I received my license and certification as soon as I finished school for massage therapy. I knew right away that I was going to start building my own practice out of my house as soon as I finished school (which is why a prerequisite of the home I was purchasing had to have an extra room for my business space). I built up my clientele and was quickly recognized as one of the top massage businesses in the area. Here’s how I did it…
First thing’s first. Find out what all the regulations and restrictions are for operating a massage practice out of your home for your community. This is extremely important, as some towns may not allow you to operate this kind of business out of your home without proper permits and business licensing, if at all. Make sure you obtain all of the necessary credentials, as well as massage therapy insurance, CPR/first aid certification and also home owners or liability insurance. If you are renting your home, make sure you also have written permission from your landlord for operating a business from their property. Some municipalities require specific building features, such as handicapped accessibility and the relativity of the location of your office to the entrance(s) of your home, as well as to the bathrooms. Most of this information can be obtained from your local Town Hall.
Next, write up a business plan. Even if you’re not planning on applying for business funds, it’s crucial to put your goals and ideas into a written format, using as much detail as you are capable of. When you put things into writing, the law of attraction will go to work to make sure that your intentions come to fruition. Whether you believe in it or not, there’s something almost magical about it. And if you don’t have any clue where to begin with writing up your business plan, don’t fret. There are samples, example, outlines and tutorials all over the internet at no cost to you.
Next, come up with a name for your business. This can be a bit tricky, as there are thousands of massage business names already in use. Do your research to be sure that you’re not using the same name as, or one that is similar to, another business near yours. Also, I recommend not using your personal name. Keep in mind that although “Massage By Jody” may add to the personal appeal, it hinders the professionalism of the business.
Once you’ve done all of that, it is highly recommended that you create an LLC for your business. This will take any liability off of you personally and keep it completely restricted to your business. Probably the easiest and most convenient way of doing this would be through an online legal firm. Just follow the links on their website for creating an LLC, fill in the blanks and submit your application with your payment. They’ll take care of the rest. It really is that simple. Then file your business with the IRS to receive your Employment Identification Number. After which you’ll be able to open a business checking account to keep your finances separate from your personal bank accounts. This makes it a whole lot easier when tax season comes around. This also gives you the option of accepting check and/or credit card forms of payment from your clients (this is a convenience that they will greatly appreciate).
If your goal is to operate a successful, long-term massage practice out of your home, you MUST have a space that is specifically designated for your business and your business alone. Don’t set your table up in your living room or your bedroom and then assume that it will be good enough for your clients. I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s not. That might be okay for your close friends and family if you’re limited on space, but for anybody else you’ll need to provide a safe, comfortable and private space where they are allowed to relax and feel at ease.
Keep it clean. It’s one thing to have a home that is lived in (because it is and most everyone will understand that coming into it), but if your house is cluttered and messy and scattered with your kids’ toys or pets roaming around and causing unpleasant aromas, your client repeat rate is going to be one that is slim to none. It won’t matter how good of a massage you give if your clients have to walk over or through your messes. So get your place cleaned up and organized if it isn’t already. And don’t be afraid to ask for outside assistance, even if it’s just that of an honest opinion from a trusted friend about what could be improved upon. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and see your space through their eyes from the moment they park their car to the time that they leave. Take it a step further and spruce up the decorating. Fresh paint on the walls, a nice throw rug, a vase of fresh flowers and tasteful wall art can do wonders for any room and it can be kept inexpensive.
Keep it quiet. There’s not much that is worse when receiving a massage than distracting noises. Turn off the ringer on your phone and disconnect the doorbell while you’re working. If you have children (especially little ones) it’s best not to be working when they are in the house. My kids have grown up with me working in our home, so they know to be quiet and considerate when clients are over. But I typically work around them so their lives are not always being inconvenienced by my career and business. Same goes for pets in the house. Keep them separated from your business area and train them to be respectful when visitors are over (I have two large dogs in the house and most of my clients are none the wiser). Barking dogs, crying cats and noisy birds do not set the tone for relaxation. If you do not have control over your pet’s (or kid’s) volume, you may end up having to decide how important (or not) your home massage business is to you.
Keep your rates reasonable, especially when you’re first starting out. The really nice part about working from home is the low overhead, so you don’t have to be compensated for extra rent or utilities (and our clients know this). Check out the pricing of other massage establishments in your area and charge accordingly. Stay competitive, but don’t undersell yourself. It’s perfectly acceptable to offer specials and discounts to new clients (such as $10 off their first visit or a buy-one-get-one at a reduced rate deal), but I would stay away from participating in mass offers such as Groupon or Living Social, and also don’t spend much (if any) money on print media advertising such as local newspapers or phone book listings. This can get expensive with little to no return. Word of mouth from your clients is going to be your best form of advertising. So impress them, because it’s free and fail-safe.
If you really want your clientele to grow leaps and bounds, learn how to market your business. Building a website for your business, being active on social media and creating local listings online are sure fire ways to get things moving. Have business cards made as well as brochures with a list of your services and their prices. Make sure you answer your phone when you can. Set up your voicemail or answering machine with your business information in the outgoing message and be sure to respond to messages promptly so you don’t lose out on that business. Same goes for email. Have a separate email address for your business and keep your correspondence professional yet personal. Refrain from using all caps and abbreviations or “text talk” in your emails.
If your town allows it, it’s a good idea to have some type of business sign in your front yard so that your clients (or potential clients) know exactly where you are located. Keep it simple with just your business name, logo (if you have one) and phone number. You could also include your web address if you have one, but it isn’t necessary since chances are that anyone who is going to want to find you online will simply enter your business name in their search engine anyway. The more ways people have to get a hold of you, the better.
Practice what you preach. You ARE your business. If you’re instructing your clients to get regular massage, YOU should be getting regular massage. If you’re telling your clients to drink plenty of water throughout the day, YOU should be drinking plenty of water throughout the day. If you’re suggesting to your clients that they eat a well balanced diet and do moderate exercise, YOU should be doing the same. When you take better care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of your clients and they will keep on coming back because they’ll want to look and feel just as good as you do.
Appearance isn’t everything, but it’s definitely something. Practice good personal hygiene and grooming. Keep your hair well-kempt (including facial hair for you male therapists) and your teeth brushed. Shower regularly and keep your fingernails trimmed and clean. If you work barefoot for grounding energy, keep your feet clean and toenails trimmed and neat, too. If underarm odor is an issue, use deodorant daily. Don’t douse yourself with cologne, perfume or body spray. These fragrances may disturb your clients or cause allergic reactions that disrupt their massage. If you are in need of a more pleasing aroma, a dab or two of essential oils can be mutually beneficial to both you and your clients. Dress appropriately as well. We can be flexible here, but do yourself and your clients a favor and save the ripped, stained and/or holey clothes for other occasions.
You have the potential to be a walking/talking billboard for your business any time you leave your house, so these guidelines can carry over into your everyday life and benefit your business if you allow them to. BE the type of business you want to have and the rest will follow.