Digital marketing is a preferred method of advertising for many companies nowadays, but good old-fashioned snail mail still has its purposes. Studies have shown that consumers still enjoy going out to their mailboxes and sorting through letters, so why not take advantage of the nostalgia associated with direct mail when it comes to dance studio advertising?
Mix up your marketing strategy this year and incorporate a postcard or letter campaign. Here are some tips that will help you make the most of your marketing dollars while working with direct mail.
Pick a Specific Event
The first thing you’ll want to do is pick a specific event or promotion to promote via direct mail. It’s much better to send out postcards specific to your open house or tuition discount than just general promotional materials. A few good events to tailor your campaign around might include:
Summer workshops or classes
A seasonal recital
Your annual open house
A seasonal registration period
New classes schedules or genres.
Having a specific and time-sensitive topic to promote will help you to create a sense of urgency and encourage recipients to act immediately.
Design Your Card
Once you’ve decided on the purpose of your postcard or other direct mail piece, you’ll need to design it. You can do this yourself if you’re a whiz with Photoshop, or there’s likely a design professional in your community who can create a sleek, chic postcard for you.
When designing your postcard, you’ll want to include some sort of eye-catching graphic to grab the reader’s attention. Dance Studio Life recommended using a photo from your studio, whether it’s an adorable group of dancers or a wow-worthy action shot. Include a short and sweet statement about your event or promotion on the front of the card, and save the majority of the text for the back.
As you fill in the back of your postcard, don’t forget to include your contact information and website, as well as all the details about your event or promotion. Use actionable language to encourage readers to act soon, otherwise they’ll likely toss the postcard in a pile of mail and forget about it.
Compile a Mailing List
The next step is to figure out who you want to receive the postcard. There are two main groups of people you can market to: existing or prospective customers. Keep in mind that the average response rates for these two groups are 3.4 percent and 1.1 percent respectively, according to the Chief Marketing Officer Council. This factor is essential when figuring out return on investment – if you spend $100 on just 50 post cards, chances are that you won’t make your money back.
If you decide to target prospective customers, you can either buy a targeted mailing list from an online company or use the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail option.
Measure Your Success
After you’ve stamped all the postcards and shipped them off, you’ll want to devise a way to track the results of your campaign. If you’re promoting an event, you can ask people how they heard about it when they register. If you’re advertising a sale, have new customers bring in their postcards so you can see how many people you actually reached.
This type of data is essential when it comes to future marketing efforts. If you get a great response from your postcard, you may want to use the same strategy again in a few months. But if the results were less-than-stellar, you’ll have to revisit the drawing board to figure out how to better target your customers.
Whether you’re taking your first dance class in the fall or returning for your umpteenth year, chances are that you’ll need to pack up your dance bag before the season starts. While some dancers take a somewhat unorganized approach to packing their class bags, there should be a method to your madness! After all, if you’re just throwing things in at random, chances are that you’ll forget something or end up toting around a 10-pound pouch. Here are some tips that will help make sure you have all the dance bag essentials:
“Stash smelly bags in the freezer to kill off bacteria.”
Cleaning Out Your Bag
If you have an old bag that you’ve been using for a few years, be sure to clean it out before packing it for the season. That old-clothes smell isn’t going to go away unless you take the time to kill the bacteria that are causing it!
Dance Spirit magazine recommended you dump everything out of your bag and toss the trash. Next, turn the bag inside out and vacuum up any crumbs or hairs that are hiding in the crevices. The magazine suggested that you throw the tote in the laundry – if it’s machine-washable. Otherwise, you’ll want to wipe it down thoroughly with disinfecting wipes.
Still smelly? Here’s a pro-tip for you: Stash your bag in the freezer overnight. The extreme cold will kill the odor-causing bacteria.
Shoes, Shoes, Shoes
Are your pointe shoes, ballet slippers and jazz sneakers strewn around your house? That simply won’t do! Your dance bag should be home to all the dance shoes that you use on a regular basis. Take a peek at your class schedule for the upcoming season, and pack your bags with the shoes you’ll need each day. It’s a good idea to stash some extra toe pads in your bag as well. You never know when you’re going to need a new pair.
If you have any shoes that are prone to scuffing or have glitter on them, you may want to store them in carrying bags before putting them in your dance tote. This will keep them in pristine condition for as long as possible.
Extra Attire, Just in Case
Up next is clothing. You’ll need the appropriate outfit for each class, and it’s always a good idea to bring a few extra pieces. Tightly roll up a pair of tights and put them in a sealable bag. This will prevent them from getting snagged on anything while in the bag. You can use this same tactic to bring along an extra shirt or pair of shorts.
You’ll also want to have extra hair elastics, bobby pins and makeup in your dance bag. After all, there’s no such thing as too many hair accessories.
Finally, there are a few small items you’ll probably want to stash in one of your bag’s pockets. Here are a few suggestions:
A water bottle
A phone charger
Foam rollers or resistance bands.
Once you have all these items carefully stowed away, you should be good to go! Make sure to clean out your bag periodically during the season, otherwise you may end up with gross food wrappers and smelly, dirty clothing. That will only make repacking the tote harder next year.
Peek Into a Dancer’s Bag
Every wonder what’s in the dance bag of your favorite reality TV star? It’s actually a lot of the same stuff! A few of the dancers from the show “Dance Moms” have YouTube videos detailing what they pack into their bags each day. The video below shows what Chloe Lukasiak stashes in her class bag.
When your advanced dancers apply to a summer intensive, conservatory or dance company, they’re probably going to come to you for help crafting an audition video. An increasing number of dance schools and troupes ask for videos from applicants to help them quickly assess skills, technique and overall fit. However, the process of putting together a professional and impressive audition video can be challenging if you don’t have much experience with technology. Here are some dance audition tips that will help students and their teachers to create impressive audition videos:
Pick an Appropriate Piece
The first big decision that dancers need to make is what they should perform for the video audition. Some institutions may detail what they’d like to see in the video. But, other times the choice will be left to the performer.
Advise your dancer to choose a piece that is appropriate for the school or company. Meaning, don’t perform a jazz piece when applying to a ballet school. It should also be a piece that showcases the dancer’s individual strengths and is a good representation of skill level.
Some experts recommend that dancers include a variety of clips to show off their range of skills.
“I have found that showing a variety of styles and clips that include strong acting along with the dancing make for a more interesting product,” Barry Kerollis, a former dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, explained to Dance Informa. “You need to have some flash, but then you need to have the depth in technique and character to back it up.”
If your dancers have well-shot clips from past performances, it may be worthwhile to make a video compilation. If you choose to go this route, make sure you have access to professional editing software to stitch the clips together.
Carefully Select Your Attire and Backdrop
Once you’ve helped your dancer decide on the best piece to perform, it’s time to iron out the logistics of filming. Dance Advantage recommended that dancers chose a clean space that has a lot of natural light. A studio with a wall of windows may be one good option. Alternatively, you can bring in lighting equipment to make sure the video adequately captures your movements.
There should also be some thought put into the performer’s outfit. Dance magazine suggested that dancers wear form-fitting attire with minimal frills. Hair should be pulled back and neat. Make sure that the dancer stands out against the background. If she’s dancing in a room with black walls, a black leotard will make her blend into the background.
Find a Videographer and a Consultant
The person who ultimately films the video should ideally have experience behind a camera. Most dancers don’t hire professional videographers, but it’s a good idea to ask a video-savvy friend to film the performance. This will ensure that the clip is focused and steady – both of which make a big difference when the director or choreographer reviews the video.
Dance Advantage also recommended that a teacher or studio owner be present while the video is filmed. Videographers don’t always understand which aspects of a performance are most important, and a dance professional can serve as a type of consultant, pointing out what angles and shots would be best.
Formatting the Video
When stitching together the final video, use these tips to ensure it captures the attention of the viewers:
Keep the video as short as possible. Five minutes is a good length, especially for entry-level dancers.
Include text overlay at the beginning of the tape that details the dancer’s name, age, web address and contact information.
Put your strongest clips first, just in case the viewer stops watching halfway through.
Dance Informa noted that dancers should never digitally alter their appearances in videos, as this may be seen as deception.
Contact the school or company to see what final format they would like to receive the video in.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re performing in your first recital or attending your grandchild’s seasonal show – once you fall in love with dance, it will stay with you forever. Any performer, choreographer, teacher or studio owner will tell you that dance isn’t just an art form. It’s a way of life! You know you’re a dancer when:
1. Your joints are constantly popping
It’s completely normal to you to crack your ankles, hips and neck, right? Maybe not to average people, but to dancers, it’s a daily occurrence.
2. You critique dancers on reality shows
Your friends might be impressed with the contestants on “So You Think You Can Dance,” but you see past their tricks and recognize when their form is seriously lacking.
3. You secretly love sparkly makeup
Some people scoff at glittery makeup or proclaim it to be tacky, but you feel a wave of nostalgia whenever you’re near sparkles. After all, a little glitter never hurt anyone.
4. You start counting with 5, 6, 7, 8
Forget 1, 2, 3, 4. The only way you know how to count off is with “5, 6, 7, 8!” It can make taking pictures a little tricky, but you’ve probably bonded with other dancers because of it.
5. You love the recital pics on #TBT
If you’re on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you know that Throwback Thursdays are a chance to post your old recital pictures. The more elaborate the costumes, the better!
6. The smell of hairspray gives you recital flashbacks
When you get a whiff of hairspray, you’re instantly transported back to recital season, when bobby pins were everywhere and buns had to be just right.
7. You apply falsies like a pro
It’s no secret that false eyelashes are tricky for even the best makeup masters. However, after years of applying stage makeup, you’re likely better than the best when it comes to sticking on falsies.
8. It drives you crazy when an instructor is off beat
If you’ve taken any type of fitness or recreational dance class, you know it’s maddening when the teacher is off-beat. It’s probably hard for you to resist the urge to get everyone back on the beat by counting out “5, 6, 7, 8.”
9. You’re a whiz with double-sided tape
Ladies who have ever needed to secure a dance costume to prevent wardrobe malfunctions know the best tricks for securing tricky tops and sagging skirts. Their weapon of choice? Double-sided tape, of course.
10. You’re the first to correct anyone who says dance is easy
No, dance is not easy. Yes, it is a sport, and yes, dancers are athletes!
Chances are that, like most dance studios around the country, your cash flow drops during the summer. You may host dance camps and a few summer classes, but you won’t be as busy as you are during the school year. Just because your studio has hit its seasonal lull doesn’t mean you can’t continue to market your business and services. In fact, summer is the perfect time to hone in on some of your marketing tactics and see how you can revamp them for the seasons to come. Here are five dance studio marketing ideas for specific areas that you may want to focus on while you have a little extra time this summer.
1. Work on SEO
Search engine optimization best practices are always changing and evolving. The strategies that may have boosted your website in search last year may actually be hurting it this year. That’s why you should take time this summer to read up on SEO and how you can improve your studio’s site. Here are some of our SEO tips for beginners, but you may also want to look into mobile optimization, keyword strategies and best landing page structures.
2. Set Up a Referral Program
If you don’t have a student referral program, set one up this summer! The Dallas Chronicle explained that referrals are one of the most cost-efficient ways to bring in new students without shelling out a ton of money for advertisements. Think about what you could offer students who refer friends to your studio – discounted tuition? Free merchandise? Free recital tickets? Whatever you choose, just make sure that it’s valuable enough to be appealing to your dancers, but not so generous that you’ll wind up regretting it.
3. Create Testimonial Videos
You probably have some great videos stored on your phone or computer from seasons past, so why not put them to good use? Gather your videos together in one place and work to compile short films that you can display on your website. You may also want to see if a few of your long-time dancers are willing to sit down and talk about their experiences at your studio. A compelling testimonial video will likely perform well on your website and social media pages.
4. Work on Your Brand
Small businesses are always growing and evolving, and it’s essential that you keep your brand consistent across all forms of communication. If you haven’t had the time to upload your new logo onto your email newsletter or are still using outdated class prices on your website, take time this summer to update all these little inconsistencies. It may not seem like such a big deal, but potential customers are more apt to trust your business if they receive consistent messages about who you are and what you do.
5. Keep Up Your Newsletter
Your summertime marketing should ideally grab the attention of prospective students, but you also want to keep your current dancers engaged. That’s why it’s crucial to keep up your studio newsletter during the summer. Send out updates about what’s going on in the classroom during the warmer months, changes that you’ll be making for coming seasons, what other dancers are doing at summer intensives or even just tips on how dancers can stay in shape over break.
Don’t have a newsletter? Create one soon! There’s no excuse not to take advantage of this easy marketing strategy, as free platforms like MailChimp provide you with all the tools you need to put together a professional, polished email blast.
The importance of a strong studio website can’t be overstated in today’s digital world. Potential dance students will likely check out your studio’s online presence before committing to classes, so you should do everything possible to make sure your site can effectively convert viewers. One important aspect of an effective studio website that often gets overlooked is the call-to-action.
This marketing tool, often referred to as a CTA, is a small but crucial part of your dance school’s webpages. If you’re uncertain about how to use CTAs, this guide will explain how to implement them onto your studio website.
Define Your Online Goals
Before you can create CTAs for your website, you’ll need to figure out your goals for the site. Your overarching objective is likely to generate new student leads, but you probably have supplementary goals as well.
Start by outlining how you would like prospective students to interact with the site. Once they reach your home page, it’s generally good if they view your “About” page and maybe then your class schedule. Then what do you want them to do? Fill out a contact form? Call the office? Send you an email? Figure out what your preferred method of communication is with leads and make a note of this.
Your website can also help to keep current students and parents engaged with your school. Think about what you’d like these visitors to do when they visit your site. Have you been trying to get more people to sign up for your newsletter? Or maybe you want to get more parents to connect with you on social media? These are both objectives that you can further with CTAs, so jot them down!
Determine Your Main Call-To-Action
Once you’ve outlined your goals, it’s time to put together your CTAs. HubSpot explained that effective CTAs are buttons or links that capture people’s attention and get them to take action. It’s best to keep the copy for your CTA under five words. That may seem like a tiny amount of text, but it’s easier than you might think. For example, if you determined that you want prospective students to call your studio so you can connect with them quickly, your CTA might be a button that says “Call today for more information!” It’s short, sweet and to the point.
Create Supplementary Calls-To-Action
You’ll also want to figure out a few effective CTAs for your supplementary website goals. If you’re aiming to connect with people on social media, your button might read “Like XYZ Studio on Facebook” or “Get daily updates on Twitter.” Similarly, you can encourage people to sign up for your newsletter with a CTA that reads “Register to receive email updates.” As you can see, these phrases are succinct, actionable and set clear goals for the viewer.
Add the Assets to Your Studio Website
Once you’ve figured out how your CTAs will read, it’s time to place them on your website. If you work with a graphic designer or developer, work together to design CTA buttons that will work with the aesthetic of your site. However, there are also many websites that offer free CTA templates, like these ones from HubSpot, so you can still have professional-looking features on your site if you curate it yourself.
When it comes to the actual placement of the buttons, Econsultancy explained that case studies have shown CTAs are more effective when they come after your product description. So you may want to place your main CTA at the bottom of your “About” page or toward the bottom of each class description.
As for the CTAs targeted at current students and parents, try to place them in areas of your site that these visitors are more likely to use. If you have a parent login page, this would be a great spot for a CTA promoting your newsletter or social media sites. Another strategic placement option would be alongside studio updates or on a ticket-purchasing page.
When you’re opening your very own dance studio, there’s a lot of money that needs to be invested in the business. Dance studio owners need a great location, quality floors, all-around mirrors, office supplies, marketing materials and more, not to mention you’ll need to pay teachers and other staff. Chances are that you won’t be able to afford these expenses out-of-pocket, which is where a small business loan comes into play.
You might be overwhelmed when it comes to securing funding, so use this guide to navigate the world of business financing.
Determine Your Financial Needs
Before you ask a bank or other lender for money, you’ll want to take the time to plan out just how much financial assistance you’ll require. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a number of useful resources that can help first-time business owners get their monetary needs straightened out. Start by detailing the different costs you’ll need to successfully start your studio, like the ones outlined above. Be sure to include costs for any construction or renovations, studio equipment and advertising. Lenders will look on your application more favorably if they know exactly where the funds are going.
If possible, it’s also beneficial to anticipate any financial assistance you’ll need in the near future. It’s easier to secure loans when you have plenty of time to prepare applications, so do your best to foresee any expenses that may crop up within your first few months of operation. These might include money for costumes, teachers or studio merchandise.
Find a Mentor
Mentors are often invaluable resources for budding entrepreneurs. They can give you helpful hints on applying for loans, securing interest rates and starting a business in general. If you’re friendly with other studio owners in the area, you may want to reach out and see if they’re willing to offer advice. However, make sure that your new school won’t be in direct competition with the studio owners you’re contacting.
You may also be able to find a resource through SCORE, a website that connects small business owners. Another viable option is to seek advice from a financial consultant or legal professional – though you’ll likely have to pay for these services.
Present Yourself Favorably
When it comes time to meet with a loan officer, you’ll want to be informed and confident. Advanced preparations can help you to present yourself as a favorable borrower, so take time to put together a detailed and thorough business plan. Come to the meeting with hard data on the state of the industry in your area, the benefits of each proposed expense, your plan for repaying the loan and timelines for your expansion.
In addition to researching your strengths, it helps to be aware of the factors that may be working against you. Business News Daily explained that there are a number of common problems that small business owners stumble over when trying to secure financing. Look into your credit report and have rebuttals prepared for any issues that lenders may find. Keep in mind that many banks view dance studios as high-risk borrowers, and be ready to fight for your business!
Most of all, be passionate about what you’re doing. If lenders see that you’re really going to give the business your all, it may tip the scales in your favor.
“You have to exude a passion,” Paul Steck, president of an international restaurant franchise, explained to Business News Daily. “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to be the best in the whole wide world. You have to go into it with that sort of mentality, and a lot of presumed business owners don’t do that.”
Other Financing Options
Any studio owner who’s gone through the financing process will tell you that it’s not easy. Many small business owners get rejected the first time they seek a loan, and if this happens, you have two options. You can either keep trying by improving your business plan, ironing out any issues and consulting with other banks, or you can look into other financing options.
On a dance forum, a few studio owners noted that they took out loans from friends, family and business partners to get their schools off the ground. Most were able to repay the money in a matter of years and weren’t hit with the high interest rates that banks would require.
If borrowing from others isn’t an option for you, consider taking out a home equity loan, which are normally accompanied by very affordable rates. You can also look into performing arts grants, crowdfunding or business credit cards. These are all viable options for dance studios, so don’t give up on your dream just because you get rejected by a bank. With the right mindset and a lot of determination, you can likely start the school you’ve always imagined.
Many studio owners have experienced the following situation: Your school is doing great. Enrollment is through the roof, and just when you think it’s smooth sailing for the next few seasons, you see the sign. A new studio is opening up right down the street, and even worse, they’re offering the same classes! All of a sudden your prospective students have another viable option to choose from, so how do you ensure that your school continues to thrive? In the world of running a dance studio, studios need to stay vigilant if they want to succeed in a sometimes crowded field. Here are four steps that will help you keep your school’s doors open, regardless of how saturated your market becomes.
1. Stay Focused on Your Studio
Your first instinct when you find out there’s a competitor opening nearby is to shift your attention to learning everything you can about the new business. After all, it’s upsetting when someone thinks they can one-up your studio! However, you shouldn’t obsess about this new establishment. Instead you should start obsessing about your own.
“There are always going to be people who think they can do it better than you, and maybe some people actually will do it better than you,” Kathy Blake, owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios, explained on DanceStudioOwner.com. “But what this is all about is you have to be your own voice; you have to find your own culture.”
Blake explained that studio owners need to stay focused if they want to get ahead of the competition. If you’ve been slacking on marketing or facility upkeep, use this as the kick in the pants you need. Crunch some numbers – what’s the return on investment for your different marketing strategies? What’s your customer acquisition cost? Focus on the nitty gritty aspects of running a dance studio, and you’ll be equipped to compete in a saturated market.
2. Find Your Sweet Spot
If your new neighbor is offering the same classes as you, it’s essential to figure out what makes your studio unique. Maybe, like Blake mentioned, it’s your school’s culture and atmosphere. Or perhaps you have more experienced teachers. Sit down and think hard about what your niche is and why it makes your school a great place for dancers to learn.
Coming up short? If you’re floundering to find your differentiating factor, you may want to consider revisiting your business plan. Your previous success may have been based on your lack of competition, but now that there’s a new sheriff in town, you need to reevaluate your business model and figure out what you can do to make your studio competitive.
3. Differentiate Your Marketing
Once you’ve figured out exactly what it is that makes your studio unique, take that aspect and run with it. You’ll need to thoroughly differentiate your marketing from your competitors to ensure that potential students know exactly why your school is the place to dance. Revamp your website and social media sites. Update your fliers with a new emphasis on your sweet spot. Design new ads and do research into effective marketing tactics you may be neglecting. Your goal should be to reach students in new ways and convince them that your school is the best option in town.
4. Take Care of Your Existing Students
In the midst of all this marketing mayhem, it’s easy to overlook the needs of your current clientele. However, Marketing Donut explained that if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you’d do well to cater to your patrons like never before. Improve your customer service, orchestrate an amazing recital or poll your dancers to see what changes they’d like made. Paying ample attention to your existing students will ensure that they re-enroll for next season and that you’re not losing business to your competitors.
When you’re hiring new dance instructors, it’s essential that you take the right steps when it comes to background screening. It’s part of your responsibility as an employer to create a safe environment for both students and other employees, and that means looking into the backgrounds of individuals who will be working in the studio. If you’re not currently screening employees or you want to revamp your background check processes, here are four tips that will help you streamline the task.
1. Find a Reputable Company
You probably have a pretty tight budget when it comes to recruiting and hiring, so “free” or “do-it-yourself” background checks may seem like the best option to save money. However, sites the claim to offer free background screening usually have hidden fees or provide inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information. It’s better to look into reputable consumer reporting agencies that are known for working with small businesses. These companies will provide you with quality information at a price you can afford.
2. Create Written Policies
When you conduct inconsistent background checks, you’re opening up a can of legal worms. Consistency is key if you want to avoid any legal issues, so it’s a best practice to put your screening policies in writing. Document the steps you take with each candidate and make sure to keep records of the background checks you conduct. This documentation will be invaluable if legal action is ever taken against your studio.
3. Check References
Another way to ensure the integrity of your potential employees is to check their references. Take the time to call past employers, coworkers or fellow performers. This may eat up a little bit of your valuable time, but you may discover issues that otherwise would go undetected.
4. Check Social Media – Carefully
Looking up a job candidate’s social media sites is a helpful way to get insight on the person’s character, but there are some legal limitations to the information you can gather from these sites. A good rule to follow is that if you can’t legally ask the candidate a question in an interview, you shouldn’t gather the answer from social media. For example, it’s unlawful to ask about a job applicant’s age, race or marital status, so don’t turn to social media sites for this information. Otherwise, you could end up with a discrimination lawsuit on your hands.
As a small business owner, you should be doing all that you can to establish your studio’s brand. All the materials you create, whether they’re internal documents, marketing advertisements or informational brochures, should present a cohesive image of your studio. An important part of branding that can sometimes be overlooked is a dance studio mission statement.
Importance of Mission Statements
Do a little research into other educational institutions – schools, colleges or even gyms – in your area and you’ll likely find that they have mission statements that outline their purpose and tie together everything they stand for. Your studio could probably benefit from a similar maxim.
The Houston Small Business Chronicle explained that a mission statement is important not only to a business owner but also to the staff and customers. The mantra explains the primary purpose of the business and outlines the values the company strives to uphold. It can guide decision makers in important choices and help to draw new customers to the company.
How to Create a Mission Statement for a Dance Studio
Your mission statement doesn’t have to be long or complex. In fact, it should ideally be just one or two sentences. To start crafting your studio’s guiding statement, think of what sets your school apart from others. Do you place a heavy emphasis on teaching your students about healthy living outside the studio? Are a lot of your students training to become professional dancers? Or maybe you compete in the most prestigious competitions around the country? Try to work these defining aspects of your studio into your mission statement.
When you know what information you want to include, it’s time to draft the mantra. Dance Studio Life provided this example of a basic dance studio mission statement: “Our mission is to provide professional dance instruction and instill an appreciation for the art of dance in a safe, high-quality studio environment.”
A school that focuses on dance competitions might want to write something like: “At XYZ Studio, we work to provide our dancers with all the necessary resources to be their personal best and encourage students to test their skills by participating in highly selective competitions around the country.”
Once you’ve drafted the statement, put it away for a day or two. Then, reread it and make any changes that jump out to you. You may also want to ask your teachers or a few trusted parents for their thoughts. When you arrive at a final polished mantra, go ahead and include it on important documents, from marketing materials to class registration forms.
Preparing for a dance competition is no easy feat, especially if your team is a newcomer to the circuit. There are lots of things you have to take care of before the big day, like last-minute costume tweaks and makeup tutorials, as well as burning backup music and gathering emergency supplies. Use this guide on how to prepare for a dance competition to make sure your studio, dancers and parents are ready.
The Week Before
You’ll want to give yourself ample time to check every minute task off your to-do list, so it’s best to start preparing at least a week in advance. Procrastinators beware! You will only give yourself a headache trying to get everything together the night before, and chances are that you’ll end up forgetting something important.
There are a few essential tasks that studio owners and dance teachers should complete in the weeks heading up to a competition. These include:
Help your students perfect any tricky hair or makeup styles.
Run through choreography one last time in full costume.
Talk about behavioral expectations with your dancers – and parents, if necessary.
You may also want to talk with your team about best packing practices. While you’ll likely have emergency supplies, like bandages, hair spray and a sewing kit, it will be up to your dancers to ensure that they have everything they need for the competition. Dance Advantage recommended showing dancers how to roll costumes to reduce wrinkles and stash each outfit in a separate bag with coordinating accessories, extra tights and undergarments. Many studios choose to hand out competition packing checklists to help dancers cover all the necessary bases.
The Night Before
Both you and your team will likely be nervous the night before, so it’s important to take steps to relax and prepare yourselves for the big day. On Stage Dance recommended that everyone pack up their bags the night before and double-check that they have everything crossed off the checklist.
It’s best to eat a healthy meal the day before a competition. Advise your dancers to stay away from fast food, sugary treats and caffeine, and refrain from overloading on carbs. Instead, opt for a well-balanced meal that will help them feel satiated and get to bed on time.
Finally, it’s important for you and your dancers to get a full night’s sleep before a competition. Take steps to relax before bed, like soaking in a warm bath or reading a book. Try not to watch too much TV or stare at your phone, as these can make it harder to get to sleep. Instead, head to bed early, but don’t forget to set your alarm!
The Day Of
If you’ve taken care of all the prep work in advance, you can simply wake up on the morning of your competition, grab your bags and head to the bus. Hopefully your dancers have equally prepared and can do the same. However, there may be one or two students running late, so be sure to give your team plenty of time to get to the venue, change and warm up.
It’s best to get your dancers into costume and makeup at least one hour before their performance time. You never know how many other teams will be crowding the changing rooms, so give yourself ample time to score the best mirrors and perfect each dancer’s look. Once everyone is warmed up and ready to go, give your team a pep talk then watch them dance their hearts out!
The dance recital is the most important moment in the year. Is your method of dance recital ticket sales helping you make the most of the experience?
The Old Way
Studio owners and staff spend hours preparing seating charts, printing tickets, manning the ticket sales table, and processing refunds and exchanges.
Parents have to come to the studio at prescribed days and times, and may not even be able to pay with a credit card.
Studio owners have to deal with difficult or unhappy parents who feel they should get specific seats.
In a studio with 200 students, you could have 200 parents wait 4 hours in line on ticket day. That’s 800 hours of lost productivity and leisure time!
The average studio sells $16,000 in tickets per year, typically accumulating large amounts of cash that need to be secured and deposited.
Studio owners save time and money. Just send TutuTix your seating chart and we’ll take care of the rest!
Parents save time. A ticket purchase takes 5 minutes. Who doesn’t want their Saturday back?
It’s convenient. With TutuTix, parents can buy anytime online, via phone, or even directly from your studio’s Facebook page! This convenience is important – the percentage of people who expect to buy tickets online has doubled in the past 3 years.*
It’s secure. Parents pay securely online or over the phone, and funds are deposited weekly into your studio’s account.
It’s fair. All parents have an equal shot at choosing their preferred seats with TutuTix’s interactive seating chart. TutuTix can even handle special pre-sales for specific groups or help you tie ticket purchases to a student’s account status.
Find out how we can bring the “happy” to ticket sales for you and your dance parents. Request more information about TutuTix today.
When you’ve been running a successful recreational dance studio for a couple years and have some amazingly talented students in your classrooms, you might start to think about ways to show the world how great your dancers are. What better way to do that than start a competitive dance team at your studio? If you’re wondering how to start a competition dance team, follow these easy steps.
Before you jump head-on into planning, it’s a good idea to see how many of your students would be interested in joining a competition team. Some may be too busy with other sports or extracurriculars to dedicate enough practice time, and others might not be able to afford the additional costs of competitions. You can gauge interest by talking to parents and students or sending out a survey to everyone. Make sure you have a solid group of students on board before making any definitive decisions.
Once you’ve determined that your dancers are ready and able to take their dancing to the next level, you’ll want to hold tryouts for your new competition team. There are a number of different ways that you can structure tryouts – your needs will dictate which method works best in your studio. Varsity.com explained that some studios hold open tryouts where any student can apply to be on the team. In this type of situation, you’ll likely have to make cuts, so be prepared to give your dancers honest feedback.
Another common method of recruiting dancers is to have “invitation only” tryouts. This strategy ensures that only dancers who are advanced enough for the rigors of competition will be considered. It can help spare your novice dancers the rejection of being cut and makes your job easier, as you’ll likely have fewer students to consider.
Whichever method you choose, it’s best to hold a meeting with parents before or during tryouts to explain the expected costs and time commitments that come along with competitive dance. The last thing you want is to select the perfect team only to have half drop out because of the price.
Schedule Practices and Outline Expectations
After you have a great group of dancers on your new team, you’ll need to create a practice schedule that works for all parties involved. Ideally, it shouldn’t interfere with their other dance classes or outside activities. However, the reality is that you may not be able to find a time that works for everyone. Do the best you can and make compromises whenever possible.
You’ll also need to outline your expectations for this new group. How many practices are they able to miss? What happens when they show up late? How far in advance do you need costume payments? Are there certain behaviors you expect dancers to uphold as representatives of your team? These are all important considerations to take into account. Competition teams generally have strict guidelines for dancers because if just one person is missing, the whole practice can be thrown off and the team may suffer.
Hone Your Skills
Once the paperwork is filled out and expectations are set, it’s time to do what you do best – practice! Start creating routines, building team bonds and preparing your dancers for competition life. You may want to bring in guest speakers who have experience in competitive dance or attend a local competition to see what the atmosphere is like. Some competitive teams also require their students to attend certain camps to work on skills and technique, but this should depend on whether your students are willing and able to do so.
When you think your team is ready, pick your first competition and go for it! Whether you win or lose, you’ll be on your way to creating a strong, covetable competition dance team.
Each spring, you’re faced with one of the more unpleasant aspects of owning a dance studio – filing your taxes. If you think personal taxes were confusing, chances are that you’ll find business taxes even more so. There are a number of different deadlines you’ll have to adhere to and a variety of forms that need to be filled out.
If you struggle to keep your paperwork in order and get your taxes done on time, use this guide to straighten yourself out and get your studio’s taxes squared away.
Best Practices for Studio Owners
Your studio taxes will be so much easier if you stay organized throughout the year. If you throw paperwork here, there and everywhere, chances are that you’ll be scrambling to find it once tax season arrives. Make your life a whole lot simpler by setting up an organized filing system for your expenses, receipts, bills, invoices and other important paperwork. If you have office staff, train them to use the new system so that everyone is on the same page.
It’s important to save copies of other materials as well, especially if your studio isn’t making a profit quite yet. Dance Teacher magazine explained that if you don’t make money three out of five years, the IRS could deem your business a “hobby,” leading to you owing more money for losses you’ve claimed. If you’re operating in the red, save evidence that can be used to prove you’re taking steps to improve your studio, whether it’s marketing materials, new business cards, a company roadmap or your day planner.
Start getting your books in order at the end of each calendar year. As tempting as it is, you shouldn’t wait until February or March to start preparing your taxes.
What’s Up with Sales Tax?
Since your studio is an educational institution, you don’t have to charge sales tax on lessons, right? The answer actually depends on what state you live in. Back in 2014, dance studio owners across Missouri were shocked to find they owed back taxes to the state because of a legislative change. Americans for the Arts explained that the state reclassified studios as places of recreation and entertainment, which means they aren’t exempt from sales taxes.
There are actually a number of states where studios must tack sales tax onto tuition bills. DanceStudioOwner.com explained that this is necessary in Iowa, West Virginia, New Mexico, South Dakota, Hawaii and sometimes New Jersey.
“When dance studio owners don’t feel comfortable with sales tax, they’re definitely not alone,” Jessica Sheitler, owner of Financial Groove, explained to DanceStudioOwner.com. “I feel like it’s probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of running a dance studio, honestly. [Taxes are] different in every single state. Even within your state, it can be different within your county and your city.”
Chances are that you should also be charging sales tax on costumes and other merchandise that you sell. However, the regulations vary by state and jurisdiction, so figure out what’s necessary in your area.
Know Your Write-Off Options
You might owe the government more money than you’d originally thought, but the silver lining is that there are a number of expenses you may not have realized you could write off. The Houston Chronicle explained that you can write off reasonable and necessary expenses related to your profession. This means you can write off dance supplies, such as props and music or even office supplies. If you take the bus to work, you can likely file a deduction for the cost of your pass. Similarly, if you travel for the studio, track your mileage and write off the cost of gas.
Talk with your accountant about what expenses can be written off come tax time. Just remember that if you plan to write items off, it’s imperative that you keep any and all receipts related to the purchase or expense. The more detailed your records are, the more likely that the write-off will stick.
Find the Right Help
If all of this sounds overwhelming, it’s in your best interest to find a knowledgeable accountant who can help you get your taxes done right. Be sure to find a professional who has experience working with creative businesses – preferably studios – so you know that he or she can get you as much money back as possible. Once you find an accountant who is a good fit for your needs, don’t be afraid to seek advice for matters other than taxes. Chances are that he or she can help you work toward your other business goals.
“Have a dream for your studio and discuss it,” Lilia Wood, a studio owner who worked with Financial Groove, explained to Dance Teacher magazine. “Take advantage of their expertise so you can make those dreams a financial reality.”
As wonderful as all your dance students are, there’s always a chance that one or two parents will try to skip out on their bills. It’s certainly an unfortunate and awkward situation to handle, but it’s often an inevitable part of being a small business owner. While every situation is unique, and there may be instances in which you are able to meet privately with a parent and work out payment arrangements, there will be times that parents simply aren’t paying their fees. When you’ve sent multiple invoices, made phone calls, sent emails, etc. and received nothing back, you have two main options: accept that you probably won’t see that money or enlist the help of a collection agency.
There are probably a lot of considerations you’ll want to take into account before hiring a collection agency, but the bottom line is whether the service will be worth it for your particular situation. If you are a dance studio owner, here’s how you can figure out if you need to go to collection and a few tips to make the process a smooth one.
Are Collection Agencies Worth It?
Perhaps the most important factor to take into account when deciding how to handle past-due bills is whether going to collection will be worth it financially. If you have a customer who owes $50, chances are that the process of sending the account to collection and having service fees deducted won’t be worth it for the minimal amount of money you’ll get in return. However, bigger bills can sometimes make or break your studio, and if you get the sense the parents aren’t going to pay, it might be time to call in the professionals. After all, it’s better to get a portion of the total bill after the agency’s commission than to get nothing at all.
Many small business owners think that if they’re persistent, they can collect the money themselves. This is sometimes the case, but it will likely sap your time and resources to be calling, emailing and mailing the customers in question. You should also realize that the longer an invoice is past due, the less likely you are to see your money. A survey from the Commercial Collection Agency Association found that after three months, the probability of you collecting the money drops by 30 percent. At six months past due, there’s only a 50 percent chance that you’ll be able to collect.
Will Using a Collection Agency Hurt Your Reputation?
Sometimes small business owners are hesitant to work with collection agencies because it will hurt the company’s reputation. It’s no secret that customers generally dislike collection agencies, and there’s always the chance that the disgruntled parent will tell your other customers what transpired.
It’s a real possibility and you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to take the risk. However, one studio owner put the issue into perspective on a forum about collection agencies.
“If people don’t like collection agencies, then they need to pay their bills or at the least work out an arrangement to pay off the debt,” explained the owner on Dance.net. “A dance studio is a business and needs to be thought of as a business and run like a business.”
As always, payment policies should be clearly stated in registration materials and student contracts. Since payment issues could potentially affect a student who is still taking classes, carefully think through whether students with delinquent accounts can still attend, and make sure those policies are also communicated. If you run into problems down the road, these policies will give you a solid foundation for dealing with delinquent payments, and will help protect your studio’s reputation.
How Can You Streamline the Process?
The first time you use a collection agency, you may be a little lost in the process. However, you can make the ordeal easier by picking the right agency to work with and knowing what to expect.
When choosing a company to handle your collections, ask if they’ve worked with dance studios before and get references if possible. Call the other studios and see what their experiences were like before you sign up with an agency. The Fox Small Business Center recommended you check that the company is authorized to collect money from debtors in other states in case your past-due customers have recently moved. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with a few different agencies to find the one that’s the best fit for your needs.
Once you’ve chosen a company to work with, you can sit back and let them handle the awkward encounters. However, be aware that your past-due customers may very well call you to try and work things out. In these situations, you should simply explain that the matter is in the hands of the collection agency now and all communication and payment should go through them. Remember: You’re completely within your rights as a business owner to do what it takes to get the money you’re owed!
It’s always a good idea to build a relationship with the agency, especially if you think you’ll need to use them again. Be available to answer their questions and try to set up a meeting so you can talk about best collection practices face-to-face.
“When you hire a collection agency, you’re hiring a business partner,” Martin Sher, co-owner of AmSher Receivables Management, explained to Fox. “Smart clients meet with their agencies, discuss any issues that arise, provide them with any information they need and give them feedback.”
Using a collection agency probably won’t be an enjoyable experience, but at the end of the day, you’ll come out a stronger, more efficient business owner.