In earlier post I created a comprehensive outline on how to start your own massage therapy business. After going back over my post I realized for some this might be more involved then a massage therapist just starting out would need. So with that thought I wanted to simplify the process and get it down to the bear bones of what you need to start your massage therapy business in no time.
This article is for the massage therapist who is interested in working for yourself by choosing to have a home based business, renting a room from an existing business or having a traveling massage business.
This article will give you step by step instructions on how to create a simple massage business that you can create and get rolling in just a few weeks. Then when you are ready to expand your massage business and want to take on a larger space and possibly have employees then you can take a look at a more comprehensive business plan and marketing strategies. For now let’s focus on the first steps toward starting your massage therapy business and it may surprise you but it’s actually pretty easy!
Step 1 Trade Name:
A trade name is your business name, I see many people in the business world get stuck on having the perfect name. Yes, your business name is a huge part of your business but it shouldn’t stress you out if you can’t think of anything right off the bat. You can change your name down the line but it can get a bit complicated so try your best to come up with something that represents you and your business but remember a business name can be changed at anytime.
Companies large and small change their names so don’t think yours is etched in stone. When choosing a business name keep it simple and to the point.
Try to incorporate what you specialize in. Find a way to tie words together in a clever way but not confusing and don’t make your name to long. Remember, you need to be able to fit that name onto a web address, your massage business cards and other marketing materials so short and to the point is the way to go.
Step 2 One Page Business Plan:
Business plans are a must have even if you are keeping your massage therapy business small. If you have ever looked at a business template before you will see they can be lengthy. If you are not seeking a business loan to get your massage business up and running then a comprehensive business plan isn’t really necessary to get you started but I do encourage you to create a simple business plan that answers a few question. By answering some of the basic questions it will help you once your business is fully operational. Please take a few moments to answer the following questions:
- How much do you plan to charge for your sessions?
- How much is your monthly over head?
- How will you take payment (square) ?
- Will you except Flex spending or health savings (square allows this paypal does not)?
- What is you massage business goals (short and long term)?
- Will you offer gift cards?
- Will you offer any discounts (think this through and set guidelines when offering discounts)?
- What kind of marketing will you do?
There is so much more that can go into a business plan but if you are looking to simply rent a space out of an office or do in home massage it just isn’t necessary at this time.
Let’s break down the above list real quick just to clarify a few things. You can determine your prices by looking at the competition around you. The average is a dollar a minute but in my opinion that’s selling yourself shorts.
I think a good starting point for an independent massage therapist is $70 for 60 min, $100 for 90 min, and $130 for a 2 hour.
I charge more then that but I have been doing this along time and I have a religious following but when you are starting out this is a good starting point and you can raise your prices down the line.
When raising your prices give ample notice but wait till you have a large following because a price increase will cause some clients to leave and that’s OK. When you raise your prices that means you can take less appointments and still make more money!
Think about which credit card service you will use.
I like using square because there rates are competitive and they allow massage therapist to except flex spending and health saving funds which is a wonderful marketing tool! If you go with square it’s free to sign up and they will send you a small square card reader for free but I do recommend purchasing the square contactless chip reader before you take your first payment.
I have learned that the small square reader does not recognize cards with a chip but more importantly the contactless chip reader is a more secure way to take payment that will protect your clients and protect your business.
If you plan you sell gift cards which I hope you do since it’s a great way to boost sales and bring in new clients, you can offer gift cards through square as well.
Square offers physical gift cards that you can customize or choose from a number of designs you can also offer E gift cards on your website. You can create a simple button on your website and anyone can purchase a gift card and any moment.
Let me tell you it is pretty cool to pull up your square account and see while you were sleeping someone purchased $100 in gift cards. The one draw back to the E gift cards is that the transaction rate is slightly higher then if you were to physically swipe the card yourself but that is common among credit card companies.
For more information about square and to get started, click here
Be careful when you offer discounts! I learned the hard way that if you do not have set guidelines when offering discounts you could end up discounting yourself right out of business.
When you’re massage business is new you need to get people through the doors so by offering small incentives to new clients is definitely OK just don’t go crazy. In the beginning of my business I gave a discount for just about everything, that lasted 9 months when I did the numbers and realized my take home pay was no better then when I worked for Massage Envy.
I changed my policy to one coupon per visit and it had to be on a 60 minute or greater session. I gave plenty of notice when I made this change and it went over just fine. Now I don’t give discounts for anything except when someone pays in cash. If I have a client who refers several people to me I give them extra time on their session but I do not give a discount on their massage.
Marketing for your business should be straight forward, word of mouth should be your best ally but don’t be afraid to cold call different companies and reach out to your community.
I wouldn’t put a lot of money into advertising when it comes to our industry you need to get your hands on people so talk to businesses, rent booths at local events like races or bridal shows and give demonstrations (chair massage) and hand out brochures and business cards. It will take time just stay the course and stay organized and follow through!
Step 3 Get a EIN:
EIN stand for Employer Identification Number and you will apply for this number through the irs.gov, it is free and only takes a few minutes to complete the form. An EIN is a number that you will use in place of your social security number when you file your taxes for your business.
You will also use this number when opening a business bank account and you will use this number on any legal documents for your massage therapy business. Having an EIN number helps protect you and your business by keeping your personal information out of the business.
Step 4 File your trade name:
Once you have your EIN number it’s time to register your trade name with your local municipality. You can do this by visiting your local country clerks office and fill out a simple application, pay a small fee (mine was $10), then have it notarized (usually available in the same office and it’s free). You will leave the office with one copy so I recommend scan the certificate and create a business document file as a back up.
Step 5 File your business license:
To apply for a business license you will need your EIN number, your trade name, and a computer. I live in Indiana so I typed in Indiana.gov/businesslicense do the same but put your state in the beginning. If you get stuck contact your local country clerks office and they can guide you on what you need to do to establish your massage business.
Since every state is different the process and fees will vary but again do a simple Google search for your state and if you need help call the clerks office.
When filing your business name this is where you will need to decide what type of business you want to have, you will need to choose which best suites your needs, your options are:
- Sole Proprietor
- Limited Liability Company, LLC
It is best to talk with a lawyer to determine which is best for you but I went with a LLC and I recommend that for your massage therapy business. A LLC helps protect your personal assets in the event you are suede. Meaning in the events you are suede an individual can only go after business assets not your home, cars, retirement funds, ect.
When I applied for my LLC I paid a local lawyer $500 to file the paperwork and handle all that for me, it is worth it to have a LLC. Being in the massage therapy industry you are in the health industry and people are sue happy.
As a massage therapist you also are required to have massage insurance, you can obtain this through AMTA or ABMP. You should already have this at this point if you are a practicing massage therapist.
Your massage insurance does provide coverage if you injured someone but the person could still come after you personally and take everything you own, that’s where the LLC comes into play. By having the LLC the individual can only come after the business. I highly recommend you invest in a LLC.
All the massage therapist I know have LLC’s, the other options really don’t apply for a massage business but again please discus this with a lawyer before making any decisions.
OK guys almost done!
Once you have completed your online business license form and it has been approved; congratulations, in the eyes of the law you are a operating business!
Step 6 Set up your accounting software:
Before your brand new massage business takes it’s first appointment you need to get your final ducks in a row. Leading up to this point you have done a lot of paperwork but now it’s time to start buying some equipment and create marketing materials like your personalized massage business cards.
All of this takes money so you better be saving your receipts, every single thing you buy for your business needs to be documented. Large or small, if you are buying something for your business save the receipts and log it. You can use Quickbooks, The Wave App, or a simple Excel spread sheet if you like.
Quickbooks monthly fees for a single user are $10/month and it sinks with Square if that’s what you use for your credit transactions. The two systems talk to each other so you don’t have to log each transaction and that’s pretty cool. Also, come tax time Quickbooks will set up everything for you to easily print out nice and neat for your accountant or you can file through Quickbooks using Turbo tax. It’s a pretty handy took, everything is saved and backed up so you don’t have to worry about losing anything.
Another option is a free tool called The Wave App, this is a nice app that helps keep everything organized. Since The Wave App is free you will have to manually enter all credits and expenses, as well as back up your files yourself. My friend used this app for awhile and some how it crashed and she lost everything!
I also used this app and I never lost any data (thank God) but I didn’t like how everything looked when I printed everything for tax time. There was a lot of unnecessary paper and it was a bit confusing figuring out how to print everything in the first place, after the first year I switched to Quickbooks.
My massage business was growing, I was making more money and selling more merchandise so I needed to know my paperwork was safe.
Last option for your book keeping needs would be to create an Excel spread sheet. Excel is free and with a little time you could create a system to log all your income and all your expenses for each month. If you go this route just be sure to save your work every time and at the end of each month print your report and file it away with all your other business related documents.
While you are on Excel, go ahead and create a monthly expense spread sheet while your at it. Even if you have a home based business or doing traveling massage, you will still have monthly expenses.
I like to know exactly how much I am making each month but I can’t know my income if I have no idea what I spent that month.
Each massage business will have different expenses, to give you an idea of what to expect here is a list of my monthly massage expenses:
- Renter insurance
- Scheduling software
- Laundry ($4/load)
- Misc office supplies
As I previously said, each business will be different so it would be a good idea to talk to an account so you know how to maximize your deductions!
Deductions are everything for a small business so don’t leave anything out, the more you can deduct the less you will own. It’s also a good idea to talk to an account in the beginning as they can help tell you what you can and can not deduct.
For example, if you have a home based business you can deduct the square footage you are using as your office or massage room. You can also deduct a portion of your utilities and a whole lot more, so talk to a professional accountant and start your business on the right foot.
Step 7 Open a Business bank account
Before you except your first dollar you need a business account, it is very important to keep your personal and business financials separate. Come tax time you will need to be able to account for every dollar you earned so you need a separate account to help keep things organized.
You also want a business account so you can have checks in your business name, this way when you buy equipment or need to pay rent the funds are taken from your business account and can easily be accounted for. You will also receive a debt card and I would get a business credit card as well.
Both Square and Quickbooks can sink with any bank account to make your life that much easier. For example, if you deposited $500 cash into your business checking account, your banking system will talk to Quickbooks and Quickbooks will log that deposit on your income statement for you.
Even though Quickbooks is awesome it’s still a good idea to look over everything once a week or twice a month to make sure everything is correct, don’t just assume it’s all good and let a few months go by before you check everything. It is much easier to find and correct things if you check over your work often.
Step 8 Create a website
There are a few ways to do this, some cost and some are free but the bottom line is, you need a website for your massage business! If you have your massage insurance through AMTA or ABMP they do provide one free website to their members.
They have several set template to choose from, you simply pick a theme and type in your information. If you go this route be warned they are incredibly limiting and you will need to purchase a domain name from a third party like Siteground since the domain name issued to you with the free site is not recognized by Google and your website will not rank.
Buying a domain name is cheap but it is a annual expense but you will have that wherever you go. You can purchase a domain from siteground for just a few dollars or you could also check out a web hosting company called Blue hosting. I would not no use GoDaddy, I had nothing but trouble with them when I started my massage business and I will never go back to the company.
Something else to consider when using the free website is that there will be advertisements on the top and bottom of your pages. AMTA, ABMP, free Google sites, and Wiki websites all will place ads on YOUR website that they profit from. For this reason and many more I pay to have a website. The company I use for my website now is Siteground. I paid for the year up front for both my domain and a year of hosting. If you do this you save quite a bit.
I like Siteground quite a bit and their support center is based in Chicago with 24/7 access, you should check them out. I would also compare prices with Blue Hosting, both are great companies but it’s always good to shop around for the best deal. For more information on how to create your website click here.
Step 9 Get Active:
First off, congratulations for your accomplishments up to this point. I hope you are proud of yourself because you have done what many want to do but lack the courage to do, so well done! At this point you have got all your ducks in a row and you are ready to start taking clients! To get your business rolling you need to become an extrovert and start talking to people.
First, reach out to all your friends and family and ask them to share your website and business Facebook page, free advertising is the best advertising. Next you need to do some research, see what Chiropractors and Sports clubs in your area that do not offer massage currently and try to create a relationship with those people.
Rent a booth at local races and offer chair or table massage, if you live in an area that has different out door events in the summer time, get involved in those events and rent booths to get some exposure. Lastly, your website is an powerful asset so maximize that asset to the fullest extent.
Push your friends and family members to write a review about you, reviews help boost your ranking. Create a Google My Business account so Google can see your website and put you on the map.
Creating a free Google my business account and getting reviews will help boost your website and with time move up in ranking.
When starting your massage therapy business it can be scary and at times overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. By following these 9 simple steps you will be well on your way to a successful massage therapy business.
Remember, success doesn’t happen over night. Stay focused, stay positive and follow this list. Everything layed out above is all you need to start your own massage therapy business. Good luck and I would love to here your success story and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.
Thanks and good luck.