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Becoming an Independent Massage Therapist: Where to Practice

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Choosing to become self-employed as a massage therapist can be scary, but also very rewarding. The key to any successful new opportunity is to maximize the reward and minimize any potential risk.

Oftentimes, for the massage therapist looking to go on their own, this risk and reward process is best illustrated in what location they decide to build their practice.

In order to make the most informed decision about a treatment space, a practitioner should ask a few questions to better understand their needs.

  1. Am I looking to create a full-time practice or is this a supplement to something else? Determining your healthy outcome is always a good place to start. Does my phase of life leave room for a full-time practice? What are my financial needs? How much time can I put into this and stay balanced?
  2. Do I want to practice solo or in community? Some practitioners have shared that they love the time with clients and don’t need any additional interaction. While others need the opportunity to talk with peers and non-clients in order to feel satisfaction in their day. It is important you assess how you would like to build your practice so you can better determine your business’s needs.
  3. What am I willing to invest? Credit history, investment capital, and free time all help determine which practice location makes sense for your new business.

Typically, after asking some introductory, but important, questions it is time to find a space. For most massage therapists their treatment space can come in a few categories.

Practicing at Home

Therapists that choose to treat from a room in their home often mention the ability to create a mood or the cost savings of not leasing as their main reason. The upside to a home massage room can be convenience for the therapist (no commute) and the ability to create a space with no rules other than those mandated by your rental, HOA, etc.

The downside to creating a home studio can be the inconvenience to clients—specifically new clients. The inability to separate work and home life for the therapist, roommates, or family. Safety concerns related to new patients and the cost of furnishing and establishing a professional space.

Travel Massage

Travel massage can make sense for a therapist that wants to offer the ultimate convenience to their client. However, the lack of controllable environment, cost of gas, time of travel, and security with new clients often leaves this option only for therapists with a few select clients not looking to build their business.

Leasing a Space

The barrier to entry for this option is typically money. Room rentals can come in all types, month-to-month, three month minimums, five year leases. Each type has benefits and challenges. Oftentimes for any rental there will be a requirement of first, last and deposit. There may also be requirements related to credit history and personal guarantees. Finally, when looking at a rental you must ensure that you can really have an environment that is good for massage. Loud noises and odd smells can make it hard for you to really build a successful practice.

A place for groups and solo practitioners

An option that works for almost every type of startup is a shared, independent rental. What I call a collective or membership rental. Facilities like this can offer the best of all worlds. You have the opportunity to build a solo practice without oversight or any leadership challenges, and you gain the community of other independent practitioners to discuss challenges and bounce ideas.

Typically membership rentals are designed for the purpose of creating a safe and secure space for independent practitioners to meet clients, while offering flexibility and low upfront investment. Often these locations offer a full suite of amenities and come fully furnished to help practitioners have a professional place to meet clients without the high startup costs associated with a leased space.

In Vancouver Washington, WellSpace, is a membership rental facility. Therapists pay a low monthly rate (currently as low as $95) to gain access to treatment rooms that can be rented by the day or in 90 minute blocks. This flexibility allows a therapist to grow their practice without high monthly costs—only paying when they have a booking. The low hourly fee (currently as low as $8.50/hr.) allows a therapist to maximize their time focusing on their clients while keeping the most money from the treatment session. WellSpace also includes top-quality, hydraulic massage tables and bolsters, plus linen service so therapists don’t have to wash sheets every day.

WellSpace includes marketing as well, promoting therapists that are part of the community. Each therapist gets a dedicated service page on the WellSpace website and they advertise the site and treatments throughout Clark County.

For therapists, part-time or full-time, looking to meet their clients in a tranquil, secure, and professional space, WellSpace is a great alternative to leases or home visits.