The attendance ebbs and flows in the Pilates industry can really impact your bottom line when your pay is tied to attendance and how many classes you teach. Today we look at some of the factors that influence the attendance in your classes, how to make up for lost income in slower seasons, and how to budget more conservatively to manage the variability. Tune in!
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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host during the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.
[00:00:56] Hello. Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] Today's episode is all about managing the ebbs and flows that happen over the course of a year of teaching Pilates. Teaching Pilates isn't necessarily seasonal work. It's not like if you work in a haunted house and you can only work in the month of October, but there are definite hills and valleys when it comes to class attendance and you know, how many appointments you might have at a given time, how full your classes might be at a given time.
[00:01:34] And people have seasons, you know, we're coming up to back to school season right now, we're just coming out of summer, which in the United States is a huge travel season. We know that in November, December, we've got Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter holidays. And that people like to travel to be with their families and that's obviously going to affect how we work as [00:02:00] Pilates teachers because we work with people and people do things at times of the year.
[00:02:05] This especially applies to private sessions or one on one sessions because if your client is on vacation, then you aren't seeing them and it's very likely you are not getting paid for the time that you are not seeing them. But also in group classes, there can be this feast or famine in terms of how many bodies you've got in class, how many classes you've got on the schedule, how your attendance is overall.
[00:02:31] So there are definitely cycles to that as a Pilates teacher, and first we're going to look at the landscape and look at some trends that I've noticed as a teacher who's been teaching in an urban environment in the United States for the past several years. But also look at how we can manage that ebb when we don't have a lot going on and then also manage that flow when we have a lot going on or even too much going on.
[00:02:58] So some things that I've [00:03:00] noticed, um, right now we're in the summer. Summer is a huge travel season in the United States. It's usually Memorial Day to Labor Day. This is when families are going on vacation because school is out. The weather's really nice, so people might be exercising but doing things outdoors, like biking or swimming or running because the weather is appropriate for that.
[00:03:25] So it's very likely that in the summer season, you might have fewer people in your classes and you may have clients traveling. So summer could be a season where you've got a little bit less going on at the studio or with your clients. I even have clients who take the summer off. They go to their home in another state and I see them in the fall when they come back to the city. That is a thing that can happen with clients as well.
[00:03:55] I've noticed that in the winter early morning [00:04:00] and later evening classes are a little bit less full because it is pitch black outside. And I know that Chicago is pretty north in the northern hemisphere, so I know that we do get those shorter days. I feel like more than I got when I was living further south in like Las Vegas, but people are less inclined to want to get up super early and then dig out their car if it snowed and then go to the studio for a 6 a. m. class. So it is likely that attendance can drop in those. Same thing in the evening. It's like pitch black at four o'clock. And so going to like a really later evening class, I personally am like ready to hibernate at four o'clock, so, that can also be difficult to get people in the studio.
[00:04:44] As I mentioned, November and December are big holiday seasons in the U. S. You've got Thanksgiving at the end of November, and then you've got Hanukkah and Christmas and New Year's all coming at you in December [00:05:00] and early January, so a lot of people will take the month of December off and they'll just like leave for Thanksgiving and you may not see them until February sometimes. So, that can happen.
[00:05:12] There is of course a big boom in studio attendance usually in January there's a lot of new year, new me and kind of that new energy of the year are looking at that to start or kick start a new fitness routine. Lots of people are trying Pilates in early January, which is excellent and amazing. The trick is getting them to stick around past February and March But you might get a lot of new faces and things like January.
[00:05:41] I also see kind of a big arrival of people right before summer hits. It's like people are suddenly concerned about potentially wearing tank tops or swimsuits. And you know, there's this desire to feel good and look good in what you're wearing. And so you can see kind of [00:06:00] a burst of like spring break people who might be coming into the studio as well. I've seen attendance kind of swell at that time too.
[00:06:09] Weather is like a micro trend. Um, when weather is bad, whether it's yucky snow stormy weather in the winter, like people just are less likely to come in the middle of a thunderstorm. I had a class earlier this week that was like a free intro class. So not full of paying people, but people who wanted to try and there were 12 people signed up and then three people came and that just happens sometimes because it was actively pouring at that time.
[00:06:39] So weather can be a big factor, but not only bad weather, also weather that's too good. Um, for the same reason, you know, people want to be outside when the weather is nice and I'm an indoor house plant, so I'm always down to exercise indoors, but there are people who are like seasonal runners, seasonal bikers, and they will [00:07:00] take a break from Pilates to do this outdoor stuff. Like we're right on Lake Michigan, so there's a lot of boating that happens and jet skiing and like water sports stuff. So good weather can also influence your attendance, not always in the best way.
[00:07:15] I do see kind of as a whole that attendance in classes is pretty consistent in the winter because especially being in Chicago, we've got really harsh winters, really long, really cold winters. Because Pilates is indoors, you get to exercise and you don't have to deal with the weather too much. So, um, you do see once it gets colder, you see a lot more people kind of getting into the indoor activity game.
[00:07:43] The good thing about group classes is there's this insulating effect. So we've talked about these kind of big trends that are just happening. There may also be trends that are local to your area. If there's big festivals or big goings on or big marathons, you know, things that happened [00:08:00] that might also affect your studio attendance. But group classes, because you can get lots of bodies in the room, if there are three people on vacation that week, for whatever reason, there are other people who could fill that group class slot.
[00:08:16] Whereas if you're teaching a private session and your three clients are on vacation in Florida, you just don't see them and you don't have a class at that time while they're traveling. The effect of these ebbs and flows is much bigger when you're working with individual clients because your income is tied to those sessions happening and when they're not happening, like technically you could fill that slot with another client. Maybe you do have a wait list for time slots and someone's like, Oh my gosh, I really want Monday at nine. And if they're not there, I'll take it. I mean, that's awesome. I am not at that level of teaching where I've [00:09:00] got like a wait list for time slots or anything like that. Um, but you might be, so you could fill that slot, but you also may not be able to, uh, which is going to affect your financial bottom line.
[00:09:11] The ebbs and flows will also have a little bit less of an effect on your overall bottom line if you have another job. So if you have a day job and you teach Pilates on the side or on the weekends or just evenings a couple nights a week, something like that, Whether there's, you know, six people in your class or 12 people in your class may not make a gigantic difference if that's not your primary source of income.
[00:09:36] But it can make a difference and definitely if that's what you do, and you are a full time Pilates teacher, that's your game. That is going to be different and it can have a real impact on, you know, your ability to pay rent and go out and do things and be a person.
[00:09:57] Good news is we don't have [00:10:00] to abandon all hope. There are ways to work with those ebbs and flows. So coming up after the break, let's look at how we can manage when we have a class surplus and when we have a little bit of a class deficit. That's coming up next.
[00:10:21] Hi there. I hope you're enjoying today's chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after the break too. Be sure to subscribe wherever you're listening and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. There you can make a one-time donation or become a member for as little as $5 a month.
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[00:11:18] There are a few ways that we can address the not quite constant nature of teaching Pilates. One of the things that you can think about is that Pilates teachers are also people and they also want to go on vacations a lot of times, on long weekends in the summer, around holidays.
[00:11:40] So, if you are looking to pick up hours, I can guarantee that there are teachers who are scheduled to teach on things like 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, Thanksgiving Eve, literally anytime Thanksgiving week, I think, [00:12:00] that teachers are going to be wanting to travel. And if you don't have travel plans, that is a really easy way to pick up some classes at a time where maybe your classes are canceled because they fall on that holiday, or you don't have your private sessions because your clients are traveling things like that. You can definitely always pick up holiday travel times.
[00:12:22] Like Lollapalooza is a big music festival that happens in Chicago. I covered classes for a teacher who was attending Lollapalooza and, you know, wanted to go see that, and I wasn't going to Lollapalooza, and so I was able to pick up those classes. Pilates studios tend to be open on holidays, which is great for people who want to take classes, not always great for teachers. So you can always find someone who wants help covering those classes if they do have like a family get together or something going on. You do not have to cover [00:13:00] those classes, but I can pretty much guarantee you that, uh, it is very likely they're going to be available.
[00:13:06] Another thing that you can do is when you are planning your budget, or when you're looking at how much money you make, which Can be difficult when it ebbs and flows the way that it does, is that you budget on a more conservative side.
[00:13:26] So when I'm looking at my classes, if I teach, say, 15 private appointments a week and I have seven group classes, when I'm calculating my, okay, how much money am I actually going to have at the end of this month? I don't anticipate that I'm going to have every single private session that I have. Like, you know, you've got people on Friday mornings, but it's like, maybe that Friday morning person is going to be gone one of those weeks or even two of those weeks.
[00:13:59] So instead of [00:14:00] acting like I'm going to teach 15 appointments in a week, although sometimes I do, I might say, well, I'm going to budget as if I taught 12. So even if three people canceled or were sick or had COVID or were traveling, I have budgeted a little bit more conservatively as if I didn't teach quite as much.
[00:14:18] And then for my group classes, if you're getting paid per head, and that's kind of factoring into how much money you're making for each of those classes, instead of assuming that every single one of my classes is going to be full and no one is going to cancel, I usually budget 75% attendance. And then if more than that shows up, then you know, that's just a bonus, but I'm not planning for perfect attendance because life doesn't work out like that. Right.
[00:14:48] Hopefully your income isn't swinging from this massive pendulum where you're making like 5, 000 one month and then like 1, 000 the next month. But even if that is kind of how your [00:15:00] schedule has shaken out, if you can find that kind of middle number and then spend less when you're making more money and when you're having a really light month that you have some in savings, like you can use some of that money from a better month where you taught more that can be really helpful. And it helps you kind of anticipate that your schedule is going to change so you've always got a little bit saved for that rainy day.
[00:15:28] And you know that if you're having a lighter week or month because clients are traveling or it's summer and they're not there. Um, that's a time where you could pick up more classes potentially if you're working at a studio. Another thing you can do is use your time in another way. So maybe instead of teaching more now that you have this time, you can record some classes if you're planning on doing YouTube, or if you do stuff on Instagram. You can spend more [00:16:00] time recording yourself or doing content creation for things You can batch write your newsletters if you're doing stuff like that. You can play with designing more class flows or experimenting with things, and you can also use your time to do non-Pilates stuff.
[00:16:16] You can relax. You can watch a TV show, like sometimes we think we have to fill our time constantly with things that are, you know, quote, bettering ourself, but just giving yourself that space when you have that space. Sometimes I see my clients going on vacation is like a tiny little one hour vacation for me as well. Like I'm not trying to fill that spot necessarily sometimes. I fill that spot with rest and hanging out with my cat and, you know, listening to a podcast.
[00:16:46] If you are a teacher and you only teach private sessions, so that's where if they cancel, you don't make money. That's not great. There are ways of you know, arranging your [00:17:00] studio and, you know, even if you're just an individual person with private clients, um, but if they're like your personal private clients, you're responsible for managing them and processing payment and scheduling and then teaching all of that stuff. I would say that in that case, you are in fact, your own studio. You can potentially think about ways that you can offer your services on more of like a membership basis.
[00:17:25] So instead of paying per session, you could set a monthly rate. And I haven't done this, but I've thought about this because I think that having an alternative to the you only get paid for time that you're actually working because our time is a limited resource and we can't work all the time. Like there is a limit to how much you can earn when you are only paid for the hours that you teach. So if you thought about switching your clients over to a monthly charge where every month they you're either invoicing [00:18:00] them or they're paying upfront for however many sessions that could be a way to have a better idea of what your income is going to be.
[00:18:10] I know that when studios do things like a monthly membership. They know every month how much money they're going to make because they know how many people have bought the monthly membership. So you have some degree of certainty about what you're making. Now, I don't know exactly what that would look like. As I said, I haven't set up my services as a membership just yet, but I can see the value in having a, okay, you get up to two private sessions per week with me. It's 800 a month, or it's however much, I don't know. Every market's a little bit different, but you set up front that this is what you're paying monthly.
[00:18:51] And if you only have seven sessions that month, it's fine, but you pay the same amount. And if you had, you know, the month days [00:19:00] worked out so that you got nine sessions in a month, it's still that same, but you know, every month that that's, what's coming in that can give you a little bit of peace of mind if you can get your clients on board with that. And I think the first step to getting your clients on board with that is just outlining that this is how you're going to be processing payment in the future. So don't let that stop you, uh, from making changes in your business.
[00:19:21] The bottom line is that teaching Pilates can have cycles in terms of attendance where you've got classes that are more attended and classes that are less attended. If your classes correspond with holidays, those classes might be canceled. If you're teaching one on one, you may have sessions that aren't happening while clients are traveling or while you're traveling. And while that does have a degree of uncertainty in it, it's not like a nine to five where you have a salary, you know exactly what you're getting paid, and you're getting paid every two weeks.
[00:19:55] Like, that doesn't always happen in the Pilates industry, but there are [00:20:00] ways that we can work around that, whether it's teaching more when we have the time to do so, whether it's, you know, maybe restructuring your client program or whether it's using that time to do other things. And that's totally fine as well. Those are all things that you might do when you are managing the ebbs and flows of teaching.
[00:20:21] Huge. Thank you to all the supporters on buy me a coffee, especially the newest members to Cynthia and Kristina. Thanks so much for joining the project. Can't wait to have a coffee chat with you soon. It's already August. And so that newsletter is going to be coming out shortly and, uh, we'll have time for a coffee chat. So if that's something you're interested in doing, visit that website and become a contributor, join the project and, uh, we'll hang out and talk Pilates. It'll be a good time. I hope you have a great couple of weeks and I'll talk to you again soon.[00:21:00]
[00:21:02] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual, and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. The adventure continues. Until next time.