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Massage Today
January, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 01


By Lynda Solien-Wolfe, LMT

Author's Note: Welcome to my monthly column, DearLyndaLMT, where I answer questions from you, the readers. I have been blessed this past decade by working with many experts in the massage profession who will serve as resources, mixed with a touch of Dear Lynda's views and advice.

So ask away with all those things you've wondered about but didn't know who to ask! I can't guarantee that all of your questions will be published, but I will do my best to answer you, or at least point you in the right direction.

Please remember, as with all advice, it is just that: advice. Always check to make sure that you're working within your scope of practice in your city/county and state.

Please send your questions to or:

P.O. Box 173,
Cocoa, Florida 32923


I need your advice. I just leased a bigger space for my business, and I want to have other massage therapists work in my office on independent basis. I have been a one-woman show for the past five years, so I need some feedback on doing this, and on having contracts for all my independent contractors to sign. Any advice on what I should include in this contract and on your experience working with independent massage therapists would be helpful. Thanks for your time;

-- Mary in New Jersey

Dear Mary,

Having things in writing is always a smart move. I would advise contacting an attorney to help with your legal matters. In addition, the book Business Mastery by Cherie Sohnen-Moe contains good information regarding independent contractors and sample contracts.

I contacted Vanessa Carpenter, RMT, from Texas to help answer your questions. Vanessa is the owner of, and more than 20 massage therapists work for her as independent contractors. I asked her to share some of her insights on the subject and details of the contracts she uses for the therapists working with her or renting space. Here's what Vanessa had to say:

I just visited with my lawyer today regarding this very subject! What is a contract? A contract is an agreement in writing stating details between two or more parties. Agreeing to what they believe in, or what they both can live with together for whatever whatever length of time the contract specifies. I have many contracts with many people, depending on what I have to offer and depending upon the location's requirements. I call my subcontractors "independent massage therapists."

My background is 17 years of experience in business and marketing. I used to work as a professional for an oil company, then relocated to Texas nine years ago. I am now the proud owner of three busy, prosperous office locations. My company,, employs a total of 20 independent massage therapists at this time. My dream was to be an agent for massage therapists - to find the best jobs, at the best fees, for any therapist in need of work. I hate to say it, but in my experience, most massage therapists don't have business sense. Yes, we're required to formulate a business plan while attending school and touch on some things, but this experience doesn't really teach us the real world of business.

As my lawyer emphasized today, contracts are necessary when entering into joint ventures, or any business agreement. You don't want to assume anything, especially when a deal may be based on a verbal agreement or a handshake. It can be a nightmare if both parties don't remember what they agreed upon. It is also vital for both parties to know their role and agree on all decisions.

This too can be damaging if you don't agree on whatever subject the contract revolves around. I have found that if one of the parties involved wants to leave for whatever reason, it is best to act on this. Don't stay unless you are truly happy with this business arrangement. Life is too short to be trapped or uncomfortable with any business agreement! This is a fact of business. Personal gains/power become the focus sometimes, so please get an attorney who can advise you of business contractual agreements. Also bear in mind that the businesses that write up these contracts detail the terms according to everyone's needs (usually based upon experiences/requirements), protecting all parties involved. Some of the language used may seem harsh, but it's good to have all potential circumstances listed. In other words, a good contract will answer any questions of "What if this happened".... how will this affect me?"

Disciplinary actions/dress code requirements may be shocking to see in contracts, but are there for a purpose. I have worked with many massage therapists I thought were professional, but found out... well, wow! I have had to talk with individuals about personal appearance; body odor; bad health behaviors; facial piercings; substance abuse; destruction of property; etc. Yes, these things are quite personal and none of my business -- until it affects the shared workplace and my clients' first impression of what kind of establishment is this. Please remember that everyone who works with you reflects upon you and your business.

Non-compete clauses are also a touchy issue with independent massage therapists. I have trained many therapists and generated many clients for them, only to see the therapists break their contract and start up their business using my client list. This will happen, so plan on it happening. There are individuals that only know this kind of unsavory business. It's wrong, but it's their only way of surviving if they lack marketing skills to generate their own client base. I do know one thing: there is plenty of business for everyone. If you review a contract that includes a non-compete clause, know that it is there to protect you and your working establishment.

Words of wisdom: Clients will go wherever they feel most comfortable, whether it is for $10 less, more flexible hours, better client/therapist communication, etc. Do not expect all your clients to be loyal to you.

More words of wisdom: Being independent doesn't always mean that you are solely independent. We all have rules to follow, even if they are our own.

If you have an opportunity to work with a company or an individual and a contract is suggested, look at their business experience and reputation, and look at their office space to see if it is really what you want before agreeing or signing anything. Many independent massage therapists make mistakes because they didn't know or understand what was agreed upon. Reach inside of yourself and ask these questions:

  1. Do I feel comfortable working here?
  2. Do I understand what is required of me?
  3. Can I work with the owner/management?
  4. What are my benefits?
  5. Do I want to be solely independent, doing everything for myself? (including start-up costs)?
  6. What does this company provide for me?
  7. What do I have to provide?

The first key to business is knowing your place -- where you want to be in relation to your company and the massage profession. I am an entrepreneur, a visionary and a marketer for massage therapy. These are my strengths, and good things come from this.

The second key to business is finding a good manager for the business you've acquired. A trust factor comes into play on this, because it must be a person who manages in a highly organized style and can enhance your daily business. An entrepreneur can also manage the work, but needs a true manager so he/she can utilize time wisely.

The third key to business is the worker. The best independent massage therapists know their place and don't want to power play or manage the business. They just want to show up and handle their appointments. Sometimes you find that the managers are better off being workers than managers; sometimes independent massage therapists just don't know where they belong. Determining a strength or weakness can be difficult until you try it on for size, but this can be detrimental to your business and the person trying that position. Bottom line: Listen to your independent massage therapists when they tell you what they want.

My business provides decorated rooms, 24-hour scheduling; local phone service; utilities; forms; supplies; lotion; sanitizers; bottled water; gift certificates; and community office access (internet, computer, printer, etc). These terms and conditions are stated in all contracts. If the things I provide are not stated in a contract, then the independent massage therapist becomes an employee, and that's a whole other ballgame.

I hope this information has been helpful If you would like to contact me for more information, please e-mail me at .

Many blessings to you,

Vanessa Carpenter, RMT, MTI


I see offers for body and foot scrubs everywhere lately. What are the benefits of having one, and are they easy to learn and perform in the massage setting?

-- Laurie from Texas

Dear Laurie,

Scrubs are used as an exfoliation technique to remove dead skin for the skin, and they feel great! I personally like salt scrubs the best. I contacted Laura West from Dermalogica to better answer your question. Laura is the company's education manager in the USA; she shared the following:

Body and foot scrubs are exfoliating treatments, used to remove dead skin cells from the body and leave the skin looking and feeling fresh, smooth, clean and polished. There are many names for these types of treatment: body polish; body scrub; salt glow; and spa glow or spa scrub are some of the most popular. Different products can be utilized, from exfoliating beads to various types of salts. Salts from the Dead Sea contain trace elements and are more mineralizing and therapeutic than other salts. Body and foot scrubs are easy to learn and easy to perform and require minimal amounts of product and material.

Body and foot scrubs are great as single treatments and wonderful to incorporate with a body massage or a foot treatment. For more information on spa classes or a technique video, I recommend you visit The International Dermal Institute website at I hope this helps, please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Laura West


I enjoy reading your articles in Massage Today. Using SaniCloths to disinfect is a great idea, but where does one purchase them if not employed by a hospital? Also, have you ever heard of using pure grapeseed oil as a disinfectant? One of the "chair reps." suggested it for killing viruses, etc. I am concerned about the effectiveness and wonder if it will damage the materials.

-- Martha in the USA

Dear Martha,

You can find SaniCloths in most major medical supply catalogs. In the massage profession Golden Ratio Bodyworks catalog includes this product.

To answer the second part of your question; I contacted LouAnn Nelson, customer service manager for Golden Ratio Woodworks. I asked her about the effectiveness of grapeseed oil as a disinfectant, and what she recommends for cleaning chairs and tables for daily care. Here is what Ms. Nelson shared with me:

At this time, we have heard nothing about the use of grapeseed oil to clean and disinfect vinyl. What we do know is that vinyl can be cleaned with SaniCloths or with antibacterial dish washing liquid detergents. These products kill germs and remove oils and lotions. When oils are left on a vinyl surface for extended periods of time, the vinyl can dehydrate, stiffen and crack. This is why we recommend that you never "bake, baste or freeze" your table or chair.

Don't bake it in a hot car or in direct sun light for extended periods. Don't baste it by leaving body oils or lotions; clean vinyl daily. Don't freeze it by leaving it in a car or a garage in cold weather. Don't use harsh astringents on vinyl, and always rinse off after washing. Remember that vinyl is like your skin: with regular, loving care, it will remain supple for years.

For more information, you can e-mail LouAnn at .

Lynda Solien-Wolfe is Vice President, Massage and Spa at Performance Health. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist and has been in private practice in Merritt Island, Florida for more than 20 years. Lynda graduated from Space Coast Health Institute in West Melbourne, FL.


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