Upon graduating from our Portland massage therapist school, newly hatched LMTs are excited to get to work! Many decide to strike out on their own as independent business owners. However, there’s plenty to consider when launching a new business, including potential legal snafus. This article reviews a few legal considerations for massage therapists, including contracts, choosing your business entity, and protecting intellectual property. Read on to learn how to avoid some common legal pitfalls in the massage therapy profession.

legal issues as a massage therapist

Pitfall #1: Operating without a Contract.

You should have a written agreement for practically everything you do as a massage therapist. You’ll need to enter into contracts to add Internet service, arrange for website design, and provide massage therapy services. Massage therapy space rental and employing other massage therapists are two other contractual actions you may need to take as the owner of a private massage therapy business.

Unfortunately, many small business owners cut and paste pre-existing contracts without customization. Copying a contract from a book or website is not savvy. Each contract must be tailored to the work at hand. Otherwise, you could be left in the cold in court. Consider the story of the business owner who ordered logo creation sans contract. With no contract in place, the logo design legally belonged to the creator, meaning that the business owner couldn’t actually trademark his own logo. To avoid such unforeseen legal snafus, we recommend working with your lawyer to customize and review contracts. That way, if someone starts missing payments or shirking duties, you will have a contract to protect you in court. When meeting with your lawyer, be sure to consider patient privacy (HIPAA) as well as any state legal requirements for LMTs.

Note: If you operate in Portland, you should know that there are multiple local resources for small business people. For instance, Mercy Corps offers low-cost business classes and legal consultation in the Portland area.

Pitfall #2: Assuming A Sole Proprietorship is Best.

Did you know that you are personally responsible for acts committed by your sole proprietorship? Massage business insurance can offer some legal protection in the event that a client sues you. However, if your business is a corporation, you may be even better protected.

As a shareholder in a corporation, you will not personally be liable for your business’ acts, nor for its debts. Of course, if you set yourself up as a shareholder you will effectively be taxed twice—once as a corporation and once as an individual. An LLC is one way to get around this tax burden; that way you’ll only have to pay the current self-employment tax on your LLC’s income.

Again, the best option is to speak with your lawyer about the best business setup for you. An S-Corp may be your lawyer’s recommendation—with an S-corp, you’ll only pay taxes on your own salary, not the entire income of your business.

Pitfall #3: Failing to Protect your Intellectual Property

Your trademark, including your company name and logo, is your business’ most important piece of intellectual property. Every time you massage, network and blog, you are investing in your company’s reputation. Without legal protection in place, your logo, and even business name could be taken by another. Therefore, it’s critical to work with your lawyer to trademark your business name, tagline, and logo. Your lawyer may also suggest protecting your website and marketing materials through copyrighting.

Continuing Education to Polish your LMT Business Skills

Independent business owners must practice kaizen, the Japanese art of continual improvement when honing their business skills. Spend time reflecting on what knowledge you need to move your business forward. Set and check on goals regularly. Our massage school can help. East West College’s continuing education classes are pleasant, in-person seminars with personalized instruction from industry-leading professionals. Here are a couple upcoming East West College CE courses to sharpen your business acumen.

The 7 Steps to Financial Wellness, with Renee Stenbjorn, teaches the basic steps for financial wellbeing. Earn two continuing education contact hours while learning strategies to confidently control your money and develop a financial plan. Join us from 6:00 to 8:00pm on October 11th.

Revitalize Your Marketing with Andrea Bailey. Over four hours you’ll learn fresh, actionable, and introvert-approved strategies for injecting new life into your massage business. This class will be held from 1:00-5:30pm on 1/14/17. (What a great way to kick off the New Year!)

Seasoned LMTs, we would love to hear from you. What are your top tips for fledgling therapists? Add your wisdom in the comments section below.