Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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Summertime is notoriously slow for dance studio owners, but bills don't take a holiday. For Jennifer Ness, director of Dance Elite Studio in Seattle, a premium recital package sold at the end of the school year provides a revenue boost to compensate for the leaner summer months ahead.

How it works 

Recognizing parents felt nickeled and dimed by recital fees and end-of-studio-year costs, Ness decided to package items to offer a better rate, and she sweetened the deal by throwing in free performance tickets. For an all-inclusive $200 fee, families receive four tickets, a DVD of the show, a recital T-shirt and a one-line good-luck message in the program. Ness makes a $30–$40 profit on each package, which covers teacher costs for the summer. To stir up interest, she invites students to come up with the recital's theme; the winner has their picture taken. That photo becomes the featured image on the program and a silhouetted illustration for the T-shirt.

Bonus business-builder 

To pay for summer expenses the recital packages don't cover, Ness offers a sampler camp. Held three times during the summer, the two-week camp teaches students a different style of dance every day (ballet, jazz, tap and so on). The camp's variety "captures the little ones' attention and loyalty," says Ness. Attendees get to try new genres in a less intimidating environment, and come fall, many add a new class to their dance schedule. To find her price point, she did a market analysis of other studios and set her fee accordingly. "I know how much parents can pay and how many kids I need in a class to make it work," she says.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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Running a studio can be a major juggling act. It's no surprise, then, that a few things slip through the cracks—costing you money or students. Watch out for two common but often unnoticed mistakes, and you'll find yourself with more time, clients and revenue on your hands.

1. Using online registration as a crutch

If you offer registration via your studio website, make sure you aren't losing clients by neglecting in-person registration. One day Kathy Morrow, director of Dance Du Coeur in Sugar Land,Texas, overheard a front-desk staffer directing a new client to the studio's website to register, rather than offering to do it over the phone. "I thought, You had a fish on the hook—why didn't you walk them through it?" she says. "When you register, there are a lot of boxes to check off. Some people want to pay with a check, some to link to a credit card. We can make it easier by answering any questions directly."

2. Not delegating

Have you heard yourself say, once too often, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself"? Overextending yourself because of perfectionism or a misguided need to control can be counterproductive. By creating choreography, teaching, bookkeeping, cleaning, making phone calls and typesetting, and doing payroll, mailings and ordering, you could be leaving no time for the very things that will create your best business. Misty Lown decided to delegate all the teaching at her Onalaska, Wisconsin–based studio, Misty's Dance Unlimited. "Giving up teaching was super-hard," she says, "but it's the best decision I ever made. Whenever I was teaching, it meant I never saw the other five classrooms that were operating during that time. Now I can rotate my time checking on classrooms and interacting with students."

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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Keeping up with the constant changes in social media may seem impossible. So what's a busy studio owner to do? Try implementing these four rules to protect students and teachers from the worst of social media while still allowing for all the good things it has to offer.

1. "Our policy says that no staff member should be contacting any student under age 18 via social media," says Michelle Dawson of The Academy of Dance by Lori in Pittsburgh. "We ask them to direct their students to the studio's Facebook page that everyone can 'like.'"

2. Sue Sampson-Dalena of Dance Studio of Fresno in California, asks her competition team dancers to sign a code of ethics at the start of their season. "It says they will not post anything inappropriate, demeaning or provocative online, especially if they're wearing Dance Studio of Fresno swag," she says. "I've only had to call in a dancer once to ask if she was prepared for me to show her parents what she'd posted. It became a teaching moment about how the outside world, including future employers, will see her."

3. A no-tolerance policy for bullying is absolutely essential. David Ahmad of Port Perry Dance Academy in Ontario, Canada, recalls an incident of improper social media use: "That child lost her solo and membership in a group routine for one year," he says. He's had no incidents since.

4. Students or staff posting video of studio choreography is another big no-no. "We make it clear that's material owned by the studio," Ahmad says. Dawson sets a privacy-keeping example by leaving students' last names off any posts by the studio.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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Discounts on tuition attract new clients and encourage existing clients to register for more classes. But while discounting has its benefits, if not thoughtfully administered, it can be a money loser. Here are three ways to structure your discounts to bring in the volume you want while keeping your business in the black.

1. Keep it simple.

To make it easier to see how much your discount is costing you, establish it as a percentage, rather than just subtracting a few dollars from monthly tuition. As a rule your discount percentage should always be considerably less than your profit margin. "The average dance studio makes a 10 percent profit," says CPA Sean Dever, whose business manages payroll for dance, gymnastics and swim schools. "Say you give a 10 percent discount for paying full tuition up front. You've already lost all your profit on that student."

2. Time it right.

Model your discount on the travel industry. For instance, travel discount programs offer bigger discounts closer to departure dates. So as the start of classes approaches, you might consider a deeper-than-usual discount to fill an empty spot—as long as it's not a prime-time class. "Once a session is locked down, and you know which classes have empty spots, send a notice to your e-mail list advising them of a 'special' discount," says Dever.

3. Save Groupon for special occasions.

Deal-of-the-day websites like Groupon don't make sense for a business that is based on building long-term relationships. "It's disruptive because you get dabblers," says Dever. "Parents typically try it to get a child in an activity, then switch to something else when the session is over." Instead, use Groupon for special events and one-off occasions, such as birthday parties or a trio of dance lessons for an upcoming wedding.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. The list goes on—and you have to decide not only what type of presence you'll have on each platform, but also whether you and your faculty will network with students and family members. How can you set boundaries for yourself and your faculty on social media?

The easiest option may be to prohibit these interactions entirely. At the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, staff and faculty may not "friend" or otherwise connect with current students or those under the age of 18 on social media, explains Gordon Wright, Harid's executive vice president and director.

At the Dance Zone in Henderson, Nevada, the handbook states that social media should be handled "in a professional manner." Owner Jami Artiga encourages students and faculty to share photos and tag the studio, but prefers not to "friend" kids from her personal account. "Of course, my son dances at the studio, and we have teachers with kids who go here, so sometimes the line gets blurry," she says.

Robin Dawn Ryan of the Robin Dawn Academy in Cape Coral, FL, also has a few students on her Facebook friend list, "but I don't put a lot about my personal life on the site," she says. She uses the platform more to keep track of what dancers and their parents are posting about the studio. "If they put up something they shouldn't," she says, whether that's a bullying post or an unflattering image, "I'll ask them to take it down."

Ryan tends to keep her social-media shout-outs generic: "So proud of this year's graduates!" and "Our dancers looked beautiful at prom!" That way, she can show support without spending hours online or worrying about missing any one student's achievement.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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If you want to become a go-to dance studio in your local area, the best way to grow your business may still be via good old-fashioned word of mouth—and these days, that happens not only through direct person-to-person interaction, but also over social media. To raise your profile, focus your energy toward what you, specifically, have to offer your clients.

Community Involvement

Outreach activities will teach young dancers the importance of doing good for others—while also introducing your studio to prospective customers. Students could visit nursing homes to perform for residents. You could create a lecture-demonstration program that tours elementary schools. Every year, Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Thornton, Colorado, performs at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Walk for a Cure. "We have a company member with juvenile diabetes, and we do that to support him," says Jennifer Jarnot, the school's owner.

Successful Alums

If you've been around long enough to have alumni who perform professionally, highlight them. Artistic Fusion Dance Academy has an alumni page on its site, with photos and bios of former students. Seeing that you've helped other dancers make it in the biz can entice up-and-comers who hope to achieve those same dreams.

A Strong Vision

Having a distinct viewpoint can help you stand out in a crowded dance-training market. Know what kind of business you want to run and what kind of student you're trying to reach. Is your goal to produce well-rounded performers, or to be the best in one genre? Do you cater to recreational dancers, serious competitors or both? "Figure out the culture of your studio, and stick to it," Jarnot says. If people know what you stand for, they can feel confident recommending your services.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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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.

Studio Owners who try TutuTix for their Spring 2019 recitals can get a $222 Visa Gift Card. Click here to learn more.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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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

Studio Owners who try TutuTix for their Spring 2019 Recitals can get a $222 Visa Gift Card. Click here to learn more.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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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."

Studio Owners who try TutuTix for their Spring 2019 Recitals can get a $222 Visa Gift Card. Click here to learn more.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
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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."

Studio Owners who try TutuTix for their Spring 2019 Recitals can get a $222 Visa Gift Card. Click here to learn more.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield on Unsplash

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.

Studio Owners who try TutuTix for their Spring 2019 Recitals can get a $222 Visa Gift Card. Click here to learn more.

Studio Tips, Sponsored by TutuTix
Photo by Allef Vinicius via Unsplash

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.

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