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.
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.
Because we deal with a lot of dance studios, we try to stay in tune with ways we can help them out in their day to day operations. Recently, we’ve noticed a recurring theme among our dance studio owner friends: questions about dance studio management software.
Should they use it? Which one is the best? How expensive is it?
Dance Studio Management Software Survey Highlights
Working with several studio owners and dance industry experts, we created a survey to help answer these questions and more. The survey was deployed in late 2014, and garnered over 600 complete, verified responses. Here are some of the key things we learned:
About two thirds (67%) of dance studios use studio management software.
Features rule. 35% of respondents say that they chose their particular software based on a feature set that met their needs. Also important: inexpensiveness (17%), ease of operation (16%), and recommendation of others (16%).
The three most important features of studio management software are billing and payment processing, class management, and email or text communication. The three features ranked least important were staff scheduling, website maintenance, and staff time clock.
Jackrabbit Dance is dominant, with 28% of the respondents indicating that they used it. Other popular software providers were Studio Director (18%), and Dance Works (14%).
Studio owner operators are generally satisfied with their studio management software, with 76% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied.” ClassJuggler, DanceStudio-Pro, Studio Director, and Jackrabbit Dance ranked the highest in satisfaction.
Read the In-Depth Report on Survey Results
To see the full summary of the survey results, please enter your email below.
As a small business owner, you’re probably going to be a little more flexible about payments than a big business would be. Sometimes it’s necessary to give parents extra time to get their ducks in a row, and that’s understandable. However, it can hurt your studio if you have too many past-due accounts and let them hang in limbo. Here’s a few tips for dance studios on how to handle parents who are behind on payments without losing their business.
Have Policies in Writing
One of the best tips for dance studios to prevent past-due payments from becoming a problem is to clearly detail your policies. Dance Studio Profit recommended having your studio policies printed on invoices and available on your website. This way parents won’t have the excuse that they didn’t know your rules. It’s also good to keep your policies relatively straightforward. Detail what will happen after 30 days, 60 days and so on. Set penalties for standard time periods so people aren’t caught off guard.
Be Open to Compromise
Chances are that you’ve built strong relationships with many of the parents at you studio, and that can make bill collections difficult and even awkward at times. However, at the end of the day, you are running a business, and collecting payments is a necessary part of the job. If you notice that a parent is struggling with payments, take time to sit down and discuss the problem. When you talk about the problem in private, you may be able to come to a compromise, like some sort of payment plan. This way you’ll avoid awkward confrontations down the line and keep your customers happy.
Give Fair Warnings
While you’ll want to establish a final cut-off date for past-due accounts, don’t let it sneak up on parents. There might very well be individuals who intend to pay, but keep forgetting. It’s best to give gentle reminders, either in person or in writing, that a payment deadline is coming up. Let parents know ahead of time if they’re going to accrue extra fines or if their child won’t be allowed to participate in class. It’s a small action that can go a long way toward getting past-due parents to settle their balances and keep your customers happy with your business.
As a studio owner, you probably relish your free time in the summer. However, you’ll want to be ready for back to dance season before the air cools and kids head back to school. Make sure you incorporate these six steps into your pre-season checklist, because before you know it your dancers will be back!
The offseason is the best time to attend to the peeling paint and dusty corners in your studio. The Dance Buzz recommended refinishing your floors, cleaning out messy rooms and upgrading your waiting room while you have an empty studio. You can also use this time to spruce up your landscaping, clean windows and mirrors, scrub down changing rooms and plan any construction that may need to be done. It’s also a great opportunity to make space for new trophies you’ve earned. Don’t put these tasks off until the season starts, or you’ll be setting yourself up for a headache.
2. Revise paperwork
You’ll want to review and rework your paperwork before classes start up again. This includes applications, schedules, billing forms, liability waivers and general contracts. Some forms may just require a few simple date changes, but it’s important to double-check all your paperwork for policies or contact info that may have changed. If you alter any legal documents, have them double-checked by an expert. You probably don’t keep up with local legislation, but a lawyer will know if any new laws affect your practice.
3. Meet with staff
The Dance Exec explained that you should make a point to meet with all your instructors before each new season. You can choose to meet with them individually or as a group. Either way, it will give them a chance to discuss any problems or concerns they might have and brainstorm solutions together. You should also go over any new policies, talk about your goals for the year and reiterate how much you appreciate their hard work. Keeping your staff included in the business will ensure that they are dedicated to their work and aligned with your goals.
4. Reorganize and redecorate
If your filing cabinets are a mess and the curtains are faded, take the time to reorganize your office and spruce up the studio. Evaluate what aspects of your file storage system are working and what could be improved. It’s a lot easier to establish a new system in the offseason than trying to implement one between classes. You should also evaluate whether your studio is aesthetically appealing. A bright and happy dance space will make a good first impression on potential students, and summer is the best time to repaint the walls and design a new sign.
5. Strategize your marketing
If you’re looking to expand your class offerings or raise your prices this season, plan ahead with your marketing efforts. Dance Informa recommended having your graphics and advertisements designed in advance. Make a calendar of which publications you’ll be sending ads to and when each one is due. Clear a special spot for it on your cork board so you won’t be scrambling to meet deadlines.
6. Book performance space
Finally, use your free time to book performance space for next season’s recitals. This way you can include the dates and times of each performance on schedules for parents. It’s just one more hassle that you can get out of the way early. Plus when you book a theater far in advance, you’ll get the best dates and times.