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How To Start A Massage Therapy Business In 2023

How To Start A Massage Therapy Business In 2023

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How To Start A Massage Therapy Business In 2023

How To Start A Massage Business

Anyone who desires to help people and is interested in the body and physical well-being may want to consider opening a massage therapy business. While this industry requires some specific schooling and certification or licensure, becoming a massage therapist doesn’t take as much time or monetary investment as it would take to become a chiropractor or other medical professional. Massage therapists who operate their own businesses enjoy scheduling flexibility and control of their own businesses. Helping customers recover from injuries or reduce pain can be a rewarding experience.

Starting your own massage business involves more than just having skillful hands. This guide aims to help you get started by providing an overview of the massage industry, offering practical steps to start a massage business, and answers to common questions.

Business Overview

Massage therapy businesses offer therapeutic services to a variety of customers. Massage therapists sometimes choose to own and operate their own businesses, but massage therapists may also be employed directly by a spa or other facility. Massage is increasingly becoming valued for the medical benefits it offers, so some massage therapists focus on offering services to complement traditional medicine and treatment. Customers often become repeat customers, and this repeat business is important to a massage therapist’s profits.

Massage Industry Overview

The massage therapy industry is a significant segment of the wellness and personal care market, which has expanded greatly over the past decade (though the last five years saw a decline due to COVID-19) and is expected to generate $19 billion in 2023.

Over the last decade, there has been an increase of 8% in the number of massage therapists, and the future looks bright as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a job growth of 20% for massage therapists from 2021 to 2031.

Several trends are expected to take place to support industry growth:

  1. Growing demand: There’s a growing demand for massage therapy services as consumers increasingly prioritize self-care and wellness. As more people focus on holistic wellness, expect an uptick in clients looking for massage services that offer comprehensive health benefits, maybe coupled with nutritional advice or meditation sessions.
  2. Specialized therapies: Consumers are becoming more educated about the various types of massages and their benefits, leading to a demand for specialized therapies. You’ve got everyday folks looking for relaxation, athletes aiming for optimal performance, patients seeking relief from chronic pain, and corporations offering wellness programs for their employees. With this range of needs, there’s ample room for specialization and niche services.
  3. Mobile massage services: Convenience is a significant factor in consumer behavior, and chair massage services that offer at-home or workplace sessions are on the rise.
  4. Subscription models: Offering subscription or membership plans can provide a steady income stream and keep your client base loyal.
  5. Integration with healthcare: The recognition of massage therapy as a legitimate part of healthcare could lead to increased partnerships between massage therapists and healthcare providers.
  6. Technology integration: Technology continues to play a crucial role in the industry, from online booking systems to innovative massage equipment.

Understanding these trends can be a game-changer for your business planning. It will allow you to carve out your niche, plan your services, and target your marketing effectively. In an ever-evolving industry, staying ahead of the curve is key to standing out and achieving long-term success.

Target Market

Most massage therapy business clients are adults. According to the American Massage Therapy Association’s most recent consumer survey, 60 percent of survey respondents stated that their last massage had been for medical reasons. Thirty-one percent of respondents sought out massage because of stress, and 31 percent of respondents got a massage to pamper themselves.  

Customers may seek out massages for different reasons, and massage therapists can tailor their businesses to market to specific audiences. Some massage therapists may focus on promoting how massage can relieve pain after injuries, while others may focus on the stress-relieving and mental health benefits of a massage. The target markets for each type of business will differ, so it’s important for business owners to understand their branding and target audience.

Checklist To Start A Massage Business

If you’re thinking about starting a massage business, it’s important to do your research first. Here is a checklist to help you get started.

Step 1: Research the Market

You wouldn’t dive into a pool without checking if it has enough water, right? The same logic applies here. Before putting your hard-earned money and valuable time into starting a massage business, you need to find out if there’s enough demand.

I know – you may feel confident that massage is a growing industry and that your skills would fulfill an unmet need. But assumptions can be risky when launching a new business.

Here’s why – Validating interest from prospective customers can prevent major hardship down the road. It provides key insights into your target market, ideal location, pricing models, competitive landscape, and more. Doing this research will also strengthen your business plan and financial projections, which helps to confirm that you can make a profit in your business.

Here are some hands-on ways to assess whether there’s a market for your massage business:

  1. Competitor analysis: Visit competitor websites, social media pages, and online reviews to understand what they offer and how customers respond to their services. You can also spend time near your potential business location and observe the foot traffic.
  2. Local directories and online reviews: Check out competitors on Google My Business, Yelp, or other local business directories. Pay close attention to customer reviews and ratings. This can help you gauge demand and identify any gaps in the market that you could fill.
  3. Community boards and local groups: Engage with local community boards or Facebook groups. These platforms often discuss local services, giving you an idea of what people in your area seek.
  4. Public records and data: The Census Bureau and local economic development office have demographic data, economic indicators, and other statistics to evaluate the local population.
  5. Networking: Talk to people in related industries, like fitness trainers, physiotherapists, or even local physicians. They can provide insights into what their clients are looking for and might even refer clients to you in the future.

Step 2: Write a Business Plan

After validating demand for your massage services through market research, the next move is to craft a business plan. More than a formality when seeking funding, the business planning process provides tremendous value for new entrepreneurs in this industry.

Think of it as your GPS for this entrepreneurial journey, guiding you through each twist and turn. More than that, a business plan helps you take those ideas in your head and put them on paper so you can stay organized and on track through the startup chaos.

Having a well-crafted plan is also pretty much a must-have if you’re seeking funding. Investors or lenders aren’t just giving away money; they want to see that you’ve thought this thing through and have a strategy for making it profitable.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 3: Source Funding

With a viable business plan in hand, securing startup funding is often the next hurdle for aspiring massage therapy entrepreneurs. This can be a challenging process, but going in informed helps set realistic expectations.

Typically, the first source entrepreneurs turn to is personal savings. While limited, this has benefits like avoiding loan payments and interest costs. Many lenders actually expect borrowers to invest a sizable portion of personal funds first.

For larger funding needs, banks or credit unions can provide small business loans or lines of credit. Lenders want to see good credit, sufficient collateral, and detailed financial projections showing the ability to repay. In some cases, the bank may look to a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan guarantee to help secure the loan.

Seeking loans from friends and family is another common startup funding source. However, to maintain healthy relationships, it’s essential to treat these arrangements professionally. This means putting agreements in writing, clearly outlining repayment terms, and communicating regularly about the status of the loan and the business.

If your funding needs are relatively low, or traditional credit isn’t available, microloans can be a good option. These are smaller loans, often provided by economic development organizations or lenders like Kiva or Accion. Some microloan programs also offer business training and mentoring along with funding, which can be invaluable for a new business owner.

Investors could be an option, though it is really hard for a massage business to get. These are generally local folks with a high net worth, but are generally looking for businesses that can scale quickly and offer a hefty return on investment.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 4: Register the Business

So you’re armed with a business plan and funding—fantastic! Now, let’s make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s when it comes to legally registering your business. The steps can vary by state, but here’s a general overview.

Choosing a business structure: First up, you’ve got to decide what type of business structure best suits your needs. You’ve got four main choices:

  • Sole proprietorship: This is the easiest and least expensive to set up. You are your business, and there’s minimal paperwork to fill out. The downside is you’re personally responsible for any business debts or legal issues.
  • Partnership: If you’re teaming up with someone else, a partnership might be the way to go. Agreements should be detailed and in writing to avoid misunderstandings down the line.
  • Corporation: While this offers the most liability protection, it’s also the most complex and often most costly to establish. It also involves double taxation, meaning the business and the owners are both taxed.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): This offers liability protection like the corporation with the lower administrative requirements of a sole proprietorship.

Related: Comparison of business structures

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.


Some popular LLC formation services include:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

ZenBusiness - Best for beginners. $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Northwest - Best privacy protection. $39 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Massage licensing: Each state has its own regulations and requirements for becoming a licensed massage therapist. You’ll need to check the specific requirements in your area. Typically, this will involve completing a certain number of training hours, passing an exam, and paying a licensing fee.

Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming a massage business 

During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.

Related: Finding a domain name for your business

Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general licenses or permits needed before opening. This could include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Related: State guides for general business licensing

Step 5: Select your Location

Now that your funding is in place and your business is registered, it’s time to find the perfect location for your massage therapy venture.

There are four main “locations” that a massage business will operate from. These include:

Operating from home: Operating a massage therapy business from home is an attractive option for many therapists. It eliminates commuting time, provides flexibility, and can significantly reduce overhead costs. However, it’s crucial to have a dedicated professional space in your home that is quiet, clean, and private. You’ll also need to check local zoning laws and homeowners’ association rules to ensure you’re allowed to operate a business from your residence.

Co-locating with a related business: Co-locating your massage therapy business within a related establishment, such as a medical office, fitness center, or spa, can provide numerous benefits. It allows you to cater to a ready-made clientele who are already interested in health and wellness services. Moreover, being associated with a reputable business could enhance your credibility. This arrangement often involves a rental agreement or partnership, so it’s essential to define the terms clearly.

Mobile massage service: A mobile massage business provides you the flexibility to travel to your clients, offering them the convenience of receiving massage therapy in their homes or offices. This model requires a reliable vehicle and portable equipment. Plan your travel radius and consider the feasibility of traveling to different locations. Be sure to understand the local regulations regarding mobile businesses to ensure compliance.

Operating out of a commercial space: Renting or buying a commercial space gives you a high degree of control over your work environment. It offers a distinct separation between your personal and professional life and can convey a highly professional image to your clients. However, this option can involve significant costs, including rent, utilities, insurance, and maintenance. It’s also important to choose a location that is convenient and accessible for your target clientele.

Each of these options has its own advantages and potential challenges, so it’s important to consider your personal preferences, financial situation, and business goals when deciding where to base your massage therapy business.

Step 6: Purchase Equipment & Supplies

So you’ve nailed down your location and have your funding ready to roll. What’s next? Equipping your space.

The scope of your massage offerings dictates what you’ll need to purchase. For instance, if you’re aiming for a full-service spa experience, you’re talking about a wider array of supplies: massage tables, oils, towels, and even ambient decor like soft lighting and soothing music. On the other hand, if you’re going mobile, your focus might be on easily transportable equipment like folding massage chairs or tables.

While it’s important to have all the necessary equipment and supplies, buying everything new isn’t always necessary. Consider purchasing some items second-hand or leasing equipment to save money.

Step 7: Hire Staff (optional)

Industry data shows that 78% of massage businesses are sole practitioners, though you may have plans to hire right away. If this is your plan, being prepared and understanding the responsibilities involved in hiring is a critical step in the startup of a massage business.

Before hiring, it’s crucial to understand the legal obligations as an employer. This includes obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, setting up tax withholding, and complying with labor laws, including minimum wage regulations and overtime provisions. You also need to provide workers’ compensation insurance for your employees. It’s also important to distinguish between hiring employees and independent contractors, as different rules apply to each.

Related: Guide to hiring employees in each state

Step 8: Create a Marketing Plan

You’ve got the place, the people, and the equipment—now you need the customers.

One of the most effective ways to market a massage business is through referrals and partnerships with other health and wellness businesses. Think local gyms, yoga studios, and medical practices. These alliances can serve as a two-way street for client recommendations. Also, see if you can leave behind materials like brochures, postcards and flyers, offering coupons, discount promotions, or a free trial.

With the increasing awareness of the medical benefits massage offers, new massage therapists may want to establish connections in the medical industry. Referrals are highly valuable because of how this industry depends on recurring customers. Finding a medical practitioner who is willing to refer a massage service may be an essential element in helping to support a business.

Developing an online presence is essential. One way to do that is through a professional-looking website highlighting your services, booking system, location, and credentials. After getting the site up, don’t forget about claiming your business on online directories. Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are where a lot of folks go to find and vet local services. Make sure you claim your Google Business Profile too. While Google is a go-to, many customers trust a variety of sources before making a decision.

You definitely shouldn’t sleep on the power of social media, either. Platforms like Instagram are golden for showing off your facilities, services, and happy clients. This goes hand in hand with your website and allows you to keep an interested audience in the loop about specials, new services, or health tips, all while building a loyal customer base.

All in all, marketing your massage business involves a healthy mix of online and offline tactics, each with its own set of benefits. Be strategic, and you’ll see those appointment slots fill up in no time.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Prepare to Open!

So, you’ve made it pretty far down the road to launching your massage business, and that’s something to be proud of. However, there are a few key things that may still remain to finish before starting. Every business will have different needs, but here are some common ones.

Business insurance: No matter how skilled your hands are, accidents or unexpected issues can happen. Insurance safeguards you from hefty legal fees and protects your assets. Look into general liability and professional liability insurance as a start.

Related: What types of insurance does a massage therapy business need?

Bookkeeping: Keeping track of income and expenses is crucial. Whether you decide to hire a pro or use software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks, it’s a step you can’t skip.

Contracts: In this industry, you’ll deal with vendor contracts for supplies, employment contracts, and maybe even partnership agreements with other health and wellness businesses. Client waivers and confidentiality agreements are common, too.

RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful, but it’s worth having an attorney review them.

Opening a bank account: If you mix your personal and business finances, you’re asking for a headache. Open a separate business account to keep things clean.

Management software: From appointment scheduling to customer relationship management, specialized software can make your life easier. Consider platforms like Mindbody, MassageBook, or Square Appointments.

Accept credit cards: Cash-only businesses are a hard sell these days. Look into merchant services that can handle a variety of payment methods, not just credit cards. Some popular options include Square or Stripe.

Preparing for the grand opening: This is where all your hard work pays off. A soft launch for friends and family can be a good trial run, but make your public opening an event people won’t want to miss.

Greg’s Tip: It’s tempting to bring in as many clients as possible, but overworking can lead to burnout. When starting out, consider offering quality service for fewer clients. This can result in a better reputation and bring long-term success.

Greg's Business Tip

Common Questions When Starting A Massage Business

How much does it cost to start a massage business?

Starting a massage therapy business will bring some amount of upfront investment. Between equipment, licensing, insurance, marketing, and operating expenses, total costs to open typically range from $6,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on your business model.

Knowing what to expect can help you prepare a realistic budget, so let’s break down these costs.

Equipment: The biggest investment is typically the massage table, with prices ranging from $225 to over $3,000 for a hydromassage table. The quality and durability of your table are crucial, so it’s wise to invest in a solid, reliable model.

Facility: If you’re not operating from home or as a mobile massage therapist, leasing a commercial space can start at $1,000 per month. However, you might get away with just a security deposit upfront, which is typically the first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit, which could total $5,000 or more.

As a mobile massage therapy business, a vehicle that can accommodate your equipment must be budgeted.

Renovations: Hiring contractors for any buildout, renovations, or customization of your space contributes to the total startup costs.

Furniture: Office furniture, reception area, seating, and furnishings can easily reach $5,000 to $10,000.

Licensing: You’ll need to consider the costs of obtaining a professional license, business formation, and business permit, which can range from $50 to $1,000 depending on your location.

Initial insurance: For your initial insurance costs, budgeting for liability insurance is a must. The cost will vary depending on the coverage amount and other factors, but is typically only a few hundred dollars.

Marketing: Initial marketing costs like website development, brochures and advertising can run $1,000 to $3,000 to promote your launch.

Miscellaneous: You should also factor in costs for supplies and equipment such as massage oils, linens, cleaning supplies, music subscription, and possibly clinic management software.

Please remember that these are estimated costs, and actual costs may vary depending on numerous factors including location, size of the business, and specific business choices.

How profitable is a massage business?

Many aspiring massage therapy entrepreneurs wonder what their earning potential can be. According to industry research, the average cost of a massage is $75 per hour. Let’s assume you perform four such sessions a day, five days a week. That would net you around $1,500 per week, or $6,000 per month in revenue.

You have rent, which let’s say is $1,000 a month, utilities around $200, supplies costing around $150, and marketing at about $200 a month. Don’t forget insurance, which could be $50 per month when averaged annually. That totals up to $1,600 in operating expenses per month.

Here’s the math:
Revenue: 4 sessions/day x 5 days/week x $75/session = $1,500/week or $6,000/month
Operating expenses: $1,000 (rent) + $200 (utilities) + $150 (supplies) + $200 (marketing) + $50 (insurance) = $1,600/month

To find the profit, subtract your operating expenses from your revenue: $6,000 (revenue) – $1,600 (expenses) = $4,400/month in profit before taxes.

So you’re looking at a potential profit of around $4,400 a month, or roughly $52,800 a year, before taxes. Of course, these are just ballpark figures; your actual numbers can vary based on location, demand, and your business model. But hopefully, this gives you an idea of what’s possible.

What skills are needed to run a massage business?

A massage therapist doesn’t need to have a business degree to start their own business, but certain skills and experiences will be beneficial.

Massage techniques: A strong foundation in anatomy and physiology is crucial, along with expertise in different massage techniques. This is often acquired through formal education and certification.

Communication skills: Effective communication is key to understanding clients’ needs and expectations. This includes both verbal communication and active listening skills.

Interpersonal skills: Making customers feel welcome and relaxed is an important skill in the massage therapy industry. Massage therapists depend on repeat business, so establishing a positive relationship with clients can contribute to the therapist’s success.

Time management: The ability to manage your schedule effectively is vital, especially when balancing multiple clients and administrative tasks.

Business acumen: Understanding the basics of running a business, such as marketing, financial management, and legal requirements, is important for sustainability and growth.

Hygiene: Maintaining a clean and sanitary environment is not only a professional obligation but also essential for the comfort and safety of your clients.

Physical stamina: Massage therapy is physically demanding. Therapists spend much of their workday on their feet and use their upper body strength to perform massages.

These skills together can help ensure the successful operation of a massage business. However, it’s important to remember that each business is unique, and the specific skills needed may vary depending on your business model and target market.

What is the NAICS code for a massage business?

The NAICS code for a massage business is 812199, which is categorized under Other Personal Care Services.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code?

Resources:
American Massage Therapy Association
Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

Author

  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

How To Start A Massage Therapy Business In 2023

How To Start A Massage Therapy Business In 2023

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