Starting out as a massage therapist can seem either simple or daunting, dependent on your circumstances and your intentions for the business. Starting a business of any kind means there are some processes to follow, but it’s not always totally clear what they are. It is worth thinking about how you plan to advance your business effectively, and avoid the pitfalls that may trip you up if you haven’t educated yourself about things like legal requirements and good marketing. Whatever the case, there are a few basics that should be considered if you are hoping for a smooth process.
1. What is your business going to be?
First you’ll need to be clear about your plans for your massage business – if not, you could end up investing in the wrong equipment, wasting precious time on marketing, or losing profit through missed opportunities. Will you be a mobile therapist, or would you prefer to be mainly home based? If you like the idea of renting commercial premises, there is even more to think about. Even with home-based massage, there are considerations that may not have occurred to you.
If you decided to be home based, you would need to inform both your mortgage provider and the house insurance provider that you are using your home for business purposes. The local council will also require you to register them and apply for a license. Where will your clients park when they arrive? If they have to use street meters this could deter them from coming to you. If your therapy room is upstairs, how will you manage disabled or elderly clients? Will the hours you work bother your neighbours or people that you live with?
Mobile therapists will be required to report their new circumstances to their car insurance company because they want to know how far you travel each day. Will you have a phone number for your personal life and one for business? It would be very easy to come across in an unprofessional manner for new clients if you’re using your personal phone for work. It’s important to differentiate and have control over your work interrupting your social time and vice versa.
2. What will you call your business?
There’s a lot in a name. It is very easy to choose something clichéd, but you won’t stand out if you do. On the other hand, it’s not easy to find something catchy and clever, and it’s surprising just how many combinations you come up with will already be taken, even when you’ve spent hours thinking of different options! It is worth persevering though, and it best to aim for something relevant (so that it’s obvious what you offer), memorable, clever if you can manage it but not too pretentious. It may take some time, but at least this part is fun!
Once you have decided on a name, be sure to check with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) that the name you chose is not registered to someone else. One point to note is that companies that have names beginning with the earlier letters of the alphabet will feature first in listings and directories. As a client, if you’re looking to make a quick appointment somewhere in your local area and there are pages of listings, you’re going to go with something on the first page if possible.
3. Have you got the correct insurance?
Yes, it’s tedious, but it needs doing. Insurance for massage therapists is a very important consideration; it is as much for your own protection as it is for your clients, and you will need to have both public and product liability insurance, as well as professional indemnity. Don’t forget that copies of new qualifications need to be submitted as and when you attain them in order to covered for all eventualities.
4. What is your budget?
This one is obvious. Every massage therapist, whether setting up a therapy room or starting a mobile massage business will need some massage equipment, and when first starting out, cost is a major consideration. What equipment do you own already? What are the basic items you will need, and what extras can you afford? If you are on a restricted budget, you may be tempted to go for low cost items, but this can sometimes be a mistake.
For example, when buying a massage table, there are lots of cheap options on Amazon and Ebay, and of course they look great in the pictures. The problem is that the materials are low quality and they break and wear out quickly, costing you more in the long run. At Massage Warehouse we have a range of entry level tables for therapists on a budget; we recognise the need to have a high-quality item at a low price, so we designed this range with that in mind. Advertising (covered below) can be costly, so you might need to consider the price of any printed materials and advertising bills.
What products will you use? Will you buy in bulk from a quality wholesaler or pay more in installments from high street suppliers? Drawing up a budget and allocating costs according to priority before you start spending is very sensible.
5. Who are your competitors?
It is prudent to check out other massage therapists working in your area, what services they are offering and what prices they are doing the same services at. Dig out their websites and keep an eye on which products, treatments, promotions and offers they are advertising. It is important to try to have a USP (Unique Selling Point) and make this information clear to your potential customers.
6. How will your reach and attract customers?
Which methods will you use to pull in clients? Will you use newspapers, leaflets, magazines and social media? You will need to think about creating a strong brand and ensure you’re your target audience knows exactly what you offer and why they should come to you. Having a website and internet presence are among the most important methods of making yourself known, but posters and leaflets in the local area can be useful too.
Building a website is simple these days, although you will need to dedicate some time to doing it properly and there will be at least some costs involved. There are many templates on the web that are free to use and can be a good starting point until you know how far you want to take your business.
7. What support will you enlist?
There are many professional bodies in existence and their presence has several purposes: a directory of therapists, community, support, an information and training source and even a symbol of trust for your clients. The FHT is one organization that many massage therapists choose to register with, and in fact it can be difficult to secure insurance if you are not registered.
At Massage Warehouse we are qualified, experienced therapists and we know that many of our customers are massage students or newly qualified therapists. We are more than happy to advise on the right equipment for your needs and anything else we can possibly help with – just give us a call!
We hope you have all been enjoying our "Ask The Muscle Whisperer" series. This month we asked the UK massage industry's top thought leaders to share key tips for massage therapists to help their massage therapy businesses navigate the changes in our industry brought about by Covid-19 and come back stronger in 2021!
Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!
A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.
The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because
Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.
Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.
Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.
Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.
Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.
If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:
Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.
Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.
The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.
You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.
Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.
A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:
1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.
The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.
You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!
There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.
1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):
If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.
2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):
The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.
The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.
1. Rectangle shaped with square corners
This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.
2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners
Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.
3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient
A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.
This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.
The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.