The concept of mobile massage is exploding in popularity. A review of data gathered by AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) shows that of all massage therapists, 59% work at the client’s home or office. Given the popularity of mobile massage, therapists do want to know how to start a mobile massage business.
So, how do you start a mobile massage business? To start a mobile massage business:
- Get the appropriate training, certification and hours of work to qualify as a massage therapist
- Register as self-employed or form a company
- Purchase the required equipment
- Sign up with mobile massage apps
- Market your business
- Focus on repeat customers
In this guide, I will go into specific details and give you a step-by-step process to start a mobile massage business. I know a thing or two about starting and running a successful mobile massage business as I started and ran a business offering the best mobile massage London has to offer.
So, let’s get started.
What Is Mobile Massage?
Before we dive into the specifics of starting a mobile massage business, it is crucial to understand what is meant by mobile massage. Think of the different places a person gets a massage: spa, massage parlor, hotel or resort, their home, etc.
One does not need to be in a specific location to receive massage therapy. This concept is the underlying theme of mobile massage. Mobile massage refers to the concept where the massage therapist visits the client – wherever the client is located – to offer massage therapy. Most often, the massage therapist visits the client at their home, hotel, or office.
Typically most mobile massage bookings are to clients’ homes or hotels (in the case of tourists and traveling business folks). Mobile massage at offices is also known as corporate massage and is often booked by companies for their employees.
If you are working as a mobile massage therapist, you will most likely visit clients in their homes or hotels. If you are familiar with “chair massage” then you could also be booked for offering mobile massage at offices.
Essentially, any massage session where you travel to the location of the client to offer massage therapy is known as a mobile massage. The characteristic of mobile massage is to provide spa-quality massage at the client’s site. To do this, the mobile massage therapist carries everything they need – massage table, oils, candles, music, etc. – to offer a spa-quality massage.
Requirements To Start A Mobile Massage Business
Before you start offering your services to customers, there are pre-requisites to running a mobile massage business. Just because your family and friends say you give amazing massages, does not mean you are ready to offer your services to clients!
In the past, I have had few people apply to work as mobile massage therapists at my mobile massage company, and their only qualification was that they gave massages to friends and family. To work as a mobile massage therapist, you need to have professional qualifications and certifications, like in any other professional job.
In this section, I will explore the main requirements and pre-requisites you need to have to work as a mobile massage therapist and start your own business.
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Requirement #1: Education & Certifications To Start A Mobile Massage Business
I am assuming that you intend to start your mobile massage business, where you will be performing the service. I am assuming you do not plan to start a mobile massage marketplace where you have other mobile massage therapists working for your company.
So, before you can start your mobile massage business, you will need to get the appropriate certifications, training, and experience.
In the U.S., regulation of massage therapy happens at the state level, and you will need to have a minimum number of training hours in addition to certifications and diplomas from accredited massage therapy programs. AMTA provides the list of accredited massage therapy schools and links to state-level laws and regulations.
In the U.K., to work as a massage therapist, you typically need an ITEC level 3 or equivalent (NVQ level 3) in massage therapy, sports science, anatomy and physiology, or beauty. Also, you need a minimum of 200 hours in training.
You have institutions like the London school of massage that provide the relevant training and diplomas to qualify you to work as a massage therapist.
Requirement #2: Company Formation & Employment Status To Start A Mobile Massage Business
As a mobile massage therapist running your mobile massage business, you will receive clients from two primary sources:
- Clients from mobile massage marketplaces
- Clients from your own marketing efforts
Most mobile massage marketplaces will require you to work as a freelance massage therapist. Additionally, to service your personal clients, you will need to operate under a company structure.
Before you can start working for a mobile massage marketplace or servicing your clients, you will need to choose a business structure.
In the U.S., most massage therapists set-up as a sole proprietorship or a Limited Liability Company (LLC). In the U.K., massage therapists typically form an LTD company or set-up a sole proprietorship.
Requirement #3: Liability Insurance
Finally, before you can take on your first customer, you will need to get liability insurance for your business. The liability insurance protects you from lawsuits and claims in case of injury or damage.
Such insurance is even more essential in the case of a mobile massage business where you will be visiting the homes of clients. In case of accidental damage to the client’s property, the insurance protects you.
You can purchase liability insurance online in a matter of minutes. Several insurance companies offer liability insurance specifically for mobile massage therapists.
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Requirement #4: Mobile Massage Equipment
So you have obtained your professional massage degree, set-up your company, and also got your liability insurance. The final step to starting your mobile massage business is to get the equipment that will make you a professional mobile massage therapist.
Mobile Massage Table
One of the critical pieces of equipment you will need is a mobile massage table or bed. I have seen massage therapists offer mobile massage services successfully without a massage table.
In such cases, the massage happens on the client’s bed. However, if you want to be professional and also protect your back from injury, buy a portable massage table.
Portable massage tables are foldable and, although built to be mobile, tend to be about 15 K.G. (30 pounds) in weight. One of the main objections to carrying a massage table I receive from new mobile massage therapists is the weight of the massage tables.
It is tough to lug these portable tables if you are moving around the city in public transport. Due to this, you will also need to invest in a massage table carrier. If you drive, then you should not face any issues.
Massage Table Carry Case
Portable massage tables weight roughly 15kg (30 pounds) and are challenging to carry around unless you are driving to your client’s location.
Due to this, most mobile massage therapists also have wheeled table carry cases for their massage tables. The advantage of carrying cases is that you don’t have to bear the full weight of the massage table. You can simply drag the table along on the wheels of the carrier.
Massage Oils, Creams & Lotions
As a mobile massage therapist, you will need to carry the oils, creams, and lotions that you need for the therapy session. If you perform aromatherapy, then you will need to bring several bottles of aromatherapy oils.
Most mobile massage therapists carry popular oils such as grapeseed oil. Depending on the type of therapies you perform, you might need to bring additional oils and creams.
Aim to carry everything you will need for the session. Your goal is to offer a spa-quality treatment to your client, and using the right oils is part of providing an excellent service.
Candles, Music & Towels
As you know, the quality of the massage improves drastically in a calm and serene environment. Your job as a mobile massage therapist is to create an ambiance conducive to delivering a spa-quality massage.
To do this, you will also need to carry scented candles and relaxing music. Often your clients will rely on you to provide the music for the massage session. Have several playlists loaded that match the pace of your massage.
Finally, the best mobile massage therapists also carry several pairs of towels for the clients. Most of the clients will supply their own towels for draping purposes, but being the professional that you are, you should have few fresh, clean towels handy.
Now that you have met the pre-requisites for starting a mobile massage business, you are ready to begin accepting clients! In the next section, I will discuss the various ways you will get customers to your mobile massage business.
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Getting Customers For Your Mobile Massage Business
Once you have the pre-requisites in place, the real hard work begins. Although mobile massage pays very well on a per hour basis, 42% of massage therapists say they would like to work more hours.
In my mobile massage business, I see a common scenario repeat itself. I will have a very successful mobile massage therapist, and they would decide to open a massage parlor of their own. Time and again, I have seen them struggle, and the key reason is their inability to attract and retain new customers.
There are two main ways for you to get customers for your mobile massage business:
In the next sections, I will explore how you can use both the ways of getting customers and establish a successful mobile massage business.
Mobile Massage Marketplaces
In recent years mobile massage marketplaces have become extremely popular. These are portals and apps where anyone looking for an on-demand massage can go to book a massage therapist.
The business model of these mobile massage marketplaces is that they handle all the marketing and customer acquisition and send you a regular flow of clients. In return, they charge a percentage commission from each sale (typically 20-30%).
Mobile massage marketplaces such as Zeel, MassageJoy, Soothe are examples of popular mobile massage marketplaces. For a mobile massage therapist, these marketplaces provide an excellent opportunity to get started with no investment.
To work on these platforms, you will need to have the requisite certifications in place and go through several interviews, including practical sessions for testing your massage therapy skills.
My advice to any new mobile massage therapist is to join a few popular mobile massage marketplaces in their city and gain some experience with mobile massage before venturing out on their own.
Advantages Of Mobile Massage Marketplaces
- They handle all the marketing and branding for you and provide you with a regular flow of clients
- Manage customer support and client complaints
- Provide you with scheduling tools and apps to manage your bookings
- Safer as compared to going to clients location without the backing of a company
- Provide you with public pages displaying your ratings. You can use these pages as your online CV.
Disadvantages Of Mobile Massage Marketplaces
- The commission rate charged is not negotiable and is usually between 20-30%
- Some marketplaces expect you to provide a minimum number of hours per week. So in effect, you are not working as a freelancer
- Your livelihood depends on the success or failure of the marketplace
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Marketing Your Mobile Massage Business
In cities where you do not have popular mobile massage marketplaces, marketing your mobile massage business and getting new customers will be entirely up to you.
Also, the most successful mobile massage therapists that I have seen have utilized both the mobile massage marketplaces and their own marketing efforts to maintain a steady stream of customers.
In the next sections, I will discuss the marketing channels that work great and the channels that you should avoid for your mobile massage business.
Ideal Ways To Market Your Mobile Massage Business
I have helped several massage therapists who worked for my mobile massage marketplace, start their own businesses.
I have seen the marketing channels that work great, and those that are time and money sink for independent massage therapists running their own mobile massage businesses.
Massage therapists will often invest in a website, create a flyer campaign, and then expect customers to come rolling in. Time and again, I have seen this strategy fail. Here are the channels you need to focus on to build your mobile massage business:
Local Online Classifieds
The customer acquisition channel that will get you the fastest results will be your local classifieds sites. In the U.K., Gumtree is an excellent place for you to post your mobile massage advert and receive customers almost immediately.
You can also try Craigslist, which is popular in the U.S. This Quora thread gives a list of the popular classifieds sites globally.
Although you will get customers almost immediately from classifieds sites, the main issue you will face is that you will run into quite a few people requesting sensual services. This behavior is the main reason most professional mobile massage therapists avoid classifieds sites.
However, if you can be very clear in what you offer and speak to each customer before booking them in, then I highly recommend classifieds sites as the first channel you try to get new customers for your mobile massage business.
Although your massage business is mobile, you can still list it on Google maps. I have written a detailed step-by-step guide on how you can list your business on Google maps.
Listing your business on Google maps has several advantages. For local searches, Google favors local businesses. So if you have a good Google My Business profile with photos and reviews, the chances are that you will show up in searches for “mobile massage” in your service areas.
For the local maps listings, you do not need to fight the SEO game with other well-funded companies with resources. Make sure you create a profile and populate it with good photos and reviews from your customers.
Google maps will be another source of regular customers for your mobile massage business. Between local classifieds sites and Google maps listings, you should be in a position to get more customers than you can service.
Now that you have a mobile massage business, it’s time to think like the big boys. If you have followed my advice and focussed on local classifieds sites and google maps listings, you will start getting regular customers.
When you visit your customers, ask for their contact details, including email and phone number as part of your initial health questionnaire.
Most mobile massage therapists would stop here. Now that you have got the email id of your customers, sign up for an email tool like Mailchimp. You only pay if your email list exceeds 2000 contacts, and if you are at that level, then I’m sure you can afford the price.
Create your email list in Mailchimp and email your customers regularly. Maybe send out discount codes for their birthdays and special holidays. Just by keeping in touch with your customers, you will create familiarity and loyalty, leading to repeat business.
Your email list will be your primary tool to fill up your schedule fast when business from new customers is slow.
Most massage therapists who try to open their own business try to first invest in a website. They assume, wrongly, that once they have a website, people will find them and book their services online. This thinking can’t be further from the truth.
For people to find your website, your website will need to rank on search engines for highly competitive keywords. So a better investment is an online scheduling tool.
With booking software, you can create and publish your schedule online. You can also sell memberships and massage session packs. And most importantly, you can take online payments. These features are far more critical to you in building your mobile massage business than a marketing website that no one sees.
I would encourage you to look at StudioGrowth. I built this software to run my mobile massage marketplace when the software that I had been using became too bulky and expensive. The growth of my business can be attributed to having scheduling software in place to eliminate manual tasks and free up my time.
Once you have a steady flow of customers and you are maintaining an email list and have a booking software in place, it’s time to work on scaling your business.
To grow your mobile massage business, you will need to identify and partner with other local businesses with a similar clientele. I have seen partnerships between mobile massage businesses and yoga studios and gyms be very successful.
The students at yoga studios and gyms often need massages to do away with stiffness. You can form partnerships with your local gyms and yoga studios. In return, you can agree to share a percentage of revenue earned from their location with them or even pay them a fixed monthly fee.
The model which I have seen to be the most successful is the sharing of email lists. What this means is that you will email your email list informing them of the services of your partner, a yoga studio, or a gym. And your partner will email their list telling them of your services.
For this model to work, your email lists have to be of the same size. Also, your services have to be complementary. Partnerships are potent and can grow your mobile massage business significantly.
I have seen mobile massage businesses having success on Instagram. It is worth the while to create your business account on Instagram and grow your following.
The advantage of social media is that you can form a personal connection with your followers, which eventually leads to sales.
Apart from Instagram, participating in Facebook groups will also give you exposure and get you some clients.
For a mobile massage business, I would use social media to stay in contact with my customers and use it as a channel to get occasional new customers. I would not rely on social media as the primary customer acquisition channel for a mobile massage business.
If you have followed my advice on using classifieds and google maps listings and building your email lists, then you should have enough customers.
But for whatever reason, you wish to invest more in new customer acquisition, then paid advertising is the way to go.
The main advantage of paid advertising is that you get results immediately. It is a great way to fill up empty slots in your schedule very quickly.
For a mobile massage business, I would encourage you to look at Google Ads. People are looking for mobile massage services, and google ads will put you in front of those people. I have run Google ads in the past for my mobile massage business and found them to be profitable.
Your other options are Facebook and Instagram ads. If you are an individual massage therapist running your mobile massage business, I would refrain from running Facebook and Instagram ads yourself.
Both Facebook and Instagram ads require quite a bit of learning and knowledge. With Google Ads, you can bid for simple terms like “Mobile massage <city name>” and get customers. However, Facebook and Instagram ads are much more complicated than that. I would encourage you to stick to Google ads for paid advertising.
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Channels To Avoid For Your Mobile Massage Business
Writing this guide, I have assumed that you are a massage therapist who wants to start a mobile massage business. I am assuming that your business will probably be a one-person show.
If that’s the case, then there are few marketing channels that you should avoid, although every marketing consultant will tell you to give it a shot. In the next section, I will discuss two such channels.
SEO or search engine optimization is the process of ranking your website high on search engines so that people looking for your services find you easily.
For my business, SEO is the number 1 source of customers. So, why am I advising you to stay away from SEO? Well, the reason is simple – competition.
If you decide to invest in SEO for your mobile massage business, you are competing with the mobile massage marketplaces directly! These marketplaces have millions in funding and pretty much dominate the front page of Google for search terms related to mobile massage.
Ranking your one-person mobile massage website on page 1 of Google is possible, but will require significant effort. My advice is to forget this channel for now and focus on the low-hanging fruits.
Again, similar to setting up a website, creating and distributing flyers is one of the top activities, I see massage therapists doing when they start a new business. It’s like all massage therapists read the same out-dated books on how to start a mobile massage business.
From the direct experience and experience of several massage therapists who I have helped, I can safely say that flyers are not a good source for getting new customers.
Flyering does get you customers. However, the cost to get these customers is not worth the pain. Also, it can negatively impact the brand of your business.
You will have to invest in printing hundreds and thousands of flyers and pay a direct mail company or hire someone to hand out these flyers. If you just spent a few hours a day on Twitter searching for and reaching out to people who have said they need a massage, you will have a better conversion rate.
How Do You Make Your Mobile Massage Business Successful
If you followed the steps outlined in this article, you would have a regular stream of customers booking your mobile massage services. There is a single factor that will lead to the success or failure of your mobile massage business, and that is customer retention.
The most successful mobile massage businesses have regular repeat customers. To encourage repeat business, you can do the following:
- Sell massage session bundles
- Offer discounts for repeat bookings (e.g., 10% off if the customer books weekly)
- Help customers understand that massage needs to be a regular habit to obtain the health benefits
- Email customers who have not booked in a while and let them know about your open slots
You should focus as much effort on retaining customers as you focus on getting new customers. Repeat business from existing customers is what will make your mobile massage business successful.
NOTE: StudioGrowth allows you to create massage session bundles and memberships with a few clicks. Also, StudioGrowth comes with battle-tested email templates to engage customers who have not used your services for a while. We offer a free 14-day trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Do give us a try!
What To Charge For Mobile Massage
Mobile massage is a convenience for customers, and people pay premium rates for convenience. Since massage therapy is a commodity, i.e., there are many providers offering services, you should price your services based on competition.
The first place you should look at is the pricing for mobile massage on mobile massage marketplaces like Zeel, Soothe, MassageJoy, and the like. Doing so will give you a general idea of the prices for mobile massage.
Since you are perhaps an independent massage therapist, you can price higher than the mobile massage marketplaces. Mobile massage marketplaces are considered mass-market with affordable pricing. You can charge a premium for your mobile massage services since you are an independent massage therapist with limited availability.
Prices will vary, but in general, a 60-minute mobile massage in the U.S. costs $120, whereas a 60-minute mobile massage in the U.K. costs £65. Use this pricing as a guide to price your mobile massage services.
A mobile massage business can be very lucrative. If you are looking to start a mobile massage business, you will need to get the right certifications, insurance, equipment, and invest in marketing and join mobile massage marketplaces.
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About the author
Naz Ahm is the founder of StudioGrowth and has spent a decade growing start-ups and venture-backed companies. He writes about sales, marketing, and growth, especially in the yoga, fitness and wellness industry.
Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set-up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently resides in London, U.K.