How to You Start Pilates?

Not ready—or interested—in being a studio owner? In part two of our series, we talked to five teachers who thought outside of the box and came up with creative ways to pursue their passion for teaching Pilates.

“I teach at my community’s clubhouse.”

WHYI DECIDE DO NTHI SB US INE S S MODEL: When my husband and I moved to Florida in 2015, I decided to pursue my passion for Pilates. After I completed teacher training at Classical Pilates Education in Boca Raton, I started with a few private clients I got through word of mouth.

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Then two years ago, when the clubhouse in our gated community was finished, a number of people in the neighborhood, as well as the property manager, asked me if I would offer Pilates classes at the clubhouse. So I now teach two mat classes a week there, plus I have my private clients. I am not charged rent, because the classes are for the community; I charge $10/class and usually have up to eight students (that’s how many fit in the room). Once a month, I do a “Pilates and prosecco” class. It’s always more fun when alcohol is involved! It’s held in the clubhouse’s ballroom, where there’s more space, so there are usually 15 to 20 students.

WHY YO UMI GHTWA NT TO GIVE IT A TRY: This has been a great way for me to get my career started. I’m getting experience teaching all levels, and since I don’t have to pay to reserve the space, I am able to keep the cost at a lower price point. I also get referrals for private clients. Right now, I am circulating my resume to local gyms, community centers and studios in hopes of subbing or offering a regularly scheduled class.

CO N S ID E R THI S BUSINESS MODEL IF: you live in a community with a clubhouse or community center; are just beginning your Pilates teaching career and want a low-r
“I teach at two country clubs and a batting cage facility.”

WHY ID ECID ED ON THI SB US INE S S MODEL: About six years ago, when I was still a beginner-level-certified mat teacher, I started teaching mat at a nearby country club. At the time, I had purchased a classic wood frame combination system to practice on while I continued my teacher training. (I got my Peak Pilates comprehensive level III certification in 2013.) The club’s fitness director allowed me to put it in a small room inside the group fitness facility. Once members saw it, they wanted private equipment lessons, so I started offering them. Since then, I have replaced the combination system with the Peak PilateSystem Deluxe and added a Chair, Spine Corrector and small props. I now teach four to eight hours a week there. I don’t pay rent, and keep the fees paid by the members.

About three years ago, I started teaching mat at another country club and my clients there started inquiring about equipment lessons. Meanwhile, I had bought another Peak PilateSystem Deluxe for my home. So I asked the club’s fitness director if he would be open to putting it in the club’s fitness facility. He thought it was a great idea. I now teach mat and privates there, also four to eight hours a week, and split my earnings with the club. Then two years ago, my son Tate, who’s now 12, was taking hitting lessons at Extra Innings batting cages in Ft. Myers, FL. I met with the facility’s owner to see about offering Pilates there. He had read about all these Major League players who do Pilates, so we decided to give it a shot. I set up a studio with three combo units. I do not pay rent; we split the fee for each client or class.

WHY THIS SUITS ME: Commercial rent in my growing town is very high, and I was scared to take the jump to opening my own studio. Today my income is probably equivalent to what I would be making at a studio, and my financial risk is minimal (my biggest investment was the equipment). I think this setup is a win-win for everyone: The clubs don’t have any out-ofpocket costs, but get the status of having a Pilates studio in their club. The only drawbacks are that at the two country clubs, I can only teach members (i.e., no outside clients) and my hours are limited to when the facilities are open. Also, traveling to different locations can be a bummer in the heavy traffic season.

WH Y YO U M I G HT WA NT TO G I V E IT A TRY: You don’t have to be a member of the country club—I’m not a member of either club. In fact, I didn’t even know anyone who belonged. I just made a ton of phone calls, and told everyone that I was available to teach classes anytime. My advice is to make yourself available. CO N S ID E R THI S BUSINESS MODEL IF: nearby country clubs have fitness facilities and would be interested in offering Pilates; you only have your mat certification and/or are a novice teacher.

“I moonlight as a Pilates teacher.”

WHYID ECIDE DON THIS BUSINES S MODEL: I’ve been a fulltime copy editor and proofreader for a tech company in Los Angeles for the past 16 years. It’s a great company to work for. I first got interested in Pilates back in 2001. I had some minor back pain and started taking Reformer classes a couple of times a week at one studio, and later switched to mat classes at a studio closer to home. Around 2002, I met a teacher I just fell in love with, Rebecca Secord. She eventually opened her own studio, Blackbird Pilates in Santa Monica. For years, she encouraged me to teach Pilates. I never thought I could do it because I didn’t have a dance background and didn’t think I had the personality for it (I tend to be quiet and shy). Fast-forward to 2013. My mother had recently passed away, and I wanted something to do in my spare time that felt more rewarding, so I went through STOTT PILATES® mat training at John Garey’s studio in Long Beach. I started teaching mat classes at Rebecca’s studio and for my colleagues at my fulltime job. Getting up in front of a room of strangers to lead them through a workout was so foreign to me! Plus I was 40 years old at that point, and most instructors are 10 to 20 years younger! Eventually I went through the Reformer and then the complete equipment training, and I am now Stott-certified on all equipment. In 2015, Rebecca sold the studio to Tracy Hess and it became Sandpiper Pilates, where I now teach five Reformer classes a week and two to three privates a week, plus I sub for other teachers. I can end up teaching anywhere from seven to 13 hours a week, both before and after work. My schedule is flexible, so I can come in early or leave early when I need to.

WH Y THI S S U IT S ME: Working full-time while teaching Pilates part-time is the best of both worlds. I have the stability and benefits that come with a corporate job, while teaching Pilates gives me some extra income and allows me to work in a field I’m passionate about.

WHY YOU M I G HT WANT TO GIVE IT A TRY: In my experience, there is a huge demand for Pilates instructors. Even if you’re just subbing at different studios, you should be able to find work (at least in a big city). Or try approaching the HR department at your full-time job to see if you can teach a weekly mat class.

CON SID ERTHI S BUSINESS MODEL IF: you have a full time job you don’t want to give up.

LINDSAY LOPEZ: I was renting out of this space when I was approached by the owner to take over the lease. I knew from experience that working more hours to make more money doesn’t work for us as teachers (burnout is real!). So when I took over the lease, I knew that I had to get creative and find ways to make money in ways other than just teaching, especially because New York is such an expensive market. And besides rent and equipment, I also had to pay for liability insurance, commercial trash collection and things like utility setup.

KELLY KEESLER: I was working for several Pilates studios all over town after I completed my comprehensive training in 2013. I loved it, but the pay wasn’t cutting it for the time and energy I was exerting. As a contracted independent instructor, I had to pay my own taxes, liability and health insurance, and travel expenses. My take-home pay was barely enough to get by on, and the commuting from studio to studio took up a lot of my time and depleted my energy.

LOPEZ: At FORM, all of our teachers pay a membership fee to belong to the co-op as well as an hourly fee when they see clients. (For legal reasons, they are considered “renters,” not contractors.) Instructors have the freedom to charge their clients what they want (they take home more than 70 percent of their hourly rate), set their own schedules and keep their clients’ contact info. KEESLER: Two years ago, I decided to take control of my time and earnings. Lindsay’s co-op style studio was a dream come true. Working at one location saves a tremendous amount of time and energy that can be used to take on more clients. Choosing my own pay rate and working directly with my clients is also a huge plus. I enjoy the sense of freedom I have making my own schedule.

LOPEZ: We offer a front-ofhouse “concierge” service to greet clients and keep the studio looking amazing. Instructors from all styles work here, and there’s a sense of support and community. Finally, teachers love making more and working less. They feel empowered to develop their own unique business, style and brand. KEESLER: I love that there are other Pilates professionals around to consult with! We are all in the same boat trying to build a career, so it is wonderful to have others around who understand what I am trying to do.

LOPEZ: The studio does make less per teacher per hour than a traditional structure. That means we are constantly having to make sure we have enough members seeing enough clients to make our monthly nut. Plus we rent out the space for workshops, outside photo shoots and other events to help with the cost. Another con is that some teachers need more coaching to become business-savvy than others. Mentorship, tough love and guidance is definitely part of my daily job to make sure that the teachers are successful.

KEESLER: For me, the drawbacks of having your own studio are that running your own Pilates business means you have to be the instructor, the marketing manager, the accountant and do all the administrative tasks that a studio would do for you if you were an employee. It also takes time to build a clientele, and it can be stressful at first not knowing where your next client is coming from when they are not being handed to you at a studio.

LOPEZ: I think a big misconception with teachers who want to set up a cooperative studio is that someone still needs to be in charge—it’s not an “easy pass” to avoid the responsibilities of running a studio. I have always had a “boss lady” spirit and felt comfortable being in charge. I have to make sure that all the sessions get booked, the equipment is maintained, the toilets are cleaned, the staff is there and paid, and enough revenue is coming in. You also must set terms with the instructors ahead of time, and have a signed contract between parties to avoid confusion and later issues. If you don’t like that aspect of things, running a co-op space may not be for you.

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