Start a massage therapy business 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 massage therapy business. 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 a massage therapy business?
There are a number of investments you’ll need to make before opening your doors. First, you’ll need a work space. Rent can run anywhere from $750/month to thousands, depending upon location and size of the space you need. Most landlords require first and last month’s rent as a deposit, so plan on budgeting for at least two months.
Hopefully, you already have a massage table and bolsters, but if you don’t, now is the time to buy. It’s not necessary to purchase the most expensive table, which could cost upwards of $900; but you will want to invest in a solid, quality table, an investment of at least $300. If you plan on offering standard massages, you’ll also need to purchase a few bolsters and wedges, which will run you another $150. When you start to offer more specialized massages, like pregnancy massage, you’ll want to save up for additional bolsters, setting you back another $250.
Your customers will need clean sheets and a blanket to keep them warm during their session. To avoid hours of laundry every day, most therapists purchase several days worth of sheets. At $35 per set, this can easily be one of your largest initial expenses.
Many massage therapists offer special services, such as hot stone massages and essential oils. Consider the services you plan to offer and invest accordingly. Large bottles of lotion cost over $250, so if you’re not 100% sure which product you love, opt for the smaller bottles until you’ve made your final decision.
To help reduce rent, many massage therapy entrepreneurs choose to share their workspace with chiropractors or physical therapists. This not only reduces monthly overhead costs, it ensures a steady flow of clients through an ongoing referral program.
Lastly, don’t be tempted to forego purchasing an insurance policy. You’ll hopefully have a steady flow of customers coming into your facility; don’t put your business at greater risk by going uninsured. While your premium will be fairly inexpensive, cost is dependent upon the city and state you live in, location within the city, size of the business, and your experience level.
Read our massage therapy business purchasing guide to learn about the materials and equipment you'll need to start a massage therapy business, how much to budget, and where to make purchases.
What are the ongoing expenses for a massage therapy business?
In addition to the standard overhead, you should have an insurance policy in place. Sheets should be laundered, lotion should be fully stocked, as should brochures and business cards. Don’t forget to incorporate continuing education expenses into your annual budget as well.
Who is the target market?
As a massage therapist, you have a distinct advantage over many business owners - you offer a service everyone values. The ideal client for your business is dedicated to holistic healing and will help spread the word about how your services stand out above the rest.
How does a massage therapy business make money?
Will your business be geared more towards offering a relaxing retreat or one where your clients come to get relief from chronic pain? As the owner of a massage therapy business, you have the unique opportunity to heal, and make a great living doing it.
While you can offer treatment packages, most massage companies bill per session. Those who accept insurance simply collect the insured’s co-payment and bill the rest directly to the insurance company. Should you choose not go the insurance route, offer your customers a little relief by accepting credit card payments for your services. Shelling out $60-100 per session is a luxury; do what it takes to keep those clients coming back month after month.
Additionally, some entrepreneurs offer more than just their services, profiting from offering goods such as Biofreeze, essential oils, books, and CDs. If you choose this avenue, just remember, there’s nothing worse than leaving a massage, only to be bombarded with someone wanting more money.
How much can you charge customers?
While the numbers vary by region, the national average massage therapists charge is $60 per hour. If you plan to accept insurance, discuss the fee structure with each company to ensure the allowable amount meets your facility’s needs.
How much profit can a massage therapy business make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for massage therapists is $37,180. This number varies greatly, depending upon additional certifications, specializations, and your office setting.
How can you make your business more profitable?
While you’re in the business to heal, you’re also in it to make money. Here are a few ways you can increase the profit of your new business.
- Offer multiple payment options. Many consumers will find another place to go if your business doesn’t accept credit cards.
- Accept insurance. This opens your business up to a whole new set of clients that would otherwise be unavailable to you.
- Work nights and weekends. Make yourself available during the times your customers need you most.
- Accept gift certificates. Studies indicate consumers spent $130 billion on gift cards in 2015, with almost $1 billion going unused.
- Offer spa packages. If your vision is a more spa-like atmosphere, increase your earning potential by partnering with individuals to offer a bevy of spa services.
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 Massage Therapy Business 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 massage therapy business 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?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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
Most states regulate massage therapy, requiring some form of certification in the form of licenses or diplomas.
- Click here for more Information on state-specific massage therapy licensing requirements
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. 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.
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.
For 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.
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 Informed Consent/Release of Liability form for your massage therapy 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
Some massage therapy businesses chose to market their services with more of a therapeutic emphasis. If this is the case, you will probably come across consumers seeking to reimburse you for your services using their health plans. If this is the case, it is essential to make sure their health insurance covers therapeutic massages by massage therapists. Some plans require that massages are performed by licensed physical therapists. If massage therapy 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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a massage therapy business
While word of mouth will be your greatest marketing tool, there are other things you can do. Build relationships with the medical professionals in your community. Many will refer clients to you and allow you to put your literature at their front desk.
No matter what route you take for your massage business, social media is the most affordable way to share information that specifically targets your demographic.
How to keep customers coming back
Aside from a marketing strategy, your best way to attract and retain clients is through your healing skills and affordable pricing. If your customer walks out of the facility feeling refreshed, they’ll not only come back, they will tell everyone they know.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Massage Therapy Business 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 business is perfect for those who feel that they are blessed with the power to heal others with their touch, as massage therapists spend their days using their hands to alleviate the physical, mental, and emotional stressors of others. While it can be taxing on the body, the rewards come back ten-fold. Opening your own massage studio will only fuel that ardor for healing clients in both mind and body.
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 a massage therapy business?
As an entrepreneur, your daily tasks will extend beyond massage. Clients must be scheduled and payments processed. There will be sheets to launder, client notes to complete, and product orders to place.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful massage therapy business?
While healing hands and a gentle heart are the most critical skills you must possess, obtaining your National Certification should be a consideration. They offer a number of specialty certifications that will enhance your career and your Board Certification credentials will put you a step above the rest.
It’s also critical that therapists consistently seek out new healing practices through continuing education. Aside from fulfilling your continuing ed requirements, you stand to learn from and network with the industry’s leading professionals. Therapists can attend CE classes through their local massage schools or travel for national and international courses. The NCBTMB’s website is a great resource for finding CE classes, as they maintain an updated list of available courses on their website at all times.
What is the growth potential for a massage therapy business?
Due to the intimate nature of the business, most massage therapy business owners choose to keep their companies on a smaller, more local level. However, if your vision is to expand to have multiple locations (and employees) across the city, there is nothing preventing you from finding large-scale success.
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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.
How and when to build a team
Whether you decide to have a staff of therapists or run your office solo, you’ll want to hire an accountant for bookkeeping. As the business grows, you’ll want to hire someone to perform the office duties you don’t have time for. You could hire an assistant for minimum wage or participate in your state’s apprenticeship program, where the individual obtains their license at the end of the program.