How to be a Self-Employed Massage Therapist

Self-employed massage therapist waling through a clients home with a massage table

Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Have an interest in massage therapy and want to make it your career? Starting a massage therapy business can be exciting, but it is important to prepare. That is why Minnesota School of Cosmetology offers a massage therapy program to help you start a massage therapist business. Take the first step and get ready to graduate from a massage therapy program.

Step #1: Graduate from a Massage Therapy Program

The first step toward becoming self-employed as a massage therapist is to complete an accredited massage therapy program at a vocational school. Although massage is an unlicensed profession in Minnesota, part of the requirements of becoming a licensed massage therapist is first completing a specific number of hours in a diploma program to prepare you for the licensing exam.

During the massage therapy program, you learn the many techniques of massage including Swedish, deep tissue, Shiatsu, prenatal, Thai and many other techniques. Knowing these massage techniques allows you to create a unique session for your clients with the right combination of massage for their needs. You will learn about anatomy, physiology and kinesiology as it has to do with massage. You also learn about becoming self-employed as a massage therapist or running a massage business as a manager. We help you understand light bookkeeping, how to file for different business licenses, managing costs and the other business practices that you must master to run your own massage business. The best part about attending a massage therapy program is all the lab work that you will receive to get practical experience while massaging real clients.

Step #2: Pass the Licensing Exam

Although massage is an unlicensed professional in Minnesota, you may need to become licensed at the city or county level to offer massage services. Either way, passing the MBLEx licensing exam proves to your clients that you are serious about massage and they will have more confidence in you as a licensed massage therapist. This can set you apart from your competitors.

Step #3 File for Proper Business License as Self-Employed

When you start your own business, there are many different licenses and permits you will need to get started. First, you will need to apply for a business license at your local city governmental department. Most self-employed individuals will need to apply for a special self-employed business license that comes with some restrictions. You will need to pay city business tax each year based on your gross receipts. This is in addition to state and federal income tax and any sales tax that you collect.

Step #4: Do Some Competitive Research

Once you graduate from the massage therapist program, get a license and file for the proper permits, it is time to do some competitive research. It is important to take a look at your local city and figure out how many other massage therapists are offering massage services. Is the market saturated? Can you differentiate yourself by offering aromatherapy, prenatal or sports massage? Are you going to rent a space? These are all questions that you must answer before you invest the time and money into your business.

Step #5: Purchase the Necessary Massage Supplies

Now is the time to invest in massage supplies that you can take with you to client’s homes. Do you want a portable table or chair? Do you need towels, pillows, essential oils, or any other massage supplies to give the client a unique massage experience? You may need some PPE to keep yourself and your client safe from viruses and bacteria. You are also going to need a way to charge your clients for your massage services. A great way to do this is using Square or Apple Pay on your smartphone.

Step #6: Build a Clientele

Most successful businesses have a website that offers basic information about their services, contact information and credentials. Once you have a website up and running, take the time to submit your information to local directories like Yelp. Many of your potential clients will look to Yelp for reviews and information about your business. Social media is also important to capture new clients and create loyal customers out of your current clientele.

Don’t’ forget a leave behind. Whether it is a brochure or business card, make sure that you leave something for your clients, so they know where to call you for another massage service. You can also ask them to follow you on social media so you can keep them up-to-date on any specials or new services that you may offer in the future. Social media will also allow you to reach your clients contacts and build out your clientele.

Final Thoughts

Now that you are ready for your new adventure as a self-employed massage therapist, it is time to take the first step and start a massage therapy program. Though becoming a business owner can be daunting, Minnesota School of Cosmetology is there to help. We not only teach you the techniques you need to service clients, but we have a curriculum that will help you start a massage business. If you choose to get licensed, we prepare you for the MBLEx exam. Every journey starts with a single step. Ready to start moving?

Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 12 months. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.

Why Does Someone Choose a Career in Massage?

Student training for a career in massage

Why should you choose a career in massage therapy? Massage is a research-proven therapy used worldwide to treat tension, injury and pain. Recommended by doctors, trainers and other wellness professionals as a drug-free way to soothe sore muscles and melt away stress, it’s soaring in popularity. Millions of Americans had a massage last year, and thousands more are scheduling now. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job opportunities for massage therapists will rise 21-percent in the next ten years. If you have what it takes, there’s never been a better time to get into the field.

Why Does Someone Choose a Career in Massage?

People with a passion for wellness have many career choices, so why choose massage therapy? You’ll enjoy massage therapy if:

You’re a People Person

Massage therapy is a service industry. You’ll spend most of your working hours relating to customers, albeit in a relaxed atmosphere. While some clients are a pleasure to serve, others will be more challenging. You will have to connect with colleagues, supervisors and others to develop your practice. Successful massage therapists like getting to know people and are willing to work hard to cultivate rewarding, long-term professional relationships.

You Like to Be Physically Active

Massage therapists manipulate soft tissue to rehabilitate injuries, ease discomfort and reduce the symptoms of stress. They’re active most of the day, working with their shoulders, arms and hands. You’ll never be chained to a desk.

You Want to Help People be Healthy

Stress-related disorders are an epidemic, some of our habits have become toxic. Massage therapy offers a new approach to wellness that complements conventional treatment while addressing the lifestyle factors that contribute to illness. If you want to help people be healthier but a career in mainstream medicine isn’t for you, becoming a massage therapist is a holistic alternative.

Skills for Success as a Massage Therapist

Anyone can learn massage therapy, but being a successful therapist requires specific skills including confidence, a positive attitude, physical stamina, manual dexterity, and empathy, to name a few. Having this skill set will help build your career in massage.

Skill #1: A Positive Attitude

Working with people can be demanding. As a professional massage therapist, it’s up to you to set a positive tone for the visit. You’ll work one-on-one with clients to develop individualized treatment plans, so you need their cooperation for the best results. A friendly posture and an enthusiastic attitude engages customers, creating a welcoming atmosphere and inspiring confidence in your services.

Skill #2: Physical Stamina

Massage therapists work on their feet, standing and bending to optimize upper body ergonomics. A full-body massage can last up to ninety minutes, and you may do six or more a day. Being in good physical condition helps you avoid physical stress and prevent injury.

Skill #3: Manual Dexterity

Massage therapists use their fingers to relieve tense muscles, applying pressure to trigger points to help stiff fibers relax. Techniques must be performed precisely to have the necessary effects. As you work, you’ll watch clients’ reactions for the tell-tale signs of relief and adjust your movements accordingly. It’s a skill that requires focus, dexterity and coordination.

Skill #4: Empathy

Empathy is the ability to see things from a client’s point of view, to put yourself in their shoes and anticipate their needs. It’s a skill that helps you predict what clients want and identify potential barriers to massage.

While massage therapists are used to having close physical contact with clients, being touched by a stranger is uncomfortable for some. Others may have body image issues that make them feel self-conscious and wary of undressing. Clients from other cultures may have different expectations for a massage than Americans. Foreseeing clients’ concerns helps you ask the right questions, adapt your services to their needs and turn inquirers into customers.

Skill #5: Communication Skill

Communication is the foundation of massage. You’ll need to evaluate clients to understand their needs, reviewing their health history and past experiences with bodywork. The ability to articulate ideas is essential for explaining the therapeutic benefits of your services. Clear communication upfront clarifies expectations, prevents misunderstandings and builds the rapport necessary to turn first-time customers into regular clients.

Skill #6: Active Listening

Active listening is a therapeutic technique, a medical professional learns to make communication more effective. The goal is to better understand what clients say by reading between the lines, evaluating the verbal cues and body language that reveal what they’re thinking.

It requires eliminating distractions, so you can focus on the conversation, and offer feedback that encourages them to continue to share their thoughts. Active listening ensures you and your client are on the same page.

Skill #7: Good Personal Care Habits

Massage therapists touch their clients’ skin, so personal cleanliness is a must. Germs that can cause infection spread easily through contact. Like doctors and nurses, a massage therapist needs sound hygiene habits.

Vocational school training programs cover infection control practices from hand washing to equipment sanitation. It’s a critical part of safe practice and imperative in states that inspect and license massage therapy practices.

Skill #8: Problem Solving Skills

Problems are opportunities in disguise. Clients have different needs and the more you can troubleshoot what keeps callers from scheduling appointments, the more satisfied clients you’ll have. Some barriers that could keep potential clients from booking include:

  • Price
  • Schedule
  • Handicapped accessibility
  • Too few massage therapists
  • Limited types of massage offered
  • Medical considerations

A massage therapist that can solve these problems by offering discounts, amending their hours or learning new techniques will have more clients and higher revenue.

Skill #9: A Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Like medicine, bodywork evolves. Of the many states that license massage therapists, most require proof of continuing education because techniques and equipment improve over time. The most successful massage therapists keep their skills current through continuing education. Every skill learned is another service you can offer.

Skill #10: Time Management Skills

Time is money. Whether you work for an established practice or are self-employed, generating revenue is the top concern. The more massages you do in a week, the more you make, it’s a simple formula for financial success.

But, in addition to giving massages, there are other tasks to do from answering the phone and ordering supplies to sanitizing equipment and bookkeeping. The key to keeping up is to make the most of downtime between appointments so you don’t have to say no to customers or spend your off time tying up loose ends at the office. Time management is not only a good business skill, but also a self-care skill.

Skill #11: Financial Management Skills

Many new startups fail in the first twelve months because of poor financial management, and many go out of business in just two years. A self-employed massage therapist needs money skills to survive.

Accountants can help with complex issues, such as taxes, but massage therapists are responsible for budgeting, tracking income and expenses and making informed spending decisions. It’s similar to managing a household budget and balancing a checkbook. However, too many mistakes can compromise cash flow, and you’ll run out of money before being able to pay your bills.

Skill #12: Marketing Skills

Marketing is more than advertising, it’s the art of selling yourself. Customers want more than products and services, they want trusting relationships with businesses, especially those providing personal services.

It’s no longer enough to advertise, you need to build an online community of regular clients who share their positive experiences with others. Word of mouth generates leads. Most people shop online for services like hair care and massage therapy, so knowing how to reach out to clients on social media is a critical skill.

Skill #13: Customer Service Skills

Good customer service is the one skill massage therapists can’t be successful without. Losing one customer out of ten due to a bad experience lowers revenue significantly. Why? Satisfied, long-term clients spend more and are likely to refer you to family and friends, while a single dissatisfied client can ruin your reputation. The rule is the customer is always right.

What does quality service consist of? Clients rank individualized service highest on their wish list, they want to feel like they matter. Timely communication, convenient hours and choice of payment options are appreciated. Consumers’ biggest pet peeves are inaccurate advertising and surprise charges. The best way to build a lucrative client base is to provide a superb start to finish experience, built on trust and mutual respect.

Final Thoughts

Massage is an ancient holistic therapy recommended by doctors and practiced worldwide. It’s a multi-million-dollar industry – and growing. For students with the right skills, it’s an exceptional career opportunity and a chance to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 12 months. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.