How to make it as a massage therapist

1. You need a passion for helping people

“Initially I trained in make-up because I love the transformative effect it can have. In a way, massage is similar. I did a Level 3 Swedish massage course and offered treatments alongside make-up services for a while but the more massage I did, the more I enjoyed it. It’s lovely to have such a positive impact on people. I have clients come in with chronic pain and tell me that after a massage is the only time they sleep properly; it’s a special job in that respect.”

2. Explore different routes

“I decided to get a better feel for different types of massage before specialising so I went to work in a spa for two years. I found remedial treatments most fulfilling so did more short courses, including Indian champissage and chronic pain-healing. 

“Then I heard about The Massage Company (TMC) and applied for a job because I liked their ethos, which is to bring massage to the masses and make it part of a routine rather than a luxury. I’ve had extra training there on techniques like deep tissue, aromatherapy, scalp and hot stones.

“I like being employed rather than freelance as you have guaranteed clients and are protected from cancellations, but massage is a flexible career and it’s easy to do private work alongside – I’m about to do a Reiki master course.”

3. Look after yourself physically

“When I started specialising, I found it tough. It’s like when you start going to the gym – a bit of a slog for the first month but as you build your muscles it gets easier. You have to look after your arms and posture because that’s your livelihood. It’s to do with body weight and using the surface area of your arm rather than digging in with thumbs, knuckles or anywhere where there are tendons that can get damaged. 

“Some spas don’t let you do more than three hours’ massage a day but that’s hard if you go into it full time. I do massage four days a week, working six hours a day with an hour’s break, and that works for me.” 

4. Seperate your emotions

“Obviously, massage is a touch therapy and some people find that an emotional experience because they haven’t had that contact with anyone in a long time. So, it helps to be good at reading people, but you can’t absorb their emotions. I’ve got better at that; I meditate and remind myself to leave work at the door. If you’re not mentally in the right space then you can’t help your client get there. 

“Because you make people feel so much better they sometimes think you’re going to have all the answers. I let them know my limits and refer them to a physiotherapist or a doctor if necessary.”

5. Now's the time to specialise

“People used to view massage as an occasional luxury but because there’s more awareness of anxiety and stress now, people are taking self-care seriously. Sports massage is probably the most lucrative area to go into because you’re fixing a problem, and you get great repeat custom. Sports and Ayurvedic massage tend to pay best, but really, the more you train and build up your specialism the more you can earn.” 

Find out which type of massage was recently voted the most relaxing spa treatment in the UK?