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 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.
First, calculate the cost of opening your own dance studio (and keeping it open!)
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:
- Cost of renting studio space from an existing arts organization, park district, school, church, business, or performance venue
- Cost of equipment like speakers or a music player
- Cost of additional administrative items, like music licensing fees (yes, you need to pay these), business licenses, liability insurance, and studio management software
- Cost of marketing activities and materials, including social media ads, flyers, brochures, etc.
- Cost of 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:
- Monthly mortgage or rent, plus any additional taxes
- Utilities like water, electricity, heating, air conditioning, and internet
- Studio equipment and design, including mirrors, barres, lighting, paint, and decor
- Janitorial expenses such as a cleaning crew, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper
- Office supplies such as pens, paper, printer, computer/tablet, etc.
- Costs for maintenance and upkeep
Also budget for staff salaries and benefits if you plan to hire additional teachers or support!
Add up these expenses to get a baseline idea of what you’d need to earn in order to stay open from month to month—and eventually grow. You may even want to budget out a few different scenarios: from the leanest possible option (you teaching classes in a rented space), to your “dream” scenario (perhaps a multi-room studio with many teachers and a variety of classes).
Work Backwards to Figure Out Your Revenue Goals
Now that you have a sense of what it will cost to open and maintain your dance studio, it’s time to rustle up the revenue to make it happen! That is, it’s time to work backwards and see how many classes you’d need to fill or students you’d need to register to turn a profit each month.
Decide which classes you’ll offer and what to charge for each. Also consider whether you’ll allow people to sign up for classes a la carte or 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 dance class 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 scouring the web for the average cost of dance classes across the nation, your time will be better spent investigating what other dance schools in your area are actually 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. Dance packages are a great way to encourage sign-ups and gain a predictable stream of revenue. Finally, don’t forget to think about your registration fees (if any), as well as 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. Think: could you rent your studio to independent dance instructors or fitness trainers? Could you 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 more 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 think about as you hunt for studio space:
Neighborhood: 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! That makes it easy for pupils to come to your studio after the last bell rings, ready to dance.
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 be inclined to 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; and a good sound system. If these aren’t already a feature of the space, you may have to have them installed yourself (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.
It’s good to start simply, 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.
Remember, it’s OK to start small and grow
A word of encouragement: while you may dream of a large studio with several rooms for many different classes at a time, the reality may be that you can only start with one room right now. That’s perfectly OK, and is how many studios got their start! Later, when you have more students, you can grow into a bigger space. This is all part of the process. No studio space is final: start where you can, and go from there.
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 even open your doors
- Do some 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.
Build up interest in the early days and beyond
- 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 community 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 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 and customer management: Let students sign up for classes whenever it’s convenient, directly from your website. If a class fills up, The Studio Director can automatically add students to a waiting list or suggest other options.
- Flexible payment processing: Let customers pay any way they like, from their laptop, phone, or tablet, 24/7. You can securely accept cash, check, debit card, credit card, eCheck or ACH debits, and class gift or loyalty cards. You can even set up one-time or automatic, recurring payments.
- Financial tracking and reporting: Get financial insights to stay on top of outstanding accounts, past due payments, and your cash flow. The Studio Director connects to your accounting software, too, for automatic and accurate revenue syncing.
- Event and costume management: Easily manage event registrations, costume assignments, and payments.
- Automated customer communication: Stay in touch with students, staff, and partners with automated tools. Easily send out important info via text or email, including class confirmation letters, billing notifications, teacher schedules, and student progress reports. You can even automate your dance studio marketing campaigns, with prepared email templates that make reaching out a breeze.
- Cloud-based system: Whether you’re on the road at a dance competition or working from home, you can keep everything organized and accessible whenever you need it. Log in from anywhere to see student records, print event waivers, and check up on tuition received and documents submitted.
- Online class support and integration: Integrate online class registration and scheduling directly on your website, and even allow students to log into their classes from your website or portal.
- Top-notch customer support: Get help when you need it! A real person is always available to help via phone, chat, or email.
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!