Tension Tamer: Confessions of a Self-Employed Massage Therapist

Massage TherapistMassage therapists have a look about them. They're usually young, cute, in good shape -- and often blonde.

Meghan Green is no different. The 29-year-old massage therapist eats a gluten-free diet and swims every weekday morning at 6 a.m. She's consistent and confident. So confident, in fact, that she started her own business in New York City - something that few New Yorkers have the guts to do.

About four years ago, she started renting a tiny downtown office to meet her clients. She shares the $1600/month space with four other women to pay the bills. "No one can physically work this job all day long. It's much easier to split costs and time," she said.

Though massage therapists in New York City may earn more than $120 per hour with self-employed individuals earning the most, the typical hourly range for an employed massage therapist in the United States is $14.95 - $31.66.

Getting into Massage Therapy

Green said she never expected to go into massage therapy. She studied women's and gender studies at American University in Washington, D.C. "I loved the classes. But what do you do with that?" she said. She said she always wanted to move to New York City, but had no idea how to make it work. "I'm lucky both of my sisters made the move here. I just jumped from couch to couch for a few months," she said.

Eventually she got a job as a personal trainer at a New York health club. While there, she decided that massage therapy might be a great gig, and enrolled in the Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy in New York's Chelsea neighborhood.

Becoming a massage therapist "was the best decision I've ever made. I get to meet all these great people and teach health and wellness," she said.

Anti-9-to-5, this New Yorker Works for Herself

It's not often that a 20-something can work for themselves in a city like New York. But Green says it works for her. "I never wanted a 9-5 job. I'll work two hours one day and twelve the next," she said. "I can take all the clients who call me or say no to the crazies."

Green now sees about 20 clients a week, charging $120 an hour. Some client's request up to three hours. She said she's embarrassed she doesn't really know exactly how much she makes. A lot of her money is cash -- but she knows it's in the "six-figures."

"You have to make that much money just to get by here," she said. "I mean, I still have a roommate and I'm almost 30."

Keeping Clients Happy

Green said she had to hustle to build up her clientele. She's never had a full-time job, but she worked at a spa and two health clubs before going out on her own full-time. She also gave chair massages at a strip club, a job she goes back to if she's ever "in a pinch."

She said she tries to keep her work professional, but understands the importance of developing personal relationships with her clients. "It's just like hair stylists. People feel guilty if they go to someone else, like they're cheating on me," she said.

Dealing with Awkward Moments

Green said she likes most of her clients, but puts up with some, simply because she needs to pay the bills. "I do have one client that gets [a little excited] during his massage. He just ignores it." She pretends to ignore it too, she said. Green keeps him on the schedule since "he's harmless." But says she doesn't tolerate the men that proposition her.

"When I used to work at a health club the guys would not be shy about asking for [inappropriate favors]. I don't know where they got the idea that these were appropriate requests," she said.

Green said her personal clients are not quite as bold. "They see me as a friend. I see them that way too," she said.

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Joe Ung

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December 09 2014 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Massage Therapy is hard work. Who cares if she works in people at a strip club! She has boundaries and sticks to them. Good for her. Wish I made six figures!

June 12 2014 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok first off, I'm a massage therapist, and I love helping my clients. No matter what they do. If she wants to give chair massages in a strip club I don't see whats wrong with that as long as it's made clear nothing sexual is going to happen.
And if you think about it, exotic dancers need massages, because they are in alot of pain by the end of the night. Every move they do is very stressful on their body so why can a massage therapist help relieve that pain? A real massage therapist would. A real massage therapist would help their client no matter what they do for a living.

Of course if it would turn sexual then obviously end it right there and then, but other wise why is it bad to help a person who is in pain?

July 26 2011 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a Certified Massage Therapist and this story is total bullsh*t. Our work may sound glamorous but trust me, it isn't. While many aspects of the job are immensely rewarding, it is tough work and stressful on our bodies. In my opinion, most of us stay in this field because we enjoy connecting with our clients, decreasing their pain and stress, and improving their quality of life. It most certainly isn't for the money. The writer of this piece said she made six figures!??? Something sounds fishy about that to me. And she claims to do chair massage in a strip club? A real therapist would never work in that environment because we are constantly trying to get people to see that massage and sex are NOT RELATED IN ANY WAY!!!!

April 08 2011 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My girlfriend is a massage therapist, and a damb good one at that. She treats people with respect and most times gets it in return. I beleave that half of the theraputic aspect of getting a massage is the talking and friendly conversation that (stays within the walls of the room) almost like a counseler letting all your stress out all at once

April 28 2010 at 2:15 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

angel and kim are unemployed

April 21 2010 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think this massage therapy is a license for perverted people to feel and touch other people for their own satisfaction.

April 06 2010 at 5:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to carol's comment

Seriously? You have no idea of what you are talking about. In Ohio, LMT's have to take anatomy and physiology classes, as well as a slew of other classes, totaling 750 hours and then take a State Medical Board test to practice. Other states have similar requirements. Your comment just shows your ignorance. It's like saying a gynecologist just practices so he/she can look at vaginas all day. Ohio defines massage therapy as a "limited branch of the practice of medicine."

If they wanted to be pervy, they could advertise on Craigslist and do massages without going through the very arduous process of being LEGITIMATE.

June 01 2012 at 10:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i would be happy to

April 06 2010 at 5:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i will

April 06 2010 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
All Winners LOVE Winners

Whose Gonna Give ME a Massage?

April 06 2010 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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