If you’re planning to start your own swim school, that’s great! There’s so much joy to be found in teaching others to swim, and swim schools tend to be a perennially popular business because there are always parents interested in teaching their children how to swim (or improve their technique), and even some adults who never learned to swim but are ready to make a splash now.
You’ve got the enthusiasm, you’ve got the vision, and now you need the plan. That’s where we come in. Let the steps below jump-start your thinking as you prepare for all the logistics that will go into starting a swim school. You’ll need to consider the following things:
#1. What is the right location for your swim school?
Unless you plan to invest major capital into buying or building your own facilities, chances are good that as a new swim school you’ll start off by using other organizations’ facilities—at least until you build up the business to consider your own space.
Call around to your local park district, church facilities, schools and colleges, and local pools to ask about renting pool space on a regular basis so that you can run your swimming lessons. You’ll want to note the costs, any special limitations (like using the pool on certain days or times), and any health and safety procedures you’ll need to follow while you hold your swim school sessions at that pool.
Note that you may be competing for space with other pool-lovers, like local swim teams or groups, so make sure you know whether the pool you plan to use has room in its schedule to accommodate your business as it grows. If you don’t think you’ll be able to add swim school lessons or sessions easily, you may want to opt for a facility with a bit less traffic.
#2. How will you structure your lessons?
As you think about how to start a swim school, you’ll want to consider how you will structure your lessons. First, what kinds of swimming lessons will you offer, and at what levels? If you’re just starting out, you may decide to start by offering lessons for new swimmers and slowly adding higher levels as that group of swimmers progresses and your business grows.
Think about which specific swim techniques and strokes you’ll teach at each level, and what swimmers must be able to accomplish in order to graduate to the next level. Consider the full spectrum of possible lessons—from beginners who are just learning to get comfortable in the water to experienced swimmers and triathletes interested in improving their stroke technique.
Also consider how you’ll set up your lessons at every level. Will you offer a set “block” of lessons, for example 10-12 weekly sessions, for each level? Will those lessons align with school schedules or holidays? Or will you opt for an “ongoing” swim training membership, where students can sign up to come in for any available class at their level, whenever there is space?
#3. Where can you hire experienced and enthusiastic swim teachers?
Once you have chosen a location and planned out how to structure your swim lessons, it’s time to find great swim teachers who can coach students at every level. Consider whether you’ll have a few teachers who come in to teach a couple specific classes per week, or whether a smaller team can handle all of the classes you offer in a given week. You’ll want to hire people who are already experienced swimmers and have experience or knowledge of coaching or teaching swimming. A good place to look for potential candidates would be at local high schools or colleges—check with the local swim teams or swimming coaches to get the names of people who may be a good fit for your swim school business.
#4. How can you make sure your swim school business is profitable?
Before you set up your swim school lessons, make sure you spend adequate time figuring out exactly how much this business will cost to run. You’ll want to account for all of your swim school startup costs, as well as ongoing costs: pool rental, swimming equipment, insurance, staff wages, any advertising or equipment costs, and so on. Look at your expected expenses and what you hope to make from your swim school business. How much would you need to charge for your swim lessons, and how many swimmers would you need to attract, in order for your swim school to be profitable?
#5. How will you spread the word about your new swim school?
A swim school needs swimmers, so once you’ve got the details figured out, it’s time to attract students! You should of course invest in a clean and professional website that showcases who you are, what kinds of lessons your swim school offers, and who those lessons are for. It doesn’t have to be a complex website for now, and it can always grow as you grow. To begin, simply make sure people can easily find your swim schedule, rates, and location. As you launch your website, you’ll also want to pay attention to your Google Business Profile so you show up on the map when people search for local swim classes.
Once you have a web presence, you can attract new students with targeted online ads—for example, with Google Adwords or Facebook Ads—but perhaps the best way to reach your audience is through the power of word of mouth. Word spreads fast through a community, especially among parents who share tips about upcoming camps, classes, and swim lessons. Be sure to reach out to local schools, parent groups, community centers, libraries, and other local organizations to let them know you’ve started your own swim school. You can also contact local businesses, especially sports stores or local cafes, to ask if they’d be willing to put a few of your flyers or business cards in the store for potential customers to take.
#6. How can you ensure high safety standards?
Swimming comes with inherent risks, and so you’ll want to make sure you’re above board with all your safety procedures. Research the insurance you’ll need to cover much of that risk, and speak to a legal professional about any precautions you must take before allowing students into the water. Is there a waiver you’ll require everyone to sign, for example? But remember that safety protocols aren’t just about covering yourself in case of the unexpected. It also signals to students that you take their safety seriously. Be sure that they know the safety procedures you plan to take in case of an unforeseen event, and be clear about your expectations for them while they’re in the pool.
#7. How will you handle class registrations, payments, and schedules?
OK, so now you’ve got some great ideas for how to start a swim school. But what about logistical questions like scheduling, collecting class payments, and registering students for different classes at different levels? It used to be that swim school owners had to juggle multiple books or computer files to keep track of swim school registrations, instructor schedules, and class payments. Today, all of the admin work that goes into starting your own swim school business is much simpler thanks to The Studio Director. The Studio Director can make it easy for swimmers to sign up for classes and pay for a block of lessons or an ongoing membership. It also makes it simple for you to schedule swimming instructors at various class times, receive and process payments from students, and keep an eye on your swimming school’s financial health by knowing exactly how many signups and how much income you’re generating.
#8. How can you make it fun?
Finally, let’s get to the fun part! Now that you’ve thought through some of the logistics, it’s time to focus on what matters most: swimming. Yes, you’re starting a swim school business and need to make sure it’s safe and profitable. But you’re also doing something that adds joy to people’s lives. You’re teaching them how to swim for the first time, coaching them as they master a stroke and shave seconds off their race time, or simply allowing them to enjoy the special feeling of being in the water. You’re creating an atmosphere where they can grow and have fun.
Think about what lessons will look like at every level. Will there be a special way you introduce each swim technique? What about when a swimmer masters a new skill—will you find a fun way to celebrate their progress? Will there be any special “traditions” you create as a swim school? How will you encourage swim students to interact with and support one another? This is your business, and you can make it fun, lighthearted, and inviting! Yes, people will be there to learn to swim or improve their technique—but they’ll also get a lot from the community and the environment that you help create. Don’t underestimate your power to turn something as straightforward as a swim class into something truly memorable for everyone!