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How to Start a Massage Business

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Published on April 25, 2021

Updated on September 22, 2022

How to Start a Massage Business

Disclaimer: Step by Step Business’ content is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional legal or tax advice. All of our articles are thoroughly reviewed and fact-checked by our editorial team. Read our editorial guidelines for more details.

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Fast Facts

Investment range

$9,050 - $19,600

Revenue potential

$150,000 - $375,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 - 3 months

Profit potential

$75,000 - $150,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

How to Start a Massage Business

Do you enjoy working with your hands and helping people relax? If so, then starting a massage business could be the right move for you. 

Regular massage therapy can provide a host of benefits, from alleviating pain and promoting flexibility to reduced stress and overall sense of comfort and relaxation. How rewarding would it be to provide all this to your clients? 

Of course, starting a massage business is hard work, and this guide walks you through all the steps required and gives you all the information you’ll need to achieve massage business bliss.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

First, it’s a good idea to look at the industry as a whole. 

Pros and cons

There are both pros and cons to the massage therapy industry. Let’s take a look.

Pros

  • Improve people’s health — and lives
  • You’re the boss — choose your clients and hours
  • Easy to scale by hiring employees
  • Simple model with constant demand

Cons

  • Building brand takes time
  • Requires certification
  • State regulations can be strict
  • Tiring, physical work

Massage industry trends

Like many industries, massage has experienced a dip during the pandemic. Today massage is coming back strong, and secondary markets like massage equipment and oils are also expanding, with the latter expected to grow 5% annually through 2030. 

Industry size and growth

  • Industry size and past growth – The US massage industry grew about 3% annually in the five years prior to the pandemic in 2019, according to industry advisor Health Careers.[1]https://healthcareers.co/massage-statistics/ The industry is valued at more than $16 billion in 2022, according to market analyst IBISWorld.[2]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/massage-services-united-states/ 
  • Growth forecast – Employment of massage therapists is expected to grow an impressive 32% annually through 2030, translating to more than 23,000 job openings per year.
  • Number of businesses – There are around 370,000 massage services businesses in the US[3]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/massage-services-united-states/
  • Number of people employed – The industry employs more than 500,000 people as of 2022, according to IBISWorld.[4]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/employment/massage-services-united-states/ The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracked only around 145,000 jobs in 2020.[5]https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm
massage industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

The latest trends in the industry include:

  • Increased use of pressure devices and stimulation tools, aromatherapy, which relies on oils, and reflexology. 
  • Men are now more likely than women to get a massage.
  • More consumers are getting a massage for health and wellness reasons, rather than relaxation.

Some of the challenges are: 

  • Running a massage therapy business is physically demanding. 
  • High startup costs if you’re putting up a massage studio.
massage Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

  • Most popular states – The best states for massage therapists are California, Washington, and Pennsylvania, according to job board Zippia.[6]https://www.zippia.com/massage-therapist-jobs/best-states/
  • Least popular states – The worst states are Florida, Wyoming, and South Carolina.
massage industry demand hotspots

What kind of people work in massage services?

  • Gender – More than 3 in 4 massage therapists in the US are female.[7]https://www.zippia.com/massage-therapist-jobs/demographics/#gender-statistics
  • Average level of education – 26% of massage therapists hold an associate degree while 25% have a bachelor’s degree.[8]https://www.zippia.com/massage-therapist-jobs/education/
  • Average age – The average age of a massage therapist is 41 years.[9]https://www.zippia.com/massage-therapist-jobs/demographics/#age-statistics
massage industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a massage business?

Starting a massage business could cost as little as $30,000, or more than $100,000 on the high end, with the average being around $50,000. For a basic non-therapeutic massage business, you could probably spend just $40,000 to get up and running. 

Excluding the cost of acquiring, or leasing and renovating a studio, here’s an example on the low end: 

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance $100 - $300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Supplies$1,500 - $3,5002500
Furniture$1,000 - $2,0001500
Payroll$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Website$1,000 - $3,0002000
Total$9,050 - $19,600$14,325

This leaves $10,000 for your studio space, accessories, and other expenses if you allocate $30,000 for your startup expenses. 

Keep in mind, if you’re planning to start as a sole practitioner you could run your studio out of your home, or make client house calls, and cut your startup costs down to just a few thousand dollars. 

How much can you earn from a massage business?

The average one-hour massage session costs $100 and a typical full-time therapist sees about five clients per day. Working six days a week, you could see more than $150,000 in annual revenue and profit of $75,000, assuming a 50% profit margin. 

As your brand gains recognition, you could hire two more therapists and attend to 12 clients per day. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial space, reducing your profit margin to around 40%. With annual revenue of $375,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $150,000.

Massage Business earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

It’s always a good idea to be aware of any barriers that could stand in your way. Here are some potential barriers in the massage industry: 

  • Massage therapy certification is likely necessary
  • Most states will also require licensing 
  • Competition could be intense in your area

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you know more about the industry, it’s time to start crafting your business itself. 

Why? Identify an opportunity

It’s a good idea to scope out who you’ll be competing against. Since you and your clients won’t want to waste time traveling, you should look within your local area. 

Find out what your competitors offer, their prices, and how they treat their customers. You can take this one step further by going in for a massage or treatment yourself to see what the experience is like. 

Knowing all about your competitors will help you create a unique and competitive business. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as therapeutic massage.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.

What? Determine your products or services

When it comes to massage services, there are three main types: therapeutic, non-therapeutic, and massage spa. It’s a good idea to decide first what type of services you’ll provide.

Therapeutic massage focuses on health benefits, and can include services like remedial massage or sports massage, which help release tissues within the body. Clients are often able to pay for therapeutic massage with a health fund or insurance.

Non-therapeutic massages focus more on relaxation, while also providing health benefits. These benefits include improved blood flow, reduced pain, and better sleep.

If you want to open a massage spa, you’ll need to incorporate a number of extra services. Besides massage, common spa services include facials, body treatments, and sometimes even hair and nail services. 

How much should you charge for massage services?

How much you charge will come down to your location, the experience you provide, who your competitors are, and your ongoing costs.

For example, if you open a store in a location with a high average income, you’ll obviously be able to charge more. If you aim to provide more value, you might offer lower prices and attract more clients. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be the people most interested in your service offerings. For example, if you choose to open a high-end spa, your regular customers will likely have large disposable incomes. They could earn this income from stressful corporate jobs, hence the need for a relaxing spa day!

So your target market could be people with corporate jobs, and the best way to market to them would be in luxury lifestyle magazines and at high-end industry events. 

Whatever services you offer, make sure you identify the right market for your services and direct your marketing accordingly. Otherwise, your business may not last long! 

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home or travel to your clients to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out a studio. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
massage rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “massage” or “wellness”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that set your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to massage services. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your massage business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just needs to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method, but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Offer potential investors an ownership stake in exchange for funds, keeping in mind that you would be sacrificing some control over your business.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund an entrepreneur’s vision.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings, the sale of property or other assets, and support from family and friends.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best options, other than personal savings, for funding a massage business. 

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a massage business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

Additional licenses you may need are massage therapy license, which commonly includes 500+ hours of education and an exam, and a cosmetology license, if you’re planning on opening a massage spa.

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your massage business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

Management tools like Fresh, Booker, and SuperSaaS can help your massage business with everything from scheduling appointments and payments to reporting and analyzing data. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Marketing

Some of your business will come from the casual passerby or online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Pamper Yourself Now.” This can sharply increase your clients.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence, and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include: 

  • Competitions and giveaways – Generate interest by offering prizes for customers who complete a certain action, such as a 20% discount on your third visit. 
  • Signage – Put up eye-catching signage at your store and website. 
  • Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events. 
  • In-Person Sales – Offer your products/services at local markets, trade shows.
  • Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients.
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Influencer marketing – Pay people with large social media followings to promote your massage studio. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
  • Testimonials – Share customer testimonials about how your massage services  helped them

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your massage business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your massage business could be:

  • Prepaid packages with a discount
  • Expanded services and specialized products
  • Advanced massages and body/skin treatments
  • Highest-level training and certification
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a massage studio, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in massage for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in the massage industry. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small from home, you may not need any employees right away. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a massage business would include:

  • Massage Therapists
  • Marketing Lead
  • General Manager
  • Accountant 

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Just 10 minutes of relaxing massage could melt stress away, studies have shown. Demand for massage services is expected to grow further as more people seek ways to cope with  stress and get relief from the ailments it causes. You could get in on the action and grab a share of this lucrative market by setting up your own massage business.

Now that you have the knowledge to start a business, you’re ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey and help a lot of people improve their health. It’s time to get to work and launch your own massage business! Best of luck!

Massage Business FAQs

How profitable is a massage business?

That depends on a number of factors, including your prices, services, popularity, and operating costs. While we don’t know what all of these numbers are, we can give you an estimate of what you could generate as a small business owner. 

Thumbtack pegs the average massage session at $100, while WayUp’s research says that the average full-time therapist sees about five clients per day. If we put this together, you’d generate about $500 per day in gross revenue.

What supplies do I need to start a massage business?

You’ll need to organize a number of supplies before you begin your massage parlor. 

Here are some of them: 

  • Oils, creams, lotions, and balms
  • Decorations to improve the ambiance
  • Storage space
  • Massage table and chairs
  • Sheets, pillows, and towels
  • Robes for your clients
  • Herbal teas (if you feel like improving your clients’ experiences even more)
Can you make a living from a massage therapy business?

If you put in the work, definitely! A full-time therapist can generate around $500 per day in revenue. This number is based on an average price of $100 per session and five clients per day. 

Even if you charge $60 per session (which is on the lower end) and see five clients per day you’ll still generate $300 in revenue per day. So your first goal should be building a full-time client base.