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  1. #1
    Advanced BHUZzer Zepora's Avatar
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    Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    I'm very frustrated with my day job. I find myself thinking of dance all day. I have often thought of opening a dance studio and just dismissed it as foolishness.

    Well, what makes me different from anyone else who opens a successful dance studio? Nothing. So . . . . maybe I should do it.

    The city I am considering has no bellydance studio, but fitness clubs, jazzersize, etc. does really well there. Population is about 14,500. It's a suburban area . . . there are a few successful studios in a nearby urban area . . . .

    Just wondering if it's worth looking into. What can I expect to make if I ran the business full time and taught the majority of the classes by myself . . .

    Input? Suggestions? Warnings? Encouragement? All is welcome! Thanks!


  2. #2
    Advanced BHUZzer Zepora's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Oh yeah, what about insurance??? What kind of insurance would I need on myself and / or my studio / employees?


  3. #3
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    You need professional liability insurance, not much different from what you have now. My policy through Venbrook covered me for a studio up to 1000 sq feet. I've just moved into a larger space and should be looking for an insurance upgrade. Honestly, I'm not big on ANY kind of insurance, but that's a whole 'nother topic.

    Can you make a living? I just finished 3 years of running my studio. I'm a single mom, my son and I live well below the poverty line. That's OK with me, I know it's a choice I made and continue to make every day, happiness over materialism. And I'm a very frugal person and make careful choices. No cable, not many new clothes, we live in a tiny duplex and I drive a 2000 Honda, etc. But I manage to save enough for travel and things that really matter. And we've never, ever gone hungry.

    Still, it's a nontraditional choice. I think most people who own dance studios (of any kind) are married women whose husbands have good jobs. It's a very difficult way to support a family.

    I teach usually 12-14 classes per week. It's hard on my body. I could probably cross a threshhold financially if I pursued some lunchtime yoga classes onsite at local employers, but teaching even one more weekly class would be brutal.

    Finding other teachers to work for me has been nearly impossible. I've found them, but they just don't seem to retain students. I can't afford enough advertising to fill their classes with new students every 6 weeks! So they wind up teaching small classes and I don't really make any money when they teach. But it keeps me from burning out and increases what I can offer on the schedule, so I keep a few other teachers in the studio.

    I love what I do. Love it. Every minute of it. There's never a moment I'm 'at work' when I wish I was doing something else. Not yet, anyway! I love being my own boss. I've been self-employed for 15 years now, I'm not sure I'd know how to work for someone else again.

    I know I can't do it forever though. My body has limits. I'm already planning a very slow transition to a less physical career, but that's years down the road.
    Last edited by Lauren_; 04-08-2010 at 07:24 PM.


  4. #4
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    I went to Salaryexpert.com and got this data:

    $17,008 = Average Base Salary in Belleville, Illinois
    $24,432 = National Average Base Salary

    ETA: Of course if this were really a SALARY rather than self-employment income, someone would be paying half your social security and Medicare taxes for you, and some or all of your health insurance! daydreams
    Last edited by Lauren_; 04-08-2010 at 05:19 PM.


  5. #5
    Advanced BHUZzer maurazebra's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    From the owner/operator's point of view, dance studios are more about teaching dance and dealing with all kinds of business matters than they are about dancing. Commercial leases are no joke, and fixing up a studio with mirrors and floors costs money up front. If it is dancing that you dream of, you might want to simply take more classes yourself. But if you already have an enthusiastic student base and find yourself enjoying the teacher role, then maybe a studio is for you.


  6. #6
    Master BHUZzer zamora's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    it works for me because my studio has beren in my home since the 1970's.i have a door from the outside directly into my studio.it is a fantastic write off.
    i have 4 common rooms i write off.


  7. #7
    Advanced BHUZzer maurazebra's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    For those who must rent studios, I wanted to add that rent needs to be paid 24/7 and the prime time hours for dance classes will be 12 - 15 hrs a week, especially in this economy. Most students will be available in the evenings, Mon - Thu. Friends who were conducting morning classes lost their students and stopped teaching when the moms had to 'go back to work' when husbands lost jobs / overtime / had wages cut. Taaj once suggested that you look at the studio hours for local yoga studio to see when you are likely to be able to earn money the easiest. For the rest, that is where your assessment of local situation and creativity kicks in!


  8. #8
    Advanced BHUZzer HubicRuzz's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    From what I have seen if you run it as a studio and not purely a dance school then it can be done. So basically when your dance school isn't using the studio it is hired out to other dance teachers.

    Also helps to have a retail shop housed in the studio as well.

    Then have regular performances to give students a reason to keep attending classes.

    This is all based on what I have seen at

    dance central sydney

    Terezka's World of Danse Orientale


  9. #9
    Advanced BHUZzer jamielynn's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    I teach at a Tango studio that my sister helped start a few years ago. They decided to go as a non-profit "community cultural center" so they not only have dance classes there every day of the week, but also evening music shows, dance events, and other cultural things. So a studio can be more than just dance classes and recitals if you have the time and energy.


  10. #10
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Quote Originally Posted by HubicRuzz View Post
    From what I have seen if you run it as a studio and not purely a dance school then it can be done. So basically when your dance school isn't using the studio it is hired out to other dance teachers.
    Trouble is, those teachers want the studio during the same 12-15 hours a week that we want the studio. And renting the studio typically brings in about $25 per hour in my area. You're really still losing money vs. teaching a class yourself in that hour -- but if you're too wiped out to teach and need a night off, it beats $0 income.

    Do the math. Take the figure you think you need to earn in a month, plus the rent and utilities for a studio in your area, and divide it by that 12-15 hours per week (as a monthly figure). You need a LOT more than $25 an hour just to survive.

    Teaching more than 12-15 hours a week wouldn't be possible even if students wanted daytime classes. You have to spend so much time bookkeeping, marketing, lesson planning, choreographing, cleaning the studio, answering the phone and e-mails, etc. that you're actually WORKING 50-60 hours a week if you teach that much. And it's hard on your body.

    Earning a living is different than turning a profit. I can turn a profit of $100 a month, but I can't live on that. I AM living on the profit I turn, but barely. When the economy tanked, I lost most of my performance income, and living on the studio income alone takes a TIGHT belt, let me tell you!

    I'm not saying it can't be done -- I'm doing it, and again, I LOVE it! It's worth it. I'm just trying to set a realistic expectation. Yes, you can earn a living if you work VERY hard (and since the work all feels like play, if you enjoy teaching dance and running a business, that part's easy). But most people don't try to do that. Most people do it as a sideline or a hobby that pays for itself.


  11. #11
    Advanced BHUZzer maurazebra's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    Trouble is, those teachers want the studio during the same 12-15 hours a week that we want the studio. And renting the studio typically brings in about $25 per hour in my area.
    This is our experience, also. And it is also our experience that sometimes daughter's performance income helps pay the studio bills, especially during slow times like, hm,
    the week of Thanksgiving,
    the three weeks before and two weeks after Christmas,
    the last half of April (Kentucky Derby season in Lousiville) and first week of May,
    the last week in May (college finals),
    July and August and the first week of September (summer time!),
    and the last two weeks in October (Halloween events).

    So you need a plan for non-prime hours AND for non-prime weeks and months. One that works. If you need a boutique at the studio in order to meet the bills but you dislike being a shopkeeper (display, inventory, taxes, selling, security) then you are back doing what you don't want to do for a living. Ditto performances. If you have to have events to meet the bills but you dislike doing publicity, negotiating with artists, hustling your studio as a location, handling money under stressful circumstances, controlling crowds, wondering if folks will actually show up, emptying the garbage / hanging the posters / stacking the chairs / cleaning the bathrooms / watching out for thieves then you are back doing what you don't want to do for a living.
    Last edited by maurazebra; 04-09-2010 at 10:16 AM.


  12. #12
    Mega BHUZzer Lara L's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    great input already
    but also, investigate the market in your area- it is different for every single location- is there enough of a market to support you at the level that you want to do this? This is REALLY a labor of love- stress on the labor part of it! you become not only a dancer & teacher but also an office manager, publicist for both you & the folks you rent too ('cause looking like a busy studio is in your interest too!) programming director (finding folks to fill space when you aren't) etc, etc, etc...
    I teach in rented space from a friend who has a BD studio- she is married & has another job, this is a dream for her & is finally just in the black after 1 year. Another friend of mine is single and runs a more 'traditional' dance studio- that woman has almost no time for herself, her life is the studio & everyone gets pulled in to help. She is amazing, this is definitely her vocation, but she really works her butt off to do it.
    both of these gals have a gear/costume shop as part of the studio to make ends meet, as well as doing various special events.
    friend #3 is director at a non profit dance studio with many studios, and many programs. scheduling, marketing, finding & retaining teachers (in a military town too, so folks are constantly moving!) bringing in special workshop instructors, organizing shows... these people work hard. None of us would do it if we didn't think it was worth it, but you need to go in with eyes wide open!


  13. #13
    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    My policy through Venbrook covered me for a studio up to 1000 sq feet. I've just moved into a larger space and should be looking for an insurance upgrade. Honestly, I'm not big on ANY kind of insurance, but that's a whole 'nother topic.
    OT: Lauren, you should stay with Venbrook. My dad just got a job there (in FLA) after being a VP in another company for 20 years and he loves his new job! I am so happy for him, so I think you should support them! What kind of twisted logic is that?


  14. #14
    Master BHUZzer zamora's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    i have classes booked 5 nights a week
    sat mornings.private clients during the day. i have 2 clients with outside sales jobs so they come on "lunch".i do not rent or book other types of classes.the studio is just for M E BD.
    but, things are not the same in each town. i am the only one here that teaches what I teach.


  15. #15
    Official BHUZzer amethyst_skyy's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    I know some teachers who do very well, but its a slow start.
    My teacher has a studio at her house. The front door is the studio, then theres a door off there that goes into her house. This way she doesnt have to pay to rent, but its does cost money upfront for mirrors and flooring.
    She teaches 2 classes tuesday, two wednesday, two thursday, and one friday morning. 7 total at an hour and a half each, so 10.5 hours. She charges about $15/class (8 week sessions paid upfront). So she makes decent money there. But she does private lessons, and performs often. She is very busy!
    She also holds workshops and "shimmy shaks" to showcase students, amatures, and pros....usually with a live band and refreshments. She also has a in studio store, online store also.

    Of course, it takes lots of time to build up to that many classes. You would probably start out with one beginner class, the in a few months add an intermediate class for students to move up. AT my studio, you have to take at east 8 weeks of beginner classes, and typically spend at least a year in intermediate because there is so much to learn after the basics (each 8 week session focuses on a different aspect of the dance - beledi, karsh, veil, zills, etc). Many people spend years at this level. Then theres an advanced class and advanced troup.

    If you were looking to try it out, keep you job and start teaching 1 class a week...maybe at a local community center? If it is sucessfull, start saving money for your own studio. This is how I would do it.

    I woud like to have a studio in my house one day (when I get one...hopefully in 2-3 years.... graduating college soon). I plan to teach workout classes, personal train, have dance teachers teach classes there, and if I ever get good enough at belly dance, possibly teach that.

    You have to advertise and maket well, dont skimp on that. Make a website, facebook, twitter, as in the paper, fliers at local places (library, grocery store, pizza place, etc.) I know people who held sucessfull fitness bootcamps and said you have to spend money to make money. One woman said that 80% of newcomers heard about the program from radio ads.

    It defintiely also depends on the area. Some people make a killing, some barely scrape by. If you do it for the love of it and dont care about making alot, then its rewarding none the less.
    Last edited by amethyst_skyy; 04-09-2010 at 11:07 AM.


  16. #16
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    If there was any way I could NOT pay rent and utilities for my studio I'd be a happy camper!!!

    The building slowly is an important point. I taught for 6 years before I opened the studio. First one class. Then more and more. I was earning my living by teaching before I opened the studio doors, already had about 8 classes per week booked at locations all over town and just had to bring them 'home.'

    For the first two years, I continued to teach at a few other locations. I just gave up those classes last November, and I'm still reeling from it financially.

    I keep finding that what I can do physically really limits what I can earn financially.

    I WISH that hiring other teachers to run successful classes in my space were an option. I've tried and tried, and I'll continue trying. But so far the only person I can depend on to retain students is me.


  17. #17
    Official BHUZzer micamica's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    My encouragement-Based on my own experiences I would definitely suggest an in house studio. I have rented two studios and in both have had issues with heating/cooling, waiting for building manager to fix things, etc. We are closing on a house soon, and one of my stipulations was I had to have studio space! Studio rent is expensive-I use a nontraditional space with a great rate and still pay $600 a month =( But when I go in house that will just roll into the mortgage that I would have to pay anyways.

    My advice-Before you open a place, could you possibly rent space from another local studio? This could give you a feel for what it is like to advertise, try to maintain a population, etc while testing the demand that is in your area. Mirrors and flooring is a huge expense, so you can "practice" a bit before making these investments.

    My warning-If you do put in flooring somewhere, make sure it is portable! My first studio was in the same building as a ballroom dance instructor. He went to great expense installing floors and mirrors, and his place was great. Unfortunately the building manager went into foreclosure and when the new building owner came he wanted everyone out! So the teacher lost the entire investment...he had been there long enough to make the money up, but it was still horrible. So protect yourself with whatever you invest or bring to a studio, in or out of home-make sure you can take it with you when you go.

    Good luck,
    Nikki


  18. #18
    Master BHUZzer Sonja2's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zepora View Post
    I'm very frustrated with my day job. I find myself thinking of dance all day. I have often thought of opening a dance studio and just dismissed it as foolishness.
    I think anyone should follow their dream (or at least try it and see if they can make it work) but...that said....

    Keep in mind that once your now-hobby (or professional performance career, or even teaching without the obligations of operating a studio) becomes a full-time job...that is what it will be. A job. And a big, often stressful job that may or may not pay the bills (especially at first). The paperwork is a commitment, insurance, mortgage payments, taxes, etc... Suddenly the dream may not seem as fabulous as it did when you were thinking about the physical act of dance all day.

    I'm speaking from the perspective of someone who doesn't run a studio (though I do dance professionally and teach occasionally), so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt, but I've often found in other endeavors that once something fun carries with it the responsibilities of obligations to multiple people and paperwork...it ceases to be fun.

    I second the others who suggest a home studio before you make the leap into purchasing or leasing a building. I find home studios charming. Do keep in mind possible laws in your area about using residence as a place of business, and any liability insurance you may need to purchase in addition to your current policies, though.

    ETA: Oh, and if you earn above a certain amount, most cities and/or counties and states require business licenses (sometimes one for each public entity), and you'll need to either acquire help for taxes or learn to do the schedule C on your own.
    Last edited by Sonja2; 04-09-2010 at 11:43 AM.


  19. #19
    Advanced BHUZzer maurazebra's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    The home-based studio: it certainly can be an ideal but in many places illegal. Make sure you are zoned for it and that your insurance will cover it. If your studio is illegal in the zoning your home is in, you are at the mercy of any cranky neighbor who gets tired of student cars parked on the street, wierd music, etc. Experience speaking here.


  20. #20
    Advanced BHUZzer LiesaB.'s Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Running your own business of ANY type takes a special kind of perseverance, hard work, energy, & attitude. The talent and skill that one has in any area must be met if not equaled by your business sense & entrepreneurial skills.

    Creative people in particular are often discouraged by lack of business skills. A common example is of the great cook who opens a restaurant, only to have it fail from the owner's unrealistic views of what make the business tick. Not to mention the incredible amount of physical labor and hours.
    As Lauren has shared with us, the owner has to do so much to make it work, that one discovers that energy as a resource is limited, even if there are plenty of customers. For each hour of class that I teach, there is approx. 2-4 hours of preparation, follow-through, promotion, networking, business record keeping & maintenance, etc.
    If you are the only Bellydancer in your area, or if there are very few, that is in some ways a good factor. It also limits the awareness level of the community. The small sized area limits your market, as does the lack of Bellydance support, such a venues, vendors, etc. This is what my situation is. I have had to really think outside the box!
    Keep researching, you have made a start by asking here!
    Running your own business is extremely rewarding, but not for the faint of heart!
    Last edited by LiesaB.; 04-10-2010 at 06:43 PM.


  21. #21
    Official BHUZzer micamica's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    ooh, my other warning-if you are planning on doing any type of major purchase such as home loan you will not be able to count any of your dance business earnings until you have filed taxes with one continuous company name for two years. Even if you have one job which is less than 40 hours a week, you can not use them both to qualify unless you have had BOTH jobs for 2 years! We are going through this right now with trying to buy a house =(
    Nikki


  22. #22
    Advanced BHUZzer HubicRuzz's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    The point I was trying to make was that trying to make a living out of dance involves more than just dancing, as Lauren has pointed out.

    I would also second the idea of starting out slow. Don't just jump into getting a studio, start out just renting space to run classes first if you haven't really taught. You may discover you hate teaching.


  23. #23
    Advanced BHUZzer HubicRuzz's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    I WISH that hiring other teachers to run successful classes in my space were an option. I've tried and tried, and I'll continue trying. But so far the only person I can depend on to retain students is me.
    Yeah that is basically what happens in Danse Orientale. A lot of the classes are farmed out to advanced students to teach. Similar to what happens in some martial arts schools, the head of the school isn't teaching all the classes.


  24. #24
    Ultimate BHUZzer artemisia_danst's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    i looked into starting a studio for a few years and than gave up. as starting one in even the tiniest space (like 10 students max)
    - would EAT away all my savings to get it decked out
    - would cost me 1500E per month in rent/bills, at least
    - still would not be the kind of size/place i'd want

    conclusion: i'd basically be working to pay rent on my crappy studio. and where would my own rent/food/ come from.if studio's had been cheaper here (what do you all pay in rent a month?) i might have done it.

    no idea. my fiancé earns peanuts (freelance teacher).

    so i've been renting other people's studio's, community halls, city sports facilities by the hour, teaching in different locations, lugging the boombox around. and in 2011 that will be my main source of income

    i dont dare rely on gigs. there is NO restaurant work here. a few years ago we had quite a lot of corporate gigs, but since the economy tanked so did those type of gigs.

    i plan on being pretty poor, but i think i'm going to be ok with that.
    ithink i'll be able to teach about 10 classes a week eventually. i'm going to have to start with half of that, as the first year i'm also going to try and finnish my phd, and as i'll slowly need to build up/find extra venues/towns possibly even, to teach at.

    so very poor. lol.

    I've been trying to save up as much as possible, (in order to save up enough, to get central heathing and a bathroom installed), so allthough it's not really necessary right now, we are accustomed to making do with less. it's the slow periods (summer etc) that scare me. as neither (me and hubby) will have any fall back regular job income.

    i also do not want to be sales person. most dancers i know supplement their income by selling hipscarved etc and that just isnt for me. i hope that the event organising i'm getting into, which i do enjoy and am good at, will be a source of income.

    also, i get quite a lot of request for private classes, which at the moment i'm saying no to, due to lack of time, but i hope that once i can dance full time, those will supplement my income also.

    good luck!!!
    Last edited by artemisia_danst; 04-12-2010 at 10:32 AM.


  25. #25
    Official BHUZzer Chandra's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    I strongly recommend you start out s-l-o-w...

    Start teaching a weekly class at someone else's studio, this will allow you the time to build your student base and develop your class approach and sylibus. As you get more students or current students progress - add a second class (same night - since you're already there).
    Getting more students? Add another night...

    #1 Rule - fill your own classes
    Advertize/network/promote.
    Studio owners don't care if it's your class or somebody else's (they just want paying students at the studio period)


    I jumped in feet first w/ a studio of my own. But 16-18 hour days (6 days a week) had me in serious burnout mode. I couldn't do all the admin duties, marketing, etc and teach every class too. So I brought in other instructors. But having sunk so much into getting open (mirrors, sprung floors, decorating, insurance/rent and everything else - advertizing buget severely limited.

    The business part of the equation was swallowing me whole - I had no life and barely enough time to create new choroeos and material for my classes. So I took on a biz partner to split some of the financial burden and duties with. But she had never been in biz before - and within a short time backed out even though I explained we were just breaking even and needed to use her investment to increase studen base. She cleared out and closed the studio bank account, and still flipping out over the monthly overhead ($1,400 a month), proceded to trash the hard earned reputation of the studio.
    I wound up having to close the studio...


    I am currently teaching at someone elses studio - am finally able to actually keep what I bring in as an instructor, and am builing MY classes, My student base, and reputation in the dance community. I plan on opening another studio in the future - but def plan on doing things very diff from the first go round.


  26. #26
    Master BHUZzer tigerb's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Just as a brief financial note... my teacher was able to get a very favorable small business loan due in part to a program supporting woman-owned businesses! So do investigate any local small business associations to look for things like this.


  27. #27
    Advanced BHUZzer maurazebra's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    ! And try the Small Business Bureau, just for laughs.... they told daughter to forget-about-it and go back to college ... real southern gentlemen, they were.


  28. #28
    I could get used to this! Tehani's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Start slow like everyone else is saying! Look into your community center and Parks and Recs program they are often more then happy to have additional dance teachers and it'll give you a chance to see how you feel about teaching without renting a studio and getting insurance right away. Most Park & Rec programs insurance covers their teachers so that is one more way to feel it out without investing too much up front.


  29. #29
    Mega BHUZzer Lara L's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    Hey Lauren- I'll teach for you! (commute might be a bugger tho)
    I rent studio space right now & I go back & forth between wanting to be the studio owner & wanting someone else to run everything so I can just show up & draw a paycheck instead of dealing with the business side of things. mood swings & being a new parent (again)...

    I second the starting slow thing- see if you like it, if you're good at it, if the market in your area will support it before throwing major investments $$ into it.


  30. #30
    Master BHUZzer zamora's Avatar
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    Re: Can you really make a living on a dance studio?

    lauren, please pm me about full time teaching body pain....i need to know what is normal.
    hijack over


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