How to Start a Massage Therapy Business

by Greg DePersio

4 min read

If you have a passion for health and fitness and like working with people, a massage therapy business might be a good fit for you. People turn to massage therapists for many reasons, including relief from sore and knotted muscles after exercise, stress relief, and relaxation. With the health and fitness lifestyle on the rise and more people exercising regularly, the demand for massage therapists is getting stronger. By owning your own massage therapy business, you call the shots and enjoy full autonomy over your hours and income. Achieving success in this industry requires doing the right research beforehand, identifying the most common challenges, and coming up with ways to overcome them.

Creating a Business Plan

A business plan is like a flight plan when you’re piloting an airplane. Choosing to take off without one rarely ends well. Among the things that should be included in your business plan are your niche, projected expenses and revenues, and marketing strategy. It’s better to focus on a specific niche in the massage industry rather than trying to be a jack of all trades. Decide if you want to create a spa-like environment to help people relax, or if you’d rather focus on sports therapy and market to local gyms and athletic clubs. Projecting your expenses and revenues gives you a road map to how your business can break even and eventually turn a profit. If you don’t lay out these numbers in the beginning, it’s easy to dig yourself into a hole with startup expenses. Your marketing strategy is key. The entire success of your business hinges on having paying customers come through the door. Before you even open those doors, you need a concrete plan on how you’re going to go out and find those customers. This should be a major part of your business plan.

Getting Startup Funds

Massage therapy isn’t a cost-intensive business, but you should expect some startup expenses. You’ll need, at the very least, reliable transportation, a massage table, and various oils and lotions. If you’re going to be operating from a fixed location and not running a mobile business, you’ll probably want to invest in items that create a relaxing ambiance. Sources of startup funds include traditional banks, credit cards, friends and family, and crowdfunding platforms. Each offers advantages and disadvantages. A good place to start might be the Canada Small Business Financing Program. It’s not an actual lender but a government program that works with private lenders to offer small businesses loans for which they might not otherwise qualify.

Certificates and Licenses

Each province has its own regulatory body for massage therapists. They determine the licenses and certificates you need to open your massage therapy business legally. In Ontario, for example, the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) requires massage therapist candidates to complete an initial assessment, pass a certification examination, and obtain professional liability insurance. Other provinces have similar requirements. The Canada Business Network website can steer you to the exact licenses you need to start your massage therapy business.

Choosing Your Location

Just like with real estate, location is a big deal for your massage therapy business. You want to open somewhere that customers can easily find you. A couple of options to consider, particularly if you’re starting your business on a shoestring budget, are making your business mobile, and collaborating with a gym or athletic complex to provide a work space. With a mobile business, you can transport all your massage equipment in a truck or van and visit clients at their preferred location. This business model cuts down on overhead and gives you the flexibility to work when and where you want. Setting up space in a gym also tends to be less expensive than having your own storefront location. It also offers the benefit of putting you front and center where a large number of potential clients can see you.

Appointment Booking System

Ideally, once your business gets going, you’ll have too many appointments each day to commit them all to memory. Since your clients expect you to be on time for appointments and ready to work, you’re going to need a good appointment booking system. There are many scheduling apps and software programs from which to choose. One option is ServiceTask. It integrates with QuickBooks, which can make your job easier, as your appointment booking and accounting programs can communicate back and forth. After you schedule a customer and complete the job, you can send the invoice directly from ServiceTask to QuickBooks with the click of a button.

Overcoming Common Challenges

New massage therapy businesses face a few unique challenges. It is a low barrier to entry business, which invites a lot of competition. That means to be successful, you’ll need to carve out a unique niche, identify a target market, and find effective ways to promote to that market. As your business grows and you consider bringing on employee massage therapists to handle the demand, you’ll want to be especially careful about who you hire. Massages, by their nature, involve close personal contact, and customers can be quite vulnerable during a massage. Conducting thorough background checks on employees helps to minimize the risks for clients and minimize your risk of litigation. A massage therapy business offers a potential ticket to success, but before getting started, you need a winning business plan and a blueprint for overcoming the common challenges in the industry.

References & Resources

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