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Posted by: Shelley Waite, 13 Apr 2011 1:07PM
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How long does it take to build a career as an employee?

Hi all, I recently qualified in ITEC L3 Holistic Massage and am trying to get an idea of how long it will take to build a half decent career. If anyone (employers, employees or self-employed people) could help with any of my questions below, I would be very grateful! There doesn't seem to be many (if any that I can remember) jobs that ask for solely Massage Therapy. Employers seem to want people with a range of qualifications - could anyone advise me what are the most sought-after skills at the moment? I like holistic therapies but would consider elements of beauty therapy as well. Once you've landed your first job as a newly-qualified therapist, if you are hard-working and dedicated, how long does it take to climb the career ladder to be earning a half-decent wage (say, £15,000)? What is the general starting wage of a newly-qualified therapist at the moment? Most of the ads I have seen don't advise the salary until you apply (which seems a bit silly to me). Generally, how many skills and how much experience is required to work on a Cruise ship, Spa or a holistic retreat (UK or abroad)? Also, if anyone has experienced any of these themselves, please could you advise what the pay and working environment is like? There's always the option of working from home and being self-employed. From a strictly financial perspective, how much would I be likely to earn a month, if I were working similar hours as an employed full-time therapist? Can any self-employed people advise on this? Many thanks! Shelley


Amanda Clegg
13 Apr 2011 1:17PM

personally I think you are better off being self employed - as long as you keep up your CPD learning and keep in touch with other therapists regularly. That way you will have more opportunity to develop your own blend of massage styles and skill specialisms, without being worn to the bone doing 'signature' massage like a conveyor belt. (maybe I'm being cynical?). It took me a good 2 or 3 years to feel confident about dealing with different conditions and people's physical issues, and I do quite a bit of CPD (less now than at the beginning) but now (9 years on) it's great, and I seem to specialise in not-quite-sports, and in remedial support for older people, plus I can regulate my own workload to take account of the onset of arthritis in my thumb! good luck.
Angela Rawlins
13 Apr 2011 3:37PM

Hi I'd do private clients as well as employment in an establishment. I live near a well known spa and I know they only pay their therapists £6 an hour! I don't think they're the only ones
Nicki Lee
13 Apr 2011 6:29PM

Hi Shelley, Some very good questions, and I imagine you will receive a wide range of answers as there are many routes you can go down. I've always been self employed so can only answer for myself from that perspective, but I have had friends and students who have been employed as therapists. The positive for employment is that you will get paid, however the amount is generally extremely low. As for what qualifications you would need, it would be best for you to have a talk with some of the employers near you and they can tell you specifically what they are looking for. There may be spas or salons you could contact. They may also give you some training in additional treatments. This may be something you could do for awhile at the same time as you work on building your own client base for self employment. I would say it took me about three years working full time on my business as a massage therapist/sports therapist to begin to earn a living wage. This was also about 13 years ago when there weren't quite as many therapists around. Building up a client base is a very slow process, unless you are lucky enough to fall into a position where you get many referrals (maybe from another practitioner such as a chiropractor), however these situations are few and far between, and it may be you would be taken on as an employee and be back to the low wages. I tried everything I could think of that didn't cost too much - many leaflet drops, local ads in parish mags, far too many fetes and demos, posting newsletters (old snail mail), and working in various locations. This was also prior to wide spread internet advertising and I didn't use the phone book as too expensive. Word of mouth has been the best, but it is extremely slow. I don't want to be at all discouraging - I have found it to be very worthwhile and rewarding, but it is hard work and does take some time. Some people also find working a part time job in a different industry while trying to build their practice part time is effective. However the more practice you can get the better, as your treatments become more effective and your clients spread the word. Very best of luck building your career. Enjoy! Nicki
Shelley Waite
15 Apr 2011 8:31PM

Thank you all for your replies! I have been veering towards the self-employed route for a while now but today I had a spanner thrown in the works - the letting agent I spoke to said that there's a clause that states that rented residential properties cannot be used as a business premises as well. I had a very bad experience with a private landlord before, so am not keen to go down that route again. Can't afford to rent a separate property or room, so it looks like that is out of the question. But I'm also quite interested in the idea of employment instead, largely because I want to travel. If I decided to start a business, it would need to be somewhere I wanted to live long-term (I doubt my clients would travel across the border to continue the treatments!). So I would be really interested to hear from any employed people too. I wonder how many massage treatments a therapist would give on a typical day, and how many other different treatments in between? Any advice will be gratefully received! Thank you.
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