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Pros and cons of an at-home massage therapy practice

The Edmonton telephone book lists more than 200 therapeutic massage therapy practices of all types.

June 25, 2013  By Lloyd Manning

Photo: Fotolia Schedule your practice around your way of life – not the other way around.

The Edmonton telephone book lists more than 200 therapeutic massage therapy practices of all types. Although difficult to pin down, it appears that somewhere around 15 per cent of these are in the RMT’s actual residence. Since the home office offers some conveniences, and saving money on rent may not be the only benefit, I can only conclude it must be a preferred alternative to the traditional situation of working in a practice that is located outside the home.

For many, the home practice offers a more simplified operation. The therapist can schedule the practice around her/his way of life, not the other way around. As there is no rent and no fancy digs to maintain, reported net income is usually better than if the practice were downtown, with all of the associated expenses including commuting, higher rent and the time investment required to go to and from work. For many, practising from home is an economical and worthwhile approach. And, with the in-home office, your practice is built on your abilities, competency and areas of specialization.

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Let me take you through some of the advantages and disadvantages that may be associated with starting up an in-home practice.
Advantages include:

  • occupancy cost is often lower;
  • you do not have to meet a landlord’s or other tenants’ demands;
  • it is easier to set you own hours;
  • it could be ideal for a part-time practice;
  • scheduling problems are at a minimum because clients are better at being on time;
  • if a client is a no-show, it is easier to find something to occupy the time;
  • you save time and expense by not having to travel to the office;
  • you are not made to feel like a lesser being than you might be if practising in some medical or chiropractic clinics.

However, there also are some disadvantages:

  • in-home office/clinic seldom works well for group practices – you’re limited to being, and staying, on your own; 
  • many homes are not suitably located or designed for a massage therapy practice; others, a cost of renovation so high as to make it unfeasible;
  • many communities discriminate against home businesses of all types;
  • you will have higher insurance premiums because your residential insurance policy will not cover massage therapy clients against liability claims;
  • you will have higher property taxes because your assessment will be split between residential and business usage, and businesses always pay more taxes;
  • some addresses are hard to find;
  • time management could be a problem; thus, you will require more personal motivation;
  • there could be a problem of containment – you may find it difficult to get out of the house;
  • it requires self-discipline, for you and your family, to maintain your massage therapy practice and home life as separate;
  • you may love pets but you cannot have barking dogs or possessive cats.

Considerations before locating your practice in your residence, ask yourself:
To satisfy my ego, must I practise in an elaborate uptown clinic?

  • Must I be in the centre of the action (you will not be, if working from home)
  • Do I have the self-discipline to work from home?
  • Can I balance my work and home life? Can I keep my family out of the way?
  • Will my net income be higher or lower when working from home? 
  • Is my residence located in an easy-to-find, safe, neighbourhood?
  • Am I concerned about personal safety if working alone?
  • Is part of my residence convertible for my massage therapy practice at a reasonable cost?
  • Have I properly calculated all development costs?

Be certain about your answers. If you fool anyone, it will be yourself.

Those neighbourhoods that are deteriorating, have a high crime rate, or are difficult to access are not really appropriate for an in-home massage therapy office. In areas that are considered high quality districts, location for its own sake may not be all that important, but if the neighbourhood claims any of the above qualities, you may find it will not support your in-home practice. You are not a convenience store where the primary trading area is a six-block radius, but a professional service business whose clients originate from everywhere. Patronage is developed because of you, word-of-mouth advertising and referrals. Drop-ins are negligible. You must be easily found by clients who are not familiar with your area, and you must ensure there is parking near your office.

Much depends on compatibility with the neighbourhood, accessibility, convenience and personal safety. Ask yourself, if you were a complete stranger to your neighbourhood, would you go into your area at night? Alone? If the answer is no, don’t do it. Few patients will come during the day either.

Most therapists report that there is no more personal danger at home than if in an uptown one-person clinic. Because they have developed sufficient intuition, and believe they have ample skills to protect themselves, for most therapists, their own personal safety is not a concern. They carefully screen telephone calls from potential clients. If a caller is someone they do not like the sound of, or who expects sensual services, they simply reply that they are booked up for the next several months. In other words, if you are vigilant and apply your critical thinking skills, you should be perfectly safe offering your massage therapy services from your home.

With respect to setting you fees, in smaller municipalities, clients expect to pay less for a massage from a home-based practitioner than they would for a practitioner working in a clinic atmosphere. However, this is not a concern in the city, where home and clinic prices are the same.

With respect to your own expenses, with the exception of the discount on rent and overhead costs, the cost of operation is not too much different. Supplies and equipment will still cost the same, whether you run a clinic in, or outside of, your home. 

Spouses and children can create problems, if you practice in your home. Spouses can be demanding. Kids can be both demanding and noisy at inconvenient times. All require educating.

Your practice must be separated from the television set if you have little ones watching it during working hours and you must stipulate that no kids are to be playing computer games on your office equipment. Never allow family members to interrupt your work. You must manage your business the same way as if your office were outside of your home. Your family must know when you are busy.

One therapist whom I interviewed has her clients enter through the back door. They place their shoes on the landing, and then go downstairs. If the family sees unfamiliar shoes they know she is busy. No shoes – no client. It’s safe.

Members of all communities agree that there is a need for regulations with respect to where business can and cannot be – many communities in fact discriminate against home-based business of all types. Still, a massage therapy practice is a clean, professional business. Most objections are raised against home businesses where products are received and shipped out by truck, where trash is piled up or where excessive traffic is generated.

Nevertheless, before renovating ensure that the conductance of your practice complies with the zoning regulations; that it is legal in this neighbourhood; that you have all of the required permits; and that you have been properly blessed by the city, health board, fire commissioner and any other body that has any say.

In part 2, I will discuss renovating the home for a massage therapy practice. 

Lloyd Manning is a semi-retired business, commercial real estate appraiser and financial analyst. His newest book, Winning With Commercial Real Estate – The Ins and Outs of Making Money In Commercial Properties, is available online from Indigo-Chapters. He can be reached at

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