A few weeks ago, I received an inquiry from a teacher who had left the “corporate life” to pursue her dream of teaching Pilates.  She had completed her training, was beginning to teach professionally and had suddenly realized the uncertainty that the career of the Pilates teacher posed in comparison to the corporate world.  In her company, there was a clear line of progress through marks and measures that one could progress to.  The Pilates world’s line has, well, a bit more “movement” involved.  In this week’s post, I share my best advice on how to make a career of your own design within the world of Pilates.  We’ll touch on the subject of your pathway, outlets for gaining yourself a promotion and even insurance benefits.  Let’s GO!

 

 

ser·pen·tine
ˈsərpənˌtēn,ˈsərpənˌtīn
verb
1. move or lie in a winding path or line.
“fresh tire tracks serpentined back toward the hopper”

 

If there’s one word to describe my career path in this profession it would be “serpentine.”  I have bobbed and weaved my way through a serendipitous pathway of experience-laden opportunities and am grateful for each one.  Today, I share the important themes that I learned along this pathway.  Remember that currently, there is no one way to find success in the method.  Your individuality is an asset and the following are suggestions to help you grow your service as a Pilates teacher to a full-fledged career!

In the beginning

It’s no secret that good training sets the foundation of any strong professional’s journey.  You’ve got to have something to share in order to be able to make a full career out of it.  So YES! Invest in your training.  Find a training program that resonates with your vision at present, even if that vision has little reference to Pilates.  What impact do you desire to make? What training may offer you the skills to grow to a place where that impact is possible? Does your training program represent itself? Or does it represent the individual voices that share their work? There are so many choices in the world today – make one that works for you, otherwise you’ll find yourself in another comprehensive training sooner rather than later.

i’m teaching, now what?

Teaching is part of the deal.  Teach often and teach well.  Say yes to as much as you can realistically handle, but avoid long-term commitments.  What I mean is: Give yourself permission to acknowledge that a situation is no longer serving you, should it stop being fulfilling.  Saying yes to teaching lots of bodies helps you learn to address many body-types, mind-sets, ability-levels and demographics.  From here, you get to figure out where it is you are thriving.  What types of sessions lift you up and what types of sessions give you stress or drain your energy?  What types of situations reflect that impact that you determined to be part of your journey? Find out where you stand out and go there.

diversify

I believe it’s a great strategy to teach in multiple locations for a time.  Too much of this can breed a feeling of disconnection and travel time can certainly cut into your income.  However, while you are building your book, it’s important to recognize where you find ease in your teaching.  Is it in a private practice? Group class setting? Group Equipment setting? Through working in different environments, you can discover where your work will thrive.  I’m a huge fan of following the path of least resistance in the beginning.  Let it be easy to fill your schedule and don’t be afraid to let some things go that aren’t working for you.

Get your chops!

Whether you want to work for someone else for your career or own your own studio, the BEST advice I can offer to anyone is to work for an established business (successful Pilates studio/health club/or wellness environment) for a period of time.  For me, this happened in the health club.  There, I learned to sell, make quotas, manage, see a vast demographic of clients and interact with many different departments within one business.  These practices set me up for success in my own studio.  I also spent time working for a physical therapist, where I learned how to provide a continuation of care and also received a mentorship on therapeutic applications of my work.  Working for or with established businesses provides you with another unique opportunity to decide what you want and what you don’t want within your work.  Regardless if you love the environment, or can’t wait to get out, you WILL learn business skills that will help you on your pathway.

network

Remember to step outside of your immediate circle in order to meet the people who may lead you to your next opportunity.  These can be people in movement, fitness, the medical community, business community or something completely random.  Share your passion through conversation and volunteerism.  People will remember you and even think of you for future opportunities.  Keep showing up with your work focused on service and impact – the network will absolutely respond!

accountants

Get one – fast! Whether you are an IC, employee or studio owner, work with an accountant to set you up with good practices for book keeping, paying taxes and putting money away for the future.  This is a career move that you will not ever regret.  With no set 401k in place for Pilates pros, we have to fend for ourselves.  Take care of your finances and you will absolutely create a career that serves you.

medical insurance

Insurance is a rocky road to navigate.  Outside of established corporate wellness centers, medical insurance may not be easily available to you.  There are insurance brokers who’s job it is to find a plan that fits your budget and hopefully your needs.  Working with brokers has been my number one strategy to maintaining medical insurance so that I may be able to take care of my own health and provide my services to others.

get creative with your offering

There are NO RULES to how Pilates is disseminated.  In this world of technology and the internet, the possibilities to create additional revenue streams are endless.  You’ll need a sound business plan along with support to create a viable offering, however, I never thought that a podcast would be a major source of my income and here I am, living my best life while speaking unfiltered about the subject of Pilates!

shiny objects

Look for the elements of professional opportunity that turn your head, but don’t knock you off your feet.  Beneficial opportunities will always include hard work, challenges and discomfort.  If the opportunity creates fear, pain, anxiety or hardship, this shiny object is, in fact, too good to be true! (This is where the element of bob and weave comes in quite handy!) You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way in order to be successful.

 

Post your questions and comments below and let me know which themes you’d like to learn more about.  There is SO much road to cover in the career path of the Pilates Pro but be assured that the benefit to teaching and being creative within this work is unending fulfillment!

 

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Comments (12)

Ok I must be challenged! How do I join the list?!

Thanks!

I got you covered! 😉

Love this Jenna! Totally been there and your advice is UNVALUABLE for anyone starting out this rather unique but immensely rewarding career path. Get it, girl! 🙂

Thank you so much Cicely! I love watching your career grow and expand. You are an inspiration for me as well!!!

Thank you for all that you post, it helps so much. I just got certified 2 weeks ago and started working right away at a health club. It’s been one student a class each week. Seemingly slow since it’s summer.
My question is – is it normal to feel so very new still? I have yet to teach a group class. In the meantime, I am teaching as many friends as I can and continuing my personal practice. I have yet to receive my business cards from the club so I made my own so I can pass those out as well. (And offer free intro classes)
Do you have any tips/advice? I do understand that I will get better the more experience I have and that my style and voice will develop in time as well.
Thank you in advance for your time,
Dani

I’m almost 20 years in and sometimes I still feel new LOL!! I would suggest focusing on the excitement you have to teach, vs, the need to feel “ready.” I know many of the first generation teachers who still were working with discovery into their 80’s and 90’s but chose to focus on being present with where they were, and how they wanted to feel when they were with one student or 100. I think the most unique and valuable aspect of being a new teacher is having a blank page to fill with experiences. Focus on being a great teacher no matter how many are in the room. A great teacher doesn’t know it all but is focused on how they might help their client have a great experience with their body. They hold the space for their students, they listen and they look and they have an interpersonal experience, rather than one of dictating movement. For this to happen, you’ve got to be yourself – your personality, you’re “newness” and your passion. It’s so ok to say “This is a new one for me to teach so you can help me out by letting me know what you really like about this exercise or maybe where I can give you more information.” This reminds them that you, too are a human being. My advice for building a practice would be to let people know how excited you are about working with them, in addition to how excited you are about teaching pilates. Listen to their stories, get curious and ask questions and be a beacon for them of “movement hope and happiness.” I have no doubt you are already doing this. I gained more clients in the health club because I said hello and asked them questions than because I knew how to use the reformer :). Stay the course! I know you are already doing a great job!

Wow! I’ve been thinking about all of this stuff so much lately. I recently opened a classroom next door to my studio where we give private Pilates sessions. We were turning away clients because our schedules are so full, and also realizing that there are a lot of people who want Pilates and great movement classes but can’t afford privates. It’s been really great to do something different and see so many more people but it takes a lot to get it up and running and build up the clientele. Right now I’m in this place where I wonder if it’s going to be financially successful or just a labor of love. It’s great to hear you speak about the reality of needing to fund our future retirement and pay for our medical insurance. Thank you for a great post!

Thank you for sharing this! In my experience, it is a great strategy to give yourself a time line. When I first started to wonder if I wanted to continue to run a studio, I thought “OK – this is a thought and a feeling and I am going to pay attention to it. I’ll continue to put my effort and passion into what I’ve created for the next two years. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes open to other opportunities and possibilities.” It was a great way to navigate because I didn’t have to suffer with the daily worry, I could just do the work. However, I also gave myself the space to continue to check in and make the changes I needed to move on. The question I would ask you is “How long can you realistically continue with this model?” Ask and answer from an energetic, passionate and financial place. You’ll be surprised at what creative solutions may be presented to help with the worry! I have no question that you are doing great work and if it’s in this model or another down the road, continuing to check in will provide you with perspective to help you shift when necessary. xoxo

Such a great topic, Jenna! ❤️

Thank you! There will definitely be more coming!

This is just what I needed to read today! I’ve been teaching full time for almost 6 years now and it’s such a rewarding job!
I do think about my future a lot though and wonder how I’ll be able to keep up this cadence of teaching 35-38 sessions a week for the rest of my career. Owning my own studio is not something I’ve ever been drawn to, so I’m always picking my brain for other ways I can generate income and grow my career without totally burning myself out. I’ve worked for a health club and done some managing as well as teacher training. I’m back as an employee at a successful studio where I can learn and grow which I love- but I do often wonder how I’ll be able to keep teaching this much for the next 25 years.

I love that you commented on this as I think this exact query – “How do I keep this up for the next 25years.” I had the same question in my own sphere recently and truly feel that this is the first in a series of posts. I thought I’d establish some vocabulary through this first post and then expand because I feel like we all need to be able to tap into the possibilities that exist for us beyond the hour to hour. Thank you so much for commenting and there will absolutely be more to come!

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