From Massage Therapist to Business Owner: How to Get Started
May 30, 2014
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So you've just obtained your massage therapy degree or you've been practicing as a massage therapist for a few years, and you know that you'll only be truly happy if you are your own boss. Starting your own massage therapy business is a great way to practice your skills on your terms. If you're thinking of going it alone, here are a few things you'll need to do to get started.
If you decide to go into business independently, you will have to choose a business name and obtain a city and/or county business license, a "Doing Business As" permit, an employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service and the relevant sales permits required by your city and county. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a step-by-step guide to getting your paperwork in order. They can also help you find a local business mentor to advise you during your first year and beyond. Because of the healthy and hygienic nature of massage therapy, you'll need to obtain health permits as well. Start with your local health department, which you can find on the National Association of County and City Health Professionals website.
You must also decide whether you want to have a sole proprietor business model or set up a limited liability corporation to protect your personal assets in the event of any financial or legal woes related to your business. You should review the differences on the U.S. Small Business Administration's website to decide which business model is best for you, and consider consulting a lawyer to help you choose and set up any incorporation paperwork.
Creating a Budget
Make a list of all the expenses you'll need to cover to get started, including equipment, decor, marketing, utilities, accountant services, laundry, insurance, licensing, rent and your salary. Don't forget to budget for loan payments on any financing you need to get your business rolling. You can utilize your local SBA business mentor for further financial advice and recommendations, but you should also hire an accountant so you can ensure your bookkeeping is in order and allow you to focus your energy in the daily operation and marketing of your growing business. You'll be glad you did come tax time — the only thing worse than a tax audit is a tax audit that doesn't go well because you didn't keep your books properly. A professional will keep you on track.
Home or Commercial Space?
Once you have determined your budget, you will need to decide whether you want to work from home or in a commercial space. Obviously, renting a commercial space is more expensive, but doing so gives you greater credibility as a professional business. Depending on the size of the space you rent, it could also allow you to expand and hire another massage therapist or receptionist as your business grows.
Working at home saves money, but it can wreak havoc on your personal life if you have children, pets or neighbors who don't like the steady stream of strangers around your house. Likewise, you might lose clients if children interrupt a session or a neighbor's dog barks incessantly in the background. But if you can maintain a professional home work space, you'll never have to make that nightmare commute again, which is a financial as well as emotional blessing. Car in the repair shop? You can still work and earn money. Have some down time? You can take care of personal tasks at home between clients, and you'll never have to pack a sandwich or eat lunch at the desk again.
Setting it Up
Now comes the fun, if somewhat expensive, part of setting up your own business — creating your work space. This includes buying massage tables, office furniture, towels, sheets, massage oil and the decor you want to create a peaceful, relaxing environment for clients. This is one business in which your office space has to look good and convey a relaxing mood. Many people consider massage therapy a luxury or indulgence, so you want to create an atmosphere in which people feel pampered. If you know how to find a good bargain on wall decor or candles, you won't necessarily have to break the bank.
Learning how to market your business and bringing in new clients can be difficult for some people. Building a large client base doesn't happen overnight, so be sure to budget for at least six months of living expenses while you attract customers and market your new business. You'll want business cards, a company letterhead, a website and informational brochures to give to potential clients.
Through your marketing efforts, consider the different types of clients you want to attract to your business. For example, someone who wants massage therapy for health reasons may react to a campaign differently than someone who wants to be pampered. For those looking for health benefits, contact local physicians, alternative medicine clinics and other health-related businesses to build a working relationship for referrals. Ask your local fitness spas about leaving brochures or creating a small display for club members.
For the pampering crowd, try to develop relationships with beauty salons, high-end boutiques or even a local country club to tap into a marketing demographic with a greater amount of disposable income for luxury services.
It is free to market through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, but you should also consider conventional advertising, such as a newspaper ad or radio spot. Offer customers referral bonuses and discounts for bringing in new clients.
Making your dream of owning your own business a reality won't be easy, but with proper budgeting and planning, you can soon be your own boss.
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