When I taught my first fitness class (I was 16 back then) I immediately realized that owning my own fitness studio was my dream. I loved the energy of teaching, I loved to help people get healthy, I enjoyed the fitness community. A lot of things changed over the year (I discovered Pilates, moved to the US, became a Mom to 4 wonderful girls) and finally I had an opportunity to open my very own store-front Pilates studio. Everything seemed like it was falling in place, the timing was right, the location, the referral stream was already in place and … I changed my mind.
I realized that I already had what I was dreaming about for so many year – my very own Pilates studio but IN MY HOME..
In this article I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of owning a home studio as opposed to running a store-front one, this is the decision that will depend greatly on what your financial and work/life balance goals are (and we can get in depth on this one in one of the other articles if you want to.) Instead, let’s talk about 5 HUGE mistakes that a lot of beginner home studio owners make.
Don’t take my word for, I am not the Know-It-All. But I have spoken to a dozen of wonderful Pilates teachers who run Pilates studios from their homes and asked for guidance and advice. Some of them have transitioned from renting a commercial space to being home studio owners, some got tired of working at other studios for nothing, and yet others just fell straight into the home studio ownership. Basically, we have every possible scenario that you can imagine.
Today I am starting a series of articles on How to Set Up and Run a Pilates Home Studio (no fancy titles, just the practical information that we all need.) In the future articles of this series we will cover things like marketing, home studio set-up, personal security and professional growth.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Running a Pilates Home Studio
Mistake #1. I can teach Pilates to anyone.
When you are just starting out it is easy to get carried away and try to appeal to every client. “Yes, I teach rehab work. Yes, I work with pre-postnatal. Yes, I can give you the gym-style “sweat-and-burn” Pilates…” While this mistake is common among all beginner teachers, it can be particularly fatal for a beginner home studio owner. It’s easy to feel discouraged if clients don’t want to sign up for a package; you start questioning your setting and your teaching style. But that person simply was not the right fit for you.
Courtney Klocke, the owner of Point of Balance Pilates studio in Minneapolis, MN says that “You can not be everything to everyone. It’s exhausting trying to guess who to be for each client. Be who you are comfortable being and be confident in your expertise and your style of teaching. By doing this, you will attract your best clientele. They will expect your brand of teaching and continue because of it. If not, it was not a good fit, move on.”
Mistake #2. I’ll be teaching Pilates from home because I enjoy it, weeee!
Hobbies are things that you enjoy doing and you don’t get paid for them, business is something that you do for profit. Approach your home studio as a business with the same amount of organization and business planning as you would a brick-and-mortar business. You can’t wake up and cancel a class just because you have a headache thinking “Oh, my clients will understand it” or let your dog/cat interrupt the session with some overly friendly behavior. It’s not professional. If you want to be treated as a professional studio owner then you have to behave like one.
“Keep a business head even if you are at home. It’s easier to stay business-minded in a conventional studio setting,” says Sunni Almond, the owner of Studio S Pilates in Temecula CA. She continues to say that “These are your clients, not your friends.” Treat them as bodies that you are teaching but stay out of the head.
Mistake #3. I teach from home, so I can price myself cheaper.
After talking to 12 successful Pilates home studio owners, there is one piece of advice that they all agree upon “Do not cheapen yourself.” Most of them keep their prices 5-10% below local store-front studios to make private sessions more affordable for their clients. Jon Hawkins, owner of Free Range Pilates in London, UK says that he is “not looking to undercut but want Pilates to be affordable and I do not have the overheads of other studios. I charge £60, whereas locally its £70-75. When I worked in the West End of London clients were charged £100 of which I saw £20-25. I had to fight for that extra five pounds and felt the price clients paid was ridiculous. Many clients who took my classes there told me they would love to take privates with me but could not afford that price tag.”
Several teachers including Jennifer Baker Jobson from Charlotte NC and Laura B Grant from Raleigh NC mentioned that their prices are actually a bit HIGHER than local price range because of the expertise and experience that they give their clients.
Mistake #4. I am a nice person.
It’s not bad to be nice, but in a business settings you have to be strict with what you do and do not tolerate. Keep your cancellation policy in place, notify your clients of what is permissible and what is not. Don’t let your clients be late for their sessions or change your personal life to fit your client’s needs. Jennifer Baker Jobson has a strict cancellation and studio policy agreement that she goes over with all of her clients during the first session. “Think about your client as your kid. What kind of interactions do you want to have with them? It’s a cultivated thing. If I cultivate the atmosphere of disrespect among my clients then they will continue to do that…If a client is late then I will not extend their session. Sometimes teachers would do that [extend the time] if they don’t have somebody right after this person. But they cultivate that atmosphere and relationship that when they DO get the next client at the back of the hour, they have already trained the first client to disrespect them.”
Mistake #5. Any marketing is good marketing.
It is absolutely NOT true. Some things will be a complete waste of time and money if you re trying to promote your home studio Devra Swiger who has owned three home studios in different states and is currently the owner of Ab-solutely Pilates in Huntington Beach, CA says that she has tried all sorts of creative marketing for her business. “I spent a lot of money on flyers and they absolutely did not work. I remember going around Christmas time to PT offices with a basket of Pepperidge Farm cookies, a ribbon and a card. I thought it was such a great idea but I didn’t get a single client. Plus it was very expensive.” Jon Hawkins says that his biggest mistake was “spending good money on a couple of local magazine adverts that brought in no business. That budget would be much better spent utilizing my existing customer base to offer them referral incentives or would even have paid for a Wunda Chair.” Practical marketing strategies will be a topic for a different article but if in doubt about what to do please ask questions in the comments right now.
Do you currently teach Pilates from home or are you considering it? Share the mistakes that you made or ask for advice.
If you loved this article please share it with your Pilates colleagues!
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