By Patti Jo Amerein
“Keep it small and keep it all!”
– Savvy Businessman
It’s Friday morning, the first day of my regular three-day weekend.
I’ll spend my days off finishing some editing projects, cleaning up and prepping the raised beds of my flower garden for the coming winter months, hiking in the nearby foothills with my husband and our dogs, and taking my horse for a nice little hack around the pasture.
I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful area, on a beautiful farm, and have the time to enjoy it.
But the life I have didn’t come by chance; I had to plan it.
I planned to create a successful small Pilates studio that would support me but not tie me down. It took about a decade, but I’m proud to say that I’ve done it.
I am the sole owner and instructor of a thriving Pilates business.
I teach four days a week, four sessions per day.
I have a studio full of equipment, forty clients I look forward to spending time with, a nice-sized waitlist, and a schedule that lets me pursue my other passions.
It took a while to get here, and it wasn’t always a smooth road. There were bumps, hurdles, doubts, and a few tears. But that’s okay because I learned valuable lessons on that journey.
If you are interested in how I did it and how I do it, read on.
But know that I am not a business consultant. I am not here to tell you how to run your business.
My only goal is to provide you with my success story, and inspire you to believe that you can do it, too!
Then and Now
In the beginning, it was just me, a Reformer, and a big desire to teach Pilates.
I had no business plan, no mission statement, no idea about branding, and zero clients. What I did have was the courage to do things unconventionally and the belief that nothing happens without movement.
So, I got moving.
I set up shop in a small space. A really small space.
It was an 8 x 8 windowless room in a warehouse—with one fluorescent light. There was just enough space for me, my Balanced Body knock-off Reformer from Costco, and one brave client.
That humble beginning taught me how to teach. It taught me how to make people feel comfortable and how to gain their trust.
Fortunately, throughout the years, I was able to relocate to larger, less Alcatraz-like spaces.
My current studio is 900 sq. ft.
Within that space, I have all of my (real) Balanced Body equipment: 4 Studio Reformers, a Wunda Chair, Cadillac, Ped-O-Pole, Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector, and several props.
The ceiling is vaulted, there is plenty of natural light, and one entire wall is covered in mirrors. Aside from providing the clients with visual feedback, the mirrors give a sense of openness within the space.
I’ve grown into a more serious businessperson. I have an LLC, an accountant, and excellent liability insurance.
However, I still need a mission statement. ????
Small By Choice
My studio is in a small town in a rural area.
The remote location and modest population mean fewer people through the door and a limited, if nonexistent, pool of teachers to choose from. But that’s not why my studio is small.
I keep it small by choice.
I keep it small because I like a more intimate setting—there is a calm about it—less noise, less interruption, less distractions. Without those disruptive factors, clients find it easier to remain focused on themselves and their work.
I keep it small because it makes it easier to keep a close eye on every client in the studio, allowing me to give them quality instruction and individual attention.
I keep it small because I want to have time to do the things I love outside of the studio, things like writing, knitting, and tending to my farm.
I keep it small because…. honestly, I have no desire to run a large business and manage employees.
By keeping my studio and my business small, I allow myself the time to enjoy a bigger life.
Minimizing By Maximizing
I teach the way Joe taught—multiple people at different levels, on different equipment at the same time. This allows me to maximize the use of my small space, increasing my hourly revenue.
Teaching in this manner will keep you sharp and on your toes.
As for the clients, they love the opportunity to experience all the different equipment, adding value to the service you provide.
Perceived value = higher prices. Win, win!
However, it takes practice to develop the skill to teach this way and time to bring clients up to speed.
But it’s worth it.
If you aim to minimize the hours you spend teaching and maximize your hourly revenue, this is the way to go.
A Hidden Gem
Even though I have a small business, it’s still a business. I need clients to keep the doors open.
Throughout the years, I have tried several different methods of advertising.
I’ve placed newspaper and social media ads, offered special reduced pricing, taught free mat classes at wineries, and created quippy Facebook posts to get people into the studio.
None of those things worked.
What does work is good signage and word of mouth. Nothing sells your services better than a happy customer.
I now choose not to advertise. I keep a low profile and let my clients share their success stories.
99% of new clients learn of me through word of mouth.
Give your clients results, and they will sing your praises!
Old School Scheduling
I lower expenses by avoiding online scheduling apps and doing it myself.
I prefer the “old school” way, with paper, pencil, and a weekly appointment book. I can easily see who is coming in or reschedule someone at a moment’s notice without having to pull out my phone or turn on my computer.
My clients like it too. They like having direct contact with me through text, email, or in person at the studio. It’s more personal that way.
We get to spend time talking about the vacation they are going on, what’s happening with their kids, and how they hate missing their Pilates session because they have to be in a dumb Zoom meeting.
But most importantly, I save money.
The Importance of a Good Website
People will always do a “search” on you and your studio before they contact you. For this reason, you must have a website that is informative and accessible.
This is one thing I highly suggest you invest in!
There are several good platforms where you can easily create your website, but if you are not confident in your ability to do this or are too busy (or lazy) to keep your site updated, consider hiring a professional.
PilatesBridge Website Design is a great place to start. Anastasiya knows all about creating beautiful websites for the Pilates and wellness industry!
Passive income, or income acquired from something other than teaching, is a great way to boost revenue.
There are many ways to generate passive income, but I’ve recently chosen to do this by becoming a host studio for Jessica Spillane’s EYT Teacher Training Program.
By signing up as a host studio, I get paid to let students going through the online training program use my studio.
It is a substantial payment for the minimum amount of time it takes on my part. Plus, it allows students from outside my area a great opportunity to become certified instructors without traveling long distances.
If this interests you, learn about it here.
Creating a small Pilates studio that is both manageable and profitable is a very achievable goal. And there are many benefits, such as:
- Complete control of your schedule
- Freedom to teach the way you want
- Opportunity to make as much money as you want
- Less stress and more time
Like anything worthwhile, it takes time to develop. However, the balance you can create between work and personal life is worth the wait.
If this is something you strive to achieve, I would encourage you to go for it!
Set your goals and realize your dreams.
Be patient, committed, and brave; you can realize the joy and freedom of owning a small Pilates studio.
xo – Patti Jo
About the Author
Patti Jo is both a certified Pilates instructor and Copyeditor wholly committed to improving physical movement and written words.
As a professional dancer, accomplished equestrian, successful business owner, and passionate writer/editor, Patti Jo brings an impressive list of skills and keen eye for detail into the world of Pilates, through both the Practice and the Prose.
With knowledge, creativity and experience, Patti Jo helps you transition your thoughts into words—words that provide a clear, strong, engaging message for your audience.
If you have questions about Copyediting or would love help writing blog posts for your business, she can be reached at: [email protected]