Managing a Massage Business

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Many massage therapists and body workers will eventually make the decision to open their own practice. This may be run out of your home, or may utilize commercial space for your studio. According to the AMTA, by 2010, up to 65% of massage therapists were solo practioners. There are a number of things to consider before starting a massage therapy business as you will learn through this continuing education course.

Managing a Massage Business Course Outline (5 CEUs):
  • Chapter One: Introduction

Many massage therapists and body workers will eventually make the decision to open their own practice. This may be run out of your home, or you may utilize commercial space for your studio. The American Massage Therapy Association stated in 2010 that 65 percent of practicing massage therapists were solo practitioners, and “39 percent work part time at a home, business, or corporate setting, 26 percent in a spa setting and 25 percent in a health care setting.”i

  • Chapter Two: Your Credit

Having good credit is essential before starting a business for two reasons: you may need to purchase equipment on credit, and (depending on whether you’re opening a mobile or stationary practice), you may need to sign a lease. Your landlord will perform a credit check before leasing you the property. You may also need to take out a business loan from a bank. In fact, 65 percent of small business owners will need to use credit to make purchases.ii

  • Chapter Three: Leaving Your Job

If you already work as a massage therapist in someone else’s practice, there are a few things to consider before you leave to open your own practice. If you’re under a contract, exam it carefully. Things like non-compete agreements, trade secrets and proprietary information, employer resources and clients and how to quit are all details that must be considered before leaving your current place of work.

  • Chapter Four: Local Licensing, Zoning, and Taxes

There are two licensing considerations you will need to oversee when starting or managing your own business- your massage therapy license and your business license. Also, there are zoning regulations in “almost every community.” They separate an area into business and residential categories. Business areas are further zoned into “retail, office, and industrial” space.iii

  • Chapter Five: Choosing a Location and a Name

Once you have thoroughly examined the city zoning ordinances, you will be able to narrow down areas where you can legally operate a business. From there, you can work toward selecting a location that will be the most beneficial to your business.

  • Chapter Six: Signing a Lease and Getting Out of a Lease

This chapter covers the basics of leasing a studio or location for your business. The terms of a lease are almost always negotiable, even if the landlord doesn’t mention it. Think about what terms would be most favorable to you before you have them draw up the lease. Signing a lease and getting out of a lease for whatever reason are important parts to understand about the leasing process.

  • Chapter Seven: Insurance

There are several reasons to get liability insurance once you open your own business. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) requires in their standards that you have “adequate and customary liability insurance.”iv Your landlord will also probably require you to carry some kind of insurance. Your local government might not give you a business license or permit without it. Finally, if you are sued or something happens in your business, liability insurance can help cover the cost.

  • Chapter Eight: Different Forms of Business

There are four basic types of businesses: a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and a limited liability corporation (LLC). There are benefits to each type in terms of taxes and legal considerations. You will need to decide what type of business you want to operate as. It might be a no-brainer, or it might be a complicated decision, depending on your situation. If you’re confused about which is better for you, consult your accountant or attorney.

  • Chapter Nine: Accepting Payment From Customers

Today, there are many different forms of payment for the client. Cash, credit cards, checks and insurance all have specifics and details that should be noted of. This chapter helps you in understanding the different forms of payment your business will need to handle.

  • Chapter Ten: Confidentiality

The NCBTMB standards of practice require massage therapists to do the following: “maintain the client files for a minimum period of four years and store and dispose of client files in a secure manner.”v This means that you must use proper methods of keeping patient records secure in your office, whether in your home or in a commercial space.

  • Chapter Eleven: Hiring and Firing

Hiring employees in your practice can have a number of benefits. But there are also drawbacks to hiring employees. This chapter covers both the benefits and drawbacks, as well as some tips for hiring employees for the first time, the difference between an employee and independent contractor and firing employees.

  • Chapter Twelve: Marketing and Advertising

An important of business is spreading the word about your business so that people will pay for your service. There are different forms of advertising and marketing, some will cost money and some will be more organic like word of mouth. The benefits and drawbacks of different methods of marketing and advertising are explained in this chapter.

  • Chapter Thirteen: Retailing

Some massage therapists sell products in their studio as another source of income. These can range from t-shirts to massage oils, lotions, aromatherapy oils, relaxing CDs, lush robes, and other items. It’s smart business because it doesn’t involve that much extra effort on your part, and some businesses report that up to 25 percent of revenue can come from retailing

  • Chapter Fourteen: Tips for Working From Home

Massage therapists who plan to run their business out of their home have a few more things to consider. Be sure you’ve checked your zoning and licensing laws before you open your business among other things.

  • Chapter Fifteen: Buying a Practice

Some therapists consider buying a practice instead of opening their own. This takes out a lot of the guess work: you’ll already have a client list, a space, and a set-up. The basic guideline when looking for a practice to purchase is to “don’t become too inflexible and only consider purchasing practice if it is a perfect fit.” However, you should have a basic idea of what you’re looking for as far as location, size of practice, if you want to work alone, and the type of massage you want to offer (which should be in line with the type offered by the existing business).vii





i Jennifer Whalen,, “The Future Massage Therapist,” January 2012,



ii U.S. Small Business Administration, “How to Build Business Credit For Your Start-Up,”



iii American Massage Therapy Association, “Home Office Zoning Regulations,”



iv NCBTMB, “Standards of Practice,” Revised October 2009,



v NCBTMB, “Standards of Practice”



vi Rebecca Jones, ABMP, “Responsible Retailing,”



vii Felicia Brown, Massage Therapy, “Buying a Practice,” February/March 2000,




Continuing education units (CEUs) are provided via electronic download in PDF format. Review the course work at your own pace and then take the included test online. You can print your certificate immediately after passing each test! All coursework is NCBTMB approved (NCBTMB # 451897-12). NOTE: Each state has different requirements. Please be sure to check our state requirements page and contact your state to verify your requirements.