As the economy takes its time in recovering from the economic effects of recession, many people are attracted to the idea of going into business for themselves. Maybe you're one of them! And if you're someone who likes working directly with clients in a close setting, and are drawn to the idea of provoking a healing service, then you've probably thought about setting out your slate as a massage therapist. There are any number of schools that can provide training and accreditation; but once you've got your certification, you still have the tackle the challenge of growing a client base. Before starting your massage therapy service, it helps to have a business plan that takes into account the following 5 questions.
What are my market demographics? In other words, what kinds of clients can you find in my service area, and how can you engage with them? As you begin to market your services, you are going to need to identify the types of clients that are in your service range. If you're operating in an urban area, you'll want to identify neighborhoods where residents have disposable income to spend on massage – or who in the socio-economic class of clients that are willing to volunteer part of their medical budget to the therapeutic massage. A blue-collar worker is less likely to make time during his or her workday for a half-hour massage appointment, whereas white-collar workers and professionals are more likely to be responsive to your advertising. In short – know your audience! Knowing who your ads are seen by, and where they are likely to see then, is vital if you want your advertising energy and budget to be effective.
What are your competitors, and how can you distinguish yourself from them? If you're doing a leaflet blast, and notice that public bulletin boards in a high-traffic shopping plaza are covered with flyers for other massage therapists, do not panic – this may not be a sign that the market is scheduled. In fact, it might be a very encouraging sign: the customer base in the area is apparently capable of sustaining multiple, multiple massage services! Follow the marketing efforts of your competitors in order to take advantage of their own research, so that you can cast your bait (so to speak) in the same fishing spot. Remember, you're running a business; be collegial and professional, but do not be afraid of being competitive.
How can you add value to your services? Every time you meet with a client, you have a rare opportunity to provide services and products that complement your work as a massage therapist. Product salespeople are terribly jealous of the unique access direct service providers – like massage therapists, dentists, and medical doctors – enjoy with clients; that's why so many of their advertising dollars go toward persuading these providers to act as proxy product representatives. Why not invite your local whole foods grocery, or health foods store, and so on, to make it worth your while to represent their product lines to your clients? If you know that Client X enjoys music while relaxing during massage, you're in a position to tell him or her where to go online to purchase the music you've selected for their session; and you're in a position to recommend it, because you've carefully researched the music (and candles, and aromatherapy products, and lotions, and towels, etc.) that help make your sessions effective. Make sure that you're in a position to profit from your expertise in the materials you use to enrich your massage therapy, by taking a share of the profit from any sales generated.
When taking all of these issues into account, do not fail to make sure you've taken care of the nuts and bolts: Have you put in place the business infrastructure needed to work seamlessly with your customer base? Once you've got your deep-tissue training and your medium-pressure training and your Swedish massage training, and you've bought a durable comfortable massage table and have covered your market area with advertising, you might think you're ready to start accepting clients and making appointments. However, there are other, more technical aspects of your business that you need to square away; and the most important of these is payment methods. You'll want to see if there are financial advantages to signing up for a business account through your banking provider, so you can operate under a “dba” or “doing business as” professional name – By water Massage, for example, or Healing Handwork!
Having a separate business account, with separate checking and debit services, will make it much easier for you to track expenses and income when it comes time to file your taxes. Can you receive credit card payments, or were you expecting to process credit payments through a third-party processor like PayPal? Talk to your bank manager – you may be able to hold on to some of that money that would have gone to your payment processor, by signing up for that business account. If you have a smartphone, do you have the appropriate financial channels, and the right gadgets, to process card-swipes wherever you are, such as in the client homes and hotel room rentals where you might be operating? How about insurance payments – have you done the legwork to see if your certification will allow you to receive third-party insurance payments on behalf of clients to whom you are providing therapeutic massage services? A little bit of research in this area goes a long way.