Start an acupuncture clinic by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your acupuncture clinic. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening an acupuncture clinic?
If you are willing to start your business small, then you can open this business for a relatively low cost. For instance, you can purchase a portable massage table, needles, biohazard boxes, and other such equipment that you will need for under $500. You can purchase file folders, a dresser, sheets, chairs, and a CD player for under $300. Similarly, it is possible to rent a small room at a wellness center or other relevant location for under $500 a month, and this can serve as your office. For advertising, you can create a website and print out both brochures and business cards for under $150. Even with the necessity of paying extra for a down payment on your rented room and getting the appropriate license, you can start a small acupuncture clinic for under $2,000.
What are the ongoing expenses for an acupuncture clinic?
For a small clinic, the ongoing expenses are relatively small. Your ongoing rent for a small space should be $500 or less, and it should cost $100 or less to replenish your office and medical supplies each month. The exact cost of utilities can vary, but when leasing a small office space, it may be $100 or less each month.
Who is the target market?
On a completely practical level, the best clients are those who pay promptly and are receptive to your diagnosis and instructions. Generally speaking, these will be middle- or upper-class clients who are ready and willing to embrace alternative medicine, and who can afford to pay out of pocket, as most insurance companies don't cover acupuncture yet.
How does an acupuncture clinic make money?
An acupuncture clinic makes money by charging clients a particular amount for each visit. The amount may be different based on the nature of the visit, such as charging a higher amount for an initial diagnosis or different amounts for more complex treatments.
How much can you charge customers?
The exact amount you charge may vary based on services offered and region. Generally, however, you should charge between $75 and $100 for the initial diagnosis and then charge between $50 to $75 for clients’ subsequent visits.
How much profit can an acupuncture clinic make?
According to Bureau of Labor and Statistics research, the median salary for an acupuncturist is just north of $73,000. Ultimately, of course, how much profit you make is directly related to how much you charge clients per visit and how many visits you get each year, so it is possible for a clinic to eventually net a six-figure salary.
How can you make your business more profitable?
One method of making your business more profitable is, as mentioned earlier, to encourage multiple visits per patient via a Patient Treatment Protocol. Another is to create an aggressive social media presence early on: this increases community engagement and lets you advertise special offers, deals, and even competitions that will get more customers through the door. Consider offering referral bonuses to patients who refer their family, friends, and colleagues. Finally, schedule permitting, consider speaking at local colleges, libraries, and other community centers about the value of acupuncture.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Acupuncture Clinic Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your acupuncture clinic is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Nearly all states in the U.S. require practicing acupuncturists be licensed before starting a private practice. To obtain a license, one must first receive a Masters degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and also pass an NCCAOM exam.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Acupuncture businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example of one such services agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your clinic when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Informed Consent Agreement
It is recommended to provide clients with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency. More information on informed consent agreements can be found here.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability/informed consent form for your acupuncture business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Health Insurance Eligibility
As an acupuncturist, you will probably come across patients seeking to receive coverage for your services using their health plans. If this is the case, it is essential to make sure patients’ health insurance covers acupuncture and oriental medicinal treatment. If it is indeed covered by insurance, you must fill out a health insurance claim form to receive payment.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market an acupuncture clinic
Some of the recommended promotional methods for your business have already been mentioned, including setting up your own website and printing out brochures and business cards that you can distribute within your community. Social media is an important part of marketing yourself and your business, and there is no real cost (other than your time) to do so, making social media a great option. If you have the budget, consider more “traditional” advertisements such as radio, print, and even television ads.
How to keep customers coming back
The best way to retain customers is to set up a treatment plan protocol for each one of them. As the name implies, this plan will guide the patient from whatever their current state is to their desired state of wellness. It also means that you will see the client several times instead of once, helping with retention and possible word-of-mouth advertising. And, of course, always be on the lookout for new ways to market yourself, especially online, as this lets you stand out from rival professionals without any additional investment.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start An Acupuncture Clinic In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This job requires specialized training in the form of an acupuncture-related degree from any Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. This formal education helps to provide you with the theories and best practices associated with acupuncture. In addition to being uniquely suited for those who have studied in this field, this job is perfect for those who like to make the world better one person at a time by helping people achieve happiness, productivity, and peace that they may have lost.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at an acupuncture clinic?
There are many daily activities associated with an acupuncture clinic. These activities include making appointments with patients, diagnosing patients, explaining that diagnosis to patients, and treating those patients via needles and/or other tools. You must also maintain and organize your patients’ records while overseeing all of your employees.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful acupuncture clinic?
As mentioned earlier, actually practicing in acupuncture means you have completed a specialized program of formal education. This education will provide most of the initial skills that you need to do the job itself. Beyond that, experience in acupuncture or other medical fields, as well as a minor in something like business, may help you on the financial side of things.
What is the growth potential for an acupuncture clinic?
The growth potential for acupuncture clinics is very strong. Research conducted by LearnHealthcare.net revealed that this field will grow by as much as 32 percent by the year 2022. Additionally, more Americans have some form of health insurance than ever before, and a growing number of insurance companies will help pay for acupuncture.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an acupuncture clinic?
To jumpstart your business, be sure to start small. You have the rest of your career to upgrade to the biggest offices and fanciest Earthlite tables. However, starting modestly allows you to easily hit the ground running after graduation, and you can do so while building up your experience and network of contacts needed to help take your business to the next level. When starting small, utilize as many modern conveniences as you need (such as online scheduling apps, accounting software, and so on) in order to successfully conduct a successful one-person business.
How and when to build a team
As mentioned above, it’s recommended that you start your clinic small, which means that you will personally be handling almost everything. However, as business picks up, you may consider, at minimum, hiring a secretary or other employees to help you manage your business and clients. If you get to a point where you have more clients than you (and your relatively small clinic) can handle, you might consider expanding to a larger location and hiring more acupuncturists.