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Managing Your Own Massage Therapy Practice

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting your own business. There are lots of good reasons to pursue a massage therapy program. Most people love the idea of being their own boss—working by your own schedule, building a long term client list, and better income security. The opportunities for career advancement in massage therapy are widespread. But what do you really need to know to get your business off the ground? What are the procedures and requirements for practice management?

Licenses and Permits

The first step in conducting your own practice as a massage therapist (or even practicing as an employee) is to become licensed as a massage therapist. In almost all states, this is a base requirement.

The first thing to address once you’ve completed your massage therapist license is the state regulations in your area for practicing massage therapy. You can find contact information for your state’s massage therapy regulatory board and a requirements guide here for the regulations specific to your state. Don’t forget that you’ll need both a massage therapist license as well as a license to operate a business (these are not the same). You can also contact the county clerk, city hall, or the State Department of Revenue and Consumer Affairs. Every state is different, so this will be an important step. Licenses and permits also need to be renewed on a fairly regular basis, so this will remain a part of your responsibilities as an independent contractor.

You’ll also need to gather tax forms for the IRS, permits from the fire and health departments, and a seller’s permit if selling merchandise. The massage therapy regulations may seem excessive, but there’s good reason to regulate massage therapy. Regulations create a not only safer environment for clients, but a clearer and simpler experienced finding the right professional to meet their specific needs. It also helps ensure that there is a standard of quality maintained for the public.

Client Intake Documents

When you’re handling patients, one of the most important aspects is liability and legal responsibility. Client documents protect both you and the client. Client intake forms are a lot like the forms you fill out at any doctor’s appointment. These forms highlight questions like:

  • Do you have sensitive skin?
  • Height and weight
  • Do you experience stress from work or home life?
  • Are you experiencing any pain?
  • Do you sit for extended periods of time? (Driving, computer)
  • Are you currently taking any medications?

These questions will help you better assess the patient, and also ensures that the patient gives consent to release their medical records and receive treatment. Your client intake forms will also include a table of symptoms from their medical history to markup, and insurance information. You can find sample forms here at the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).


SOAP Forms are also an important tool to utilize. “S.O.A.P” stands for Subject, Objective, Assessment, Plan of Treatment. These forms are for your use rather than the patients. These are used to stay organized, and stay informed and up to date on each client’s condition.  

Subject: This refers to the client’s symptoms, both self reported and those indicated by a medical reference from a healthcare provider.

Objective: This section is for you to make notes of your own medical observations and clinical notes from your exam.

Assessment: This space is for updating your

Assessment of the patient’s response to treatment once you begin.

Plan of Treatment: This space is for you to indicate plans of self treatment and recommendations at home for the client.


The sample forms provided by the AMTA include a diagram of the human form to mark with symbols from a key. Keeping these sheets current and filed will keep your business running smoothly.


Once you’ve received all the necessary permits and licenses and formulated a game plan for patient intake, you’ll want to think about the necessary equipment. This is more nuanced than it appears on the outset. For example, are you striving for spa environment or a more medical, athletic environment?


Because all medical equipment is expensive, this investment requires the same measures that any big purchase does. Investigate warranty and return policies before you buy. You may also consider a payment plan for your equipment, as well as different delivery policies. Some of this equipment is also readily accessible at stores like Walmart, so you can even place an order to pick up in store.

Business Strategy

Working as an independent contractor means that you’re a true self employed business owner. Because you’re not working under an established brand, you’ll need to consider a business strategy. If you sought a small business loan then you likely already approached this topic. Marketing, branding, management and customer service should be considered. Do you plan to hire a receptionist, or someone to aid with PR and marketing? You’ll likely want to produce pamphlets or email campaign ads to get the word out about your services.

Hiring Employees

If you decided to hire employees for your new practice, consider what is influencing your decision before you jump in. Do you feel comfortable managing others as a boss? Consider what you are looking to gainfrom an employee. Some reasons that independent contractors make hires include:

  • Expanding your practice to increase revenue
  • Sense of teamwork
  • Lighter workload

Remember that when you take on new employees, you’ll be responsible for training them, following tax laws and taking on the liability. 

Becoming an independent contractor as a massage therapist is an opportunity for a stable, longterm career with opportunities for advancement. To learn more about massage therapy programs in your area, visit today. 

Start your medical career today. Call 1-833-WMT-4-EDU