Tips and checklist for starting a pilates studio

By Pieter Verschuren

Published 11 September 2019

There is money in the pilates business, and to make it even more attractive, it doesn’t take a huge investment to get started.

The other side of the coin is that a lot of people realize this potential, and the competition will be fierce. To be successful you will have to stand out from the crowd, both in the level of coaching and business wise. The first thing to do, is make sure you get off to a good start. Here’s some business advise for pilates instructors who want to open their own studio.

1. Do you really want to open a Pilates studio?

You love teaching pilates, but will you enjoy the financial and other pressures of running a business?

2. Make a smart business plan

No matter how small or big you kick off, a clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. Things you should consider:

  • What are the starting costs?
  • What is my target market?
  • How many clients do I need?
  • How long it will take me to break even?

3. Be realistic about your prospects

A realistic business plan will help you avoid financial problems and, yes, bankruptcy. If you have the money and the target market to justify opening at a top location, with state of the art equipment and a team of the very best instructors, by all means, go ahead. But there is nothing wrong with starting as a one woman business at a low rent place and grow your studio overtime.

4. Form a legal entity

Inquire about the legal conditions and required permits to run a pilates studio. And make sure that your personal assets are safe in case of a lawsuit or other problems. One thing you should definitely do is open a business bank account and keep your personal and business finance separated.

5. Automate your business

Software exclusively designed for pilates studios is a great tool to streamline your workflow, minimize repetitive tasks, and spend more time with your students.

6. Know your clientele

Pilates is for everyone, but catering to everyone does not make you stand out from the competition. Decide to what type of clients your ‘personal brand of pilates’ will appeal and focus on attracting this target group.

7. Open with a fanfare

Ready to open your doors? Than make a big happening of the opening day. Invite everyone to your open house, and approach the local press in advance to spread the news.

8. Make a website

A website is an absolute must these days, even if it’s a very simple one. One thing to keep in mind is that it should be mobile friendly. You can always expand it overtime with additions like a blog, client quotes and all kinds of useful information.

9. Be active on social media

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer great opportunities to communicate and bond with your clientele. And what’s more: they are free, it will only cost you some of your time. Time well spent, if you post interesting news and information, the kind people want to share and comment on.

10. Be active in your neighbourhood

Visibility in your community is essential. Being present in places where your potential clients spend their time and participation in local events are great ways to show your face.

11. Build your brand

The same principals the make the biggest international brands successful apply for a small business like a pilates studio. Building an image that reflects your identity is the way to create a difference. Your name, house style, logo and the design of your studio are only part of it. What matters is how you consistently show the world what makes you special. Which trainings do you give, and why? What makes your approach different? What is your mission, to use a big word from the branding discipline.

12. Listen to your clients

A good way to define and subsequently propagate your own brand, is asking your existing clients why they love doing pilates with you. Their answers might give you new insights, and the language they use will be ready-made for use in your canals of communication and acquisition.

pilates-exercise-fitness-mat

13. Keep your clients

Your existing clients are your main asset. Not only do they bring in the money, they are also your best ambassadors. Most new clients will probably join your studio through referral. To say that the quality of your teaching is paramount in keeping your clients, is of course a cliche. But there are other things to consider. For example the way you interact. Instead of asking your clients when they want to come in, tell them how often you need to see them. You want your clients to make pilates an indispensable part of their lives.

Checklist

There will be many other things you should think off before starting. We started the list here:

□ Have a good look at your own qualities. What makes your pilates training special?

□ Have a good look at the local competition as well: how can you stand out?

□ Decide who will be your main target group.

□ Choose your training programs and your equipment based on these considerations.

□ Make a business plan.

□ Find a place for your studio.

□ Take demographic factors (what kind of people live in the neigbourhood) and things like accessibility, exposure and parking space into consideration.

□ Choose a name.

□ Have a name logo designed.

□ Shape and decorate your studio so that it provides the special ambiance you want to create.

□ Buy your equipment. You can find a lot of used equipment online.

□ If you start with one or more trainers, decide what works best for you: employees or independent contractors.

□ Decide on a legal structure (corporation, sole proprietor etc.).

□ Find an accountant.

□ Take all necessary steps to comply with the law.

□ Open a business bank account.

□ Make sure your personal assets are safe in case of a lawsuit or other problems.

□ Have a (mobile friendly) website made.

□ Create accounts on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and make it a habit to post regular updates.

□ Find a comprehensive, specialized software program to automate and streamline day to day business.

□ Inform the local press ahead of the opening day. Send them your press release and invite them to come and have a look.

□ Put an ad in the local newspapers, this may also improve your chances of getting free publicity.

□ Have an open house party with demonstrations, a snack and a drink etc.

□ Introduce a special opening offer for new clients.

□ Look around for places where you can show your face in the neighbourhood. Think of events, charities etc.

□ Make it a priority to sell new clients packages and schedule their sessions for the duration of the package to keep them motivated.

□ Keep looking at the competition and keep yourself informed about the latest in pilates. Stick to your principles, but be flexible as well when changes are needed.

□ Talk with your clients and listen to their criticism and approval. Most new clients will come by referral, and no advertising can beat the acquisition power of a happy and motivated clientele.

 

Pieter Verschuren

Communications Manager at Virtuagym. Writer, content marketer, coffee enthusiast, and afficionado of the serial comma.

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