For the third year, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio management software reviews survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. We’ve continued to see some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio management software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software has steadily risen year after year, from 67% in 2014 to 80% in 2017.
The three most important features of studio management software have consistently been billing and payment processing, email or text communication and class management, but over the last year, online registration has seen a marked increase in importance.
The percentage of studios who have a majority of students paying by credit/debit card has continued to increase (to 54% in 2017), though studios across the country still vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has continued to creep up with 84% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied,” up from 82% in 2015.
Read the In-Depth Report on Survey Results
To see the full summary of the survey results, please enter your email below.
Only two weeks left to go before the recital – can you believe it? Your dancers are probably starting to feel some nerves, not to mention the stress you’re likely feeling as you run over in your head the zillion things you have to do before showtime.
Before you drive yourself crazy running around, take a breather and look at this checklist of the things you need to do over the next two weeks.
Host a Makeup Rehearsal
Whether it’s this week or next (before the dress rehearsal) make sure you hold a makeup and hair rehearsal for your dancers, and their parents if they want to join. A beauty rehearsal is a great way for novice dancers and the parents of younger students to practice how the makeup will be applied and how their hair will be styled. This way, you save the time going over the hair and makeup at the dress rehearsal, and there’s (hopefully) few or no questions before the actual recital.
It’s not just the newbies that need a beauty rehearsal, though. According to Dance Informa, even the most experienced dancers should attend a makeup and hair rehearsal before the recital, since this helps the dancers make sure that their hair and makeup styles are uniform and coordinated with the rest of the dancers in the group.
Have Recital Programs Submitted to the Printer
Recital programs are pretty much an expectation for dance recitals, as they help inform parents and patrons about the order of dances and the general timeline for the evening. At two weeks out, you MUST have your finalized program designs submitted to your printer to make sure:
You have a timely delivery of the final product
Any emergency issues can be resolved
Collect Pre-Orders of DVDs and Other Items for Dance Recitals
If you have the resources and manpower, it can be profitable to have a table at the recital selling performance DVDs, photos and other collectible items. However, collecting pre-orders a couple weeks before the event helps maximize profits and make sure every parent or dancer who wants the extras gets them. Send out emails and social media posts reminding parents to pre-order DVDs and other souvenirs and set a deadline for orders at least a week before the recital. You can use physical forms for orders, but online forms make things easy for both you and the parents.
Give Parents Detailed Drop-off/Pick-up Instructions
Dance Exec noted that it’s important that parents have detailed logistical information for the recital ahead of time. It’s a good idea to hold a pre-dress rehearsal meeting in addition to sending a detailed letter – over email is most convenient for the parents – that describes the drop-off and pick-up process, along with any reminders about ticket and DVD sales, costumes and other important dates and times, in addition to thorough directions to the venue if the recital is not held at your studio.
Need a letter or dance recital information sheet template? We’ve made an example sheet you can download and customize in Microsoft Word for your studio’s needs below:
Have “Day Of” Plans Finalized and Supplies Prepared
Two weeks before the recital – and in the week leading up to it – reach out to your volunteers to confirm that they will be helping out. Make sure you have enough volunteers to cover all duties. If not, you have time to recruit some last-minute helpers.
For some backstage organization ideas, check out this quick video:
Along the lines of volunteers, have all of your signs and backstage planning items printed/laminated/explained/etc. If you plan to have clear signs backstage that point to “Stage,” “Lobby,” “restrooms,” or particular areas of the backstage, have them done and checked off your list.
Michelle Spezio, director of Spezio’s Dance Dynamics in Buffalo, New York, shared a great tip with Dance Studio Life. She puts together boxes of frequently forgotten and emergency items like bobby pins, lip stick, hairspray, sewing kits, nail polish remover, tape, scissors and safety pins, and then places these boxes on either side of the stage and in dressing rooms. You should still remind dancers and their parents to bring their own back-up kits, but these boxes are much-appreciated insurance.
You’ve probably been here before – hunched over your laptop late at night, playing the same four seconds of music over and over again on your editing software trying to get it exactly right. Maybe a transition is too clunky, a background instrument is too loud or the fade out is too sudden. No matter the issue, music editing is a recipe for stress and frustration. Music editing apps for your phone are designed to help reduce some of the stress so you can get back to focusing on your students. The apps have streamlined, easy-to-use interfaces that simplify the editing process and make it conveniently portable, so you can tackle any editing issues or make quick adjustments whenever and wherever you are.
Try any – or all – of these music editing apps for using on-the-go:
Audacity is one of the most popular music editing software programs that dance teachers use, and Audacity Portable, the mobile app, means that you can take advantage of all of its useful functionality anywhere. Audacity is an open source software program that means that any developer can use the code to create their own versions of the original program, which is how the mobile app was created. Its layout is easy to get a grasp on, allowing you to make basic adjustments to tracks or “zoom in” for more intricate editing, and best of all, it’s free!
One of the leading music production programs for Macs, also has an app version for iPhones and iPads. GarageBand allows you to create your own songs with a variety of realistic-sounding digital instruments, but you can also easily edit imported tracks and add effects in seconds. For those that are new to GarageBand, The Dance Buzz gave a great tutorial on using the program here.
Hokusai Audio Editor
While Audacity and GarageBand were originally created for desktops, Hokusai was designed with smartphones in mind. The interface is optimized for use on touchscreens, meaning you can make music edits with just a swipe. You can use tools to normalize volume levels and fade-in and fade-out, and can alter the resonance or echoes. The app also features a neat “scrubbing effect” that means you can hear what the music sounds like as you move your finger down a track. And you can edit without worrying about making mistakes, since any changes can be easily undone.
WavePad Audio Editor
WavePad is a free app that contains the basic features needed for editing music. You can record and edit your own sounds and songs, and the app also works with third-party tracks. Your tracks are clearly organized for easy access and it comes with tools like filters that will make sounds clearer. However, WavePad is best for short choreography, between 3-5 minutes, since it does not have a zoom function that allows you to make more minute edits.
Notetracks is not part of the collection of music editing apps, but it is incredibly useful for dance teachers working with choreography, and is recommended by Dance Teacher Connect. With the app, you can easily make notes anywhere in a song and can clearly see the notes marked on the track, making it very helpful for when you’re creating a new routine. Notetracks also makes it easy to share your notes and ideas with others.
Music editing tips
Your expertise is dance, not music mixing, though effective editing will help your dancers perform at their very best. Dance Advantage offered several helpful tips for great music editing. Make sure the volume level is consistent throughout the track, since any discrepancies – even subtle ones – are distracting to both the dancers and audience.
Cutting and pasting is a common way to edit tracks, but it’s not always suitable – the site noted that mixing tracks and adding effects are very noticeable in stripped-down musical pieces with few instruments, so the cut-and-paste method is most effective for acoustic songs.
For the second year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our most recent survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. This year we’ve definitely noticed some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio management software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software increased 8% last year, from 67% in 2014 to 75% in 2015.
The three most important features of studio management software are still billing and payment processing, class management, and email or text communication, and online registration is gaining in importance.
Studios that fully embrace credit card payments see a vast majority of student payments come in via that method, though studios across the country vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has increased by 7%, with 82% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”.
Read the In-Depth Report on Survey Results
To see the full summary of the survey results, please enter your email below.
Well-developed studio policies are essential to keeping your dance studio running smoothly. Not only that, they also help keep your sanity intact! If your policies are poorly drawn up, or don’t cover what they need to, then your classes will be disorganized and inefficient, dealing with parent and student issues will be a headache and you may not even receive the tuition payments that you deserve.
Strong, clear-cut studio policies are the gears that make the dance studio machine turn. However, creating policies is not as simple as just jotting a few basic rules down. Read on to learn how you can create the best policies for your business.
The Bottom Line
Suzanne Blake Gerety of DanceStudioOwner.com told listeners in a recent webinar that studio policies are the terms of a business transaction. Keep this thought at the forefront of your mind when creating your rules.
“When someone becomes a student, it’s easy for us to get caught in the warm welcome, without realizing that you’re doing a business exchange: tuition for education,” said one of the hosts.
You can’t continue to operate your dance studio and share your passion with students if you can’t make a profit. While emphasizing payment requirements may seem uncouth or harsh, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure they’re clearly communicated in your policies. Your time and expertise is valuable, so don’t be afraid to strongly express payment requirements – and stick with them. If a parent has an issue with tuition or other financial expectations, you can then point to the policies that were agreed upon ahead of time.
Keep It Snappy
Another factor to keep in mind when drafting your dance studio’s policies is that, like it or not, people have short attention spans in this digital age. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on creating comprehensive policies or leave things out, however, it’s worth it to think about how you can most effectively communicate your policies. Parents deal with demanding schedules and a million different responsibilities, not to mention how they have many forms to sign and disclaimers to read over for their children on a daily basis.
“They have messages coming at them from 8 million different directions and it’s getting more and more challenging to deliver and get the message into their hand, not only get it to them, but make them clearly understand it,” said one of the webinar hosts.
Keep policies clear and concise, and use images wherever you can to dynamically convey information. Bullet point lists break up longer blocks of content so parents can digest it more quickly. Put the most important information at the top, and bold, use color font, use all capital letters – or do all three – to make important deadlines stick out, or otherwise they will be missed. Also, post your policies in as many places as possible, so it’s easily accessible and never more than a few clicks away. Upload them on your website and email them to parents, and make sure you’re constantly regularly reminding students and parents about them.
Topics to Include
DanceStudioOwner.com provided a helpful checklist of which topics should be covered in your policies. These include:
Tuition and fee general information
Tuition & fees due date
Releases, consent forms and privacy policies
Attendance expectations and minimum participation policy
Dress code, class attire, student/parent conduct, studio rules and regulations
The most well-crafted policies in the world, however, don’t matter if they can’t be enforced. As one of the hosts of the policies webinar said:
“This is the hard part: imposing the late fee, kicking the kid out of class, not letting them perform in the recital. We agonize over this. Let me tell you, your policies do not carry any weight if you’re not ready to enforce them.”
Making sure your policies are followed ensures that you can provide the best dance education and experience for your students.
You’ve put together your class schedule and written your studio policies, but one of the most important tasks still has to be done: deciding how you will process payments. As using cash and checks has fallen by the wayside, credit cards have become the preferred form of payment. Her are some tips for secure credit card processing for your dance studio!
Why you Should Accept Credit Cards
Accepting credit cards helps ensure your studio generates as much revenue as possible. One way it does this is by making it convenient for parents to pay tuition and other fees. Paying with a credit card takes just seconds and, depending on your system, can take place almost anywhere, whether online or from a mobile phone. Parents are already using credit cards for their children’s other activities and expenses, and by accepting credit cards you make sure parents can pay the way they prefer and don’t see your studio as that one difficult business they have to deal with.
As more and more dance studios accept credit cards, it’s important that your business remains competitive. Jon Koerber, software expert for dance studios and gymnastics classes, cited that online credit card transactions increased from $2.8 billion to $4.8 billion between 2006 and 2012, and they are only set to grow even more. Credit card processing is no longer weighed down to a clunky machine – they’ve been released online and in mobile applications. As Koerber wrote in a blog post for Capterra:
“You’ll also be losing business to your competitors if you not are doing business around the clock … And all the more so if [parents] can go ahead and sign up for classes from their living room after dinner. If your competitors have online registration and payment processing but you don’t, guess which dance studio will get the new customer after hours.”
Beyond providing convenience for your clients, accepting credit cards also makes everything easier for you. All the payment information will be stored in one place, which makes it simple to view or print revenue reports and quickly access the payment history of certain customers. All the complicated tasks involved with handling and depositing funds is left to the credit card service, which leaves you more time to run your studio.
What You Need to Get Started
You first need to identify which credit card providers you want to accept. Most business accept Visa and MasterCard, while some choose to also accept American Express. Then, you need to select a merchant account service. DanceExec explained a merchant account as “a kind of bank account designed to enable your business to accept payments by debit cards or credit cards. Your merchant account establishes an agreement between you the merchant and the merchant account bank on how to settle money you receive in the form of payment card transactions.”
Make sure the merchant account service you select enables you to accept credit card payments in multiple ways – ideally in-studio, online, over the phone and via smartphones. This way, parents can have a variety of payment methods available to them and can choose the one that’s most convenient for them, wherever they are.
Once you have chosen a merchant account and bank and have been verified, you can begin accepting credit card payments. While you can track and manage credit card payments on a separate system, most major dance studio management software companies enable credit card transactions in their overall system. This is a great option because the credit card transaction program is already fully integrated into the rest of your studio’s systems, which saves you time and headaches!
If you’re accepting credit card payments, you’re dealing with sensitive financial and personal information. So, you need to make sure you’re following the highest measures for security and privacy. Make sure the merchant account service you select has a strong record of PCI, or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, compliance.
Another security consideration is where the credit card payment information is stored. The information should not be kept on your computer or on servers owned by credit card transaction software that you use – instead, the data should be stored securely on an independent server.
Costs to Be Aware Of
Accepting credit card payments comes with several fees. One is gateway fees, which are the fees that merchant accounts charge each month for verifying that the credit card used in each transaction is in good standing. Other merchant account fees include a monthly fixed management fee and PCI compliance fee.
Additionally, there are small fees placed on every individual credit card transaction. These include an interchange fee, which depends on the type of credit card used, discount fees and per-transaction fees. The specific fee amounts vary from provider to provider, so make sure you compare these figures when choosing a merchant account to get the best value for your money.
Though setting up secure credit card processing requires some initial research, the benefits for your dance studio make it well worth the time.
It’s halftime! No, I’m not talking about football (and I call the Packers’ mid-game break “intermission” anyway). I’m talking about halftime of the DANCE SEASON—the midway point for studio owners between the first days of class and the finish line of recital.
By now you are far enough into classes to be past the busyness of the season opener and into a routine of the season. Your time is likely stretched carefully between the behind the scenes work that keeps the business going during the day and the actual work of serving your clients in the evenings. Running a dance studio is a delicate balancing act of time management, often with no margin for error.
Time may be at a premium, but don’t let that be an excuse to overlook one of the most critical pieces of your business: meaningful communication with your teachers. As a studio owner, this is an ongoing challenge for me. I have five kids under the age of 14 and I am no longer in the classroom on a regular basis. I work on the studio every day, but because I’m not always at the studio when the teachers are, it’s really important to establish routines to keep communication flowing.
There are all sorts of tools that we use at the studio to keep in touch with teachers on a regular basis such as weekly emails, private Facebook groups for staff and quarterly meetings with the whole group.
For as great as all of those things are, nothing replaces the importance of meeting a teacher face to face in the middle of the season to give and receive feedback before recital and competition season kicks in.
If you are ready to step up your communication with your teachers, keep reading for 5 Ideas for Mid-Season Dance Teacher Reviews.
If you’re considering opening a dance studio, you may have a lot of questions. Well, you’re not alone. There are plenty of other aspiring dance studio owners with the same concerns. Consider a few of these frequently asked questions if you want to start a dance studio.
1. What’s the best place to open a studio?
Picking the right location for your dance studio can have a lot to do with your success rate. Of course, you want it to be in a spot that’s easy for parents and dancers to find and see—it shouldn’t be tucked away out of sight. It should also have adequate parking space—enough for staff, students and parents, Dance Exec stated.
It’s also a good idea to look at a location that has a space for a drop-off lane. That way, it won’t disrupt traffic flow but dancers can come and go as they please. The location should also be safe or else parents will not feel comfortable dropping off their children. Look for a space that is local to a park, a school or another establishment that welcomes children. It shouldn’t be near bars or other areas that are adults-only.
Another location consideration is your proximity to other studios, and whether you’ve taught or attended at those locations. Most studio owners would take offense at a former teacher or student opening a studio in a location that would place them in direct competition. Even if you were not previously affiliated with nearby studios, you’ll want to consider whether you’re willing to go head-to-head with those already-established businesses.
2. How can I afford to start a dance studio?
Owning a dance studio can certainly come with its expenses. Between leasing or buying a space and utilities and maintenance, costs can quickly add up. All studio owners need have a business plan, which should include an analysis of these and all other costs, before considering opening a studio. Again, it’s important not to skimp on the studio’s location to try and help your budget.
Instead, choose a smaller space at first that you can expand on later. Look into bank loans and see if there’s one you qualify for that’s reasonable for your budget. If you’re incredibly passionate about opening a studio but can’t afford the space, think about opening one in your basement or garage to help build clientele before moving to a bigger spot.
3. Where should I look for potential staff?
As an owner, you may attempt to run the studio on your own at first, and that’s OK. However, as your clientele grows, you’re going to need a little help. Consider posting ads for local college dance students to see if they are willing to take on an unpaid internship, Dance Teacher suggested. That way, you can save money and have an experienced staff.
If you’re impressed by their teaching skills, offer them a job down the road when you’re completely financially stable. If you are ready to hire instructors right away, the administration of those nearby college dance programs may be able to recommend suitable candidates. If there are any semi-professional dance companies in the vicinity, you might also want to send them information on open positions. Whichever route you take, make sure you are hiring staff with the right qualities for the job.
4. How do I come up with a good name for my studio?
If you’ve always wanted to open a dance studio, you may have a few names in mind. However, if this is a recent initiative, it might be more difficult for you to think of something. Picking a name is one of the very early steps in the process of opening a studio. Regardless of what you choose, it should be easy to remember. That means it shouldn’t be a long name, DanceStudioOwner.com noted. It should also be a name that clearly indicates you’re a dance studio, whether it has dance in the name or not. You can choose something simple, like Jenny Smith Dance Studios, or something that has a play on words, like At the Barre.
Finally, make sure that your name is easy to say AND easy to search for on the web. You don’t want a name that you have to constantly spell or explain—those can be hard to remember. On the other hand, you also don’t want to choose a name that’s too generic and risk people being unable to find you in an online search. Find a good balance!
My five kids are all getting ready to go back to school in the next week and along with registration for school comes paperwork…lots of paperwork.
Dance schools are no exception. In fact, among all the studio owners I have spoken with this year (and there have been hundreds), not a single one allows students to participate without signed registration forms.
And, yet for as many who are diligent with student paperwork, there are half as many who take the same care to create a dance teacher contract before class is in session.
If you have other people teaching for you, check out this list for 10 Tips for a Confident Dance Teacher Contract:
If you aren’t a big fan of math, you’re not alone. An article in Psychology Today explained that almost 80 percent of college students described math as a skill they felt they couldn’t figure out. Even if math isn’t your thing, there are going to be quite a few instances where you need to crunch numbers as a dance studio owner. Yes, your calculator can help, but it’s important to understand the basic formulas and processes behind some standard small business profit calculations. Here’s some must-have math that studio owners need to know.
Calculating Gross Profit
Here’s that illustrious word that all studio owners hope for but many fail to achieve: profit. If you’re going to run a business and keep your doors open, you’ll need to know how to calculate gross profit, or the money you’ve earned from selling a service. The seemingly simple equation for gross profit is sales minus cost of services sold.
For studio owners, profit calculations are usually quite simple. Your revenue for a given season – or the money you collected from students – is your sales, and then you subtract any variable costs. Since you’re selling a service instead of a product, your variable costs will likely only include the salaries of hourly teachers, materials used in class and other expenses that incur as a direct result of holding class. Leave any fixed costs – such as full-time employee salaries, rent or mortgage payments, insurance, marketing costs or office expenses – out of this calculation.
So for example, if you charge $500 per student, and you teach 20 students this season, your revenue will be $10,000. If you spend $4,000 on variable costs, your gross profit would be $6,000.
Finding Your Gross Profit Margin
The next step in the important financial calculation is to figure out your gross profit margin, which is your gross profit expressed as a percentage of your revenue. Don’t worry – it sounds harder than it is!
To calculate gross profit margin, simply divide your gross profit by your sales, and then multiply by 100. Following the example above, $6,000 divided by $10,000 is 0.6. Multiple this by 100, and you get your gross profit margin of 60 percent.
Using Gross Profit and Gross Profit Margin
You may think that you’re in the clear if your gross profit increases year after year, but this isn’t always the case. Your gross profit margin is actually a better indicator of how efficiently your business is performing. If you notice that your gross profits are increasing but your margins are on the decline, this indicates that your spending is outpacing your revenue growth. Be wary of this trend! If your costs grow too fast, you could be heading for financial trouble.
Crunching Net Income Numbers
As you may have gathered, gross profit isn’t equivalent to the amount of money your studio is left with at the end of the year. You still need to take into account those fixed costs that remain stable from month to month. According to Entrepreneur magazine, these expenses include:
Wages of full-time workers
Once you’ve added up all these fixed costs, you’re ready to find net income. Subtract this number from the gross profit you’ve calculated. So if your fixed costs are $5,000 and your gross profits were $6,000, your net income would be $1,000. This may not seem like a lot of money, but it’s always a good thing when your business has a net gain at the end of the year. If your net profit turns out to be a negative number, this means you’ve sustained a net loss, and you’ll need to find a way to lower your costs or increase your revenue.
Check back soon for more math-related tips that are key for studio owners!
You probably have a system for planning classes for dance season. Maybe you have some tried-and-true methods that you’ll be repeating or perhaps you’re going to revamp your class structure to better your studio. Either way, you should make a point to create class syllabi for the different courses you’ll be offering in the coming season. Here are some of the benefits that studio owners can reap from a structured dance class syllabus and a few pointers for drafting these documents.
Benefits of an Established Syllabus
A carefully crafted syllabus can benefit not only the teachers, but the students as well. When you take the time to create these documents for your classes, you can ensure that everyone will have a better experience at your studio.
The perks for instructors include:
Syllabi help teachers prepare for classes.
The document helps teachers keep the course on track throughout the year.
Syllabi serve as a reminder of the skills teachers need to cover.
It helps staff enforce studio policies.
It clearly establishes behavioral expectations for students.
According to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the benefits of syllabi for students include:
The document can help students establish educational plans. In this case, it helps them to plan their growth as dancers.
It provides essential information, such as contact details, class times, rehearsal schedules and the like.
A syllabus serves as a remind of studio policies on behavior, dress code, attendance and more.
It informs students of what they’ll be learning, when they’ll be learning it and what they need to do to succeed in the class.
What to Include in a Syllabus
When you first sit down to create a syllabus, you may be tempted to simply jot down all your thoughts and goals for the class. This is a good way to get your thoughts down on paper, but you’ll want to create a document with a little more structure.
Start by writing the static parts of your syllabus – these sections will likely remain unchanged between courses and seasons. If you have a studio contract, you may even want to simply copy and paste the sections about classroom behavior, attendance, proper attire and other studio rules.
Next, you’ll want to create sections like:
Instructor info: Note who will be teaching the class and his or her contact information.
Class description: A general description of the course, genre and skill level.
Course goals: List the skills and techniques that students will ideally master over the course of the season.
Class timeline: Lay out the major events and lesson plans that will take place in the class. Include the topic for each class, as well as dates for performances and dress rehearsals if you know them.
Once you have these sections written, you may want to have the instructor look over the document and make changes or suggestions. This will ensure that the syllabus is a team effort and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the class.
Don’t Forget to Revisit Old Syllabi
If you have syllabi that you’ve been using for years, it’s a good idea to revise them each season. After all, there are likely things that your studio could be doing better and you’ll want to reflect those changes in the document.
“We constantly reassess what we are doing, but it’s the team effort that makes it successful,” Peter Stark, dance department chair at the Patel Conservatory, explained to Dance Teacher magazine. “Star students come and go, star teachers come and go, but a methodology can maintain through that.”
Once you’ve written, revised and reviewed your syllabi, you’ll be ready to distribute them to the students, post them on your website and jump on into the new season of dance.
What makes a dance teacher great? Yes, knowledge of the art form and technical ability are important, but what sets the dancers apart from the teachers? Here are a few qualities that you may want to look for when you’re hiring dance teachers.
As is important in many other careers, passion is a necessary quality in a superior dance instructor. Not only will love of dance make even the toughest classes enjoyable, but a teacher with continually positive energy will pass that same joy on to young students.
Another important characteristic is flexibility. Dance teachers need to be able to go with the flow, and this is something that poses a struggle for some professional dancers. You never know when a lesson is going to fall flat with students or when a class will be particularly rowdy. A great teacher will adjust on the fly and make the most of each class, even when things don’t go according to plan.
Great dance teachers are often set apart from mediocre instructors by their dedication to the job at hand. Teachers who aren’t fully committed to explaining the necessary skills and molding young dancers often let little things slide in the studio. Maybe they aren’t willing to help out at dress rehearsal or won’t commit to extra hours with a struggling student. The once-in-a-lifetime teachers are the ones who are willing and ready to go the extra mile in the name of teaching.
Patience is a necessary virtue for all types of teachers. There will more than likely be difficult days with challenging students, and an awesome teacher will overcome these obstacles without losing her cool. Patience is doubly important for instructors who will be working with young or inexperienced dancers, as these students sometimes need a little extra time to grasp concepts.
Even great dancers with natural teaching ability will benefit from training geared specifically for dance education (as opposed to performance). While there are college programs in dance education, there are also other opportunities for instructors to hone their skills, like the teacher training schools offered by Dance Masters of America or Dance Educators of America. While there may be some positions, like assistant teachers, that may not necessitate a certification, requiring your teachers to have some more advanced credentials will greatly increase the quality and safety of instruction provided by your studio.
Finally, a truly top-notch teacher is one that you can count on to handle parents and students with the utmost grace and professionalism. When you have a great teacher on your staff, you won’t worry about him or her sullying the studio’s reputation by acting inappropriately.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to include additional information on dance education programs.
What would your studio be without your awesome dance instructors? They’re the ones working with students, helping put together recital pieces and fending parent questions. In many dance schools, instructors are an integral part of the business.
However, being a dance teacher isn’t all tutus and glitter. There are times when your instructors will be stressed and frustrated, and it’s in your best interest to help alleviate some of their problems to make their lives a little easier. Here are five common problems that studio owners can solve for the sake of their teachers.
1. Set Clear Studio Policies
You may not realize it, but if your studio has lax or unclear policies, it can end up affecting your teachers. On a Dance.net forum, a few instructors explained that when their studios do a poor job of communicating with parents, setting up dress codes or explaining expected class behaviors, it makes their lives a lot harder.
Setting up set policies for your school is a quick fix to this issues, and it not only will benefit your teachers, but it will likely help out you and your business as a whole.
2. Enforce Pickup and Dropoff Times
Your teachers likely love their charges, but that doesn’t mean they want to hang out with students for 20 minutes after class ends. Instructors have lives too, and many times, they’ll have places they need to be. It’s your job as the studio owner to enforce your pickup and dropoff times so that no one has to be babysitting after class is over.
3. Be a Parent Buffer
Mama drama is inevitable sometimes, and you should be there to help your instructors deal with unhappy parents. Establish clear guidelines for parent complaints and make sure you’re involved in the resolution process. It will take a whole lot of stress off the shoulders of your teachers.
4. Limit Parent Observation
Parents love to watch their little dancers perform, but it’s often distracting for the class and the instructor. Find a way to minimize distractions that come along with parent observation, whether it’s by setting up limited class time when parents can watch or installing a one-way mirror or TV monitoring system.
5.Offer Compensation for Any Extras
There may be times when you really need a teacher to stay after hours with a student or to help set up for a recital. However, it’s important that you realize what tasks aren’t in the usual scope of a dance instructor’s job description and offer additional compensation if necessary.
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.
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.”