Successful studio owners know that bringing in guest artists is a good idea, whether for a two-hour master class or a weekend spent choreographing recital or competition routines. Your students learn new styles, get exposed to different teaching approaches and have the chance to network with professionals. But it can be a challenge to bring in the guest you want—paying for airfare, lodging, meals, hourly teaching rates, choreography fees—while keeping your bottom line in the black. But there are ways to economize, if you're willing to think outside the box.
1. Go local. Can't afford to bring in Justin Bieber's biggest backup dancer? Ask a college professor or graduate student from your local university dance program. Or if you live within driving distance of a bigger city, take advantage of resources there to save on airfare and accommodations. "We're in Connecticut, so there are many cities close to us—New York City, Boston," says Gabby Sparks of Sparkle & Shine Dance. "I can find people you wouldn't imagine within a 30-minute drive."
2. Take advantage of downtime. Scheduling master classes during off-peak times—when an artist might be home for the holidays, for example, or during the summer, when the convention circuit cools down—could cut you a break in their fee.
3. Take it outside. Hold your master classes off-site to encourage students from other studios to drop in. By opening the class up to the general public and taking away the possible stigma of having to visit your studio's stomping grounds, you'll up your master-class enrollment. "Other kids just don't want to walk through your doors," says Christy Curtis of CC & Co Dance Complex in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Now that 2018 is over, your least favorite time of year is swiftly approaching—tax time. (Insert groan here.) While you may not be thrilled to sit down and tally just how much you owe the government, you can ease the pain by being smart about the write-offs available to studio owners and freelance teachers.
What Is a Tax Write-Off, Anyway? Write-offs reduce the total income you'll be taxed on as a business owner. If your business brings in $75,000, for example, and you can deduct $10,000 in write-offs, you'll be taxed on only $65,000. Write-offs, says arts and entertainment accountant Jessica Scheitler, break into three categories: business expenses, personal deductions and credits.
7 Write-offs Often Overlooked 1. Business gifts "This could be any gift [worth $25 or less] that's intended to advance your business," says Scheitler. "I have a tattoo artist client who buys snacks and beer for his clients while they get tattooed. He might be thinking about customer service and trying to be nice, but that still counts." 2. Copyright expenses 3. Makeup, hair and nails for theatrical use Your own haircuts don't count—but the sparkly stage makeup you buy for your comp kids to wear for that aliens piece definitely does. 4. Memberships, dues and subscriptions Like your subscription to Dance Teacher! 5. Muscle conditioning and massage 6. Website expenses 7. Tour and convention travel Hotels; meals; car rental; gas; parking; tolls; air, rail and bus fares
Fundraising for your studio—whether it's to support your competition team dancers, fund a much-needed renovation or offer a scholarship to a family-in-need—can feel like pulling teeth. You've done the bake sales, the car washes, the candy bars. Why not try something new?
Here's an idea from Tara Gardner of Dance Workshop (Performing Arts & Zumba Studio) in Greencastle, Indiana. When she was looking for ways to raise funds for her competition team, a parent, who is a professional photographer, offered to take photos of kids at their own private glitter party. Parents paid a flat fee for a 10-minute session and received five digital, edited photos of their children blowing, tossing or raining down glitter.
Gardner put herself in charge of promoting the event (she created a Facebook event page and opened it up to the public) and made assignments to volunteer parents, like scheduling each shoot, collecting payment, assisting the photographer, cleaning up the glitter and working shifts throughout the one-day event.
Costs and materials Glitter; studio space for the shoot; Gardner also provided lunch for the photographer. Fees $45 for 10-minute sessions Net proceeds $1,422 in six hours/$158 for each competition team dancer Word to the wise Gardner opened up the photography sessions to nonstudio kids in her town to reach a bigger pool of customers. "We had them done in time for Valentine's Day," she says. "They make great gifts."
You've seen the popular internet memes for life hacks—tricks, shortcuts and novelties to increase your productivity and efficiency—so why not try out a few for your studio?
1. Eliminate cash exchanges for incidentals. "I have a few students who never remember to bring water with them, and they're of the age where their parents aren't around to give them a dollar," says Emily Harrington, a teacher at Dance Dreamworks in Kingston, Massachusetts. She used cardstock to create Ballerina Bucks: Parents can purchase a $5 card at any point, valid for five waters or snacks—students carry the card with them and no longer need to have cash on hand.
2. Boost your studio brand with a photo filter. For a quick branding trick, Becca Moore of Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, Georgia, recommends using the same photo filter (via Instagram or another photo-editing app—Moore recommends Rhonna Designs) on every photo you post on social media. A streamlined and consistent social-media approach goes a long way.
3. Create a cell phone bucket. After noticing that her students were asking for more frequent bathroom breaks—only to sneak a peek at their cell phones—owner of L.A. Dance, Lauren Delorey, instituted a new rule. Upon entering the studio, every dancer must put her mobile device in a big bucket that sits outside Delorey's office. She anticipated backlash from students and parents but reports the opposite: "The parents thought it was the greatest idea," she says. "The kids know when they're here to dance, they're here to dance."
The start of a new calendar year—smack dab in the middle of the studio year—often brings its own challenges, issues and focuses. Here are two big questions on the minds of studio-business leaders as they head into 2019.
Are we giving our students what they really need? After taking some senior dancers to college dance auditions, Dale Lam noticed how they struggled with the modern portion. "They did fine in ballet," she says, "but then when it came to the modern part, they were fish out of water." Her approach Lam hired a modern teacher for Horton and Graham techniques at her South Carolina–based studio, Columbia City Jazz Dance School & Company. She could see the difference in her dancers after only a few months. "I feel like I'm actually getting them more of what they're going to need—providing them the education they'll need after competitions."
What to do about the demand for instant gratification? Suzanne Blake Gerety and Kathy Blake have noticed a disturbing trend with parents new to dance at their Amherst, New Hampshire, studio. Gerety calls it push-button mentality: "They think, 'If I can get Amazon to ship my package overnight, why can't I get my kid to take class just once a week and get them on pointe?'" Their approach "It's communicating to parents how it works at our studio, how you progress here and what the benefits of dance are," she says. They hold informational sessions at parent nights, including details of intensive and competition track options. They also invite alumni to help run recitals and assist with summer intensives as a way to demonstrate what studio graduates look like.
The holidays can make this time of year fly by. But successful studio directors know that December is not the time to rest on their laurels. Here are four projects to consider this month to give your business a year-end boost.