You’ve decided to open your own dance studio—congratulations! Soon you’ll be in the middle of the action, with students doing twirls and hip-hop moves all around you, building a community in a space that you’ve brought to life. Yours will be the place where little dancers do their first pirouettes and where lasting friendships are forged. This studio may even change people’s lives…it will certainly change yours!
As you move forward, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and about operating your own business. You’ll discover new skills, overcome old fears, and challenge yourself to create something new, from scratch. And even though there are challenges ahead, remember that you are never truly alone. Others have come before you and created flourishing studios in their neighborhoods, and you can too.
This guide will help you get started as you master your first moves and find your entrepreneurial rhythm. Music on? Let’s dance!
Plan for Success
OK, time to put pen to paper. This is where you’ll think through some basic questions and construct a business plan that can be your blueprint as you open your studio and grow. If you’re looking for investors or a business loan, then a formal plan is a must. But even if you aren’t, it is still essential to have a few broad strokes figured out. For example:
- How will you make your studio profitable? Take a few days to calculate all the expenses associated with opening and running your own dance studio. Start with those totals, and think backwards: how much revenue will you need to bring in per month to cover these costs? How much to actually turn a profit? (Don’t forget: you’ll need to pay yourself, too.)
- How will you find a great location? Not only will you need to secure a strategic location, but a space suitable for dancers. For example, your studio will need to be big enough to accommodate a lively class of dancers as well as oversized mirrors and barre, at a minimum. You‘ll also need to consider the reception area, your office, bathrooms, and changing rooms.
- How will you get dancers to sign up? A wonderful dance studio has a way of attracting students through word of mouth, but when you’re first starting out you’ll need a mix of marketing strategies to drive sign-ups.
How to Make Sure Your Dance Studio is Profitable
You must have a clear-eyed view of all the costs that will go into running your dance studio before you do anything else, whether that’s dreaming up your first class or finding your ideal studio space.
Calculate the cost of opening a dance studio
How much your dance studio will cost to open and run will vary. At the most basic level, you may be a teacher who wants to offer one group class at a time, and will rent studio space to do it. This is a great way to start small and prove that your concept works while building up your reputation. In that case, your list of expenses may look like this:
- Renting studio space from an existing arts organization, park district, school, church, business, or performance venue .
- Equipment like speakers or a music player.
- Music licensing fees (yes, you need to pay these), business licenses, liability insurance, and dance studio management software.
- Marketing activities and materials, including social media ads, flyers, brochures, etc.
- Additional support, like a graphic designer or web programmer to help with your online presence and marketing materials.
If you plan on opening your own studio space, then you’ll also need to factor in items like:
- Mortgage or rent
- Studio equipment and design
- Janitorial expenses
- Office supplies
- Maintenance and upkeep
Also budget for staff salaries and benefits if you plan to hire additional teachers or support.
Work Backwards to Figure Out Your Revenue Goals
Now it’s time to work backwards and see how many classes you’d need to fill or students you need to register to turn a profit each month.
Decide which classes you’ll offer and what to charge for each. Also consider whether customers will pay for a dance membership on a monthly, semester, or year-round basis—or a combination of these. Your goal is to figure out the minimum number of classes and registrations you will need in order to keep your studio in business.
Set class rates and fees
If you get your rates right, you’ll have happy customers and enough revenue to pay your bills on time. However, dance class rates vary wildly based on location, instructors’ expertise, the type of dance being taught, and whether it’s a group class, private lesson, or semi-private lesson.
Large group dance classes, for example, may cost anywhere from $40-$160 per month for an average of one class per week, but this is a wide range and so doesn’t actually give you the level of detail you need. Rather than searching for the average cost of dance classes around the country, you should investigate what dance schools in your area are charging.
To stay competitive, your pricing shouldn’t be far above or even far below theirs. Price too low, and you may have trouble keeping your studio open (plus make people wonder just why the price is so low). Price too high, and you’ll have trouble getting people in the door.
The types of classes you offer will also influence your rates. For example, ballet classes for toddlers are usually cheaper because at that age, most children can only tolerate a 30-minute class. In contrast, pricing should be higher for a 60-minute ballet class for young adults with several years of experience.
Pricing will also vary for private lessons, semi-private lessons, and group classes. For example, it’s not unreasonable to charge between $85 and $95 per hour for private lessons, or $50 per person for semi-private lessons with two or three students.
You’ll also want to decide whether to offer classes a la carte, as part of a dance package, or both. Packages are a great way to encourage sign-ups and gain a recurring stream of revenue. Finally, don’t forget to think about your fees (if any), including cancellation fees.
Consider other sources of revenue
When you have a great studio space, it’s possible to use it in a variety of ways, like renting it out to other instructors, businesses, or people looking for event space. Could you rent your studio to independent dance instructors or fitness trainers? Maybe you could sponsor performances and events, or bring in special instructors? Not all of your revenue has to come strictly from dance tuition.
How to Find a Great Location
It can’t be said enough: Location is everything. When you’re in the right location, you’ll easily attract new business based on foot traffic alone. But if you’re far out of town or in a hard-to-reach spot, you’ll have to work harder to get people to come to you. Here‘s what to consider as you look for space:
The neighborhood you choose matters. Is it a part of town where potential customers already hang out? If you see other family-oriented businesses on the surrounding streets, like a martial arts studio, ice cream shop, or tutoring center, that’s a good clue that this is a place where families may already be going after school and on weekends. And if you find a location near a school, all the better.
Transportation and parking
Your studio should be easy to reach via public transportation, or offer plentiful and hassle-free parking. If students have to spend half an hour trying to find parking on the surrounding streets, or pay $20/hour at the nearby garage, they’re going to be frustrated before they even come into class—and may not keep coming.
Studio size and layout
According to the Center for Educator Development in Fine Arts (CEDFA), your dance studio should accommodate 100 square feet per student, with no posts or columns in the interior space and a minimum of five feet of barre per dancer. Don’t forget the additional space you’ll need for restrooms, costume and prop storage, office supplies, dance equipment, and an office. The ideal dance studio space should also include:
- Floors that give a little and absorb shock
- Walls with large mirrors
- Barres for ballet classes
- A good sound system
If these aren’t already in the space, you may have to pay to have them installed. Add that to your budget.
Zoning restrictions, permits, and licenses
Check the local laws, rules, and restrictions for the commercial space you‘re eyeing. Be sure the area is zoned for a dance studio business and that you’re aware of any restrictions you must observe, from fire and health codes to the number of restrooms you have. You’re responsible for obtaining the necessary permits and licenses, so check the SBA’s website for state license and permit guidelines. For example, you’ll need a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) which confirms you’ve met all building codes, zoning laws, and regulations. (This is typically your landlord’s job, but if you purchase your own studio space, it’s your responsibility).
Designing and Decorating Your Studio
Once you’ve found a suitable location, the fun part begins! For a lifelong dancer, there’s no denying the nostalgic feeling of walking into a dance studio. From beautiful wood flooring to oversized mirrors and ballet barres, it evokes emotion in nearly all of us. You’ll probably want to capture that same feeling for your students.
Start with the basics. Many of your walls will be covered with floor-to-ceiling mirrors that let your dancers watch themselves perform. In these studios, it’s best to keep things simple to avoid any distractions: invest in great floors, large mirrors, and ballet barres. Don’t forget your dance studio lighting, which should be both beautiful and functional.
Painting the walls and decorating areas beyond the dance space can also make your studio feel polished and beautiful. From bathrooms to practice areas, your colors should work together to create a clean and cohesive look throughout. As a finishing touch, bring it all to life with meaningful art or decorative pieces like wall decals, paintings, or photographs. There are many pieces of wall art for dance studios as well as budget-friendly prints you can frame yourself.
If you’ve been teaching dance for some time, you may have trophies and awards to show off. Consider shelves or a beautiful glass case to put them on display. Think about framing and hanging old dance costumes, especially those from special performances. They’ll go with the overall dance theme of your studio and give guests something to look at while they’re waiting for class to begin.
Finally, don’t forget your office. Hang your awards, put up shelves for trophies, and include photos from your own career. Create a space that makes you proud! These meaningful memories will keep you inspired and motivated even in challenging times.
How to Attract New Students
Plan to attract new students long before your grand opening, so when you‘re ready, people already know about you and are excited to sign up.
Build Your Brand Before You Open
- Do market research. Find out who your competitors are and how you can stand out: will you be offering different classes or catering to different age or interest groups? It’s also worthwhile to see how they’re advertising to students. Which strategies seem to be working for them?
- Set up your website. The perfect time to do this is several weeks before you open. That’s because all the social media and online campaigns you may run should lead people back to your website, where you can showcase who you are, the classes you will offer, and an option to get on your email list for new class alerts.
- Add your Google My Business listing. When people search for local dance classes near them, your studio should be one of the top hits! Make sure of that with Google My Business, where you can include opening dates and times, more information about you, photos, and a link to your website.
- Start building your social media presence. Whether you go with Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, just start posting regularly. You can give people a glimpse of who you are, share tips for popular dances, give a sneak peak of your dance studio being set up, run a contest for free or reduced dance lessons, and so on.
- Design and print your marketing materials. Printed materials are a great way to generate local interest. You can send out mailers, place postcards with friendly local business, or pass out flyers to passersby. Allocate enough time to design and prepare them now, weeks before you actually open.
Generate Interest Early On
- Advertise your grand opening! Put up a large sign advertising your grand opening and inviting people to come in.
- Host an open house. Invite people to a memorable evening of mini dance sessions (perhaps 10-15 minutes each) to give them a taste of what your classes will be like. Consider offering special perks to students who sign up for classes during the event.
- Offer complimentary lessons. Many people who notice your studio may hesitate to come in because they don’t know what to expect. Encourage them with a complimentary first lesson that gives them a reason to finally pop in!
- Build your network. Partner with other local businesses, like dance supply stores, yoga studios, spas, local grocery stores, and hair salons to place postcards or flyers at each other’s checkout areas.
Make Life Easier with The Studio Director
When you‘re ready to open your doors, The Studio Director’s dance studio management software can help. We’ve worked with studio owners for years to create software that makes day-to-day tasks a breeze while also helping you plan for long-term growth. Your studio deserves to succeed, and The Studio Director can help with:
- Online Registration: Allow new and existing members to register for classes, competitions, and events online.
- Integrated Payments: Make payment collection easy, and eliminate billing and collection hassles with this all-in-one payment processing feature, designed specifically for your dance studio business.
- Dance Class Management: Create and organize dance schedules. Manage waitlists, skill charts, private lessons, online bookings, class scheduling, attendance, and more through email.
- Communications: Text or email individuals and groups. Set drip campaigns for automated, ongoing emails.
Opening your own dance studio is a big challenge, but the rewards are many. Give your studio every advantage as it grows with dance studio software from The Studio Director!