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What is a Massage Therapy Business?
Massage therapy is a type of treatment that involves stroking, kneading, rolling, rubbing and the application of pressure. It also involves posture and movement re-education.
A massage therapist uses their hands, arms and equipment to manipulate their customers’ soft tissue and muscle. Massage therapy is intended to relax and heal a person’s body or assist with stiffness, pain or an injury. Massages can also improve posture and reduce blood pressure. Massages are also used to promote both physical and mental well-being and reduce stress and anxiety.
A massage therapist usually calms the client’s nervous system and relaxes their muscles while also relieving tension and focusing on specific areas of the body that cause pain or have muscular tension.
There are hundreds of different types of massages and other body treatments. You may choose to specialise in one type or offer your clients multiple options.
Some of the most common types of massage you can offer as part of your massage therapy business are:
- Swedish Massage.
- Deep Tissue Massage.
- Aromatherapy Massage.
- Sports Massage.
- Prenatal and Postnatal Massages.
- Shiatsu Massage.
- Thai Massage.
- Hot Stone Massage.
- Trigger Point Massage.
- Compression Massage.
- Lymphatic Drainage Massage.
Massages can be offered for many different parts of the body. As part of your massage therapy business, you can offer massages for:
As part of your massage therapy business, you can offer massages for:
- The full body.
- Back and shoulders.
- Head and neck.
- Hands and feet.
- The face.
- Any other part of the body that is causing your client difficulties.
You may already be a practising massage therapist who is looking to start your own massage therapy business, or you may be newly qualified. If you are considering starting up a massage therapy business, you will need to have the necessary skills and training to correctly perform massages.
As well as the necessary qualifications and massage experience, you will also need a flair for business and the commitment to making your business succeed.
Types of Customers
Determining your target customer base is an essential step when setting up your massage therapy business.
The typical customers you will attract will depend on the type of massage business you set up. There are several different ways you can run your massage therapy business.
- Massage therapy within a spa that offers other treatments or the use of spa facilities.
- An at-home massage business.
- A mobile massage business.
- A massage therapy shop.
As well as the type of massage business you run, there are several other factors that can impact your customer base.
The type of massages you offer:
If you specialise in one type of massage, this could significantly impact your typical customers. For example, an athlete may choose a sports massage whereas a pregnant woman will need a prenatal massage. Certain types of massages may require you to undergo additional training so keep this in mind.
Your price points:
The cost of your massage therapy will have a significant impact on your customer base. Some people may be willing to pay higher prices for a premium massage with additional extras and a more qualified and experienced therapist, whereas other people will be looking for a more budget-friendly massage.
Where you are located will impact your typical customers. Most people prefer convenience so will look for a massage therapist that is close to where they live or work or is in a location that is easily accessible by car. Consider the area you are based in when determining your typical customer base.
Equipment You Will Need
A massage therapy business has fewer equipment requirements than you may think. The equipment you need will be essential to the success of your business.
Higher quality equipment is recommended to ensure the comfort and safety of your customers. Massage therapy can be expensive, so your customers will expect the best equipment, tools and products.
If you set up a business that has multiple massage therapists and the capacity to treat more than one client at once, you will need to buy multiples of each piece of equipment.
Consult the list below to see your potential equipment requirements:
A massage table
A massage table is a specialist piece of equipment that is designed with both you and your clients in mind. It is raised to a height that is comfortable for you and can be moved to a lying flat or raised position. They should be wide enough and strong enough to support a range of heights and weights. Massage tables should be heavily padded, easy to clean and have a comfortable face hole. The type of massage table you need will depend on the type of business you set up. For example, a mobile therapist will need a lightweight, foldable table whereas other massage therapists may invest in an electric, hydraulic or more high-end massage table. The price of a massage table can vary significantly, from £100 to £2,000.
A massage chair
A massage chair is a type of chair that allows the massage therapist to easily treat the customer’s head, neck and shoulders. Massage chairs will have a face hole and should be padded and comfortable. Massage chairs can range from £150 to £2,000.
Towels, linens and dressing gowns
These are not only practical, but they can also enhance your customers’ experience. Ensure your towels and dressing gowns are made from high-quality material and are soft and fluffy. Linens should be soft and easy to clean. You will need multiples of each product, as they will need to be changed between each customer.
Massage bolsters and pillows
These help you to get your clients into a better position if you need to work on a particular muscle. They can support the muscle and allow it to fully relax. You will need bolsters and pillows of different shapes and sizes to support different muscles. Prices typically start at £12 for one bolster.
This can include massage oils, lotions and creams. You will need a variety of products to suit different skin types and to cater for customers with allergies. If you offer prenatal massages, you will need specialist products that are safe to use during pregnancy. You may also need different creams and oils for different types of massage therapy.
Candles and aromas
No matter where you run your business from, you will want your massage room to smell beautiful. Candles also create a calming environment and can help your clients to relax. You will need to replace your candles regularly.
Spa music is something we all know well. It helps to create a relaxing ambience and allows your customers to view your business as a retreat. Music can enhance your clients’ mental and emotional well-being. You will need to apply for the necessary licences (we will look at this later) and pay any relevant costs.
You can choose freestanding or in-built storage areas. The price will vary depending on the size of the cupboards and any installation costs.
A washing machine and dryer
Towels, dressing gowns and linens will need to be cleaned between every client. You can expect to pay between £500 and £3,000 depending on the size, make and specification of the machines.
Some of the cleaning supplies you may require include a sweeping brush, a mop and bucket, bleach, cleaning sprays, sanitiser, cloths, sponges and other cleaning supplies. You should also supply hand sanitiser and handwashing facilities for staff and clients.
Other equipment requirements
Some of the other equipment requirements your massage therapy business may need are:
- A large vehicle (if you operate a mobile business).
- A till and Point of Sales (POS) system.
- A laptop or desktop computer (for appointments, marketing and accounting).
- Bins with closed lids.
- Personal Protective Equipment (such as aprons, masks and gloves).
- A CCTV system.
- A fully stocked first aid kit.
When planning your massage therapy business, you will need to calculate the approximate costs of setting up and running your business.
Some of the typical costs you can expect to pay are:
Your equipment costs will vary significantly depending on the size of your massage business. The larger your business, the more equipment you will need, and this will raise your equipment costs. You could spend as little as £450 on equipment if you will be the only massage therapist at your business.
If you set up a massage therapy shop, the rental costs will be your biggest expenditure. Rental costs are often calculated per square metre and can range significantly, from £500 to £15,000 per square metre annually. Expect to pay higher rental costs if you are located in a city centre or more expensive area.
Refurbishment and installation
If you open a massage therapy shop, you will likely need to refurbish or convert your premises. You will also want to decorate your premises to fit the aesthetic of your business and make it attractive to customers. Renovation costs can vary, depending on the level and scale of work required.
If you operate a mobile massage therapy business, you will need to purchase a reliable vehicle that is big enough to transport your equipment. The cost of a vehicle can vary, depending on whether it is new or used, and the make and model of the vehicle. Prices can range from £5,000 for a used vehicle. A new vehicle will typically retail from £20,000.
Products such as oils, creams and candles will need to be replenished regularly. The cost of replenishing products will depend on how many treatments you give per month.
Replacing equipment and equipment maintenance
Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Your equipment is an essential part of your massage therapy business, and without it, you would not be able to operate your business.
Your running costs will depend on the type of massage therapy business you set up. They could include electricity, gas, water, taxes and your vehicle running costs.
Branding could include creating your business’s visual identity, a logo, your business name, and your business website. You can hire a professional to help you with branding or do some of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of branding you require.
Advertising and marketing
Marketing and advertising are great ways of growing your business. If you run a home-based or mobile massage therapy business, you may require more advertising than businesses that run out of a salon. It is recommended that you spend no more than 10% of your annual revenue on advertising costs. As your business becomes more successful, you may be able to reduce your advertising costs.
If you set up a massage therapy shop, you may hire staff, such as other therapists, administrative staff or cleaners. If your hire employees as permanent staff, you will need to pay your staff at least the national minimum wage of £9.50 per hour. You should also account for holiday pay, sick pay and maternity/paternity pay.
There are different types of insurance you can get for your massage therapy business. The monthly costs will depend on the insurance provider you choose and your coverage level.
Your coverage could include:
- Public Liability.
- Product Liability.
- Employers’ Liability.
- Professional Indemnity.
- Personal Accident.
- Legal Expenses.
Once you have calculated the typical costs associated with your massage therapy business, you can then calculate your pricing strategy. On average, massage therapists in the UK charge £40 per hour.
However, this price can vary, depending on several factors:
- Whether you operate from a massage therapy shop or spa or if your business is mobile or at home.
- The location of your business.
- The type of massage you offer.
- The types of products you use.
- The training and qualifications of you and your staff.
- Any extras you provide.
Safely Running a Massage Therapy Business
Safe practices are essential to protect you, your clients, your employees and your business.
Some ways you can safely run your massage therapy business are:
Register with an accredited body
Although not legally required, registering with an accredited body can help your business to operate more safely. It can also offer reassurance to potential customers and increase your customer base.
Accredited bodies you could choose to register with include:
Although insurance is not usually legally required for massage therapists, it is recommended as it can protect you, your business and your clients. Consult the list above to determine the type of coverage you may require.
Exercise your right to terminate the treatment
If you feel threatened or unsafe or a patient doesn’t maintain professional boundaries or acts inappropriately, you have the right to terminate the treatment immediately. You could have your code of ethics visible to customers or ask them to sign a contract stating they will act appropriately. If you ever feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way, terminate the treatment and contact the police, if necessary.
Have a ‘check in’ system in place
If you operate your massage therapy business alone, particularly if you work from home or operate a mobile business, you should have a system in place that can help to protect you. This could include giving your schedule to a trusted person and having a ‘check in’ schedule, where you make contact with someone after each treatment. You could also make your location discoverable on your phone or smartwatch so that a trusted person can locate you, if necessary.
Obtain the relevant qualifications
Although qualifications are not a legal necessity, training and qualifications can help you to ensure safe practices and make your massage therapy business more successful.
You have several qualification options:
- ITEC (Level 3 RQF) Diploma.
- Massage therapist apprenticeship.
- BSc Honours Degree in Sports Massage Therapy.
- BTEC Level 6 Professional Diploma.
Use personal protective equipment (PPE)
PPE can help to protect the health and safety of you, your employees and your customers.
Some PPE you may require includes:
Conduct risk assessments
Risk assessments are only legally required for businesses with more than five employees. However, even if you have fewer employees, risk assessments can help you to identify any potential risks or hazards and then implement any necessary safety measures. This can help you to safely run your business.
Safely store and dispose of products and equipment
Ensure all products are stored in a temperature-controlled area and are covered, with no risk of leaks, spillages or contamination. Any particularly hazardous products should be kept away from customers. You must also dispose of products and old equipment safely.
Implement a cleaning policy
Having effective cleaning procedures is essential for your massage therapy business. A cleaning schedule and cleaning policies should be in place. Ensure you clean any equipment after each client and follow handwashing procedures.
The massage therapy industry is, surprisingly, unregulated in the UK. Although you may have fewer legal requirements to adhere to, compared to other businesses, there are still some specific legalities you must comply with:
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974)
This Act is the legal framework for promoting and maintaining high standards of health and safety in the workplace. As the business owner, you must conduct risk assessments, provide hygienic facilities, report and record injuries and have relevant insurance coverage.
The Manual Handling Regulations (1992)
Manual handling is an inevitable part of massage therapy. You could be bending down, moving heavy goods and using repetitive movement. Following manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks.
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations (1981)
These regulations state that your business should have appropriate first aid treatment and a specified first aid trainer at all times. If you are the sole massage therapist in your business, you will be the appointed first-aider. You will need a fully stocked first aid kit, which will need to be transported with you if you operate a mobile business.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations
The COSHH regulations state that you must control any substances that are potentially hazardous. You should also assess, control and reduce any risks or potential hazards and protect people from harm. This could include chemicals in the products you use.
The Data Protection Act (2018)
The Data Protection Act controls how businesses use personal information. Personal data should be safeguarded from corruption, compromise or loss. You must inform your customers about how their data is being used and only use data in a way that is lawful and fair.
The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations (2008)
The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations apply to any products or substances that come into contact with the human body, including the skin. Your business should not use any products that could harm a person’s health or contain any prohibited substances. Your business must also comply with the regulations on labelling and animal testing.
Implement health and safety policies and fire safety procedures
All businesses should have health and safety policies that help to manage health and safety in your business. They protect the health and safety of you, your customers and your business. You are also responsible for fire safety on your premises (if relevant). This could include conducting fire risk assessments and implementing fire safety measures and emergency procedures.
Register as self-employed with HMRC
Running your massage therapy business as an individual or as a self-employed person requires you to register as a sole trader. You will need to register the name of your business and keep records of all your income, profits and expenses.
Apply for a music licence
Music is usually played during massage therapy to help your customers feel relaxed. You will need to apply for a licence to play background music from the PPL PRS and pay an annual fee.
Comply with employment legislation
If you hire any staff, you must comply with all areas of employment legislation, including recruitment, pay, working hours, holidays, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination and dismissals.
Positives of Owning a Massage Therapy Business
A massage therapy business can be an extremely rewarding career choice in many ways.
Some of the main pros associated with starting up a massage therapy business are:
It’s a growing market
Massage therapy and other treatments are growing in popularity. More people are visiting massage therapists and demand is growing every year, making it more likely that your business will succeed.
High income potential
Massage therapists usually charge their clients high prices per hour. This gives you the opportunity to earn a high income, especially if you have a large client base and operate full time.
Opportunities to grow your business
You could expand your business by offering additional treatments, hiring other therapists or expanding your business to additional locations. If you begin by operating an at-home or mobile massage therapy business, you could grow your business by opening your own shop or spa.
You are your own boss
Being your own boss gives you the flexibility to design your business, choose the treatments you offer, and choose your operating hours. Running your own business gives you freedom and flexibility and gives you complete control.
Massage therapists can have flexible schedules. You can choose to work weekdays, evenings or weekends, part time or full time. You also have flexibility with the type of business you set up and how and where you operate.
High customer retention
Massage therapists help people relax and de-stress. You can also help people who are struggling with pain or injuries. Once people find a massage therapist who helps their mental or physical health and who they are comfortable with, they will usually stay loyal to them and will give you repeat business.
Improving your customers’ physical and mental well-being can be extremely rewarding. Making a difference to a person’s health while also making money and seeing your business grow can result in great job satisfaction.
Few start-up costs
A massage therapy business can be a relatively low-cost enterprise. You can set up a successful business for a low cost and keep your running costs low to help maximise your profits.
Predictable income stream
Most of your appointments will be booked ahead of time, making it easier to predict your income. You may also have customers who visit you at the same time every week, making your profits more reliable.
Gain exposure and experience
With the rise of the internet, it’s easier than ever to gain exposure. Your customers may write positive reviews online or post about your treatments on their social media. This can help you to gain more customers and increase your business.
A people orientated profession
If you enjoy face-to-face interaction and want a job where you can spend your days with people, a massage therapy business is a great career choice for you. Treating different customers every day can make your work interesting and engaging.
Be part of your local community
You could operate a successful business in your local community and offer a personalised experience to your customers. Massage therapy requires a high level of trust. You could develop strong connections with your customers and receive word of mouth recommendations.
Offer a personalised customer experience
You can offer a tailored experience and personalised consultations and treatments. This allows you to target and treat the specific areas that your customers are having problems with and tailor your therapy accordingly. Not only can this improve your customers’ experience and result in repeat business and recommendations, but it can also make your job more enjoyable.
Negatives of Owning a Massage Therapy Business
However, setting up your own business can have some downsides. Some of the cons associated with starting up a massage therapy business are:
Performing massage therapy every day can take a toll on your body. You will likely be standing for hours every day, bending over and leaning down, which can cause strain on your body. The amount of pressure you will be applying using your fingers, hands and wrists can also result in injuries or strains. The physical demands of your job can have negative consequences on your health.
Your working hours may be limited
Because of the physical strain of your job, the number of hours you are able to work every day may be limited. This can have a negative impact on the growth of your business and your income.
Unrealistic client expectations
Some clients may think that one appointment with you is enough to cure their physical ailments, medical conditions or stress. As many massage therapists will attest, it usually takes multiple sessions for your clients to see an improvement. This could result in unhappy customers, negative reviews, and even a loss of business.
You will have a lot of responsibility
You will be responsible for running your business, ordering stock, maintaining equipment, ensuring the health and safety of your customers and employees and handling appointments and payments. You will be solely responsible for the success of your business.
Work can be inconsistent
Certain times of the year may be busier than others, with less custom at other times of the year. This can result in inconsistent profits. As massage therapy can be quite expensive, you may also see a significant drop in business during times of economic hardship or recessions.
Your business could fail
Setting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your massage therapy business could fail for a number of reasons, such as if you have a lot of local competition, you don’t plan your business efficiently, or the UK encounters another recession or period of financial difficulty.
A massage therapy business has many potential risks that could result in liability issues for you and your business. This could include employee accidents or injuries, the risks associated with using certain products and equipment and the risks of causing injury to your clients.
It can be stressful
Being responsible for the success of your massage therapy business can be stressful. Gaining clients, growing your business, ensuring health and safety and making a profit can be stress-inducing. Running your own business can be particularly stressful in your business’s first year of operation.
Motivation of employees
If you employ staff in your massage therapy business, you may find that they are unmotivated, disinterested or don’t operate to your standards. This can result in bad reviews or the loss of custom which can have a detrimental effect on your business.
High time commitment
Massage therapy businesses are often more popular in the evening and on weekends. This could result in you working unsociable hours. You also need to factor in the time you will need to spend on administrative duties. Running your business can be time-consuming.
Planning Your Massage Therapy Business
When creating your business plan, there are several considerations you will need to make:
What type of massage business are you going to set up?
Are you going to set up your own shop, operate from a spa or run an at-home or mobile business? The type of business you run will have a significant effect on your start-up and running costs, your pricing strategy and your customer base. You could change the type of business you run as your business grows.
What type of massage(s) will you specialise in?
You may choose to specialise in one specific type of massage or offer multiple massage therapies. Some types of massage, such as sports massage, may require specific training or qualifications.
Determine your typical customer base
Identifying your target customer base is an important part of your business plan. It can help you determine your price points and your location.
What are your equipment requirements?
Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you require will depend on the type of business you run, and the massage therapies you offer. Calculate the cost of the equipment and whether there is any equipment you can purchase at a later date. You could also look into whether any of the equipment can be rented rather than purchased.
Calculate your start-up costs and running costs
Consult the list above to help you calculate the approximate costs of setting up and running your massage therapy business. Estimate how much initial investment you require and when you are likely to start turning a profit. Calculating your start-up costs can help you determine whether you can finance the business yourself or whether you need to source outside investment.
What is your local competition?
Consider your local competition to help you determine how to make your massage therapy business a success. Look at the type of massage therapy you offer, their pricing strategy and their advertising and marketing. You can then decide how to make your business stand out and how to attract customers.
Determine your pricing
Your pricing will depend on several factors, such as the type of massage therapy you offer, your start-up costs and running costs, your location, and your local competition.
What are your business objectives?
Business objectives are crucial for creating a successful business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your massage business and help you to create a one-year, three-year, and five-year business plan to help you grow your business.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Realistic
- T = Time-bound
Check you have complied with all legal requirements
Consult the list of legal requirements above and ensure you fully comply when setting up and running your massage therapy business. Failure to comply with the legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business.