Almost every dance studio owner has dealt with some problem parents at one point or another. Sometimes you might not see them coming, other times you can tell they’ll be difficult from a mile away. However it occurs, one bad apple tends to spoil the rest. You don’t want to let one parent turn all of the other parents against you, or encourage them to engage in the drama. So what is a dance studio owner to do? Consider these four tips on how to deal with troublesome dance parents and how to avoid welcoming them back for another year.
1. Have Legitimate Reasons
It is important for dance studio owners to have a contract that lays out the studio policies as well as the consequences for breaking those rules. All parents, and children if they’re of age, should sign this contract before enrolling. If a parent violates one of these rules, studio owners should document the incident and notify the parent.* Refer to your list of studio policies that the parent agreed to upon enrolling in your studio.
Most studio rules don’t welcome aggressive or negative behavior, regardless of whether it comes from the student or parent. It’s also important not to bring other dance parents into the mix. While they may agree with you, you don’t want to start drama between dance parents. However, it is OK to corroborate your opinion with other studio staff members to help support your stance.
2. Deal With Problems in a Timely Manner
Sometimes parents will cause a scene during the dance year, forget about it over the following summer, and assume they can come back and have a fresh start. However, you and other parents may not have forgotten about that incident. While you might be surprised by their attempts at re-entry, it does happen.
If studio owners don’t handle bad behavior right away, it could have unexpected consequences—other parents may be dismayed that a parent got away with poor behavior and choose to leave the studio. When these scenarios occur, it is vitally important to deal with them in a timely fashion.
3. Offer Feedback Forms
Some dance studios offer feedback forms, according to DanceAdvantage.net. These forms give parents the opportunity to mention any comments, good or bad, that they have about the studio. Sure, the commentary may not always be constructive, especially if they bring up something like a costume malfunction, but these forms can also help keep the peace and prevent gossip from stirring up.
Once these forms are submitted, dance owners and parents can sit down to discuss the issues at hand. Setting up a meeting can be a calm, constructive way to find a resolution for a problem. Sometimes, though, resolutions cannot be found. At this point, you’re allowed to note that it’s studio policy and can calmly suggest that they find another studio to go to. Even though it isn’t the best way to refuse a parent back, you can do so knowing that you tried your best to hear the parent’s point of view.
4. Note Issues With Tardiness and Payments
Tardiness shouldn’t be welcomed at practice or any other time, as it can quickly become a habit. Dancers who show up late may throw off routines, cause practices to go later or could compromise a dance recital.
As a studio owner, it’s important to discuss your rules about tardiness with parents. Note the issues that arise from tardiness, and its effects on other dancers and parents. The same goes for payments. To keep your business up and running, you need to charge parents for their children’s lessons. Whether you charge them weekly, monthly or bi-annually is up to you.
However, if a parent doesn’t pay, it can quickly become an issue. If a parent consistently forgets or owes the studio a significant amount of money, it’s acceptable to terminate his or her contract. Discuss with the parent how lack of payment affects the studio as well as the purchase of costumes, footwear and equipment. Hopefully the parent will understand these legitimate reasons for not being welcomed back.
*Reader and veteran studio owner Danie Beck also suggested that in some cases, after you’ve spoken with the parent it may be a good idea to put the dismissal and the reasoning behind it in writing and send it to the parent. If you do, she noted that you should be sure to send it to them “return receipt requested,” so everyone is on the same page and there won’t be any surprises at registration time.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include reader feedback.
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:
You may think that you know what you’re getting into when you decide to open a dance studio. After all, you’ve likely been involved in the industry for a good part of your life. However, there are definitely some tough lessons you’ll learn when you enter the business side of the dance world. Here are 8 things you’ll come to understand throughout your time as a dance studio owner.
1. ‘No’ is a powerful and necessary word
As a new business owner, you’ll likely want to say yes to everything. It’s hard to tell people no, especially when you are just starting to build relationships with your customers. However, make sure you balance the needs of your students and parents with the needs of the studio. It’s a delicate scale, and you’ll occasionally have to use “no” to keep the balance in check.
2. You need an written, actionable plan
You probably have goals, plans and aspirations for your studio, and that’s great! But you should really be putting them in writing, otherwise they’re easy to forget or lose sight of. This is where an actionable business plan comes in handy – write a detailed roadmap before you open your studio and make sure to update it every year.
3. Your dance know-how isn’t enough
Your pirouettes and plies will come in handy when you’re teaching young dancers, but they’re not going to help you much when it comes time to pay taxes, send invoices or market your studio. Small business owners of all sorts need to have some business-savvy if they’re going to excel, so you may need to purchase a how-to book or sign up for a seminar to fill out your skill set.
4. Customer service isn’t a cakewalk
No two mama dramas are alike, and you’ll be faced with a host of problems throughout your time as a studio owner. It’s important to figure out how you’ll deal with problem parents, diva students and other issues that affect the atmosphere at your school. Your customer service can make or break your studio, so be sure to give it the attention it deserves.
5. Your support system is key
Because you’re serving as a teacher, marketer, book keeper, administrator and more, there will be days when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed. This is when you need your support system more than ever. Whether it’s your spouse, friend, partner, child or fellow teacher, you should have someone who’s there to lend a hand on your toughest days. If you go at it alone, chances are that you’ll wind up with more gray hair than you bargained for.
6. Not everyone will like you
It’s human nature to want people to like you, but very few business owners go through their careers without stepping on a few toes. Sometimes you’ll have to say “no” – as mentioned in No. 1 – and this can lead to upset parents, dejected dancers or disgruntled teachers. Do your best to mend the relationship when this happens, and continue on your way.
7. At the end of the day, you’re running a business
The reality of the business world is that only 50 percent of companies survive for five years and just 30 percent last 10 years or more. If you’re in this for the long haul, you need to keep in mind that you’re running a business! Each decision you make should be beneficial to the studio if you want to make it in the competitive world of dance.
8. The hard work is worth it
You know the happiness that fills you up when you do something you love? Well you’ll probably get to feel that way every day you’re in the studio. Teaching people to dance is amazingly rewarding, and you’ll find that even on your longest days, you have a smile on your face.
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.
The dance recital is the most important moment in the year. Is your method of dance recital ticket sales helping you make the most of the experience?
The Old Way
Studio owners and staff spend hours preparing seating charts, printing tickets, manning the ticket sales table, and processing refunds and exchanges.
Parents have to come to the studio at prescribed days and times, and may not even be able to pay with a credit card.
Studio owners have to deal with difficult or unhappy parents who feel they should get specific seats.
In a studio with 200 students, you could have 200 parents wait 4 hours in line on ticket day. That’s 800 hours of lost productivity and leisure time!
The average studio sells $16,000 in tickets per year, typically accumulating large amounts of cash that need to be secured and deposited.
Studio owners save time and money. Just send TutuTix your seating chart and we’ll take care of the rest!
Parents save time. A ticket purchase takes 5 minutes. Who doesn’t want their Saturday back?
It’s convenient. With TutuTix, parents can buy anytime online, via phone, or even directly from your studio’s Facebook page! This convenience is important – the percentage of people who expect to buy tickets online has doubled in the past 3 years.*
It’s secure. Parents pay securely online or over the phone, and funds are deposited weekly into your studio’s account.
It’s fair. All parents have an equal shot at choosing their preferred seats with TutuTix’s interactive seating chart. TutuTix can even handle special pre-sales for specific groups or help you tie ticket purchases to a student’s account status.
Find out how we can bring the “happy” to ticket sales for you and your dance parents. Request more information about TutuTix today.
When you’ve been running a successful recreational dance studio for a couple years and have some amazingly talented students in your classrooms, you might start to think about ways to show the world how great your dancers are. What better way to do that than start a competitive dance team at your studio? If you’re wondering how to start a competition dance team, follow these easy steps.
Before you jump head-on into planning, it’s a good idea to see how many of your students would be interested in joining a competition team. Some may be too busy with other sports or extracurriculars to dedicate enough practice time, and others might not be able to afford the additional costs of competitions. You can gauge interest by talking to parents and students or sending out a survey to everyone. Make sure you have a solid group of students on board before making any definitive decisions.
Once you’ve determined that your dancers are ready and able to take their dancing to the next level, you’ll want to hold tryouts for your new competition team. There are a number of different ways that you can structure tryouts – your needs will dictate which method works best in your studio. Varsity.com explained that some studios hold open tryouts where any student can apply to be on the team. In this type of situation, you’ll likely have to make cuts, so be prepared to give your dancers honest feedback.
Another common method of recruiting dancers is to have “invitation only” tryouts. This strategy ensures that only dancers who are advanced enough for the rigors of competition will be considered. It can help spare your novice dancers the rejection of being cut and makes your job easier, as you’ll likely have fewer students to consider.
Whichever method you choose, it’s best to hold a meeting with parents before or during tryouts to explain the expected costs and time commitments that come along with competitive dance. The last thing you want is to select the perfect team only to have half drop out because of the price.
Schedule Practices and Outline Expectations
After you have a great group of dancers on your new team, you’ll need to create a practice schedule that works for all parties involved. Ideally, it shouldn’t interfere with their other dance classes or outside activities. However, the reality is that you may not be able to find a time that works for everyone. Do the best you can and make compromises whenever possible.
You’ll also need to outline your expectations for this new group. How many practices are they able to miss? What happens when they show up late? How far in advance do you need costume payments? Are there certain behaviors you expect dancers to uphold as representatives of your team? These are all important considerations to take into account. Competition teams generally have strict guidelines for dancers because if just one person is missing, the whole practice can be thrown off and the team may suffer.
Hone Your Skills
Once the paperwork is filled out and expectations are set, it’s time to do what you do best – practice! Start creating routines, building team bonds and preparing your dancers for competition life. You may want to bring in guest speakers who have experience in competitive dance or attend a local competition to see what the atmosphere is like. Some competitive teams also require their students to attend certain camps to work on skills and technique, but this should depend on whether your students are willing and able to do so.
When you think your team is ready, pick your first competition and go for it! Whether you win or lose, you’ll be on your way to creating a strong, covetable competition dance team.
If your beginner dance classes are growing in size but you’re not ready to bring on another instructor, you may be considering asking one of your older, trusted students to become an assistant dance teacher. It’s a common practice throughout the industry to have older dancers assist in preschool and beginner classes to keep kids focused and complete certain administrative tasks.
However, just like with any other business decision, there are both pros and cons of bringing on assistants to help out in your classes. Here are some of the considerations you should take into account when you’re thinking about creating this new role in your studio.
Pro: They’re a Big Help
The most obvious benefit of having an assistant dance teacher is the relief he or she can provide an overburdened instructor. Dance Advantage explained that assistants are frequently responsible for taking attendance, escorting students to the bathroom, handing out props, leading warm ups, keeping kids focused and answering basic parent inquiries. Naturally, these duties will vary between studios depending on what your teachers need help with. More advanced students sometimes also aid in correcting dancers’ form and technique during class, but it’s important that you keep in mind that an assistant’s duties should be directly related to his or her compensation.
Con: You’ll Need to Compensate Assistants
You may think that teaching assistants are the way to go if you don’t have the funds to hire another instructor, but you shouldn’t assume students will work for free. The Dance Teacher blog explained that while many studios don’t pay students monetarily, they implement some other form of payment to compensate assistants. This could be with free lessons, reduced tuition, free merchandise or even just a weekly stipend. Before you start recruiting students to be assistants, make sure you figure out what you’re willing to offer in return for their services.
Pro: The Role Benefits Students
Having an assistant dance teacher in the classroom is a big help to teachers and studio owners. Dance Studio Life noted that teacher’s assistants are able to develop leadership skills, get experience working with children, improve their own dance knowledge and build up their resumes. The role may be especially helpful for students who are considering pursuing a career as a dance instructor, as it shows them what life is like on the other side of the classroom.
Con: They’ll Need Training
The students you recruit as assistants may be eager and ready to take on their new responsibilities, but chances are that they’ll need a fair bit of training. Most students will be a little awkward in their first few months of assisting, and you’ll be able to get them comfortable more quickly if you have some sort of training system. This will require some work on your part before your teaching assistants are living up to their full potential.
Pro: It Can Be a Great Selling Point
If you’re looking for ways to set your studio apart from competitors, having a helping hand in each classroom is definitely a selling point. Once you have training and capable assistants, you can explain to prospective parents that students get as much individual attention as they need and won’t feel lost if they’re ever in a large class. It may seem like a small difference, but it can really be significant when you’re located in an area with a saturated dance market.
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.
When you’re in the process of opening a dance studio, there are many, many decisions to be made. While you think about names and locations, you’ll also need to take the general dance studio curriculum into consideration. Today, there are two main categories of dance classes – competition and recreational. It’s important to decide if your studio is going to cater to just one of these types or offer both options to dancers. It goes without saying that it’s a big decision! Here are some considerations to take into account when deciding what type of dance classes to hold in your new studio.
Studios that boast recreational programs often work with a wide variety of students. You can offer lots of different class genres and have different skill levels, but the bottom line is that your dancers aren’t pressured to perform competitively. Aspire Dance Academy noted that in its recreational dance program, students are guided toward their fitness goals in a more relaxed class atmosphere. At the end of each season, recreational students usually perform in a recital to show off their skills to family and friends.
The major difference with competitive dance is that there’s a greater financial and time commitment, both for students and the studio. In addition to offering a set number of competition classes each week, you’ll have to take into account the costs of entering, preparing for and traveling to competitions with your dancers. However, the opportunity to perform in front of new audiences and compete around the country is often appealing to many students. If you’re on the fence about offering competitive dance at your studio, it can often be helpful to talk to other studio owners for a first-hand account of the pros and cons.
Consider Your Target Market
As with any big decision when it comes to your studio, you need to take your target market into account. Think about the students who you believe will attend your studio. If they’re dedicated athletes, chances are there will be lots of interest in a competition program. On the other hand, if you’re catering to mostly preschoolers, it may be best to start off with just recreational classes. You should also take into account the other dance schools in your area and the classes they offer – if there are lots of recreational studios, but no competition programs, competitive dance could very well be a profitable niche.
The more information you can gather about the needs of your community, the better informed you will be when it comes to making decisions about your studio’s curriculum. If you really aren’t sure about what types of classes potential students would be interested in, it would probably be beneficial to do a little bit of research, either by surveying local students or simply talking to parents in the community.
Quality Across the Board
No matter which path you choose for your studio, it’s important to realize that you should focus on providing the best quality instruction possible. The Dance Exec blog noted that sometimes the dance industry views recreational classes as less technical and informative than competitive classes. However, if you want to run a competitive business, it’s important that all your courses offer the same high-quality instruction. A good measure of if your recreational classes are up to snuff with your competitive offerings is if groups of dancers with similar skill levels can perform together harmoniously at an end-of-season recital.
Are you hiring new teachers for your studio? Or, revisiting your teacher contracts? If so, you’re probably considering what to expect from your employees. After all, it’s seldom that dance teachers are required to simply show up and teach class – there’s so much more to the role! Having clear expectations for teachers makes for a successful school. Consider these points when laying out dance teacher responsibilities at your studio.
Responsibilities in the Classroom
There are a number of “givens” that you can expect from any employees working in your studio. These include showing up on time, behaving professionally, being prepared and respectful, and successfully teaching the students. However, there are also a number of supplementary responsibilities that you may also want to outline in a teacher’s contract. The UNITY Dance Organizations explained that dance educators should always provide a safe environment for their students, both physically and emotionally. Additionally, it is important that they serve as role models for dancers in terms of sportsmanship, lifestyle choices and attitude.
Expectations Outside of Teaching
There are a number of dance teacher responsibilities outside the classroom. On a daily basis, teachers should be respectful and supportive of other staff members and as open as possible regarding studio matters. Many studios expect their instructors to become familiar with the parents of their students and help to enforce policies on dress code and behavior. These are pretty standard tasks that you do not need to offer additional compensation for. However, be sure to clearly outline these responsibilities in your employment contracts so teachers know what is expected of them.
When Additional Compensation is Required
Outside of these standard responsibilities, there are instances where you may have to offer additional compensation to your instructors. DanceStudioOwner.com explained that many studios pay their teachers extra to attend certain yearly events, such as open houses, competitions and auditions. Similarly, extra tasks like choreographing routines and conducting private lessons should be compensated accordingly. You’ll want to outline your policies and rates for these tasks before hiring new teachers. This way everyone will be on the same page as to what is part of the job description and what is considered extra work.