How to Start a Massage Therapy Establishment
- June 22, 2018
- Posted by: claudine
- Category: Guide to Opening a Massage Business
If you’re just finishing up massage school, your biggest focus might be on some of the more technical aspects of getting started as a massage therapist. Maybe you’re devoting all of your time and energy right now to studying for the MBLEx exam, since passing the MBLEx is a requirement for licensure in the majority of U.S. states. There’s no doubt that it’s incredibly important to put in the time and energy necessary to study for and pass your licensing exam. You’ll also need to apply for your license and potentially jump through a few more hoops, depending on which state you plan to practice in. Without taking these steps, it’s impossible to practice massage in most places here in the United States. But once all of these technical and legal requirements are squared away, what’s next? When it comes to getting started as a massage therapist, it’s important to consider which massage career path you want to take. You might opt to work in a health care environment, a spa, or even provide sports massage services. All of these are viable options, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. For some people, though, the allure of self-employment is particularly strong. Maybe you want to be your own boss, or you’re looking for the flexibility to set your own schedule. Perhaps you just have an independent spirit, and you’re excited about striking out on your own. Whatever the case may be, starting your own massage establishment is definitely an exciting prospect.
With that said, though, you may not know where to start. What sorts of things should you consider before you try to launch your own massage business? Is there anything about running a massage establishment that you should know? How should you budget for your new massage business, considering that you’ll already have various expenditures related to your license fee, seeking board of massage therapy approval, and other requirements laid out by your home state? When you give it some real thought, the idea of starting your own massage business can actually be a little overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you think through the process beforehand. Launching a massage establishment is a huge undertaking, and it’s essential to ensure that you’ve considered all of the variables ahead of time before you dive in.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- Getting certified as a massage therapist
- Massage business plan
- Outlining your services and focus
- Choosing a name
- Determining your practice location
- Marketing ideas and market research
- Expenses and financial planning
- Day to day operations
Ready to get started? Here we go!
Massage Therapy Certification
Before you can go any further, the first thing you’ll need to do is ensure that you’re certified as a massage therapist in your home state of practice. In the vast majority of states across the U.S., the most important first step towards licensure and approval by your state board of massage therapy involves passing the MBLEx exam. The MBLEx is a standardized test administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, or FSMTB. The exam is designed to test your foundational knowledge of massage therapy and assess your capacity to competently offer massage services to clients.
To sign up to take the MBLEx, you’ll need to apply for a testing date via the FSMTB website. In order to register for testing, you’ll have to submit proof that you’ve completed an approved course of massage therapy education at an accredited school. If you’re unsure of whether or not your school meets the FSMTB’s standards, you can contact them with questions. Sitting for the MBLEx costs $195, and this fee includes the application fee associated with registering for the test. You’ll receive an Authorization to Test, or ATT, via email once you’ve applied to sit for the exam. With your ATT in hand, you can take the MBLEx in your area the next time it’s offered.
Don’t confuse the MBLEx test with the National Board Certification credential offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, or NCBTMB. Up until 2014, the NCBTMB offered its own massage exam that could count for certification purposes in many U.S. states. As of 2014, however, this exam was discontinued and replaced by the NCBTMB Board Certification Exam. This new exam confers the National Board Certified credential to massage therapists who sit for it and pass it. However, the exam is not intended to serve as a basis for licensure. Instead, the purpose of the new National Board Certified credential is to offer an additional level of qualification to massage therapists who are looking to stand out from the crowd. Passing the NCBTMB exam is not a requirement for licensure, whereas you’ll be required to pass the MBLEx in order to obtain your license in most states.
Once you’ve obtained your massage therapy certification, you can move on to planning the launch of your new massage business. The next step towards starting your own massage establishment involves putting together a business plan.
Putting Together a Business Plan
When starting a small business where you intend to be the only employee, it might feel like you can skip this step. How complicated can it be, after all? You’ll figure it out as you go along, right? Unfortunately, taking that approach can lead to major problems further on down the road. Even if you’re planning to start very small — perhaps only offering massage services part-time while maintaining another job in the meantime — it’s essential to create a detailed business plan ahead of time. Putting everything on paper will help you to organize your thoughts, and it’ll also bring some things to the fore that you may not have thought about otherwise.
When writing a business plan, it’s best to break things up into sections. The task can feel a little overwhelming if you jump in without an outline. If you tackle your business plan one part at a time, though, it’ll feel much more manageable. Here’s how we recommend dividing up your business plan. Keep in mind that you can move these sections around and add in additional information as you see fit.
In the introductory section of your business plan, you’ll want to start by describing your massage practice and the goals that you hope to meet. Think both short-term and long-term here. It’s important to be realistic about your short-term goals, but don’t be afraid to set hefty long-term goals, too.
For example, you may set a goal to break even your first year and turn a profit your second year. Or, your long-term goal might be to build a practice with several other massage therapists working for you. Whatever the case may be, provide as much detail here as possible. Use concrete numbers wherever possible. Instead of saying that you want to earn a profit your second year, specify exactly how much of a profit you hope to generate.
Next, you’ll want to address the legal structure of your business. You might choose to operate as a sole proprietorship, an LLC, or even an S-corporation. Each form of business entity has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to startup costs, complexity of organization, and tax implications. It’s a good idea to do some independent research and speak with an accountant to determine which business structure makes the most sense in combination with your particular goals.
Finally, go into some detail about what you bring to the table, both as a massage therapist and a business owner. Imagine that you’re trying to sell this idea to someone else. Convince them that you’re capable of success, both personally and professionally. If you have prior experience managing or running a business, mention it here. If there’s anything you took away from massage school that you intend to bring to bear on your new practice, this is a great place to talk about it. Don’t be afraid to draw from prior life experiences, too — both personal and professional.
Services and Focus
Depending on the length of your introductory section, you may want to combined your practice’s services and focus with the intro. If your introduction is particularly long, dedicating a separate section to your massage establishment’s services can help keep things clearer and easier to keep track of.
In this section, you’ll want to go into detail about exactly what services you intend to offer. Imagine that you’re a potential client who knows absolutely nothing about massage. What exactly is it that your massage establishment offers? Who are these services appropriate for? What potential benefits do they offer? What sets your business and services apart from similar businesses in the area? By clearly communicating all of this early on in your business plan, you’ll have an easier time with the market research and marketing section below.
Massage Business Name
Choosing a name for your massage establishment can be both fun and intimidating. It’s a huge decision, and it can be hard to know where to start.
In some cases, massage therapists simply use their own name for their massage business, rather than giving a name to their practice. There are some advantages to naming your business something other than your own personal name, though, particularly if your practice will have a very specific focus. For example, a practice focusing on sports massage might want to include “Sports Massage” as part of the business name. It can also help with your marketing efforts (see below) to include a place name as part of the name of your business, such as the name of your town (or, in the case of a big city, your area of town).
Before you spend any time or money promoting a name, make sure it’s actually available. Your state’s Secretary of State website should have a directory which includes all of the registered businesses in your state. You can search this directory using a couple of keywords from your proposed business name to ensure that another business with the same name doesn’t already exist.
Location of Your Massage Practice
Next up, it’s important to consider your business’s location. This can fit in with your massage establishment’s focus, services, and goals. Are you planning to run your business from home? If so, that will likely limit your ability to expand (unless you later move into a larger external space). Do you want to offer mobile, in-home massage services? That will have a direct impact on the type of financial planning and marketing you do. Are you thinking you want to rent out a room in a larger facility, or rent an entire building? This will bring added costs that you’ll need to account for.
Market Research and Marketing Strategy
The importance of marketing can’t be understated when it comes to launching a new business. Without proper marketing, the rest of your efforts will likely go to waste.
One of the biggest mistakes that new business owners make is the assumption that potential customers will somehow simply stumble upon you of their own accord. While this certainly happens now and again, the harsh reality is that most new clients will have to see and/or hear the name of your business many, many times before they actually consider making an appointment. The average person is exposed to thousands of ads on a regular basis, and will need to see an advertisement at least seven times before taking action. If you don’t devote time and energy to marketing, your potential customers likely won’t take notice of your new business.
To start with, it’s important to do a little bit of market research. How many other businesses are there in your area offering similar services? What are their price points? From there, you can identify your market and target clients. Who are your ideal clients? Where do they work? What kind of income do they earn? What places do they frequent? What websites do they visit, and how active are they on social media? What’s the total size of your market, and how does this impact your short- and long-term goals?
Next, go into some detail about how you plan to advertise your business. Will you incorporate both print and digital advertising? Can you incentivize existing clients to refer friends and family to you? What strategies are successful massage businesses in your area using to attract new customers?
Financial Planning and Expenses
As we mentioned above, it can be easy to gloss over the financial planning aspect of your business if it’s a particularly small or part-time endeavor. However, skipping this step isn’t a good idea. Even if your new massage business seems small enough to demand minimal resources, you’ll absolutely need to devote adequate time and space in the development of your business plan to discuss financial planning and expenses.
To begin with, touch on the amount of startup capital you have and where it’s coming from. How much startup funding do you have in total? How long can you run your business on those startup funds?
In order to answer that last question, you’ll need to put together a list of all of your initial expenses. Include one-time expenses, monthly bills (such as rent, internet, utilities, and so on), annual expenses (such as your license fees), and any other expenses associated with your business.
Then, break these expenses up into a monthly operating budget. Divide your annual expenses up into monthly chunks, and determine exactly how much per month you’ll need to earn in order to break even.
With all of this information in hand, you can put together a monthly cash flow estimate. What does cash flow look like from month to month? What’s your break-even number each month? When do you expect to start earning a monthly profit? Do you have a plan in place for how you’ll do your accounting?
Do your best to address potentially problematic financial scenarios in this section, too. Are there any backup sources of emergency capital that you could access? What if you decide that running a massage business isn’t for you, and you want to shift career paths?
An often overlooked aspect of starting a new massage business is how daily operations will be managed. It’s easy to simply think of running a massage business as a matter of simply providing massage services to clients. As many new business owners quickly find out, though, there’s a lot more than comes along with starting a massage establishment than simply offering massage sessions.
In this section of your business plan, take the time to discuss how much time you plan to devote to operational and administrative tasks. Will you be doing all of your own paperwork, appointment booking, and marketing? How much time can you afford to devote to these tasks each week, and where will you block off this time? Do you intend to hire anyone? If so, who and when?
Don’t just end your business plan arbitrarily with the last item in the operations section. Instead, take a moment to summarize your goals and how your plan will allow you to meet them. Read through your business plan a couple of times before writing this section, as it will help bring everything together in your mind. As you’re writing your conclusion, you may find that you want to make adjustments to some of the details outlined earlier in your business plan. Feel free to do this, and come back to the conclusion when you’re ready.
Launching Your Own Massage Therapy Business
Congratulations on making it this far! If you’ve put together your own business plan, you’re one step closer to starting your own massage therapy business. Remember, though, that obtaining certification in your state is an important first step. Bamboo™ offers MBLEx test prep materials and practice tests at affordable prices. If you’re planning to start your own massage business, the last thing you want to do is waste time studying the wrong test materials. Let Bamboo take the guesswork out of the process! Click here to learn more about our pricing and start studying today.