How to Succeed as an Independent Massage Therapist

If you have been dreaming about becoming your own boss, maybe this is the year to do something about it. While venturing may be daunting, once you take the leap, there are many rewards to being independent. Sure, you give up the security of a paycheck and you will need to be prepared for the costs involved in servicing clients on your own. But having control over your time, the potential for greater income and the freedom to do things your way can be life-changing, especially if you have worked for someone else for many years.

Prepare to go on your own

Before you leave your job – or if you are just out of school and want to go straight to self-employment – consider the following:

Is there a non-compete? If you have been working for someone else, make sure you are not bound by any non-compete clauses. If you have, you will be prevented from taking any clients with you, even if some indicate an interest in following you. Some non-compete clauses stipulate a certain amount of time during which you are prohibited from taking a former employer’s clients. If you did not sign a non-compete contract, you will want to approach clients in a respectful and ethical way.[1]

Determine how you want to work: Even as an independent massage therapist, you have options. You can work out of your house or take your services to client homes. You can opt to provide corporate massage on premise at local offices and businesses.  You may want to lease or even share space with another professional where clients can visit you. You might, for example, rent a separate space in a salon that offers hair styling and facial treatments. The latter affords you an opportunity to offer your services to clients already coming in the door.

Differentiate yourself: Certification in a specialty such as sports massage will differentiate you from the competition. You will need certification in this area or another you choose.

Set up shop

Whatever type of service arrangement you choose, you will need to get the right equipment, including lubricants, a massage table, linens, and a comfortable chair. If you are leasing space, you will need to factor in décor, including furniture in the waiting area, and other elements that enhance your space and add to a client’s comfort, such as music during the session.

Setting up shop involves finances and you may need to expand your credit or get a small loan to enable you to make your purchases at the start to “hit the ground running.”

You want to consider online booking software, too, which makes it easier for clients to book directly and saves you time from booking and making confirmation calls or sending texts. Plus, with appointments online, clients can make changes, so you get a heads up if you have a slot to fill.

Start Marketing

Some ways help maximize your start-up marketing budget:

Build social channels: Create a Facebook page for your business and include information on treatments and industry trends. Keep followers up to date on service additions or changes. Use a lot of images and even video to showcase how your work.

Send emails and texts: Keep in touch with clients and prospects through regularly scheduled emails and texts with information about your services and when an appointment opens. Send birthday notes and messages for other special occasions.

Think modular about materials: Create a customizable marketing piece with inserts. The packet would include a standard information sheet with inserts about various treatments. You also can create a basic brochure layout that has one main section with space for sections specific to target audiences. When you go to print, the standard section will remain the same but new copy can be typeset and stripped in to meet the needs of your different clients.

Go mobile: Your needs for print materials may not be obsolete yet, but increasingly consumers are checking their tablets and smartphones for information. Make sure your website is optimized for viewing on mobile devices.

Ask for referrals:  Clients singing our praises can be the best way to bring in new ones. Do not be afraid to ask clients for referrals. Happy clients will be glad to help.


A strong business network helps to bring in new business. Other professionals also can be a source of advice and support and help you see your business in a new light to solve problems and discover new opportunities

There is a lot to think about before hanging up your independent massage therapist shingle. But walking through the self-employment door can be life-changing. Drive and determination are all it takes.


[1] “How to Thrive as an Independent Massage Therapist,” clinicsense, February 7, 2024.