This week’s guest blog is from Amber Peart


With working from home being more acceptable than ever before, there also came a shift to embrace work-life balance. With this transition came discussions on productivity, but for Registered Massage Therapists, success hinges more on the practitioners’ skillsets, experience, and dedication to their patients rather than location of office space. If you are a massage therapist and are considering starting a home-based business, you’re stepping into a realm of opportunity and fulfillment.

The foundation: crafting your vision and business plan and keeping it real

Every successful venture begins with a clear vision and a well-crafted, honest business plan. One of the best pieces of advice given to me as a new therapist was to take a business course targeted to Massage Therapy. Even if one may not be considering starting their own practice and are content under the umbrella of a clinic setting, understanding your industry better is valuable. A proper business course will lay out the framework and answer questions about business plans. Putting together a business plan is essential; think of it as detailed goals, and the strategic steps required to achieve them.  This plan outlines things like your mission statement, target demographics, pricing structure, marketing strategies and financial projections (to name a few). This blueprint will help highlight the viability of your plan and guide your decisions and actions as you navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship. 

Take the time to also consider and evaluate your own professional goals, values, and unique offerings. Thinking of this first helps to establish your vision, mission statement and what you have to offer your community. The entirety of planning is hard, but don’t be rushed. Be authentic with yourself because after all, it’s your interpretation of your vision that will attract your target market. It will also dictate how you’ll differentiate yourself in a competitive market without the support of a clinic behind you. Keep it objective, measurable, and most importantly real to yourself. 

Creating your space: legalities and limitations

Excitement about creating your dream treatment space is natural, but before diving in, consider the less thrilling but crucial tasks. It is imperative to consider legalities involved in working from your home. Start by researching municipal zoning bylaws and regulations governing home-based businesses in your area. Is opening a home-based business allowed in residential zoning, or will you have to consider what commercial zoning looks like and how this might affect things like property tax, bathrooms, parking and accessibility. If doing this in a residential zone isn’t an option, can you even apply for commercial in your area? Will your clients be walking, taking public transportation or will there be ample parking opportunities that will not upset your neighbours? Are you allowed signage or even additional staff should you one day want to grow?

Next to our personal liability insurance here in Ontario, we will also need additional coverage for the space itself and this is best answered by your home insurance representative. Will they cover the necessary coverage for a home-based business that involves client interaction? You will need incidental insurance involving injuries sustained on your property, but also insurance for the items in your treatment space. 

Consider the practicalities of your space, including privacy, accessibility, and ambiance. Do you have or need a separate entrance or bathroom for your clients and are these things accessible? Is the door wide enough for a walker or wheelchair and do you have any steps to your point of entry? Maybe you live alone or have a quiet home with no pets or children so it isn’t a concern for you to have a shared space. With this, I would also advise you to consider safety, and what it means to invite the public into your home. There are many strategies here, like keeping your door locked at all times, doorbell cameras to monitor any unwanted solicitation, referral strategies with your current caseload, screening intake forms that look at intent of a visit for new patients, or even having additional safety measures such as a direct panic button linked to police in your area. When working alone, we should never feel threatened or as if our safety is compromised, so I urge you to take all necessary steps to avoid conflict. 

Compliance with your regulatory body is another legal consideration. Here in Ontario the CMTO dictates how we manage infection prevention and control with things like appropriate handwashing stations and how we are to prepare our treatment space. There are also standards for fees and billing as well as privacy and record keeping. Fraud can happen outside of your control and protecting your small business and registration number is imperative. Maintain impeccable client and financial records by using proper patient management software. It’s worth every penny. Consider financial transactions too and how to track these if you should ever be involved in an audit. These are the luxuries we don’t often consider when we are relying on a clinic to maintain our records to support us. Having accurate recall to records of all kinds is something to not take lightly to maintain the integrity of your small business. 

We must also consider bookkeeping to keep the CRA or likewise from knocking on our doors. Yawn, I know. It becomes a little more complicated when working for yourself rather than as an independent contractor or employee. Bookkeeping applications like Quickbooks are an excellent option, however some entrepreneurs opt for hiring a bookkeeper and accounting service to manage organization. If you choose to manage your own, may I suggest first scheduling an appointment with your bank to organize accounts clearly, and time block yourself somewhere within the month to get yourself organized with your bookwork. It can become a disorganized mess in a hurry- and to this I speak with experience.

The legalities and limitations are a big hurdle, one that is best approached with clarity and accuracy, but will allow your business to thrive so you can focus on what you came here to do- which is just to be an excellent massage therapist. 

Marketing: building and maintaining client relationships all on your own

In the diverse world of marketing, finding the right strategies for the success of your small business can feel very overwhelming. While you may not have the visibility of a storefront at your home office, there are numerous strategies you can employ to showcase your expertise, connect with potential clients, and establish a thriving business.

I would argue that the most important marketing strategy that Massage Therapists can utilize is word of mouth referrals. This is great news for us, because the reality is we get to focus on providing exceptional care to every client who walks through the door. If you can exceed their expectations and leave them feeling as though they have gotten closer to their treatment goals, not only do they win, but they may be encouraged to refer you to their own personal network. Other effective offline strategies can include building relationships with local businesses and community organizations. Reach out to other clinicians, gyms and wellness centres in your area to explore potential collaboration opportunities. 

Investing in professional branding and marketing materials can also help you stand out in a crowded marketplace and convey a sense of professionalism to potential clients. Optics matter, especially when you want your home business to be taken seriously. Work with a graphic designer to create a logo, branding colours, and other visual assets that reflect your unique identity as a practitioner.  Along with this, consider hiring a photographer to take headshots and other branding photos of you and your space that you can later use for all online marketing strategies like a website and socials. 

Embracing challenges and celebrating milestones, even the smallest of them

Setting out on the journey of starting a home-based massage therapy practice is not without its challenges. This is not a comprehensive plan, there will be many more wins, setbacks, and challenges ahead that are not listed here. Each paragraph truly could have its own blog, but this quick guide highlights the major elements one may not consider prior to getting started. 

One important challenge that was on my list of cons before starting, was the fear of becoming isolated. I’m happy to report that this is farther from the truth. My world only got bigger because I allowed it to be by finding other like-minded practitioners in my area who also work alone. It’s nice to have referrals you can trust, and that you can also connect with to discuss all things business, treatment strategies, and how to navigate obstacles and any setbacks. Find your people and your world will get bigger. Admittedly, I do of course miss my old colleagues and always will. Work friends are some of the best friends, but just because you’re no longer working together doesn’t mean friendships have to end. Embrace these challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Navigating a small business while also managing client expectations, and balancing work-life boundaries to avoid burnout all requires resilience, perseverance, and adaptability. Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small and remember that everything starts somewhere- so just go get started!



About the Author

Amber runs a small practice south of the GTA, within the community of Haldimand County, Ontario where she practices Registered Massage Therapy and Contemporary Medical Acupuncture. She spends her time in practice with a focus on orthopaedic conditions and maintains a patient-centred analytical approach to movement dysfunctions to optimize recovery. Outside of the clinic, Amber is an involved member with the Registered Massage Therapists Association of Ontario, she enjoys staying active in the gym, and can often be found tending to her gardens, cats, and houseplants.