It’s not uncommon for passionate pilates teachers to dream about starting their own pilates studio. But guess what: it doesn’t have to be just a dream. Starting a pilates studio is much more feasible than you think.
To start a Pilates studio, follow these steps:
- Build a brand and identify your niche
- Make a business plan.
- Create a legal entity and check for certificates.
- Find a good location.
- Get equipment.
- Hire teachers.
- Invest in pilates studio software
- Start marketing.
As in opening any business, there are many things to keep track of, from legal paperwork to hiring teachers and buying the right equipment. This article will explain everything you need to know about opening a pilates studio.
Additionally, here is some suggested reading before you dive into this article:
1. Build a Pilates Brand
Building a brand is one of the first steps to starting any business. A brand encompasses all the intangible things that distinguish you from your competitors.
Your brand is all the associations and feelings that will come to a person when they think about your brand. You’ll want to create a brand representing your values and what you want to achieve with a pilates studio.
Building a brand begins with establishing your brand strategy. Your brand strategy encompasses the following:
- Identifying your niche
- Defining your target market
- Positioning your brand
Pilates Studio Brand Strategy
1. Identify Your Niche
During the early days of starting your pilates studio, it is crucial to niche down so that you can market to and attract a specific subset of pilates students.
The advantages of having a specific niche:
- You can quickly identify your prospective customers and gain clarity on your target market
- Given the specific customer profile, your advertising and marketing costs reduce across all channels.
- Word-of-mouth spreads faster since your customer community is most likely tight-knit.
Some examples of niches in the pilates world you could consider:
- Pilates for runners
- Pilates during pregnancy
- Pilates for recovery from injury
- Pilates for men
Once you have identified your niche, the next step is relatively simple.
2. Define Your Target Market
For a pilates studio serving local customers, the location defines the target market to a certain extent.
However, you can segment further. For example, your target market could be millennial women who are into fitness but do not like traditional gyms or fitness studios in your locality. By segmenting further, your job of marketing becomes much more manageable.
Position Your Brand
Take a bold position. What do you stand for?
Pilates training gives the body a long, slender form which is very different from what one would develop in a traditional gym or fitness studio. Perhaps you could position your pilates practice to create a slim, stronger form?
Positioning is about taking a stand that differentiates you in the minds of your target market.
Elements Of A Pilates Brand
Once you have your brand strategy in place, discuss the specific elements of your brand with a marketing or branding professional (you will probably want to hire one). The final deliverables of this exercise could include:
- Logo (or to begin, you can DIY using Canva)
- Colors and aesthetic (the color palette is crucial for your website and studio management software)
- The way you attend to your clients
- A specific “voice” for creating content
For an in-depth guide on creating a pilates brand, review our ultimate guide on building a fitness brand.
2. Make a Business Plan
All successful businesses start with a good plan. Without one, you’ll have a hard time making coherent decisions. Plus, it can help you gain the attention of investors in case you plan to go big.
See your business plan as a roadmap to getting where you want to be with your pilates studio. It should include the goals you expect your business to reach in the future and how you plan to get there.
It’s a good idea to write down as many components of your business as possible. Here are some examples of things you can include in your business plan:
- Partnerships: If you plan on collaborating with other businesses, explain how you’ll do it. To identify possible partnership opportunities, identify other services your customers use regularly. For example, you could partner with local healthy food delivery subscription businesses.
- Value proposition: What value is your business adding to the market? Your positioning will be the starting point to developing your unique selling proposition.
- Resources: Get to the nitty-gritty of how you’ll pay for your business. Will you bootstrap it or look for investors?
- Customer segments: What’s your target audience? How will you attract and serve them?
Create a simple business plan mapping out your first five years in business, although planning beyond the first year will depend on many assumptions. Also, make sure to account for unforeseen circumstances such as recessions. Finally, include a section on possible exit scenarios – selling the business or living off healthy profits.
3. Create a Legal Entity and Check for Certificates
Filling up paperwork isn’t precisely exciting, but you must do it before getting to the more exciting parts of starting a pilates studio.
Depending on where you live, you may need to get a permit to run a pilates studio. Check the SBA website to get specific information about your state.
Registering a company as a legal entity varies depending on where you live, so check on your local law. However, in general, there are several types of legal entities for you to consider. Pick the one that best fits your goals and resources.
Unlike yoga, in most cases, you need the students to visit your location to take classes because of the need for equipment. Hence it is advisable to set up a legal entity to protect you from lawsuits.
4. Find a Good Location
I regularly speak to pilates studio owners starting up for the first time, and the most significant milestone has been finding a place and signing a lease.
A good location is critical for the success of a pilates studio. It’s perhaps the most important early decision you’ll make with your business, so make sure to get it right.
You should keep several things in mind when choosing a location for your Pilates studio:
- Distance from your clientele. You should know where your clients live and work and get a place near their most frequented location. Nowadays, more and more people are opting for exercising at home, so don’t give them any extra hurdles.
- Do you want your own space? If you don’t have enough resources, you could consider sharing a space with another related business. Several of our customers rent a studio part-time to operate their business.
- Competition. You should check out every pilates studio in the community. If you pick a place close to another well-established pilates studio, you might struggle to get enough clientele.
- Do you want to expand? Depending on your plans for the future, you may want to get a prominent locale or a place next to another one you can expand into later.
Review our guide on the best place to open a yoga studio to get an idea of the criteria to consider before choosing a location.
5. Get Pilates Equipment
Now that you’ve picked a place, it’s time to fill it up!
You should start by stocking up on the basics. Quality mats are essential, especially if you’re newly starting and don’t have much money to spend.
You can have classes with just mats, from beginner to advanced. Add affordable equipment like pilates rings and resistance bands, and you’ll have a fully-functional pilates studio.
Of course, if you teach reformer-based pilates, you must buy a reformer set. Take a look at deals that business-to-business stores have to offer. You can purchase a good studio-quality reformer set for between $3000 and $6000.
6. Hire Pilates Instructors
This step will depend on the scale and vision of your studio. If you’re starting with a small investment, perhaps you intend to be the only teacher.
But even small studios benefit from hiring great teachers. Quality instructors are the #1 reason clients choose a specific pilates studio over another one.
Additionally, if you have rented a studio full-time, you can hire freelance instructors to teach under your brand.
Of course, if you’re leasing an ample space or have enough investment, you’ll need to hire several teachers to have a profitable pilates studio.
Your studio’s teachers should have deep knowledge of pilates and hands-on experience teaching groups.
Moreover, they should be in sync with your view of pilates. Your clients will have the most direct contact with your business via the teachers, so ensure they’re a good fit for your style and brand.
Don’t rush the hiring process. It’s okay if it takes a while to find the right matches. Be systematic and create an interview process.
Where To Hire Pilates Instructors
If you decide to hire pilates instructors for your studio, you will find that it’s not as easy as you expected. Here are some best practices that can help you hire the right pilates instructors for your studio:
- Post pilates instructor jobs on popular job portals such as Indeed and Craigslist.
- Post the job on your website as well. Many pilates studios find their instructors among their students.
- If you are starting, pay above average to attract the best instructors.
- Onboard instructors who match the values and brand of your pilates studio.
7. Invest In Pilates Studio Software
A pilates studio software automates your business, helps you manage your class schedules, privates & duets, and allows you to sell class packs and memberships.
With pilates studio software, you will save time and increase sales, which is the best way to professionalize your business. Your customers will be able to book classes and pay online. Additionally, the best pilates scheduling software on the market will allow you to brand your customer booking pages fully.
StudioGrowth is the simple and highly recommended pilates studio software for individual operators and small studios with under seven staff. If you are starting a new pilates studio, StudioGrowth is the best option for you.
8. Start Marketing
Marketing is an ongoing process that you should start as soon as possible. It is the function you will work on as long as you’re in business, but setting good foundations and goals is critical.
Marketing is composed of many different elements. The strategies and channels you choose to include will be up to you and, hopefully, the marketing expert on your team.
Typically, having a Google local business listing will be the best channel for customer acquisition for a local pilates studio. You could also use Facebook and Google ads for relevant search terms to boost your user base.
Once your business is operational, you can rely on social media and word-of-mouth to attract new customers.
Review this in-depth guide on yoga studio marketing to get further insight into how marketing works in the wellness industry.
How Much Does a Pilates Studio Owner Make?
If you want to follow your dream of owning a Pilates studio, you’re probably wondering if you’ll be able to dedicate yourself entirely to it.
Pilates studios represent significant investments, so you should know how much revenue you’ll generate over the years.
Specific numbers depend on many variables, but there’s at least one thing in your favor: the global yoga and Pilates studio market is expected to grow by 10% during the next few years.
A pilates studio owner makes, on average, $45,000 a year. The sector has a long tail of small independent pilates studios and several large studios where the owner can comfortably make 6-figures yearly. Studio owners operating large franchise chains can make over $1M yearly.
The top 38% of Pilates studio owners make more than $50,000 a year, with 18% earning over $75,000 yearly. If you’re investing in a fully equipped and staffed studio and manage it well, expect to make within the $50,000-$75,000 range.
But what if you want to aim higher? How hard is it to get to the point where you take home a 6-figure amount?
Pilates studios have high-profit margins. Even small studios can reach an 8% profit margin, and some can get to even 30%. So a well-managed studio can return 6-figure profits to the owner yearly.
How Many Hours a Week Does a Pilates Studio Owner Work?
You can successfully run your pilates studio without breaking your back with long shifts.
67% of pilates studio owners work 11 to 40 hours a week. More than 25% of pilates studio owners work over 40 hours a week. Your work hours depend on the systems you create to replace your time within the business.
Employing a manager and using pilates studio software can drastically reduce the time you need to spend working on your business.
Almost two-thirds of pilates studio owners reported that their studio is their primary source of income. If that’s the case with you, expect to put in no less than 20 hours weekly.
How Much Does It Cost To Start a Pilates Studio (Cost Breakdown)
Opening a Pilates studio can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the studio size. Most initial start-up capital will go towards leasing space, buying equipment, marketing, and recruiting teachers.
The costs of opening a pilates studio can be relatively low. At the same time, you can scale it up efficiently.
Here are the main areas you’ll have to invest in when starting a pilates studio:
- Space: The cost of leasing space will change drastically depending on location. A square foot of commercial space could cost anywhere from $20 to $80. Then there’s size – 350 square feet (32.51 square meters) may be enough for a small studio. But if you’re going big, you’d be looking at a place of 1500 square feet (139.35 square meters) or more.
- Remodeling includes all arrangements made to your space to look and feel like a pilates studio.
- Website development: Developing a website can cost less than $100 if you do it yourself using a website-building tool. A freelancer may charge anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for a business website. If you go with an agency, we’re talking about $5,000-$10,000.
- Pilates Studio Software needed to automate your business and handle scheduling and payments will cost you $50 – $200 monthly.
- Photography costs: You’ll need images for your website and marketing campaigns. You can spend $1,000-$1,500 on a photographer or pay $30-$100 on stock photography subscriptions.
- Legal permits: Most legal paperwork will have some cost. Inquire about it locally.
- Office equipment: A compact business computer for administrative purposes costs $500-$1000. Add a few hundred dollars more for extra office equipment.
- Recruitment: Considering the recruitment process, posting jobs, training, and paperwork, adding a new employee costs up to $1,000 to most small businesses in the US.
- Equipment: Depending on your budget and space, you could spend anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 on equipment. Pilates studios need reformer machines hence the wide variation in equipment cost.
What Are the Ongoing Expenses for a Pilates Studio?
You can start a pilates studio with a limited budget. Most of the expenses you’ll have to deal with will come while operating the studio:
- Rent: If you’re leasing a space, expect to spend around 25% to 30% of your revenue on rent.
- Teachers: Teachers are an essential part of your pilates studio. Most owners pay their teachers per hour, but you can also pay them a percentage of each class. Hiring independent contractors is usually cheaper than having full-time employees. The median wage for a Pilates teacher is $30 per hour. More experienced teachers will have a higher hourly rate, but they’re also great at bringing in new students.
- Marketing: Depending on the stage of your pilates business, you could spend up to 30% of your monthly revenue on marketing. Ongoing expenses include SEO campaigns, content marketing, running social media accounts, website maintenance, email marketing, and more.
- Accounting costs: You can get small business accounting help for under $500. Running a business means that someone needs to make payments, pay taxes, and file yearly returns.
How Does a Pilates Studio Make Money?
Pilates studios mainly make money primarily by charging their clients for classes. Group classes are usually the most profitable, but private classes are more expensive. If you offer equipment-based classes, your group classes may be limited to 2 or 3 students per class.
Unlike the yoga industry, retreats and workshops are not as popular in the pilates world.
You’ll have to go through some trial and error to determine what classes you should offer and how much time you should allocate to each. However, the most profitable scenario is likely a combination of group classes, privates, and duets.
Most Pilates studios offer:
- Private lessons: These tend to be 1:1 sessions with the instructor
- Semi-private classes are classes for a small group of two or three clients.
- Group mat: More than half of all studios offer group classes on the mat. They’re not as common as private classes, probably because they require medium to large-sized studios.
- Group reformer: This type of class requires a set of expensive equipment, but it’s still close in popularity to group mat classes.
- Group chair classes are popular, but few studios tend to offer these classes.
How Much Space Do You Need for a Pilates Studio?
A small Pilates studio needs as little as 350 square feet (32.51 square meters). If the studio has reformers or a more extensive clientele, you may need 1500+ square feet (139.35+ square meters) of space.
If you’re smart about your equipment, you can fit more equipment and students into less space without making it feel cramped. Maybe instead of buying full-sized reformers, you can get a few portable ones that can be put away when doing group mat work.
Licenses Needed To Start a Pilates Studio
Depending on where you live, you may need a special license to run a pilates studio. They vary depending on your state, so check the SBA website for more information.
You don’t need any certification to teach pilates classes. However, even if they aren’t necessary, having a pilates certification or a pilates diploma can help give you credibility.
Liability waivers are documents signed by your clients that protect you from potential lawsuits. Typically your scheduling and booking software will incorporate waivers into the customer booking experience. Use StudioGrowth to manage your client waivers.
Chances are you’ll also need a certificate of occupancy, which states that your business complies with zoning laws and building codes. If you’re leasing a location, your landlord will probably take care of that. If you’re building or buying one, then you’ll be responsible for it.
How Much Can You Charge Customers?
Customers are your source of income, so you should clearly know how much you should charge them.
Private pilates classes start at $50, often costing over $100. Most group mat sessions cost around $20-27, while group reformer classes start at $60. Equipment, location, and quality of teachers determine how much you should charge your customers.
However, there isn’t a set structure for how you should price your pilates classes. The fair price for your competitor could be vastly different from yours. It depends on what you offer and how you market yourself:
Take these things into account when setting your rates:
- The level of experience of your teachers.
- The quality of your equipment.
- The quality and size of your locale.
- The location of your pilates studio.
- The cost of operating a pilates session [cost-based pricing]
- Perceived value, which is primarily influenced by your branding. [value-based pricing]
- Your demographics’ purchasing power.
- Your competitor’s price [competitor-based pricing]
Equipment Needed and Expenses for Pilates Classes
Equipment is at the heart of a Pilates studio, and it’s the differentiator that separates a small studio from a luxury one.
Some pieces, like mats, are essential. Others, like reformers, can only be afforded by medium and large pilates studios:
- Mats: If you’re only buying one thing, buy mats. A simple mat can cost $30, but premium ones can cost $80 or more.
- Resistance bands: Resistance bands are versatile and very cheap. It’s a good idea to have a few of them around.
- Chairs: Stability chairs are versatile pieces of equipment that don’t cost as much as reformers. One stability chair can cost $1000-$1800.
- Stability barres: One stability barre can cost around $500.
- Arc barrel: Arc barrels can decompress the spine during mat work. One arc barrel can cost $300-$500.
- Reformers: Reformers are at the center of larger Pilates studios. They open the doors to more advanced exercises and more expensive classes. A studio set of Pilates reformers can cost $3,000-$10,000.
The number of each piece of equipment you should buy will depend on the number of clients you expect. Most studios have 25 weekly clients, and you only need to buy 2-3 reformers and chairs to serve them. Additionally, you will need to purchase one mat per client.
Marketing a Pilates Studio
When starting a pilates studio, your initial efforts should go into marketing and branding. After all, it’s the way you attract and keep customers.
You should have a variety of marketing channels, but look at what works best with your demographic. Referrals are a crucial factor, accounting for 75% of communications with clients. Facebook and emails get close at 65% and 64%.
Here are a few key insights about the general pilates demographic:
- The vast majority of clients are female.
- Most clients are 35-65 years old.
- Almost half of Pilates clients make over $100,000 a year.
- Most clients have a graduate degree.
This information will help you understand your clients but don’t stay with generalities. Chances are you’re going to cater to a specific segment, so do your research and find out which marketing channel works best with your audience.
Create a Website
Every business needs a website. It gives you legitimacy and is the primary way most of your clients will get information about you.
A website will also serve to host booking systems and plan classes. It gives your clients a chance to learn about your teachers and book the one they like the best.
Since a website will act as the face of your business, you shouldn’t put it away as a secondary thing. Invest a good portion of your marketing budget on it.
Use Social Media
Social media is a must for any business, whether small or large. The reason is that you can reach a large audience even with a small budget.
Make sure you create accounts on all major platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Depending on your audience, you can also create YouTube and TikTok accounts.
Paid ads on social media are highly effective, and you should use them to jumpstart your marketing campaign. But don’t rely solely on them. Your aim should be to create a content strategy that organically attracts users to gain a base of followers who are genuinely interested in what you offer.
The key here is to create valuable and relevant content for your audience. You could create educational content about pilates, remind your clientele of events in your studio, etc.
Ideally, it would help if you had at least one employee dedicated to this job. But if you can’t afford that, start small and do it yourself. Try to be consistent, even if you can only post content once a week. Take advantage of free tools like Canva and social media planners.
Make an SEO Strategy
SEO is the ultimate technique to put your studio on the map. When people in your community search for a pilates studio on Google, you want to be among the first on the results page.
You don’t have to compete against well-established franchises for overused keywords. Instead, focus on local keywords. For example: “Pilates studios in [insert the place where your studio is located].
For local pilates studios, listing on Google Business and maintaining an active profile with photos and reviews is sufficient to land on the first page when people search for local pilates studios.
Opening a pilates studio requires determination, but it’s also gratifying. As a teacher, it gives you a new direction. As an enthusiast, it can be a way of working closely with pilates without being a teacher.
Whether you’re starting a home pilates studio or a large, fully-equipped one, the same principles apply. Research your costs thoroughly, pick a good location, hire great teachers, and you’ll be on your way to success.
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About the author
Naz Ahm is the founder of StudioGrowth and has spent a decade growing start-ups and venture-backed companies. He writes about sales, marketing, and growth, especially in the yoga, fitness, and wellness industry.
Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently splits his time between the U.K and the US.