On-Demand Massage Firms

How they can work for you

By Brandon Twyford

Part of the appeal of a career in massage therapy is the flexibility of being able to choose your own schedule and determine your own availability. The catch is that you are then responsible for finding and retaining your own clients. For consumers, part of the hurdle in receiving a massage for the first time is finding a quality, vetted therapist they can trust and whose availability matches their own.
Enter the rise of on-demand massage. Billed as “Uber for massage,” on-demand massage companies match qualified therapists with consumers seeking a great massage. Through an app, a website, or a phone call, consumers can find exactly the service they want, when they want it, and receive the work in the comfort of their own home. We talked to three on-demand massage companies—Rubzy, Soothe, and Zeel—to learn more about what a massage therapist might expect from working with them.
Like other partnerships an independent massage therapist might enter, there’s likely to be a trade-off between gaining access to potential new clients and paying a fee for gaining that access. Other than that, it’s difficult to think of a major drawback to working with an on-demand massage company. MTs gain access to a much wider client pool than they could ever find on their own and can fill holes in their schedule with vetted and qualified clients. They pay a fee to the company for the increased business, but it’s business they wouldn’t have found otherwise. Most MTs are happy with the trade-off, as evidenced by the rapid growth in popularity of these services. Soothe’s Director of Marketplace Operations Jeff Bishop says, “Therapists can create their own availability for the times and days that work for them, and they earn 2–3 times more than they would working at a traditional day spa or even a private practice because of the accessibility to new (and returning) clientele.”
Let’s take a closer look at what sort of therapist might benefit from working with an on-demand massage company and what to expect from the partnership.

Preliminary Considerations
What sort of massage therapist would most benefit from working with an on-demand massage company? Newer therapists who are still working on building their client list will find the increased pool of available clients highly valuable. Mobile massage therapists who already have the equipment needed for in-home or in-office massages can easily make the switch to working with an on-demand massage company. However, if they already have a robust client list, they’ll need to consider whether the increased number of sessions are worth the cost of commission. Soothe’s Bishop says it also helps to know the area in which you live or work, so you’re comfortable getting to appointments, and so you’ll better know how to gauge your last-minute availability for pop-up sessions.
Eva Carey, national community director for Zeel, says, “Zeel is the perfect solution for a massage therapist looking for extra appointments and also for a massage therapist interested in designing their own schedule. Because of the volume and diversity of available appointments, therapists are better able to balance their work and lives using the Zeel platform.”
Speaking about Rubzy’s status as a brand-new company still building its therapist and client list, owner Chris Raschko says, “Since Rubzy is such a new and unique revolution in the massage industry, the ideal therapist is absolutely anyone with a massage license. However, we have a top-notch review system, and the therapists who perform the best (on-time, courteous, professional, etc.) will remain the most in demand.”

Other Considerations
One thing to keep in mind is the time and cost associated with the travel to and from appointments. When you consider how much you’ll make for a session with Zeel or Soothe, you should factor in your commute time and associated costs. If you are offered to perform a one-hour session on the other side of town and must drive an hour or more roundtrip, remember you’re only getting paid for the one hour of service. Rubzy, however, allows you to set a flat rate you charge for travel and the maximum distance you are willing to travel. (Note: you may be able to deduct your mileage on your taxes, so check with your accountant.)
Therapists should also be aware of the physical labor involved in carrying a table and supplies up and down stairs, in and out of their cars, etc., and consider whether they’re up for it.     

Getting Started
Therapists working with Rubzy, Soothe, or Zeel must be licensed and insured massage therapists with reliable transportation and their own supplies—table, chair, linens, oils/lotions, etc. Of course, each company also expects their therapists to be punctual, exhibit solid time management skills, and be able to deliver high-quality service.
Zeel offers consumers a massage membership program that includes a professional massage table and linens that the consumer gets to keep at home. When a Zeel therapist massages a consumer who is part of the membership program, the therapist does not have to worry about providing these items.
Raschko says that with Rubzy, both clients and therapists are in charge of the process. “Customers can finally choose the exact therapist they want by viewing massage therapists’ profiles, and massage therapists can confirm or deny any customer,” Raschko says. “Even if you currently have your own practice or work somewhere else, you can easily earn extra income by selecting the hours you’re available,” he adds. “Rubzy does all the marketing for you—we attract the customers to our network, and they book with you.”
There are no start-up fees associated with joining any of these three on-demand massage platforms. In addition, since therapists working for Rubzy, Soothe, or Zeel are independent contractors, there are no restrictions on how many on-demand platforms therapists can work for—therapists are free to work with whomever they want, whenever they want.

Safety First
A concern for many mobile MTs, not just those working with on-demand massage companies, is safety. When you get a call from a client who found your information on Yelp or Google, it can be difficult to fully ascertain the quality of the client, even with a thorough interview or intake process. Soothe offers a check-in, check-out process, and a GPS location monitoring system to ensure therapists always feel in touch and protected. There’s even a 24-hour US-based concierge team to support therapists with appointment-related issues—parking, client not answering the door, etc.
Zeel also has safety processes in place. “Our process is designed to safeguard the massage therapist,” Carey says. “Any customer booking on the Zeel platform is required to verify their ID and mobile phone number through our security partners before they can book a first massage. Our safeguard process for massage therapists is best-in-class.”
Rubzy is a bit different in that its business model aims to cut out the middle man, and as such, third-party monitoring isn’t offered; but that’s a trade-off many MTs will accept, since it means they get to keep more of their massage fee—“up to 95 percent of it,” according to Raschko. That said, Rubzy does implement a two-way review system where therapists can rate the quality of clients, which Raschko says will “quickly and effectively build a community of trust.” That’s already a step up in safety from getting a random phone call from a stranger who found your number online. Rubzy also allows you to specify whether you only accept appointments at your place of business, or whether you’re willing to travel to a customer’s location.

The Future
Rubzy is the new kid on the block, but Raschko says they’ve had no problem finding therapists who want to partner with them. “In just three weeks of operation, we have had a lot of massage therapists signing up,” he says.  
Bishop says Soothe is “currently in over 55 markets around the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and grew five-fold in 2017.” In 2018, Soothe plans to expand into many resort markets throughout the United States, while continuing its international expansion.
Zeel likewise plans to continue growing and expanding. Carey says, “Zeel’s mission is to ‘Power Massage Everywhere,’ and we’re going to continue doing so with our rapid expansion and new lines of business.”
In many ways, it appears that offering services through Rubzy, Soothe, or Zeel can end up being the best of both worlds for a massage therapist. For many, the arrangement ends up a sort of hybrid between being completely independent versus working as a structured employee. With no additional financial commitment required beyond standard massage equipment, insurance costs, and licensing fees, and the ability to accept or decline any session, the partnership seems worthy of consideration for most massage therapists.   

Brandon Twyford is associate editor and award-winning writer for Massage & Bodywork and ABMP. Contact him at brandon@abmp.com.