How to start a massage business without stressing out
- A well-researched business plan is the foundation of a successful massage business
- To start a massage therapy business you must obtain a massage license, certifications, and liability insurance
- Social media platforms, email marketing, and customer review sites like Yelp can help your new business flourish
Massage therapists are invaluable for working out the knots and kinks in sore muscles—improving people’s overall health and wellness. Combine the fact that the massage industry is a $16 billion market with top-notch massage techniques and an entrepreneurial spirit, and the massage therapy business may be for you. Becoming a business owner is a big step, but the benefits can be worth it. For example, as your own boss, you can enjoy greater work flexibility and earning potential.
Use this guide to learn how to start a massage business—whether you plan to rent a massage room at a local day spa, open your own storefront, or run a mobile massage therapist business.
How to start a massage business in 7 steps
To start a successful massage business, create a detailed, well-researched business plan; ensure your business can legally operate; and find your first paying customers.
Follow these seven steps to get your massage therapy business off the ground.
1. Write a business plan
Think of your business plan as a roadmap: It helps you organize all aspects of your business, prioritize tasks, and focus your efforts on what will help your startup succeed.
A business plan should also convince potential investors or lenders of the viability of your business. You’ll have a much better chance of receiving funding if you have a comprehensive and compelling business plan.
A business plan should include the following sections:
- Executive summary. Give a brief overview of your entire business plan, including what massage services you’ll provide, business goals, and competitive advantages.
- Company description. What makes your business unique? Provide a mission statement and outline the problems you’ll solve for clients.
- Market analysis. Explain your client demographics and why customers would choose you over competing local businesses, including their strengths and weaknesses.
- Organization and management. Share what type of business entity you’ll be forming—e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. Then, create an organizational chart that shows the leadership hierarchy, even if it’s just you right now. Include your massage certifications or awards to make this section shine.
- Services. Describe the specific services you’ll provide. Will you travel to clients’ homes? Or provide services in less common massage techniques such as amma therapy, rolfing, or reiki?
- Marketing and sales. Lay out a marketing plan with strategies to find and retain customers. Focus on marketing efforts that are relevant to a massage therapy business—like email marketing, online review platforms, and social media marketing.
- Financial projections. Estimate revenues for the first three years of business. Provide mock-ups of your pricing structure, income statements, balance sheets, and cash-flow statements. Also, list any startup costs and operating expenses you’ll incur, such as business cards, massage tables, liability insurance, towels, and massage oils or lotions.
- Funding request. Not all business plans include this section, however, it’s necessary if you’re pitching investors or applying for a small business loan. Explain how much investment you’re seeking and how you’ll allocate those funds.
2. Choose a business name and logo
Your branding is the first thing potential clients will see. As such, your name and logo should convey that you run a professional business that clients can trust.
Choose a business name that is unique and professional and that clearly expresses what services you offer. For example, “No Knot Massage” or “Count to Zen Massage Therapy” don’t leave people guessing. Brainstorm different keywords that describe your business and embody your core values, then try combining them in different configurations. An online business name generator may help spur creativity. While a generator likely offers more generic names, it can help narrow down options and inspire new ideas.
Once you’ve decided on your favorite business name options, make sure no one else has already claimed them and that you’re not infringing on any trademarks. Use the name search tool on your state business filing agency‘s website, and then use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office‘s trademark search tool.
The next step is to brand your business with a logo. Everything from the color palette to typography should be consistent across all marketing materials and channels, including your website, business cards, and social media accounts.
If you don’t have design experience, you can outsource this work to a graphic designer. Sites like 99designs or UpWork offer affordable services from professionals.
3. Register your massage business
You must register your company with your local Secretary of State before you can begin operating. There are four different types of business structures to choose from: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation.
A limited liability company is an ideal choice for massage businesses. An LLC protects your personal assets in case your business comes under financial distress or legal action. For example, if a client sues your company for injuries, your personal assets are completely separate from your business assets.
An LLC also allows for pass-through taxation, which means your business income will only be taxed once. Other business entities, like corporations, undergo double taxation, which means you’ll be taxed at the business level and on your personal tax return.
Check the Small Business Administration websitefor more information about registering your business.
4. Get a federal tax ID number
Immediately after registering your business, request an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. An EIN is necessary for paying taxes, opening business bank accounts, and paying employees.
You can get an EIN free of charge within minutes. Simply provide your name, Social Security number, address, and business name.
5. Obtain massage business licenses, certifications, and insurance
Most states have regulations, licensing, and insurance requirements to become a massage therapist. These requirements vary from state to state.
For example, some states require that you’ve attended an accredited school. Typically, these schools need to be approved by a massage therapy association that’s affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education, such as the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA).
You will also likely need to pass a licensing exam, like the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) exam. You can find your state’s licensing and training requirements here.
Beyond that, additional certifications in specialized techniques like Swedish, Thai, or cupping can differentiate your business from your competition.
Lastly, at the minimum, you’ll need general liability insurance to protect your business. Massage therapy involves intense physical contact with clients. You’ll be protected if a client tries to sue your company for any injuries or damages.
6. Open a business bank account
Your business and personal finances should remain completely separate. This will make your life easier when tax season rolls around since you’ll have a dedicated bank account for all business expenses and income.
It also allows your business to build credit, obtain a business credit card, and accept payments from clients. Note that you’ll need an Employer Identification Number before you can open a business bank account.
7. Market your massage business
Once you’ve gone through all the steps of forming your company, it’s time to market your business and find new clients.
Start by creating an online presence for your massage therapy practice. Social media platforms, customer review sites like Yelp, and email marketing are three easy ways to promote your business.
Social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn can help grow and retain your customer base. Post high-value content that educates followers and encourages them to reach out for your services.
For example, create posts that give followers valuable information like “5 ways massage therapy improves your sleep” or “How massage therapy helps you recover from injury.” You could offer discounts to first-time customers and encourage followers to like and share your content in exchange for the chance to win free massage services.
Claim your Yelp Business Page to build credibility in your online presence. Make sure it includes your business details, such as hours, massage services provided, photos, and contact information. You can also respond to customer reviews to show that you’re an engaged business owner and boost word-of-mouth referrals. Consumers put a great deal of trust in recommendations from others, whether they’re in person or online. In fact, 90% of consumers read reviews before choosing a business.
Get a free Yelp Page
Promote your business to local customers.Claim your free page
Consider email marketing to nurture new leads and retain existing clients. An easy way to build your email marketing list is by collecting an email address from each of your clients when they check in for an appointment. Make sure to ask for permission to stay in contact.
Routine newsletters and discounts—either bi-weekly or monthly—can help maintain relationships and increase repeat business. For example, holiday and birthday promotions are a great way to amplify engagement. Plus, why not use email marketing to find new customers? Consider offering your clients free or discounted services for every new referral they send your way.
Take the stress out of running your own business
Launching a massage business is less complicated once you know which steps to take.
Start by conducting research and crafting a polished business plan to guide your new venture. Make sure you have a business name that’s true to your brand, and obtain all the necessary certifications, insurance, and business licenses in your state before opening.
Use your online presence to provide valuable information and enticing incentives for current and potential clients. Staying active online keeps your brand top-of-mind for potential customers.
For more ways to promote your brand and services, check out our guides for marketing to new customers and promoting your local business.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.