The three most important things about starting your massage practice: set clear goals, understand your budget and create a professional image.

Your Goals:  Write down specific concrete goals you would like to accomplish and the specific time period in which you would like them to be completed.  Some goals would be:  What amount of income you’d like to make by the end of your first year, any additional certificates you wish to earn, and other business related goals.  Also, write down what is standing in the way of you achieving these goals, and what steps you need to take to overcome these obstacles.  Seek advice from a mentor or successful colleague and try to connect with them regularly.

Your Budget:  Create a realistic budget before opening your business.  Make sure you consider your living expenses while you grow your cliental.  Being self-employed doesn’t always mean you will bring home a paycheck.  Figuring out your break-even point is crucial; what are the costs and overhead you need to stay afloat.  Depending on your location, keep in mind rent, utilities, internet and phone, furnishings, equipment, licensing, insurance, taxes, supplies, advertising, etc.  It’s always good to keep a plan B in mind.  If you need to book 18 services a week to break-even but are only booking 13, then you are losing money.  Most people can’t continue on without hitting or exceeding their break-even point.  Remember, you still haven’t even paid yourself at this point.  For example, if your expenses total to $1200 for the month and you charge $65 per service, you would need to perform at least 19 services that month just to break-even.  You also need to keep in mind your personal living expenses, rent/mortgage, car payment, insurance, credit card payments, utilities, phone and cable, child care, groceries, etc.  If your personal expenses, for example, total $2800, added to your business expenses would equal $4000.  This would mean, just to break-even you would need to provide at least 62 services at $65.  This means you would need to do about 15-16 services a week.  Again, this wouldn’t result in any salary of your own, nor would it account for any vacation time or adding unexpected expenses.  Make sure you’re realistic about the ability to sustain your business before you begin your transition to self-employment.

Your Image:  Create your image from day one and keep that in mind with all aspects of your business.  This image you present will be represented in many ways, not just the look and feel of your location but also in the way you and your staff dress, your logo and the way in which you market your business.  For example, most people don’t know what LMT means, consider spelling it out (Sarah Johnson, Licensed Massage Therapist) to ensure clarity.   You can also bring out the style you like to convey but still show the public who you are with your business name.  For example, Sarah Johnson Massage Center, Sarah’s Day Spa, Johnson Medical Massage Therapy or Sarah’s Mind & Body Healing; all of these have a clear message but convey very different atmospheres.  Remember not to use a vague name, like Sarah’s Center, people need to know what services you are providing.

You should, also, consider your image when it comes to your marketing.  This day and age people automatically assume all businesses have a website, this is crucial for your business and now websites are typically pretty cheap to make and maintain with many easily accessible templates available.  Offering your full menu, appointment booking, gift cards, and social media links, like Facebook, on your website can be a great way to maintain current cliental and intrigue new clients.  Again, don’t forget about your image when it comes to your online presents.  If you have a modern urban spa feel at your location, don’t put pictures of beaches throughout your website.  Business cards are also very important.  A great way to expand your business is to go to local establishments like banks, boutiques, cafes and hair salons asking if they would display your card, this is great free advertising.  Also, carry your business cards around with you at all times to hand to potential new clients.  Another great way to advertise in an inexpensive way, is to make reusable bags or t-shirts and wear/use them around town as you do your usual errands.  Consider your logo in this regard, keep your image in mind.  A logo of business card that includes a board certified image gives an entirely different feel than one with a yin yang symbol.

Lastly, think about what you and your employees should wear regularly to continue the image you are looking for.  Are you more medical?; then go with scrubs.  Or maybe you like a spa feel; consider a semi-casual all black look, this helps the focus stay on the client without being overly formal.  Whatever you choose, remember, cohesion is key.

In conclusion, set concrete but achievable goals, budget carefully and realistically, and create the image you want to make your business successful.  There are many visions of success, make sure this one is defined by you.

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