After reading an article in Massage and Bodywork called “Massage Franchises – The Impact on the Massage Profession” , I was at first deeply saddened thinking that it might all be true – that the self employed massage therapist was in danger of becoming extinct! (Well that’s what the article said anyways!)
To me, being a massage therapist was about a lifestyle choice of being my own boss and not having to work for someone else right from the beginning but back in 1987 when I went to school – there were no massage jobs at all! I went with 250 hours of training right into starting and running a business. I had some experience in customer service working previously in photography but didn’t know a thing about starting a business. It was essential in the beginning to network with other massage therapists and help each other out. I learned how to bill for car accidents and workman’s comp from my friends. I learned about leases and how to negotiate them and find office space. I learned by doing mostly and by sharing with friends. There wasn’t much help in the way of massage school. They didn’t teach much at all about starting or running a business.
One of the most disturbing things mentioned in the article was the fact that Corinthian Colleges are now supporting Massage Envy Franchises and supplying them massage students! I can see it is a good business decision for both – the massage school wants to keep students coming in the door promising them jobs and ME wants more …well I was going to say ‘slaves’ but was looking for a nicer word – I guess simply employees.
Franchises can be a good way to start for some. There are many younger massage students these days coming right out of high school. The massage schools have also increased significantly in the last 10 years . (See the increasing number of massage schools through the years on my site.) That would be an interesting topic to study – why were all these schools started? Was there a need for them or was it just dollar signs in school owners eyes as they saw how much money they could make putting students through school. (Yes I know there are some who take it more seriously and are genuine about creating compassionate, successful massage therapists.)
Was there really a demand?
So now there are all these massage schools trying to stay in business with the economy crashing and people not knowing what to do with their lives – so walahhh- the low cost massage was created along with low paying massage jobs!
At first after reading this article as I said in the beginning of this post I was saddened. I actually just thought it might be time to get out of the profession seeing it come to that! Then of course some time went by and now I am more inspired and committed than ever in writing and teaching massage therapists that they can actually start and build their own business if they want and there are other choices to low paying jobs. You can use them to get you where you want to be- with your own business or you can just skip that phase and jump right in with both feet to starting your own business. In fact set up shop right next to them and put up a big sign – “I fix $59 (or whatever it is in your area) Massages!” (Ok I also hate the word “fix” because that isn’t what we do in general -but it works for marketing!)
The Good side of Massage Franchises
On the other hand, franchises have been actively advertising in popular magazines, TV and on social media platforms. Some also have sponsored conventions and CE classes and support things like Arthritis Awareness Events. With all that money going to the profession, it does make me wonder why they can’t just pay the therapists more but it is what it is. The low cost massage business model also allows people to have massage more regularly and are more willing to put it into their monthly budgets.
04/21/2020 – ABMP reports that Massage Schools stayed resilient except I am not really sure what they mean by that since they say that 50 schools closed and the number of graduates has been decreasing significantly since its highest numbers in 2004 of 71, 272 down to 20,598 in 2020.
Update 08/07/2021. Because of the desperately low number of massage school graduates, some franchises and massage chains are now involved in creating an online massage training program called www.massagetherapyonline.com in order to streamline education and move students through school faster and get them into their clinics as employees. The pandemic on top of the ever decreasing number of massage students/schools, there is a severe shortage of massage therapists. While this is great in some ways, their initial start is causing some issues because most states do not allow online learning but a few made exceptions for the pandemic and are now revising them back to normal . They are working on it though. It is about time. Some classes can be easily learned online like anatomy, physiology, pathology, and you can start studying kinesiology, ethics and other classes.