Although there may not be one perfect way to run a dance studio, smart directors gravitate to certain practices that make life better for the whole community—owners, teachers and students. DT spoke with several savvy owners to get their takes on topics that will streamline your operation and free you up to focus on teaching dance.
4 Ways to Retain Valued Faculty
Make time for feedback Check in with your teachers periodically about how their classes are going. Give them time and space to discuss everything from behavioral issues to choreography ideas. Create goals together and help them make a plan to work toward achievement.
Free classes Your teachers may be still training, themselves. Consider offering free classes at your studio or education stipends for further study. An investment in their skills is an investment in the quality of their teaching. Many studios offer half-price or free classes for teachers’ children, as well.
Enrollment incentives Consider a bonus structure (on top of base pay) based on enrollment. For example, you can offer $2 more per child over a base minimum enrollment. Your teachers will feel more invested in the studio’s success.
Show your appreciation An end-of-semester or holiday gift, however small, can show that you value their contribution. A note and $25 gift card to a nearby restaurant can be a nice surprise for on-the-go teachers.
Do You Measure Up? It’s common for studio owners to pay airfare/mileage, hotel and a per diem for competition directors and choreographers who travel to Nationals and Regionals.
What’s in Your Registration Packet?
• An overview of the studio
• Calendar of events
• Tuition rates and discount opportunities
• Photo and liability
• Concise handbook with dress code and etiquette
• Costume ordering information for the entire season
• Class descriptions
• Teacher bios
• Weather cancellation policies
• Sign-up instructions for Remind texting service for emergency news
Remind is a free app that allows you to send one-way texts to students, parents, faculty and staff. Send competition team schedule changes, weather-related updates about studio closure or photos of what hair and makeup should look like. With Remind, you can attach photos, documents, PDFs, presentations and even recorded voice messages.
TIP: Make sure everything in your packet is also available online.
Avoid TMI New dance parents can be easily overwhelmed with your three-pound package of forms and information. Consider sharing information in small doses, as needed, to let them get used to the dance studio culture on their own time. For example, dress code for class is an immediate need; recital costume ordering can wait.
Cash Flow IQ
Timing of tuition and fees can make or break your ready-money situation.
Try using a 10-month tuition policy. If your school year consists of 35 weeks, you would spread payments over 10 months, rather than 9. Parents would pay for 3 1/2 weeks of tuition every month, resulting in smaller monthly payments.
Consider collecting tuition for recreational and competition students at different times. For instance, tuition is due for most students on the first of the month and for competition/company students on the 15th, creating a nice mid-month boost of cash.
Collect a deposit Consider collecting first and last month (May) tuition for the year at fall registration. This ensures you’ll get your final month of tuition, should a family relocate from the area before the end of the term or the child decides to quit dancing.
Reward the early birds with discounts 10 percent, for example, for advance payment of the entire year or semester. Caution: Not all discounts are good for business. Run the numbers before offering huge discounts for students taking multiple classes. Unlimited classes for a set fee can result in lots of free classes, especially when coupled with sibling discounts.
Cover your summer Holding fall registration in May can provide cash flow during the lean summer months.
Late fees and other consequences for nonpayment Think of tuition as the ticket to participate in all aspects of studio life, which include the most exciting part for a dancer: performing. Your policy should state that unless tuition is paid in full, costumes cannot be ordered, and competition, convention and recital participation—as well as class attendance—is suspended.
Place of work
4 Ways Studio-Business Software Will Change Your Life
Review receivables at a glance Your online dashboard will tell you what you need to know to run your business smoothly, day to day.
Should you offer that winter intensive again? Let the data help you make the decision. Track trends and patterns of attendance to make an informed decision before adding a class.
Online tuition collection Let parents manage their own accounts online and keep track of their tuition payments—rather than call you.
Recital organization With all your students entered in your database, you will know if you have double-booked a dancer. You can even directly import the names for your recital program. No more typos!
Do you pay teachers as freelancers or employees?
The question of classifying teachers correctly as employees or independent contractors is more important than ever. If the IRS disagrees with your findings, back taxes, interest and a fee could be charged. Know the law and get it right! Tip: When in question, it’s better to err on the side of employment.
Your teachers are employees and NOT independent
contractors, if the studio:
*determines the teaching
fee and keeps track of hours worked.
*sets the curriculum
(e.g., what is included in a beginner ballet class).
*sets the class schedule and time.
*is where the majority of the teacher’s activity takes place.
Your teachers may be independent contractors, if they:
*operate a business, often teaching at many locations.
*invoice the studio.
*present a contract to the studio.
*determine the content of the class.
8 Steps to Better Social Media
Diversify Everyone is on social media these days, but not always on the same platforms. (Younger people love Instagram.) Balance your outreach between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and there’s no need to post the exact same thing on all three platforms. Be dynamic and change it up.
Engage and inform Do not annoy by posting the same information over and over, or posting items unrelated to dance.
Avoid generic photos of little dancers in pink tutus Your audience recognizes a stock photo when they see one. It’s not about polish, but authenticity. Personalize your posts, and don’t be afraid to celebrate what’s going on within your studio’s walls. Post photos of your actual classes and studio life.
Boost your message Got a new class? You can pay a small fee on Facebook and boost that post to get it seen by a wider group of people.
Target your reach Create targeted Facebook ads by age range of children and income level of parents who live within a certain mile radius of your studio. Facebook has a handy help section to walk you through the process.
Private Pages You can create a private Facebook page for each group in your studio, such as for junior and senior competition teams, parents of small children and so on. This way, updates on rehearsals or costumes go directly to the dancers or parents who need to see them.
Videos We all know that people click on posts with photos, so why not have the dancers in motion, too? Keep your video under three minutes. And they don’t have to be videos of your students—there are wonderful inspirational videos out there that will lift your dancers’ spirits in a minute.
#Hashtags The concept was initiated by the Twitter community but is useful now across platforms. Create a hashtag for your studio while at a competition or an event, for example #StudioXNYCDA, as a way for everyone to keep updated in real time. It’s also a way for those not attending to follow your progress and success.
Tip: Be aware of the negative side of social media. Educate yourself on cyberbullying and regularly take the pulse of what’s happening in your social-media circle of faculty, staff, parents and students. Consider creating a social-media policy for teachers and staff who post anything related to the studio.
Sample policy Students and parents at the Kathy Blake Dance Studios abide by a code of ethics that also informs their social-media policy. “Students and parents are expected to use social media only to reflect the Code of Ethics. Students and parents using social media to disparage any aspect of their team, instructors, their peers or KBDS will be dismissed from the team. No video containing studio choreography should be posted on any social-media site.”
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