Starting Your Own Massage Therapy Practice

Starting your own massage therapy practice, therapist massages back of man in private practice massage room

Though the benefits can be many, starting your own massage therapy practice is an undoubtedly daunting task. When I started my practice seven years ago, I had no idea how long the hours would be, how much energy it would take, and the challenges I’d have to overcome to stay in business.  

Before signing a lease, taking out a loan, or choosing a practice name, there are five things you should do to make sure you’re really ready.

Related: Starting Your Own Massage Therapy Practice

Make sure you want to open a practice 

No matter what field they’re in, all entrepreneurs share a few characteristics. They welcome a challenge and are not averse to change. Entrepreneurs demonstrate persistence and have a passion that withstands the test of time. They often see opportunity where others see a risk of failure.  

If you find that you are not someone who likes to organize and manage, or that risk will keep you up at night, you may want to work on development of these traits prior to starting your practice. 

What’s REALLY motivating you? 

Take some time to examine what’s behind your drive to open a business. Many people start from the assumption that earning potential, work hour flexibility, and control are top — and only necessary — reasons to start their own company.  

While these are certainly part of the equation, in most cases, they are not enough to sustain you through the long hours and stress that comes with business ownership. 

According to research conducted by Tony Tjan and co-authors Richard Harrington and Tsun-Yan Hsieh, 65% of founders have been identified as driven by “heart.” Tjan also added that most entrepreneurs are fueled “by an unshakable sense of purpose.” 

Throughout all the trials and tribulations, entrepreneurs reward themselves internally by realizing that they’re on a mission for the greater good. No matter how bad it gets, it’s their passion that motivates them between paydays and during all the times when everyone else tells them to quit. 

Related: Five Essential Practice Building Policies 

SWOT early, SWOT often 

A staple of business plans for decades, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The primary objective of a SWOT analysis is to help organizations develop a full awareness of all the factors involved in a decision.  

SWOT is a useful tool for deciding if you have what it takes to make it on your own in business. It forces you to verbalize your weaknesses and threats, two areas that can be difficult for most people to admit. If the weaknesses and threats overwhelmingly overshadow the strengths and opportunities, you may want to take some time to work on these prior to opening your doors. 

Find out what your goal is  

When asked “Why are you starting your own massage therapy practice?” most people would say “to make more money” or “to be my own boss and enjoy the flexibility of my schedule.”  

What success looks like is different for each person. However, one business goal needs to stay intact: consistently increasing the value of the company. 

Once you are in business for many years, you may begin to see the side effects of this focus (increased salary, increased flexibility of schedule). Be prepared, though: You will need to sacrifice a lot before this happens. You should be prepared for your first year in business to be a loss of revenue. 

Also, it is important to realize that saying “goodbye” to a traditional boss or manager means saying hello to at least four other bosses: your patients, your referral sources, your staff, and your patients’ payers (insurance companies).  

Most new business owners find that their time and schedule is not their own. You will need time to meet the demands of patients, potential referring practitioners, business meetings, and other schedule-consuming parts of industry. 

In many cases, this requires an understanding spouse, family, children, and friends. Before taking the leap of starting a business, ask yourself if this is time commitment is something you’re willing to take on. 

Do you have enough savings? 

There is no single number you need to see in your bank account before opening a business. On the other hand, having enough capital to pay your personal bills over the first year can reduce your stress and ensure that you can continue operating into a second year.  

This may mean partnering with a spouse who works. It may mean pulling from preexisting savings, or keeping a tight personal budget for the first year of business. Paying down or paying off any debt is also a wise idea. This may require working part-time or per diem while getting your business up and running. 

Related: Conducting a Professional Client Interview and Massage Therapy Session

Look before you leap 

According to Bloomberg, eight out of ten entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. Taking financial, mental, and emotional steps to prepare yourself and your family to take on the challenges and rewards of a new business can help you become one of those entrepreneurs who thrive. 

This post was originally published on June 12, 2019 and updated on November 22, 2022. 

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