of the massage schools have taken to teaching to just get a job at one of the franchises which doesn’t require this extensive extra training.  We want to be more recognized and accepted by the medical professions and the general population as being therapeutic and these franchises might be giving the wrong image and hurting our chances of getting to be more accepted. (That is my guess!)

The Downright Ugly

Working for a massage franchise with such low pay rates (even with tips) makes it difficult to make a living.  The long hours, the no time in between sessions to recuperate and get ready for the next session, takes away from giving the best massage possible.  Many people who work at franchises end up with injuries and burnout from the frustrating work conditions.

Getting a job at a franchise is now likened to getting a job at Walmart or McDonalds.  It starts to become just a job because of the low pay.

The other thing is that so many people just don’t know the real story of the franchises and think they are getting a real deal paying $40-59 a month for a regular massage.  These places expect you to tip your massage therapist to make up for their low salary.  After you tip them the $10-$20, you are paying more and you really don’t even get a full hour massage.  It is usually a 50 minute session

Massage Envy is one of the largest and most well known of the franchises.

Just do a search for Massage Envy Complaints.


Despite all the bad, franchises continue to flourish mainly because there are not enough other options. The younger massage therapists just getting out of high school and going to massage school will have a job to go to. They usually just want a job and don’t want the hassles of owning a business.

The reasons why people go to massage school has changed over the years.  It used to be that people went to massage school to have a different way of life and they loved helping people.  The many problems with the schools telling potential students that they could be making $60 an hour has been misleading to students and has actually led to the closing of many massage schools. (Corithian Colleges was involved in this practice.)

Google Trends though show a decrease in the number of searches for the words massage schools and an increase in the searches for massage jobs.