Figuring out how to start a massage business takes a lot of planning and hard work. It’s also a wonderful opportunity, and there are a few things you can do to help make everything easier.
What You Will Learn
We’ll go over the start up costs for a massage therapy business, what supplies you’ll need for your massage therapy practice, basic legal requirements, and provide a checklist to help.
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- Legal Requirements For Massage Business
- Massage Business Start-Up Costs
- What Supplies Do You Need To Start A Massage Business
- Massage Therapy Opening Checklist
Legal Requirements For Massage Business
Massage therapy business owners will need to get a lot of things ready before they can open their doors and start welcoming new clients.
The licenses and permits you’ll need can vary slightly from state to state, so make sure to do your research and learn what the requirements are in your area. You’ll want to include these costs in your business plan and startup budget.
The basic steps to make sure that your massage therapist business complies with all state and local regulations are:
1. Obtain The Necessary Licenses
You may be wondering “Do I need a license to open a massage business?” The answer is yes- more than one, in fact.
Massage Therapy License: This is not a step you can skip, but rather a legal requirement. In most cases, you’ll need to be at least 18 years of age and have graduated from an accredited school that trained you as a massage therapist. This usually involves passing a series of courses and practicum exams, plus on-the-job placements.
National Certification Board: Depending on your practice and the nature of your new massage business, this may or may not be necessary. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) administers this certification through a series of exams. As a certified massage therapist, you can use this credential to prove your high level of knowledge and professional skill.
Massage Therapy Businesses Operation License: This is a standard type of business registration license that you’ll need to open your own massage business. Apply at either your state department, or at the U.S. Small Business Administration. You’ll need to give them your name, business name, and social security number.
Note: Check with your county clerk or municipal website about any local business license requirements.
Certificate of Occupancy: Before opening a massage business, you’ll need to prove that you have a safe space to do it in. Contact your local building inspector- they’ll check the massage studio itself as well as verify things like fire safety, electrical and water hookups.
Pro tip: Check with professional massage therapy associations for additional resources. The American Massage Therapy Association lists the credentials you’ll need in each state, so you can start by taking a look here.
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2. Register Your Massage Therapy Business
Apply For A TIN: This is your 9-digit Tax Identification Number. You can apply for it directly via the IRS website. You’ll need to fill out a form and provide proof of your name, identity and eligibility to work in the United States. Every new business owner needs this to file their state and federal taxes, whether they employ staff or not.
Verify Business Name Requirements: When you write your business plan, you’ll need a name (we’ll go over plans in more detail soon). Some states have very specific requirements when it comes to what you’re allowed to use in a massage business name. Make sure to check these out.
3. Get the Required Permits
Retail Seller Permit: If you also want to sell retail products, you’ll most likely need a permit. This goes for all states that collect sales tax. You can verify this on the U.S. Small Business Administration website or go directly to your state’s website..
Building Permits: If you plan to do any work to the building where you’ll run your own massage therapy business, then you’ll need to get permits and inspections at the state level for the work.
Costs of these may vary a bit, depending on the exact nature of the renovations.
EIN: Don’t forget your Federal Employer Identification Number- you’ll need it in order to file your Federal and state taxes, massage therapists payroll, and a lot of other paperwork.
You can apply for this on your state’s website or directly from the IRS. They’ll ask for your business license, personal information and general information about your business structure and services.
4. Buy Liability Insurance
General liability insurance protects your massage business from legal liability, damage or loss, and worker’s compensation insurance protects you if your staff are injured on the job. Insurance costs vary but are usually somewhere between $50 to $250 a month, depending on the business.
5. Sign a Lease Agreement
You can either use an online template, or get the help of an attorney. Make sure to have this signed before investing any money in the property itself. If you’re buying a location for your massage therapy business, you should definitely consult a lawyer about the paperwork.
Do not miss our post on massage therapy business plan.
Massage Business Start-Up Costs
So, how much does it cost to start a massage business?
Some of the costs will depend a lot on your business model (operating costs can vary widely depending on location, for example), so it’s wise to conduct your own market analysis or consult with a professional if you’re not sure about business expenses in your area.
That said, here is an overview of some of the basic expenses that most massage therapists will encounter in their own business.
Massage Therapy Business Licenses and Legal Fees
Licenses: These will usually cost between $100-$400 for most small businesses in the United States, including the application fees and the license itself.Certificates: Each state has its own requirements to issue Certificates of Occupancy, but you should budget for a minimum of $250 to get this done. If the inspector finds any issues, they may ask you to have these fixed, and then apply (and pay) for another inspection.
Massage Therapist Licenses and Certificates: These will probably be necessary for your staff, and you’ll need to keep their therapeutic massage training up to date. The fees to apply for your license and renew it are usually between $50-100 USD.
Permits: If you want to sell retail products like lotions, massage oils etc., you’ll need a retail permit. Each state sets their own cost, so make sure to check your state’s website.
Legal Fees: You may need a lawyer to help set up your lease or draft the bill of sale, and it’s a good idea to check with one and ensure all of your state insurance paperwork is filed correctly. Expect to pay about $200 per hour forthis..
Massage Studio Location
Rent Deposit: Expect to pay your first month’s rent, and some landlords may also charge for a deposit to cover things like furnishings or damage to the property (the legality varies by state).
Professional Fit-outs and Renovations: These costs will vary widely depending on the needs of your own practice, your budget and the size of your location. Be sure to get more than one quote from different contractors.
Furniture: Along with the standard furniture that other business owners need (such as waiting area seating, a reception desk and staff break room furniture), you’ll need to budget for items like a massage table, which can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to over $1000, depending on quality.
Signage: You’ll need the right signage to bring in potential clients and reach your target market.
Professionally-made signs can cost several hundred dollars, but can help boost your marketing efforts.
Massage Therapy Equipment
If you’re wondering how to open a massage therapy business, one of the first steps we advise is to look at basic equipment and figure out your budget, since massage equipment is one of the biggest startup costs you’ll face.
Pro Tip: Many massage therapists start off with simpler equipment and upgrade as their business grows. You can also find great massage industry equipment and furniture secondhand, so check your local listings.
At its most basic, the equipment cost for a single person trying to start a massage therapy business is about $2000. Remember, that’s just for a single set of the basic necessities like a simple table, linens, boosters etc.
Massage Therapist Website
A well-made, professional website is a key part of your marketing strategy especially if your target market is younger or professional. Offering clients the ability to book your services online and the ability to spread information about your massage business on social media platforms is essential in the modern age.
You can make a basic website using a free template online, or you can hire a professional web designer. They usually charge between $300- $700, depending on your needs.
When buying stock, it’s easy to go overboard at first- when it comes to stock, how much to start a massage business is seldom universal, so you’ll have to make a list of your specific needs and wants.
Maybe you’ll have several therapists on staff and need lotions, essential oils, several types of products for sensitive skin, etc., or maybe you’re running your own private practice and need just the basics for yourself. This can mean the difference between a couple hundred dollars and over a thousand.
The amount you’ll need to spend on your total stock will depend on the services you offer and the size of your massage therapy business. Make sure to budget for both disposable items used during services, and any retail products you’ll offer.
Pro Tip: Track your budget and spending for professional products (items you’ll use during a client’s visit) and retail products (what you’ll make available for purchase) separately. Massage software can help you manage inventory levels and ordering, along with many other things.
What Supplies Do You Need To Start A Massage Business
Whether you’re wondering how to start a massage business from home, or thinking about how to open a massage business in a busy downtown area, one thing remains constant- you’ll need the right supplies.
Massage therapists work in a variety of challenging and rewarding environments, and having the right tools available is just as important as having the right training and massage skills.
When it comes to finding the massage supplies and equipment you’ll need to help make your massage therapy business successful, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Remember what we said about needs and wants? A good place to start is by making a list of the items you’ll need right now, along with a second list of things you can buy later as needed.
Large pieces of equipment like massage tables can often be rented, but smaller items like furniture, tools and supplies will need to be bought (of course, you can usually find great-quality pieces of furniture secondhand).
You can start a massage therapy shopping list that includes the following categories:
- Furniture: If you’re running a private practice, you’ll need a reception desk, chairs and waiting area furniture, massage tables, rolling stools (important when you spend hours on your feel working on soft body tissues), product display stands, lighting, wall art and decor, trolleys, and shelving.
- Electrical Items: These include a washing machine and dryer, towel warmers, a refrigerator/ freezer for ice packs and supplies, movable task lighting and any specialty items for services.
- Tools and Supplies: This includes everything from towels, linens, boosters, massage lotions and oils, cleaning products, gloves and robes for clients.
- Management: A computer or laptop for running the business and storing consultation information (along with secure massage therapists software for processing/ storing client data and informed consent agreements, inventory and more), a POS system, phone and a cash register.
- Digital: Along with the right massage therapists software, you’ll also want to invest in a massage therapy business website and dedicated social media accounts. This can be done for minimal or now cost, or you can hire a professional.
- Safety: Fire extinguishers, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and first aid kits.
Massage Therapy Opening Checklist
There’s a lot to think about when you start a massage therapy business. In this way, it’s similar to any new business venture: the amount of planning you do makes a huge difference in the results.
Here’s an overview that includes the basic steps of how to start a massage therapy business, from start to finish.
Choose Your Model: We’re not talking about human models, of course. One of the first steps in creating your business plan is deciding if you want to operate on a franchise model (join an existing massage franchise) or be independent. You’ll also need to decide whether to rent spaces to therapists or hire your own.
Create Your Massage Business Plan and Service Menu: This is the basic outline you’ll follow in developing your business, and you’ll need a plan to secure a small business loan (or any business loans, really). It includes your target clientele, marketing plan, budget, estimated cash flow and the services you offer. You’ll also include recurring expenses like employee salaries, health insurance, business insurance, supplies and rent.
Do not miss our post on massage therapy insurance.
Find Your Location: Are you planning to open up a massage therapy practice in a bust downtown core, or are you thinking about how to start a mobile massage business? Maybe you’re going to open a home practice. Deciding on location will help determine your clientele and expenses.
Secure Your Funding: It’s important to have enough money available at startup. Aim for at least six months kept in reserve. This can include your savings, help from friends and family, your local credit union, and loans and grants for industry startups. Keep track of this in your budget and develop a repayment plan.
Pro Tip: Keep your personal expenses separate from your business life. Make sure that you have a dedicated credit card and bank account set up for business purposes. It will make balancing the books and tracking expenditures easier.
Develop Your Brand: This will help define your business. Start by brainstorming a logo, choosing your interior design style and above all, have fun with it. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration.
Draw Up a Marketing Plan: Create your website and social media pages, choose a logo, and connect with the local community. Ask your family and friends to like your pages and help spread the word. You may even want to start a referral program now. Don’t forget to set up your Google My Business account information, along with photos to make it easy for silence to find you. Software for massage therapists will help your follow up with clients and boost those five-star reviews, too.
Get Massage Therapy Software: This is a business tip along with one of our most important self-care tips, too. It’s a huge time, money and stress saver, allowing you to offer easy online booking, manage your team’s schedule, take payments, track and order inventory, and so much more.
Select Your Credit-Card Processing Provider: Be sure to shop around, since different companies offer different equipment and rates, with options ranging from complex machines to payment-processing apps.
Recruit Your Team and Plan Training: If you’re not planning on doing everything by yourself, then it’s time to advertise some job openings.
First, you should decide what your business needs are- do you want a dedicated receptionist, how many full-time massage therapists will you need, and should they specialize in any massage techniques, like aromatherapy or sports massage?
Finally, plan out your training and staff orientation. Allow yourself enough time to not have to rush through the interview process- your company stands to gain (or lose) a lot depending on the staff you select.
Choose Product Suppliers: The massage supplies you’ll need will be determined in part by your business plan- after you’ve decided what services you’ll provide and how many staff you’ll hire, you’ll have a better picture of what (and how many) supplies to order.
Make sure to shop around and see what different suppliers offer before making a decision. See our post about finding massage supplies for more information.
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You may be wondering “So, how profitable is a massage business?”
The massage industry is one that’s continually growing and expanding, especially as our population continues to age and many people work physically stressful or sedentary jobs.
The truth of the matter is that massage businesses can be very profitable if managed correctly- the key here is to have a solid business plan, market your services and keep expenditures within budget.
Don’t worry- learning how to start a therapy business can seem a bit intimidating at first, but the right tools and planning will make everything easier. Why not get started on your plan today?
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