Dance studio owners must fill many roles to keep their classes running. It can be very rewarding to build a career out of dance and to have the opportunity to foster a love for the art in a new generation of dancers. However, studios are businesses, and running a business requires payment from clients in the form of dance tuition and other fees.
Discussing finances can be an uncomfortable topic, even for seasoned business owners. However, in order to keep a dance studio running, owners need to be able to collect dance tuition on time from their students. When those payments aren’t coming through when they’re supposed to, studio owners will have to have conversations with their students or with parents to rectify the situation.
Fortunately, there are steps that dance studio owners can take early on to mitigate some of these conversations and problems related to late payments. With the right planning and communication, studio owners can create a system that works for everyone involved.
State Expectations Early
One of the most important things for any business owners to do before providing a service is make their expectations known from the start. Studios should have their prices and policy information clearly visible on their websites. When students enquire about classes or programs they should be given an information packet that has a clear, direct section dedicated to dance tuition payments.
While that should be more than enough to help keep students informed, the fact of the matter is that some people simply won’t read those kind of documents carefully. They’ll skim the parts that appeal to their interests and miss what they really need to know.
That’s why owners will need to verbally reiterate the structure to people as they sign up, and possibly even make a quick reminder announcement on the first day of class about payments or any other key policies that they don’t want anyone to miss. Remind students of where they can find this information so they can look back to it when they need to.
Dance tuition information should also be emphasized in class contracts. Use a bold emphasis for the numbers and make sure that the client signs all the right paperwork. If you want, you can even go a step further and ask that they specifically initial next to the payment due date information. If you say it enough and put it in writing your clients won’t be able to use “I didn’t know” as an excuse to try and shirk their responsibilities.
Give People Payment Options
Providing payment options for your students can encourage them to pay on time. Many times people who pay late aren’t trying to do anything malicious but are simply busy and lose track of the date easily. By making it as convenient as possible for people to pay, you can avoid the well-meaning “Oh, I meant to do that!” from your students and their parents.
An easy way to do this is to accept different methods of payment. Invest in mobile payment technology, which can let you accept credit card payments at the studio. According to a Bankrate survey, 9 percent of Americans report that they don’t carry cash on a regular basis. An additional 40 percent don’t carry more than $20 in paper money.
Besides credit cards, while checks are decreasing in usage, you should still accept them. Most banks will allow you to deposit a check right through your smart phone, so it doesn’t need to be an inconvenience for you.
Give People Timelines
Another way to provide options is to give people a choice of how much they pay and when. You could reward people who pay for a full year’s worth of classes upfront by offering a small discount for a lump sum payment instead of paying month to month, or even for paying six or three months in advance. This could benefit you in a few ways.
For one thing, it can help stop those forgetful payers. They can write one check and not have to think about it again. It will also give you some extra cushioning in case several students stop paying on time during the year. Having that safety net from early payers can help keep late payments from doing any damage to your business while you work to collect from them. They may need that little incentive to do so, though, so small discounts that won’t break your bank can help incentivize them.
You can also use websites that will allow people to automate their payments. Some of these programs will send out due date alerts on your behalf, or you can also choose to send an email to all of your students yourself.
How to Collect Dance Tuition When They’re Late
It can be awkward to confront late payers, because sometimes people just can’t afford it. If a student starts the year with a good job and then suddenly gets her hours cut, she may find herself suddenly unable to hold to her agreements on time.
There are a few ways to handle people in those circumstances. If you’re willing to be lenient and allow students to continue classes even if their economic position changes, you should write that into your payment policy. If they know they can come to you and explain why they may be late with some of their payments you can deal with the situation early and not have to chase them down or guess why their payments have stopped.
You should decide before a session starts what the qualifications are for being allowed to pay late without penalty or before they need to suspend their involvement with the program. If you have to enforce either of those consequences, it will be easier and less awkward if you can point to a standing policy that’s been written out, Inc.com noted.
For students who can pay and just can’t seem to stay organized, you may want to implement a short grace period and then a late fee. Remind people with another written message that a fee is coming if they don’t pay, and then enforce it if they still don’t. People who can pay but routinely refuse to should have their access to school resources limited until they either start paying, or at least offer a viable reason for their lateness.
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.
Recital season is an exciting time, but it can also be a cause of worry for parents. Recitals are typically, frenzied and fast-paced experiences, and parents may be a little weary of dropping their child in a chaotic situation. Here are some smart event safety tips to keep in mind this recital season:
Pack an Event Safety First Aid Kit
In addition to having a bag full of extra performance essentials, like bobby pins, hair spray and a spare pair of tights, you should also safety items, like Band-aids, Neosporin and wet wipes. Make sure you have a comprehensive first-aid kit on hand at the recital venue, too.
Make Sure Emergency Contact Info Is Up to Date
Emergency contact info is often a line parents quickly fill out without a second thought, but in the worst case that there ever is an actual emergency, this information will need to be up-to-date. In the weeks leading up to the recital, verify parent or guardian contact info and make sure it’s stored somewhere that’s easily and quickly accessible.
Do a Risk Assessment of the Venue
While you already have an overflowing to-do list to prepare for the recital, you must make time to do a risk assessment of the venue, noted the resource Safe Dance Practice. Tour the venue and note fire exits. You should also familiarize yourself with the venue’s emergency procedures, and alter them to fit the recital set-up if necessary. Record this information and make sure to share it with dancers, parents and all volunteers and studio staff members prior to the event.
Practice Safe Drop-off and Pick-Up Procedures
The nerves are flying before the curtain rises, but some of the most stressful times of a recital are when parents are dropping off and picking up their dancers. When you have a dizzying swarm of dancers coming and going or when you’re distracted by a million things all at once, it can be easy to lose sight of a dancer or not notice who came to get them.
There is software that you can purchase for checking in dancers, if you feel that it would help you organize the process better. Capterra noted that many check-in systems allow multiple ways to identify who is checking in, such as using the last name or phone number, or even a bar code. While software is not necessary, and may be beyond your resources, make sure you get the full name and contact info of the person who is checking in the dancer.
Think about what the best option is for check-out, too. You can have parents come directly to the dressing room during intermission or at the end of the show, or you can have a separate table staffed with volunteers to take the info of the family members picking up. Whatever you choose, make sure you fully brief the parents, dancers and volunteers on the event safety procedures.
On stage during a recital, audiences see the result of months of hard work. They watch in awe as your students dance gracefully and perfectly hit their choreography – hopefully. But what they don’t see is all the choreographed backstage management going on behind the scenes.
As any dance teacher knows, managing your dancers backstage can be rather stressful. With nervous kids – and teachers – costume mishaps and other various issues, keeping kids in line and focused can be a real headache.
Follow these tips for better backstage management at your studio’s next recital.
1. Practice Quick Costume Changes Ahead of Time
With your dancers performing multiple routines for one recital, they’ll need to be pros at quickly changing in and out of their costumes, along with any makeup or hair alterations. In reality, though, this isn’t always the case. To help them become better at changing quickly, have them practice switching costumes at the studio.
“Our students have 90 seconds between classes to change their shoes and be ready for the next class,” said Brandon Rios, artistic director of Old Dominion Performance Arts Studio in Virginia, in an interview with Dance Studio Life. “If they can get in the habit of changing quickly at the studio, they will be able to do it come performance day.”
So grab a stopwatch and time your dancers in the weeks leading up to the recital – the extra effort is worth it to save you and your dancers stress come performance time.
2. Repeat After Me: Stay in Your Designated Area!
Young kids have trouble staying put in general – add pre-performance anxiety to the mix, and you’ve got yourself some antsy dancers. Your students might also want to wander off to the audience area to chat with friends, or sneak down to the vending machine for a snack. Big no-nos. It’s important that your dancers stay put backstage. As Dance Advantage noted, you have a lot to manage and keep track of during the performance, and students wandering off means that they might miss their entrances or interrupt someone else’s, along with being a safety issue. So, pre-performance, drill into your students’ heads: stay in place!
3. Assemble a Super Team
There’s way to much going backstage for only you to be in charge, so you need to assemble a super team. Gather volunteers or other teachers and assign specific roles to them for the most seamless operation.
Carol Zee, artistic director of The Gabriella Foundation, told dance Studio Life that she assigns the following jobs: stage manager, on-deck supervisor, quick-change supervisor, stage left headset, stage right headset and dressing room monitors.
Looking for more tips on creating a great day-of recital experience? Check out these articles from guest blogger Misty Lown:
It’s mid-April, right? If you own a dance studio, that’s not EXACTLY true. It may be the middle of April on your Google calendar, but if you are like me, your mind is somewhere closer to September.
Not convinced? Just take a look at your to-do list.
Finalize fall schedule
Find one more teacher for Tuesday nights.
Send out teacher contracts.
Take one final look at tuition changes.
Add policy for kids who skip rehearsal and still show up at competition. 🙂
A successful Back-to-School experience starts today. Are you ready?
Keep reading for 7 things that you can do today for a successful September and a successful dance studio registration campaign.
Review Tuition Structure
Call me nuts, but every year I make an excel spreadsheet of every student and every class that they take. This is a long and arduous process, but I do it to find find and fix the cracks that can emerge over time as pricing and programs fluctuate. For example, when I started this process three years ago I realized that our “Unlimited Dancer” program was no longer viable. Not even by a long shot. It worked eighteen years ago when we only offered eight classes for high school students. But, fast forward fifteen years and I found myself in a situation where families were paying for six classes under our Unlimited Dancer program and taking twenty. Our tuition structure had simply not kept pace with our program and it was not sustainable. We had to make some difficult decisions, but in the end we ended up with a program/price structure that was fair to the students and to the studio.
Evaluate Your Teachers
There is no busier time of year for studio owners than spring. Between the daily demands of preparing for the year-end recital and the planning required to get fall classes ready there is hardly time to breathe. Even so, you must slow down enough to get into your teacher’s classrooms. Are their kids prepared to for the big show? Do they look confident, calm and happy? A positive recital experience for current students means more returning students. This is also a chance for you to make adjustments to what your faculty will be teaching in the fall. You might find, as I did, that you have a teacher on older level classes who is actually strong with the little ones, and then make a change to what they are teaching for the fall.
“Parse” Your Programs
Parse means “to analyze a sentence,” but I think it is a pretty good description of the way we have to break down our programs into details so that we can make good decisions about what stays and what goes. Do you know which of your programs were profitable? Maybe ballet is selling well for you, but musical theater has fallen out of favor. What about individual classes and levels? Are you busting at the seams in pre-school classes and pretty slim in the advanced classes. If so, combo up some of those older level classes to make room for younger ones.
Plan for Partnerships
The organizations we want to partner with in town are also planning for fall at this time. I know it’s important to get on their calendars now if we want to be able to work together come fall, so I am spending April making calls to the mall, daycares, preschools, the Children’s Museum, the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and Big Brother’s Big Sisters, to name a few. We want to be aligned with the other organizations that do good things for kids in our community.
Your Personal Schedule
I remember one time years ago when I was complaining about how hard my schedule was to keep up. I was telling my husband about the long days I was teaching and the piles of book work in between. He responded, “Don’t you know the person who made that schedule?” Point made! I’ve long since learned to make sure that my decisions on a schedule that I will have to keep for an entire year will not have a negative impact on family life.
Build a Budget
I often joke that I became a dance teacher because I don’t do math beyond 5-6-7-8. I’m kidding, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m skilled at accounting. When it comes to having my hands on the numbers for fall, I’m going to be spending time with my accountant now. An accountant can bring a valuable perspective by looking at the big picture of your finances and helping you make wise decisions for the future.
Press and Promotions
Plan now an action-packed open house to kick off your fall semester of classes. A really great event could mean an opportunity for you to share your studio story with the press, which could translate into greater enrollment later. Think of your ideal media placement (radio, newspaper, TV) and then design an event to get their attention.
Looking for more inspiration? Sign up for the Misty Minute for weekly ideas to transform your studio and your life.
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
Editor’s Note: Check out the results of our most recent annual dance studio management software survey here.
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 here.
A dance studio is a large, open space suitable for a variety of activities, so why not get the most out of it? Dance studio rental is a fantastic way to maximize revenue. But don’t hand over the keys just yet – read our guide below to get started.
Why Rent out Your Studio?
Renting out your dance studio is a great way to generate extra income, especially during the slower summer months. Once you secure trustworthy renters, the effort on your end is minimal – you make money simply from letting someone use your space. Renting is especially helpful if you need to travel to attend a conference, perform in a show or even just take that well-earned vacation you’ve been putting off for years – with other people using your space, you can rest easy knowing that the power won’t be shut off at your studio while you’re away.
Dance studio rental also generates additional income by exposing your classes and services to new clients. Everyone that attends events held by renters at your studio will see firsthand the programs you offer and the space’s atmosphere, which can lead to new students. This type of exposure can sometimes be more effective than traditional marketing methods.
Who Can You Rent To?
The versatile design of a dance studio makes it a great fit for a wide range of activities. You can rent out the space for children’s birthday parties, and, if you have the resources, parents can hire one of your instructors to lead the party. The wood floors, high ceilings, sound systems and mirrored walls make dance studios a great fit for hosting fitness classes, like pilates and yoga.
If there’s a gym located near your studio, ask if they need extra space to hold their classes. Community groups and children’s scout troops are always looking for open spaces where they can hold events and meetings, too, along with local small businesses searching for an open space for team-building activities, retreats and training seminars.
Another creative way you can rent out your studio is by using it as a theater. Hanging black curtains on rods, adding seat risers and installing a few extra lights on the ceiling can transform a practice space into one fitting for performance. Dance Studio Life interviewed one studio owner who made an area of her studio workable as both a teaching space and a theater on a budget.
“You don’t have to have a large pocketbook to do the things you want to do. You just have to have a mission and share it—if you build it, they will come,” said Jonna Maule of Company Ballet School and Performing Arts Center in Spokane, Washington, in an interview with the site.
Once you’ve equipped your space with the basic theater equipment, you can rent it out to local performance groups, schools, dance troupes and bands. An added bonus is that your dancers now have a performance space in their studio, too.
“Successful renting depends on preparation and research.”
Liabilities to Consider
Successful and profitable renting depends on adequate preparation and research. Your first step should be to check whether your lease agreement for your facility allows you to rent out the space to other people, according to Dance Teacher magazine.
Safety is also another important consideration. Read up on your existing insurance policies and what they cover for outside renters and create a rental agreement outlining the risks the renter is responsible for that you can share with each client. It’s also necessary for the renter to have their own liability insurance so that you are not held responsible if they injure themselves during their classes or events.
Building a dance studio from the ground up is an exciting endeavor, but it’s also an intimidating one. There’s a lot involved in transforming an empty lot into a gleaming dance studio. It’s important to spend time researching all the steps involved in the process so there are as few surprises along the way as possible. Failing to consider certain requirements or design standards can cause problems later down the road, and adding on components after your studio is already built is complicated, costly and time-consuming.
So, make sure to head into the building process confident and informed. Here’s a quick guide to building a dance studio the right way.
Before you break ground on building a dance studio, you need to familiarize yourself with local zoning and construction regulations and any operating permits you’ll need to acquire. Zoning laws dictate that certain types of businesses can only be built in specific areas, for example, commercial properties cannot be located within a certain distance from residential neighborhoods. Zoning laws vary by community, so the U.S. Small Business Administration recommended contacting your local planning agency to figure out the property laws in your area.
Your dance studio will likely also need a series of permits and certifications, including a “CO,” which is a certificate of occupancy. To receive a CO, your building will need to pass building inspections and receive fire safety and health permits, and the Houston Chronicle noted that some areas require dance studios to pass additional measures. So, make sure the design plans of your studio are compliant with the health and safety standards of your state and community.
You’ve probably danced in a studio that was too dark, had a floor that was too stiff or ceilings that didn’t seem quite tall enough. For your students to dance their best, they need to be in a comfortable and open environment that’s designed with them in mind, so it’s important to make sure every aspect of your studio is optimally designed. Consider these main components of a dance studio:
For the most effective practice, a dance studio space should be designed to mirror a performance venue, which means a wide, rectangular area. It may seem creative or cost-effective to design a rounded space, but irregular shapes like these make it difficult for dancers to easily determine the front of the room. A large area allowing for uninhibited diagonal movement is vital.
Think about how many students your studio space will need to accommodate at one time, as well. The British National Dance Teachers Association recommended providing a minimum of three square meters of space for every young dancer of preschool or elementary school age and five square meters for every older dancer. Specifically, it advised dance spaces for children to be at least 150 square meters and adult spaces to be a minimum of 10 x 9 meters. And think about your ceiling, too – it should be tall enough for dancers to lift one another without worrying about smacking their heads on a beam!
The wrong type of floor has serious consequences for dancers, and can damage joints and muscles. It’s important to consider your bottom floor layer and top it with ample padding and support. Wooden, sprung floors are the ideal type for a dance studio. Cement floors are always avoided, however if you’re building your studio from the ground up, it’s hard to avoid using cement as at least the bottom layer of the floor. Consider building a wooden, sprung dance floor slightly above the ground to ensure dancers are fully supported. Harlequin Floors provides a comprehensive, in-depth flooring guide that is a great resource for those building their own studios.
No dance studio is complete without mirrors, which are essential for perfecting form and technique. They should be installed seamlessly, so one single smooth image is presented, and dancers should be able to see their feet on the ground when looking into them. You can install barres in front of some of the mirrors, but make sure you have one wall with mirrors that are completely unobstructed.
Don’t leave figuring out your lighting until after your studio is built. As NDTA noted, the cost of installing wiring and sockets is much more expensive later on – after the studio is finished – than it is at the beginning of the construction process. Overhead lighting should be soft and florescent and evenly spread out across the room. Windows can be great for letting in bright, natural light, but make sure they are positioned higher up on the walls so as not to be distracting to the dancers.
Other necessary components for building a dance studio include lobby and office areas, ventilation and climate-control systems, sound insulation and security systems.
“It’s well worth spending the time to vet the best contractor to build your studio.”
Choosing a Contractor
With all the other things you have on your plate, you may be tempted to just hire the first contractor that pops up in a Google search. But it’s well worth spending the time to find the best contractor to build your studio. Make sure to thoroughly check the credentials of any contractor you’re considering hiring. G2 Builders recommended calling at least three previous clients as references for each company, asking for a copy of their licenses and making sure their insurance is comprehensive and at minimum includes liability and workers compensation.
Building a dance studio is a big undertaking, but with some research, planning and preparation you can have the studio of your dreams. A successful dance studio requires a strong foundation, so make sure you keep in mind the considerations above to build your studio the right way.
A dance studio sound system is an essential – the success of your dancers depends in part on whether they can practice and perform to music with a high sound quality. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the technical jargon associated with sound systems and may not be using the best one for their studios. Don’t let feeling overwhelmed stop you from getting the best sound system for your money. Instead, read through this simple guide to finding the right sound system for your dance studio.
Studio sound systems should include a music player, speakers and at least one amplifier. The music travels from the player and is amplified through the speakers to effectively fill the room. When possible, you should select equipment that is specially designed to work with the unique characteristics of a dance studio, recommended Kenleigh Industries, a sound equipment provider.
Studios have tricky acoustics because of their many hard surfaces, so general sound equipment may not be effective. The number of speakers and amplifiers you need for your studio depends on its square footage and ceiling height and on your class size, since the presence of people also affects how sound travels. The bigger your classroom space, the higher your speaker and amplifier power should be, advised Kenleigh.
According to Fitness AV, 80 to 200 watts is generally enough power for small studios, while bigger studios will need more.
Choosing a Music Player
If your studio is still playing music off of vinyl records, then it’s probably time for an upgrade. Your two main music format options are CDs and MP3s. A CD player is easy to use and connect to speakers, and ones with built-in recording and editing features will enable you to put compilations together or adjust songs to better fit with choreography.
Using MP3 files for your music saves a lot of space, and they won’t skip when dancers jump around, noted the Royal Academy of Dance. The source recommended purchasing a dual CD player and MP3 system for the most flexibility. You can play MP3 files without a docking station by directly connecting the player to the speakers via an auxiliary cord, however, you’ll miss out on remote capabilities, recording and other convenient features that come with a specially designed player.
It’s important to give some thought to how you install and set up your dance studio sound system to get the most out of it. The Royal Academy of Dance provided the following guidelines:
“Hi-fi separates should be wall-mounted at the front of your studio around 1.5m [4.9 feet] off the ground, away from the fingers of young children. Speakers should be wall-mounted around 2.5 metres [8.2 feet] from the ground on the front wall, at least 1m [3.3 feet] from each of the side walls. Basic loudspeaker cable is adequate for dance studios – make sure you get enough to run from the amplifier to both of your speakers. PA equipment can be mounted in a 19″ rack which can be portable (with wheels if possible) or attached to a wall. Be aware that powerful PA amplifiers can be extremely heavy and will require substantial support if wall-mounted.”
Depending on your prowess with tools, it can be wise to hire an AV specialist team to ensure your equipment is safely and correctly installed.
In addition to your music player, amplifier and speakers, there are other equipment and features that may be beneficial for your studio. One is pitch control, also known as varispeed, that is included with some CD players. According to the Royal Academy of Dance, pitch control is useful because it allows you to slow down or speed up songs.
However, the source noted that it may double or triple the cost of your music player. Another piece of equipment you might want to purchase is a wireless microphone so you can give instructions to the class over music without being restricted by cords. If you opt for a microphone, Kenleigh noted that you should also purchase a simple mixer, since it allows you to talk through the microphone while music is playing.
Additionally, it’s worth considering whether you want active speakers or passive speakers, according to the Royal Academy of Dance. Active speakers have built-in amplifiers, which make them heavier than passive speakers, so choose passive ones if you need your dance studio sound system to be easily transportable.
While music players are relatively inexpensive, amplifiers and speakers tend to come with a heftier price tag. However, consider amps and loudspeakers an investment. The Royal Academy of Dance stated that these two types of equipment “will often work perfectly well for 10 years or more if they’re not pushed beyond their limitations.”
While you’ll likely come across “integrated sound systems” in your search – music players, amplifiers and speakers that are sold together as a package – it’s more cost-effective to by the components individually, according to Fitness AV. This way, you can buy each piece of equipment and any add-ons over time, according to your budget, and can easily update or expand your dance studio sound system as your studio size or resources grow.
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.
You’ve jumped and soared to incredible heights throughout your dance career, but now it’s time to make your biggest leap yet. With a love of dance and a passion for sharing it with others, you’ve decided to open your own brand new studio.
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this article, TutuTix has created an even more in-depth resource for studio owners looking to take their studios to the next level. It even includes an example business plan for a new dance studio!
Starting a dance studio involves considering a wide variety of categories that concern everything from advertising methods to payment processing systems. It’s a lot to think about, but following a checklist will help make the process a little less stressful. We’ve outlined the major categories involved in how to start a dance studio, and the smaller tasks that they encompass:
Of course, after passion and determination, the most important thing you need to open a dance studio is money! While you can’t predict every expense, try to prevent surprises.
Hiring a financial advisor is a smart move to make sure that you have sufficient savings to not only start your dance studio but continue operating it for the long-term. An advisor can also help you determine if you need to take out loans to help finance your business.
The first category you need to consider when starting a dance studio is location. You need to reconcile your studio’s ideal location with the facility size and layout that best suits your needs.
A studio located in a populated, busy area that’s visible to passing traffic will get you noticed the most and draw in more customers. The location should also be in a neighborhood that’s safe for children. Research the demographics of the area and how many other dance studios are located in the proximity.
When looking at building layout, consider how many rooms you want the studio to have and the number of office spaces, storage rooms and bathrooms needed. Make sure the lobby and reception area is spacious enough to be comfortable.
Your studio will also need to have more than enough parking spots to accommodate not only the daily class load but the added influx of parents and students during performances and other special events.
A strong, well-developed brand communicates who you are and what you have to offer to clients. Branding involves a range of duties, including choosing the decor of the studio, deciding on a name and creating a unique logo and sign.
You should create a business plan early on, and in this plan outline your mission statement, values and goals. Think about what makes you and your teaching style unique and valuable to students. Make sure you dedicate ample resources to advertising, because you will have to rely on it as a new and unknown studio.
Create business cards, brochures, a company website and advertising campaigns on social media sites. Contact local schools and community groups to investigate opportunities for partnerships and collaboration, and see if you can participate set up a table at at town events like festivals and parades. Hold an open house day, and consider offering incentives for signing up for classes on the day, like studio-branded dance gear or a discounted tuition rate.
A strong brand helps customers recognize the value of your services, so don’t skimp on getting your name out there.
Starting any kind of business is a confusing and taxing process that gets even more complicated when you add in all the legal mumbo jumbo. Consider hiring a lawyer to help you deal with these complexities.
A lawyer can read over and advise you on the lease of your building, and can help you make sure that you register your business correctly. Take out an insurance policy and draw up waivers and other necessary forms to help protect and support your studio.
Enlist the help of other legal and business professionals to ensure that your studio complies with all health, safety and environmental standards and that you possess all necessary permits and music licenses.
Order and install the big pieces of your studio, like padded or marley floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and barres. Buy a sound system for the studio, and sound-proof each studio room as much as you can to cut down on excess noise and distraction.
Is there sufficient lighting in classrooms, throughout the building and in parking lots? Beyond dance equipment, you also need the basic equipment required for running a business, like a computer system, studio-management software and payment processing system.
In order to accept credit card payments, you’ll have to register merchant accounts with the major providers. Install locks and a security system in the studio to help ensure it is safe and protected. You’ll need to maintain your studio, too, so set up regular shipments of cleaning supplies and restroom products. And don’t forget WiFi!
“Establish your studio policies early on.”
Think about all the things that will be necessary for you to successfully run your new studio. Establish your studio policies early on, including tuition rates and attendance and discipline rules.
Create your schedule, deciding when the registration period for classes will be, how many and which types of classes you will offer each week and when and where performances will be held throughout the year. Create a document including your policies and calendar and make copies.
Determine how many instructors and staff you will need to cover all your classes and what experience and skills you require, and hire those that are a good fit with the culture and attitude of your studio.
For more in-depth information on starting a dance studio, take a look at our Studio Start-Up blog category, or choose from any of the articles below:
Clear and concise dance registration forms make things easier for both dance parents and studio owners. Before drawing up a form or downloading a template off of the Internet, it’s important to give a little consideration to what will be included. Well-designed dance registration forms that contains only the most pertinent information will make it a snap for parents to register their children and for studio owners to organize and reference student information.
Paper or Online?
A primary consideration when designing a dance studio registration form is whether it will be in print, online or both. A paper form makes it easy for parents to sign their children up for classes on the spot, and can be handed out when owners are away from the studio, for example when running a table at a fair or after a performance. Additionally, a physical form makes sure that those without Internet access can still sign up for classes.
However, an online form provides convenience and accessibility from almost anywhere, especially as more and more people own smartphones and conduct their business online. Parents are already using their phones to take care of everyday tasks, like booking medical appointments and paying bills. A study by the Federal Reserve found that 52 percent of smartphone owners have used mobile banking in the last year, and research by Accenture estimated that two-thirds of patients will book their medical appointments online by the end of 2019.
By adapting to these digital habits, studio owners make registering for classes as easy as possible for parents. One studio owner started online registration through her studio’s website and offered a limited-time offer of 50 percent off the registration fee for parents that registered online, and saw great results. Another owner advertised online registration on her website and then received 80 registrations in addition to the 120 she got through her open house. Handling registration online also gives studio owners the extra benefit of being able to post registration reminders on Facebook and via email. Creating an online form is easy and cheap, since no printer is required! There are several easy and free ways to create online registration forms, like Google Forms and Wufoo.
Depending on a studio’s clientele and website budget, providing both paper forms and online registration may be the best option.
Sections to Include
The first section of your dance registration forms should be the student’s information, including his/her name, date of birth, home address and home telephone number. Then include the contact information of her parents, including the parents’ names, email addresses, cell phone numbers and emergency contact information. A line that asks parents to note whether they would prefer to communicate via email or phone is also helpful. Beneath the contact information, ask parents to list whether their children have any allergies or other medical concerns.
The next section should cover legal issues and policy acceptance. These affirm that the parent and student understand the rules of the studio, the risks associated with dance and their responsibilities for attendance and payment. DanceStudioOwner.com provides a sample legal agreement:
I understand that dance classes may include, without limitation, dancing with props, stretching, barre work, across the floor combinations, dance routines in the center, and other related activities. I further understand that all of the activities of the dance class involve some degree of risk of strain or bodily injury. XYZ Dance Studio is not responsible for personal property.
I have received the student handbook and agree to adhere to all the content stated therein including: Studio Policies,Tuition & Payment Information, Dress Code, Traffic Pattern, Visitor Weeks and Calendar
I agree to be responsible for reading studio correspondence and respecting deadlines, if applicable.
I hereby acknowledge that I have read the statements above and agree to participate accordingly.
Next, include a section for listing which classes the student is signing up for. One way to do this is by creating a table with columns for the class name, scheduled date/time and tuition. Beneath the table, include a line for the registration fee and any additional expenses, like a recital fee or costume fee, followed by a line for the total balance due.
Some studio owners attach their class schedule and a condensed version of their policies to the dance registration forms so parents can easily reference them. Try to keep the whole document to as few pages as possible, though, since handing parents a stack of papers – or forcing them to click “Next Page” 50 times online – will only overwhelm them!
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.
Have a clear definition of what winning looks like on your teaching team. At my studio every studio knows that we have five firm expectations of teachers:
Have an organized and well-disciplined classroom.
Cover the entire curriculum by the end of the year.
Follow dress code for yourself and students.
Have a well-rehearsed, age-appropriate dance for recital.
Continue to learn and grow as a dancer yourself.
These clear expectations become the basis of our Mid-Season Teacher Review.
Keep it simple. In each of these areas we ask teachers, “Where are you winning? Where are you striking out? What ideas do you have to make it better?”
Listen before offering advice. Start by asking the teacher these questions before you give any feedback. Only after they have had a chance to give their feedback, do we give our feedback as leaders.
Ditch the papers. Have a conversation. In my early years of studio ownership, I tried to develop an elaborate scoring system for classroom performance. I hated sitting there grading teachers and I don’t think they liked it much either. I have found it is much more effective to have a clear definition of what it looks like to be a great teacher at our studio and then to have a conversation with teachers about how they are doing upholding those standards. These conversations focus on the positive and on finding solutions for problems. The mark of a good review is when both people leave feeling equipped to better do their jobs.
Follow up. Does your teacher need support in a particular area to succeed with a difficult class or a challenging situation? Follow up with the coaching, resources or tools your teachers need to succeed.
Our main job as leaders is to equip the people we lead for success. A Mid-Season Review goes a long way towards making that possible!
For the second year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our most recent dance studio management software 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.
You can see the results of the dance studio management survey here!