As you consider a career as a massage therapist, you might wonder what it will take to launch a standalone, private massage practice. The first step is determining if you have the correct mindset to do so. You should consider, for example, that you will work alone, rather than with employees or co-workers. This means you will be able to take credit for all your successes—and you’ll have to own up to your mistakes as well. You will make the calls and answer to yourself.
You will choose how big you dream, and what motivates you. How do you set up a practice that motivates you, a business you love? Massage therapist Allissa Haines shares, “One of the biggest things that motivates me is every time I walk into my office, I want to be there. I get to build strong professional, therapeutic relationships with my clients.”
Every hour you spend actually doing massage on clients may require at least an hour of behind-the-scenes work, especially when launching your business. This work includes building clientele, cleaning, washing massage linens, maintaining client notes and records, maintaining your website and blog, and taking care of the financial details related to running a business.
For example, as a solo practitioner, you will be responsible for paying your taxes and expenses. You will need to begin by clarifying, with an accountant, your self-employment taxes, quarterly estimates, and other tax issues you need to know about. You will also need to determine if you want to be incorporated. Many massage therapists choose the option of an LLC, or limited liability corporation. Understand your options. A qualified financial planner can help considerably in your budgeting, saving and investing. The planner can give you details of savings plans and helpful guidance in many other areas.
You will also need to ask if you can work on your own without anyone watching or supervising. As a solo practitioner, you must understand and meet ethical standards in the areas of boundaries and confidentiality, for example. Scope of practice is another common ethics area. Staying within the scope of practice of a massage therapist can be challenging, as that scope can be unclear unless you are intimately familiar with your state’s scope of practice laws.
Each state has its own rules and regulations regarding massage. Some states have a statewide license; some do not. Some states require an additional establishment license for your business. New therapists must also check their town, city or county laws to determine what regulations are required.
As the sole proprietor of a massage practice, you will be your entire business—but you won’t be alone. You will have the autonomy to create your network of colleagues, outreach and volunteering, to prevent feeling isolated.
With adequate understanding and preparation, you can thrive as a solo practitioner.
Greg Hurd is director of career development and outreach at Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, Massachusetts.