So you love barre (or pilates or yoga) and you’ve decided to become an instructor. You have your certificate all newly minted. Now what?
Maybe you’ve decided to start teaching locally at a studio or gym but are finding that you can’t control your schedule or you aren’t getting paid what you want. So instead, you start thinking about opening your own studio. But you think you need big $$ to do it and it seems like a far off pipe dream.
In fact, this is the furthest thing from the truth. I opened by barre studio with only about $1,000. Here’s how.
One of the biggest costs of opening your own studio is the studio itself. Finding and renting space can cost a pretty penny, especially having to put up first and last month’s rent or security. Outfitting the space is a huge expense but we can’t run a studio without barres, mirrors and a nice floor. Not to mention the sound system, bathrooms and a front desk.
Tip #1– Don’t get your own space. I found renting space in a local ballet studio to be my best bet. I found a space locally that had open time on their schedule and was willing to rent out space by the hour to me. The studio is beautiful with mirrors, built-in barres, stand-alone barres, professional flooring, sound system, great lighting and everything you need for the customers (bathrooms, parking, front desk). Plus, it doesn’t cost be a fortune to rent the space!
Now this might not work for every single person. I don’t offer classes continually throughout the day so I can work around the dance studio’s schedule. If you are planning on offering a ton of classes and can’t use this method, think of these options:
Try opening a space in your own home. This will negate the need to pay rent. You may have to move out some furniture or put in storage for awhile but do you really use the dining room that much? You can get some inexpensive equipment like stand-alone barres and your own stereo (which you probably already have!) to use. Just make sure you check with your city to ensure you are legally allowed to open the space in your home.
Negotiate with a local gym. Sometimes local gyms have more than one fitness room and perhaps you can use their spare room as an independent contractor while offering discounts to their members. This is also a great way to get free marketing! Sure you may not be able to offer classes while that room is in use, but I find that often times the “spare” group fitness room doesn’t get much use!
Consider more than one location. Take a hybrid approach and find multiple spaces where you can offer classes at different times of the day so that you are constantly working. Make sure your website clearly reflects the location of each class so your clients don’t get confused!
Tip #2– You don’t need a big staff. Guess what? My barre business is just me! I don’t need a lot of instructors or desk people. You might think that you need these things to make your business look professional but you don’t. My clients love my classes because of my method and the way I teach. I don’t need a ton of other people to support me. As you grow you can consider adding more to your team, but for now, take it all on!
One thing to consider when you are not hiring a lot of other people is burnout. You don’t want to burnout because you are doing it all. Conserve your energy by demoing a few moves and then allowing the class to continue by themselves. Don’t use weights if you need to lighten the load. Spend a lot of time going around the room to make corrections or check form. Also, consider buying a microphone (if you don’t have one) to save your voice.
Tip #3– Set up a website. You definitely need a website if you are going to be in business. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to create one. You can easily set one up yourself using a wordpress theme after purchasing the domain name. Or you can get one designed for you. I use Fiverr.com all the time for freelance projects. The premise of the website is that they can design things for you for $5! Of course, a full-website costs more but I think I only paid about $75. I also used someone to design my logo! You can check both out here.
I eventually decided to have professional photos taken but you can use stock photos until you decide that is something you want to spend your money on. Make sure you purchase the rights for the stock photos. Taking an image off of Google is against copyright law and you can be liable for damages even if you didn’t know and even if you don’t live in the United States. I’ve found people using my images and it is upsetting. Don’t do it to someone else.
If you do decide to get photos taken. Try looking for a special with a photographer. I initially paid $300 for a one hour photo shoot with a professional photographer and I got 4 photos from the shoot. It was so worth it!
Tip #4– Get equipment. The nice thing about barre, mat pilates and yoga is that you don’t necessarily need a lot of equipment. You can get everything on Amazon (check my shop to see what I bought!) or try using Alibaba.com for cheap wholesale goods (negotiate the minimum order!).
Tip #5– Market wisely. I’ll admit that I’ve blown the budget with expensive local magazine ads and to be honest, it didn’t make any difference. I’ve found that the most lucrative ways to market your business are not necessarily the most expensive. I found a lot of my original customers by using Groupon and targeting customers in my local area. This helped me get my initial boost and get the business off the ground.
These customers then told their friends about my studio. Word of mouth was huge in helping my business grow! Then I asked my clients to help out even more by telling the world about my business. I asked for Google reviews, Yelp reviews and Facebook reviews. This helped spread the word to people none of us knew!
I am also active on social media, send newsletters to my subscribers regularly and place my classes in free slots like on local newspaper websites under “Events”. I reached out to the studio owner and asked her to tell her adult students about my class, which helped convert to customers. I also converted a few parents of the ballet studio to customers. Marketing is a funny thing and we often think it is a pay-to-play environment but honestly the best way to gain customers is to get the word out from an honest source, i.e., people they know or trust (most people trust Google, Yelp reviews etc).
Hope this is helpful for you! If you ever want to chat more about opening a studio or all things instructor (barre and pilates are my two niches but feel free to discuss yoga or other studio topics), check out my Facebook Group for Barre Instructors.