Getting your new massage practice off to a smooth start

As a massage therapist, your clients rely on you to keep their muscles flexible, in good health, and at peak performance. But there are many other issues to consider when starting your own massage practice, ranging from choosing a name and location for your business and choosing a legal form, to taking out insurance. How to start a massage practice.

“Unless we start taking action now, an estimated one-quarter of all Dutch workers will need to reduce their working hours due to stress and work overload by 2020,” says Anja Bruinsma, managing director of the Nederlands Genootschap voor Sportmassage (Netherlands Association of Sports Massage Therapists/NGS). “Massage therapists provide relief for these types of symptoms, and help people remain in their jobs. This provides new opportunities in this sector, and those opportunities will only increase in the future.” Do you see potential for yourself as a massage therapist? Before setting up your own practice, there are a number of things you need to sort out.

Number of massage practices in the Netherlands (2017-2022)

The number of massage practices in the Netherlands increased up to 2020, after which we began seeing a slight decline.

Year (as at 1 January)Number

(Source: KVK Business Register)

Start a training course

Anyone in the Netherlands can set themselves up as a massage therapist, as no specific training or qualifications are required. If you are passionate about providing quality services and would like to show your clients your expertise, you can enrol in a training course at the NGS (Netherlands Association of Massage Therapists), or a similar programme with an equivalent qualification. The NGS is the member association/trade association for and of all sports, sports care, and wellness masseurs in the Netherlands, as well as being an examining organisation for massage professionals. For these three types of expertise, the NGS offers a basic training course in sports massage or wellness massage.

Writing a business plan

To prepare for the launch of your business, you can choose to write a business plan. A business plan will help you develop your plans, but is not required as such, unless you are a benefits recipient at the time of applying for funding. Issuing organisations such as the UWV Employee Insurance Agency set certain requirements if you are launching a business as a benefits recipient. One of these requirements is developing your idea into a business plan. If you require a loan, a bank will want to assess whether your plans are feasible.

Choosing a legal form

One of the first items in your business plan is choosing a legal form. If you work on your own and consider yourself an independent contractor (zelfstandige zonder personeel – zzp’er), your legal form will generally be an eenmanszaak (sole proprietorship). If you are working with a business partner, you can choose a vennootschap onder firma (general partnership). The choice of a legal form has tax implications, and there are differences in terms of liability. Discover which legal form best suits your business.

Finding a business location

Decide on a location where you would like to establish your massage practice. As a massage therapist, you could, for example, look for a practice space inside of gyms or physiotherapy practices. This will keep you physically close to existing clients and put you in contact with new ones.

If you are establishing a home practice, check your mortgage agreement or lease to see of you are authorised to start a business from your home. Contact your bank or landlord to discuss your plans, if necessary. You should also take into account your local council’s zoning plan. A general rule is that your neighbours should not experience any disturbance and that displaying advertising signs outside your home is not permitted. Ask your local council for the options available.

Applying for a licence

Once you have passed your NGS examination and have earned your qualification, you will receive an NGS licence, which serves as proof of your competence and expertise. The licence is valid for a period of 5 years; if you would like your licence to be valid beyond this period, you are required to undergo further training (In Dutch). If you hold an equivalent qualification, you can also apply for a licence from the NGS. You will find a list of all licensed massage therapists in the Netherlands on (In Dutch). NGS has created this website to provide information on the quality levels of the massage therapists listed.

Setting your rates

You personally get to decide what rates you will charge your clients. This involves completing the following steps:

  1. Decide the amount you would like to earn per year, and then add all your expenses and taxes to this amount. Professional expenses include towels, oils, and furnishings and fittings for your practice, along with rent, marketing costs, insurance costs, and pension contributions. The outcome of this calculation is your minimum annual revenue.
  2. Estimate how many massages you are likely to give a year.
  3. If you divide your annual revenue by the number of treatments, you will have your rate.
  4. As an additional step, you must compare your price with the rates charged by your competitors and adjust your price accordingly, if appropriate. The same applies if you have a specialisation or extensive experience.

You will find an example calculation in the article titled Set your hourly rate, or watch this video:

Hoe bereken ik mijn uurtarief?

Mitigating your risks

Determine for yourself what risks you are willing and able to bear. Take out insurance policies to protect you against risks for which you cannot afford to bear the financial consequences, for example if you become seriously ill and are out of commission for an extended period of time. You should take out income protection insurance (disability insurance) for this purpose. Alternatives to income protection insurance/disability insurance include a broodfonds (co-operative group) and schenkkring (mutual savings scheme). You can insure risk of fire damage by taking out building insurance and inventory insurance.

KVK Insurance Check 

While some insurance policies are compulsory, others are simply practical and convenient. Which ones do you need? The KVK Insurance Check helps you choose your insurance products.

You should also remember to set general terms and conditions, in which you lay out rights and obligations for you and for your clients.

Registering with KVK

Once you have done all the legwork and have chosen a name for your business, you must complete the online registration form. Next, schedule an appointment with KVK in order to register your business. After registration, you will be given your Chamber of Commerce number right away. You will be required to pay a one-time registration fee of €51.95 for your registration.

KVK will automatically share your details with the tax authorities. Within two weeks, you will receive from the tax authorities a VAT number and a VAT identification number (btw-id). You must list the latter number on your invoices and any other correspondence with your clients. You need the VAT number for when you file your VAT returns.

Set up an admin system

Your administrative records are part of your business operations and are required by law. They contain information on your business finances, and you can make changes where necessary. You can do your own admin using an online accounting application, or, alternatively, you can outsource it to an accounting firm or accountant. They can also provide you with advice on choosing an accounting application.

Calculating VAT

You calculate 21% VAT to your clients; this percentage is added to your hourly fee. This means that if your fee is €100, you add €21 to this amount, so your client pays €121. Once every quarter, you must submit your VAT tax returns. In this case, you will pay VAT on your revenue to the tax authorities, but will be permitted to deduct the VAT you paid yourself. 
Tip: download the VAT Alert app (In Dutch) offered by the Dutch tax authorities to remind you when to file VAT returns.

Small Business Scheme

If you expect to generate annual revenue of less than €20,000, you may be eligible under the Kleineondernemersregeling (KOR) (Small Business Scheme), which means you can apply for VAT exemption. Make sure to think it over first, because once you opt in to the Small Business Scheme, you will be stuck with it for at least 3 years or until your annual revenue exceeds €20,000. The KOR Checklist  (For English subtitels, click the settings wheel, click ondertiteling and select English) explains in seven steps how this scheme works and whether it might be worth your while.

Tax benefits

As a business owner, you will be liable for income tax or corporate tax. There are numerous tax benefits for new businesses, including the tax credit for new businesses, and the tax credit for independent contractors when filing income tax. This requires that you meet the criterion of 1,225 hours per calendar year, and the tax authorities must have classified you as a business owner for the purpose of income tax.

Finding clients

Determine who your clients are based on your specialisation. As an office massage therapist, your clients consist of business owners looking to prevent staff from leaving the company due to work-related stress. As a sports massage therapist, you can focus on a specific sport, such as running.

Social media can help you find clients. Focus on social media channels used by your potential clients. Example: you could make a YouTube video containing tips on how to avoid running injuries or post a Facebook message explaining how to sit at your desk in order to prevent physical overload. You will find that you will attract clients this way, as it will help them gain trust in your expertise.

Collaboration with sports clubs, gyms, general practitioners, sports physicians, and physiotherapists can also help you get new clients, for example through referrals.

You will also get automatic word-of-mouth advertising if your clients are pleased with your massage skills.

Applying for certification

Some health insurance carriers cover massage treatments by sports masseurs through additional insurance packages. Please note: sports massage and wellness massage are not covered.

In order to meet the requirements of the health insurance companies:

  1. As a sports massage therapist, you can apply for certification from Stichting Certificering Actoren in de sportgezondheidszorg (Certification Association for Sports Health Care Professionals/SCAS) (in Dutch).
  2. Receive your Algemeen GegevensBeheer-code (AGB code) (In Dutch) through Vectis.

You must list your SCAS registration number and your AGB code on your invoice. Your client will send this invoice to the health insurance company, and they will subsequently pay you.

Other important considerations

  • You must comply with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) if you maintain and update any kind of client database, including for newsletters.
  • Contactless payments (using a debit card or phone) are becoming increasingly common among consumers of all kinds. Find out your clients’ preferred methods of payment. These are the current in-store payment trends.
  • If you intend to play music in your treatment room, you will need to consider music rights. Contact Buma/Stemra to ask what fees you must pay to play music in your practice.