19 Expert Tips for Growing Your Pilates Business

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So you want to start—or expand—your own studio? Three industry experts spill their best advice.

Meet Your Advisors

Amy Taylor Alpers, owner of The Pilates Center in Boulder, CO

Lesley Logan, PMA-CPT, founder of Profitable Pilates, where she coaches Pilates teachers on the business side of Pilates

Erica Walters, owner of the Pilates Fit Studio in Louisville, KY

On Opening Your First Pilates Studio

Know Your Mission.
“Since founding our studio 28 years ago, the world has changed, the market has changed, and perhaps most importantly, the Pilates industry has changed—dramatically! Still, the first key step remains, and that is to develop your mission statement. What do you want your business to represent and offer? What’s your message—and why?” —Amy

Plan Ahead.
“There are a lot of essential questions to ask yourself:

  • What kind of legal structure will you need (corporation, sole proprietor, etc.)?
  • Is it only going to be you, or are you planning to hire other teachers?
  • Employees or independent contractors? Get very clear on the distinction and the law on these options.
  • Do you only want your style of Pilates taught? (If you want a certain level of control over your hires, you should consider having employees.)
  • Will you be able to fund it yourself with cash, or will you be needing a loan?

Create a business plan either way, so you can make projections and plans. The answers to the questions above will help you decide on the size of the space you will need, and how much Pilates equipment you should purchase. Additionally, will you be teaching classes or just private sessions? How big is your town, and how many competitors do you have? Be aware that, in many cities, easy parking access alone can make or break your location choice.” —Amy and Erica

Start small.
“The size and amount of Pilates equipment will depend on who you are as a teacher/studio, and what you want to offer. For example, when I was planning to open my studio, I knew I would be the only teacher there and would mostly be focusing on privates or duos. I only needed at least one of everything. But if you want to offer group classes on Reformers, Towers, Chairs, etc., you are going to need a much larger space. I highly recommend you start out as small, as you can and grow your business overtime. It’s easy to go big! It’s hard to go smaller. Also, keep an eye out for used equipment being sold online. You may be able to pick up a few used pieces without having to pay tax or shipping.” —Lesley

On Building Your Brand

Spend Your Money Wisely.
“I often think people think backwardly about their Pilates business. They spend time and money on a logo, style, design and aesthetics then they don’t have as much money for the essentials, i.e., website, software and business support. Build your studio with amazing teaching, great equipment, and focus on making your clients sing your praises, and then over time add the aesthetics.” —Lesley

Know Your Clientele.
“You must decide who your ideal client is so you will know to whom and how to market. In 1990, we started with a coupon for a free Pilates class in the local newspaper, hoping anyone would come. Pilates is for everyone, right? This is probably not an option these days, though. The competition is too great, and the market has had way more exposure to Pilates. People are more educated. Do you want clients who are athletes, dancers, older clients, etc.? The typical Pilates client is female and between the ages of 35 and 75, but you can market in ways to attract other groups. You just have to decide.” —Amy

Consistency is key.
“There are simple, free tools that help to keep your marketing materials consistent. Canva is a great site that allows you to create social media posts, Facebook covers, and YouTube thumbnails. You can even create your own templates, so that all your materials use the same dimensions, fonts, filters, and designs. By having consistent design, you make it easier for clients to identify your business when they see it.” —Lesley

On Marketing Your Business

Referrals Rule.
“Referral-based marketing is still integral to how a Pilates studio gets new clients. Keep your clients consistently booked so they feel the benefits of doing Pilates with you. As their friends notice how well they are feeling, how tall they are standing and how strong they are looking, they will inquire. If you have been teaching for awhile and are looking for new clients, ask your existing clients why they love Pilates with you, how they describe what it is you do with them. Find out the language they are using, and be sure to use it to share who you are and what makes you unique.” —Lesley

Do Some Outreach.
“No matter how long you have been teaching, it’s essential that you are known in your community! Be strategic about this. You don’t need to hit up every business and charity in town. Instead, think about who you want as clients and where they spend their time. Once you have the list of businesses and organizations, see what events they have and how can you assist. How can you collaborate?” —Lesley

On Client Retention

Establish a Regular Routine.
“You are teaching your clients Pilates, but you also teach them how to interact with you. Instead of asking your clients when they want to come in, tell them how often you need to see them. You want your clients to schedule their life around Pilates—and not try to fit Pilates into their life!” —Lesley

Book Those Packages, Pronto.
“When a client purchases a package, book those sessions so they are committed to you for the remainder of the package. When clients have a schedule, they are more likely to make you a priority. If you are scheduling day by day or week by week, they are not going to make Pilates a priority because other things will come up.” —Amy and Erica

Train Your Trainers.
“Teach your teachers how to sell your services. Make sure they know what to do in the first lesson, the end of the first lesson, and that they are familiar with your intro specials, packages or memberships. They will not only need your process for selling and keeping track of accounts, but give them a checklist so that they know each step of your systems.” —Amy and Erica

On Tech Stuff

A Website is a Must.
“You have to have a mobile-friendly website. Your website should easily show future clients if you are the right teacher for them. Show pictures of you teaching your ideal clients. Blog consistently about what you do, who you do it for and your unique skills, style, and personality.” —Lesley

Think User-friendly.
“On your website, be very clear with your message and with information on how to get started at your studio. You will want to find a web designer who understands search engine optimization (SEO), and Pilates specifically. Yes, building a beautiful site is great, but most importantly, your site needs to be easy to navigate so clients can readily find the information they need.” —Amy and Erica

Invest in Scheduling Software.
“It’s ideal to have some form of scheduling software built in to your webiste. When a new client is on your site and they become excited about setting up a session, they can request/book a session right then and there. If they have to email or call you and play a waiting game, it’s a recipe for phone tag, and they can lose interest - fast. Also, train existing clients to use this system rather than texting you. You can be more productive and responsive without frequent interruptions for scheduling.” —Lesley

On Social Media

Be Yourself.
“Think of social media as an extension of yourself - something that allows your future clients to connect with you more. If they find your website, and click on your social links, they should see more of who you are and why you are the teacher for them.” —Lesley

Offer Real Service.
“Posting on social media is fun, but your posts need to be specific and have a theme. What will Pilates do for the people you want to reach? Don’t think, ‘long, lean muscles,’ think about increasing strength and flexibility, increased energy, reducing aches and pains, etc. Go live, and tell your audience how to get started. Give them free tips on things they can do at home. Write blogs about what Pilates will do. Don’t always ask for money with an ad or show off fancy moves—give people stuff to do at home. You want to build the relationship with your audience.” —Amy and Erica

On Keeping Up with the Joneses

Beware of the Discount.
“Just because all the other studios are offering discounted group classes that doesn’t mean you need to. It’s cool to be different. Let the others race to the bottom basement of pricing. Focus on offering amazing services, keeping your clients consistent and becoming known in your community.” —Lesley

Don't Forget Continuing Education.
“Attending workshops and conferences is essential to the teacher’s growth. They need to continue to learn and explore the method to keep their teaching fresh and inspired. Clients love this.” —Amy and Erica

Can’t get to a workshop IRL? Pilates Anytime offers lots of great workshop options delivered via Pilates videos!

Know Your Competition.
“But not to copy or go against them! Instead, know your competition so you can provide better customer service and build trust (send them new clients that are better suited for their business), differentiate yourself when new clients call, and stand out in a crowd. Competition is not what kills a business. In fact, in Pilates, having other studios around can be a good thing. It means the market has heard of Pilates. All you have to do is be clear on who you are as a teacher or studio, what you offer, and why people should choose you.” —Lesley

About the Author

Amanda Altman

Amanda Altman is an NYC-based editor and writer, not to mention "Mommy" to two adorable boys. She has been fully immersed in the Pilates world for more than a decade.


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