Today's episode describe the shift you can make from jack of all trades Pilates teacher to a specialist in one area. Benefits of specializing in one population of clientele include protecting your energy by working with people you enjoy, setting yourself apart from other Pilates teachers as an expert in the field, and creating a positive impact in a population you care deeply and are extremely knowledgeable about. Making the shift to a specialty can take time, but I think it can be worth it. 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. Join 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 on the show, we're going to be talking about developing your specialty. Um, I was thinking about calling the episode, finding your niche or, you know, finding your target audience or your ideal client avatar. There's lots of like business and marketing language that is talking about this, but at least in a Pilates context, what I'm thinking about is the population or group of people that you really connect with as a teacher, that you really enjoy teaching and that you really offer something that is extra for this population.
[00:01:45] Once you've been teaching for a minute, you will find that you as a person have preferences for the people that you work with. In group classes, it might be that you [00:02:00] kind of teach in a more athletic way, or maybe you teach in a slower way, or maybe you do a little bit of everything, but you, just as you teach, you will find a style of teaching and kind of teaching intensity that you really like that's kind of your default.
[00:02:16] And then you'll also find people who you just connect with easier than others. And this isn't to say that you don't connect with, you know, other people ever at all, but there's definitely some people who you just love teaching them and you just love working with them and it makes sense that you would lean into that a bit.
[00:02:41] So a big thing in terms of finding what your specialty is as a Pilates teacher is knowing yourself, knowing what those preferences are that you have, knowing the things that are unique about you that other people really connect with. So maybe you're an athlete, so You know about how intense [00:03:00] training is or what recovery is like, or, you know, you've had injuries before so you can connect with people who have, you know, had similar surgeries or gone through similar recovery processes with Pilates. You may have had a experience being pregnant and doing Pilates either while you were pregnant or maybe as part of the postpartum period, and now you are able to connect with people who are going through that same experience. It's totally normal that this happens. It just happens. It's part of being human.
[00:03:35] The reason I think it's important to find the type of client that you enjoy working with is because for everyone, definitely, but especially if you are making a living as a Pilates teacher, it is less draining to teach people that you like. Like it's nice to feel energized by your work as [00:04:00] opposed to depleted.
[00:04:01] Like I can speak from experience. There are some clients that I just had to give more to, and I didn't feel like I was getting it back. You know, there's this exchange of energy when we work with people, especially one on one, but in group classes too. Some people leave you feeling depleted and some people really rev you up.
[00:04:25] So your specialty could even be something like an age group. Your specialty could be, I really like working with older adults who are in their 70s and 80s. It could be, I really like working with people who are chatty, who like talking. Like some people enjoy the conversational aspect. That is, of course, not going to happen in a group class, but I don't know, you could probably have group classes where you encourage audience participation and you want them to chat with you. So I guess in a group class that could happen also, [00:05:00] but the main thing is if you are making your living teaching and you're teaching a significant amount of time, it makes sense to know who the easier to teach for you people are. And it's not because those people are easy to teach in general, like teaching is a complicated and beautiful art form that we all get to practice and it's not easy, but it's easier for you.
[00:05:29] I also want to throw out here. I don't think that every person you teach has to be your ideal client or within your specialty. I don't think that every client you have has to be your best friend, but it's nice to be more positive, like neutral or positive. It's, it's hard to teach people who you dislike. As I said, your personal experience is going to be really big here, although it doesn't have to be the defining thing.
[00:05:57] Because we all have a unique [00:06:00] experience with Pilates, a unique experience just in our life, the types of movement we do, the things that we've done so far in our life ,the things that we want to do. That is a great place to start building a common ground with our clients. I've talked on the podcast about the importance of building a therapeutic alliance and really connecting with people and building that rapport is part of doing that. So your life experience is a great starting point and can be a place that you can already start making that connection.
[00:06:32] Maybe you already have, you know, that experience, like if you had done physical therapy to recover from an injury or a surgery, you might already chat with your physical therapist and they might be able to recommend people who are finishing physical therapy to come work with you because you, you know, this is your area of interest. So your specialty could be that.
[00:06:55] Your specialty could also be something that you have kind of gone the [00:07:00] extra mile in and you've studied a little bit more extensively. So if prenatal clients was your niche and you really wanted to work with pregnant friends in the studio, then you may consider doing some additional training or some additional work or just going a little bit further to make sure that you really understand what's going on with this population and how you can best serve them.
[00:07:25] Because I absolutely love continuing education, I think it is fabulous to stay on top of the science as it changes and stay on top of best practices for certain populations as well, as that's applicable. So maybe that's where you really target your continuing education that you say, this is what I want to be an expert in. This is where I want to, you know, make my little difference in the Pilates world.
[00:07:55] There are teachers in the Pilates world [00:08:00] who work only with specific populations. Maybe they only work with clients who have severe scoliosis. Maybe they only work with breast cancer survivors. Maybe they are only for prenatal and postpartum clients. You can set yourself apart as a teacher, if you're interested in doing that, by kind of doubling down on this one specialty and make that your thing.
[00:08:32] A great thing about the comprehensive Pilates teacher training is that we are all familiar with a wide variety of things. We're introduced to a wide variety of conditions, things going on in the body, various -itises, various injuries, various ways people present when they come to class. And then once you start teaching you are exposed to even [00:09:00] more, and you have kind of firsthand experience working with people who have stuff going on in their body.
[00:09:05] But if you decide, you know, this is really what I want to do. I want to teach Pilates to elementary school kids or primary school kids. That's fantastic and it is a way to set yourself apart.
[00:09:21] It's really helpful in terms of branding and marketing because suddenly you have a more defined target. Because really for Pilates, everyone benefits from Pilates. It doesn't matter how old you are. It doesn't matter what's going on in your bodies. Everyone benefits from Pilates, but that is a very big audience to talk to. If you are able to narrow down and if you decide you want to narrow down, you think, Oh my gosh, there would be fewer people for me to work with. But in actuality, you just open up a new audience that is I guess smaller definitely than the general audience, but you [00:10:00] can still fill your books. You can still fill your studio time working with a specific population.
[00:10:06] Coming up after the break. I'm going to tell you a little bit more about how I found my specialty. And once again, it's a fun story. And also the process of transitioning towards your specialty, if that's something you decide you want to do. That's coming up next.
[00:10:29] 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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[00:11:26] Really quickly, my story about finding my specialty and how I've arrived where I am with the area of expertise that I have. And I would say that my population that I work with and enjoy working with the most are older adults who are in their seventies and eighties, um, specifically older adults who understand the benefit of mindful exercise and want to be the best, strongest, most flexible, most coordinated [00:12:00] version of themselves at their age. And also, caveat, who don't want to work out before eight in the morning because I also do not want to teach before eight in the morning.
[00:12:11] So the way I arrived at this audience and this population was a little bit organic when I was getting started, but also intentional as time has gone on. Sometimes when you get started teaching in a studio, You know, a teacher moves away or they're cutting back their hours or their schedule is changing. They're letting some clients go and trying to find other teachers to work with those clients. And that's what happened with me. And I found that most of my clients were older. Part of it's the area that I live in and the studio that I was teaching at. It had an older audience to begin with. Some of my first clients were from other teachers and they just happened to be older.
[00:12:56] Because those were some of my first teaching [00:13:00] experiences. I learned so much working with my clients and I learned so much about aging because I got started teaching in my mid 20s and so what's happening in an 80 year old body like I kind of have an idea because I have you know grandparents but you don't really know until you work with people and you see, um, their medical scans from their doctors and their recommendations from their physical therapist.
[00:13:30] And just through virtue of working with people, you get better at working with people. So that started organically that those were my first clients, but then I realized that I was really hitting it off with these clients. I really enjoy hearing their stories of, you know, living in Chicago in the forties and fifties, like that's wild, but I also saw this as an opportunity [00:14:00] to connect with people and the language that we're using as Pilates and they're there for a Pilates session, but also being someone who will listen to them and they, you know, are excited to share about their grandkids and vacations and things.
[00:14:17] And I think for older adults, especially, it can be very lonely once you retire or once you are working less and you can, your world can, can get very small. So I really enjoy genuinely having conversations and hearing things with my clients. And I just noticed, you know, I feel good when I'm teaching these people.
[00:14:43] And so that's kind of the not-Pilates bit, but then also from the Pilates standpoint, what I love about Pilates is we have this obstacle course and we can create challenges for our clients to help them meet their goals, whether they're [00:15:00] verbalized goals or just, you know, I just want to be fit goals or I just want to be strong goals.
[00:15:05] Um, and especially working on the equipment, you know, the, the exercises that my clients can do. I don't think a typical 80 year old, you may not give them that exercise first thing, but you can see what happens when you work on exercises for years. Like you can do phenomenal things at all ages. And I love being a place where my clients can experiment safely and just be brave and take exercises on. And then, you know, you're doing long stretch because you're a strong awesome planking person. You just happen to be 86.
[00:15:46] Those clients that I loved, and I know that when you do what you love you light up a bit, and so they know that I'm also enjoying this and they're enjoying Pilates. They're seeing all of the difference that it's making in their [00:16:00] life and what they're able to do, and they start referring their spouses and their colleagues and their friends and they tell everyone that, Hey, I'm doing Pilates and it's making my life so much better. I think you would really love it. So that's how I ended up seeing a couple husbands and wives and friends and family members. And that's kind of just how it's shaken out for me in the past six or seven years living in Chicago.
[00:16:32] But this transition from jack of all trades, where you can work with anyone in a group class pretty comfortably to, you know, really honing in on a skill set and a population and saying that that's what you want to do, it can take a minute to get there because again, maybe you are looking to invest in some continuing education.
[00:16:56] And building your knowledge about working [00:17:00] with this population, it can take time to complete those trainings. It can take time to shift your schedule. If you have clients who are more difficult to work with and you think there's another teacher who might enjoy working with them more, you know, shuffling people around can take time because you would never say to a client, Oh, I can't see you after Tuesday anymore. Like we're done. Like, of course we want to transition in a way that's a bit more gradual perhaps, but you can consciously begin to shift your teaching load in the direction that you want to go.
[00:17:39] If you want to explore more general, or, excuse me, if you want to explore more gentle Pilates, where you are going a bit slower, it's not about how much we can do, but you know, we're really just going slow. That's a total vibe. And if that's how you [00:18:00] enjoy teaching, you should definitely find lots of ways to teach that way. If you're looking for, you know, really working with those prenatal clients, really whatever population, you can begin to shift in that way, whether it's letting go of group classes and opening more private sessions, communicating with your studio managers and, you know, sales staff and saying, Hey, these are the type of people that I'm looking to work with. This is what I'm available to do it. You kind of make space for it to come.
[00:18:34] I think it can be really rewarding to have a specialty, to have this smaller area of expertise, and this type of person that you know that you work really well with, and you have something beneficial to give them, because whether you're working with this small subset of population, because that's where you want to go, or whether you love doing a little bit of [00:19:00] everything, it's Pilates, and it makes such a positive impact in everyone's life. For me, finding that specialty was a way to protect my energy and to combat burnout because I just know that working with my clients makes me feel good instead of making me feel tired. So I wish that for you.
[00:19:23] And last little thought that I'll say about this is that it's okay for what you want and what you're interested in to change. It's totally okay if you say, I only want to work with pregnant clients. Then you're like, I changed my mind. Like, you are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to find your own way in the Pilates space. I'm just giving you some insights on what has worked and what's happened for me.
[00:19:48] Huge thank you to all my supporters on Buy Me a Coffee. I appreciate you so much and appreciate your support of this project. Big shout out to Star for her support and [00:20:00] also, uh, to an anonymous donor. I appreciate it. Um, that September newsletter will be coming out soon because holy moly, we're halfway through September. How? I hope you have a great couple of weeks and I'll talk to you again soon.
[00:20:21] 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.