Few things help us unwind more than a massage. Because of this, massage therapists will always be in high demand — figures from the American Massage Therapy Association show that there were 363,155 in the US alone in 2020.
Starting your own massage therapy business can therefore be a massively worthwhile endeavor. Not only does the high demand often result in high profits, but you’ll gain fulfillment by providing such a wholesome service and enjoy a flexible work-life balance, among other benefits.
However, as is the case with launching any business, there’s a lot to consider. To help you get started, we’ve outlined three of the most important things to resolve when starting a massage therapy business.
Get the legalities sorted
To run a massage therapy business you’ll need to meet a number of legal requirements, including the following:
To legally operate a business, you must pick an appropriate structure: either a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC).
Which one you choose affects the tax you pay, your financial obligations and how you can fund your business. For example, a sole proprietorship gives you complete control over your business, but you’ll be personally liable for any debts, which isn’t the case for LLCs. Check out this guide to business structures for more details on the different types.
The federal government legally requires you to have workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance in place, while certain states require additional cover too.
While not mandated by law, you’ll also want cover like public liability and professional indemnity insurance to protect your business should it be sued by a customer or member of the public. As holistic therapy provider Salon Gold notes: “There will be times when a customer is unhappy with their treatment. They might suggest your therapy has worsened their condition — even if you don’t believe that you are at fault — and you could find yourself faced with a claim for malpractice.”
The majority of states regulate massage therapy, meaning you’ll need to have undergone a certain level of training and received some sort of certification in the form of licenses or diplomas. For example, states including Delaware, Idaho and Virginia mandate that you need at least 500 hours of training from an approved school.
Be sure to read this guide to state-specific massage therapy licensing requirements for more information.
Find your niche
While you may think that catering to a huge number of people is the key to success, the opposite is often true. It can be extremely hard to meet the needs of so many customers, meaning appealing to a narrower set of audiences is often the way forward instead.
What’s more, you’ll likely have your own strengths and qualifications, whether it’s in a field like aromatherapy, deep tissue massages, reflexology or somewhere else, which will naturally massively impact the type of massage therapy business you set up. That said, it’s important to consider the following things when finding your niche.
Seeing as massage therapists serve a huge range of audiences, you need to carefully consider and understand the target audience for the services you’re looking to offer. For example, they might be more suitable for athletes, the elderly or businesspeople. This will hugely impact your business operations, from your marketing approach to your salon’s design.
Conducting market research can give you valuable insight into what the demand for your services is. For example, you might discover that there’s a high appetite for physiotherapy-based massage businesses in a post-pandemic world, something that could impact your business model and help you stand out from competitors.
Speaking of competitors, researching them is also an invaluable step to carving out your niche. From learning about their services and pricing, to finding out what marketing methods they use and any shortfalls you can capitalize on, you can use this information to help you refine your own offering.
In order to get your business idea off the ground, you’ll need some financial backing. Unless you have significant savings, you’ll need to borrow enough money to cover initial costs, with the average startup spending between $30,000 to $40,000 in their first year. Your main funding options here include:
Small business loan
Securing a small business loan — whether through a bank or the government — can be a useful way of obtaining funds, though you will need to provide a large amount of information to be accepted for one. This includes details like cash flow forecasts, your credit history and a business plan.
A business credit card
A business credit card can be useful for smaller purchases considering you’ll need to pay off any expenses the following month or face high penalty charges. However, not only can a business credit card help bridge any cash flow gaps, it will also help boost your business’s credit score and make securing funding easier in the future.
Private investor funding
Plenty of private investors now offer funding to businesses, though this is usually in return for something, like shares or involving them in your company’s strategy and management. Although private investor funding can be easy to obtain and doesn’t involve any repayments, you need to be happy with any additional requirements like the ones outlined above.