The Ultimate Guide
See Contents
Hide Contents

The Ultimate Guide to Starting & Running a Dance Studio

This guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to start and run a dance studio successfully. Depending on where you are in your journey, feel free to read all the way through or jump to the sections that are the most relevant to your needs.  

If you are looking for more support in running your dance business, Sawyer can help. Schedule a free demo with our specialists today.

Updated on
August 17, 2023
Next section: 

How to open a dance studio

A lot goes into opening a dance studio, but it is so rewarding in the end. Seeing your students learn and grow not only as dancers but also as people makes each step of the process worthwhile!

We will go over each step in the process so that you will get a full understanding of the timeline, necessary funds, and legal requirements you need to follow to open a dance studio and start teaching dance classes to children and adults. 

If you are looking to start a dance studio, then you have come to the right place. The team at Sawyer has worked with hundreds of businesses to create and build dance studios and other children’s activities all over the country.

Previous section: 
Next section: 

Requirements to start a business teaching dance to kids

What do you actually need to start a dance studio? Before you think about space, lesson plans, and materials, you need a business plan, budget, and so much more to get your business off the ground successfully. Plus, it’s important to ensure that you’re meeting the legal requirements for your state, city, and county. These vary, so look up exactly what is needed in the location that you wish to open your studio.

Dance studio business plan

Writing a business plan should be the first step when you want to open a dance studio. Business plans help organize your goals, make important decisions about your business, and keep track of analyses. Plus, if you are looking to apply for funding assistance (small business loans or grants), they often require a business plan as part of the application.

Business plan template

  • Executive summary: This is the most important part of your business plan because it gives your reader a quick glance into your goals. The executive summary should outline the problem you are trying to solve and how you are going to accomplish this. You should also include a brief description of who you are and the necessary financial information about your business.
  • Description of your business: What are the services you’re offering at your dance studio? Will you be teaching just children or adults as well? Will you have after school classes and summer camps? In addition to what you do, make sure to include information about how you are planning to operate as well. What state are you in? Are you an LLC or a non-profit? Give your readers a detailed explanation of who you are.
  • Market analysis: Outline your target audience, where your customers will come from, and how you’ll deliver your services to them. Are you looking for families in your community? Or maybe customers you can reach virtually in different cities? In addition, take a look at what your competitors are doing to get a sense of the market.
  • Your team: Whether you’re a mighty team of one or a room full of energetic instructors, it’s important to talk about the team members growing your business! How is your business organized? Who is in charge of what roles and responsibilities? Why are they right for those positions? Include their credentials and background so readers can learn more about them.
  • Financial plan: This section should be a detailed overview of all of your finances. What is your budget? What do you project your profits will look like? What are your overhead costs? A precise section of your financial plans will help you forecast your growth.

Use our guide for more support on creating your business plan.

Business budget and investment

Budgets help keep you on track with your business goals and objectives so that you can ensure you are doing what you need to not only maintain your day-to-day operations, but also scale and grow.

What to include in a business budget?

  • Income sources: Before you can do anything else, you need to know how much money you are planning to bring in (projected income) or currently bringing in (income). Make sure you take into account all of your revenue sources. For example, if you teach classes in-person and online, if you sell costumes or dance shoes, or if you provide private lessons. If you tend to see seasonal trends in sales, make sure to take these into account for the respective months. Everything should be tallied in this section. 
  • Fixed costs: Once you know how much money is coming in (or projected to come in), you can begin to determine how much is going out. Fixed costs stay the same each month, so they are a good place to start. Examples of fixed costs are rent, insurance, utilities for your business like Internet, employee salaries, and platform subscriptions. 
  • Variable costs: Variable costs vary from month to month. This makes them slightly trickier to budget, but they are very important to measure. On strong months, you can spend more on them and in lighter months, you likely need to cut back. Variable costs can be commission on item sales, consumption-based utilities like gas and electricity, travel, holiday gifts for employees, or shipping costs. Even though they are different each month, keeping good track of these variable costs will help you determine their seasonal averages, so you can keep that in mind as you budget.
  • One-time costs: If you have any planned one-time costs, like buying a new computer and microphone for better online classes, then you can include that in this section. However, for the most part, this section acts as a buffer to protect your business from large, unexpected costs. This helps keep you prepared for broken equipment, damage to your studio, slow months because of a global pandemic, or something similar.

Review our guide for more information and guidance on building your business budget.

Dance studio license

There are a few different licenses that are needed to start a dance studio. In addition, regular adherence to tax laws and other regulations are, of course, necessary to starting and successfully operating your business.

  • Company registration: Your company must be registered as a legal entity before you can open your dance studio. A small business is usually registered as an LLC while larger businesses and franchises are usually C Corps. You can also register as a nonprofit if you plan to run your business not-for-profit.
  • Employee Identification Number (EIN): All businesses are issued an EIN from the IRS after they register.
  • Certificate of Occupancy (CO): Once you have acquired the space for your studio, you will need to ensure it passes inspection and receives a CO.
  • Music licenses. Because dance studios often require licensed music, you must acquire public performance licenses issued by music rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

Registration and management software

Utilizing a class registration and management software like Sawyer can help your business get started on the right foot. Even though software is an added cost at the start of your business journey, it is worth it. 

Rather than relying on manually accepting bookings over the phone or via email, class registration and management software like Sawyer lets you take bookings 24/7 so you never miss a sale. Plus, software helps you make schedules easily, keep track of important student information, seamlessly take payments, and analyze financial reports.

Previous section: 
Next section: 

Dance lesson plans and curriculum

Once you have all of your legal and business requirements squared away, you can turn your attention to the fun part: building a dance curriculum and writing lesson plans! Success in the studio is dependent on strong lesson plans that keep your instructors (or you) on track when teaching.

How to write a dance curriculum

Sitting down to write a curriculum might feel overwhelming. But, it is actually one of the most exciting and fun parts about teaching! Planning your curriculum puts you in a great position to establish your goals, write lesson plans, and come up with exciting hands-on activities for your students. Use these curriculum development and design tips to get your planning off on the right foot.

  • Establish your goals: Before you begin developing your curriculum, you need to determine your goals for the semester or camp. Your goals will likely depend on what you teach and the age of your students. Make sure you choose realistic goals so that you can set yourself, fellow instructors, and students up for success. 
  • Sketch out the semester/camp: Once you have determined your goals, you can begin to sketch the course out. How many sessions do you have? How long are your sessions? This information is important as you begin to write your curriculum, and later, your lesson plans. When planning a dance curriculum, make sure you give yourself and your students enough time to understand each move and motion before moving on. 
  • Review previous lessons and curricula: If this is not your first time teaching, help yourself by going through what has worked (and not worked!) in the past. Where have students struggled when learning this style of dance or choreography? What lessons and activities really helped them master the moves? Use these experiences to inform your new curriculum. If you are a new teacher to this topic, use the Internet to see what others have done to teach it or speak with other educators to get their advice.
  • Write (and revise) lesson plans: Once you have your curriculum structured, it’s time to write the lesson plans for each class. Each lesson should also have a micro goal, which will help you accomplish the overarching goal. You should also include information about how you will assess and evaluate your success for each class. Use our guide for more details on how to write a lesson plan, including templates and examples. Once you have your lesson plans written, go through and revise so everything works cohesively.

More questions on how to write a curriculum? Use our guide!

Dance lesson plans

Not only do lesson plans help you, as the instructor, stay on track, but also they ensure that your students will learn effectively and efficiently. A strong lesson plan has a learning objective for the session, a list of the materials and music needed, the activities you will be doing and the time allotted for each one, and space for assessments and evaluations. These are the sections of a dance lesson plan to keep in mind.

  • Lesson objective(s): What is the goal of this lesson? What are the students going to learn or be able to do at the end of the class? Make your lesson objective(s) as action-oriented and measurable as possible because this is how you will measure progress before moving on to new lessons. For example: learn 30 seconds of choreography or understand 5 new ballet poses.
  • Materials needed: What materials, supplies, costumes, and music are needed to teach this lesson? 
  • Lesson activities: What will you be doing to help your students accomplish their objective? Break your lesson down into individual activities that will help your students learn what you want them to learn. Try to incorporate games and fun elements to keep them engaged. 
  • Timing: As you plan the activities, include a time estimate with each description. It is best to add a little extra time to each activity in case students are having difficulty mastering something.
  • Assessment: It is helpful for instructors to include a measure of assessment in their lesson plans. To be done at the end of a lesson, this helps the instructor learn if the lesson actually helped students meet the objectives. This can be as simple as running through the choreography or practicing the poses once more to see if you accomplished the lesson objectives.

Review our guide with even more information about teaching dance to children for dance activities and learn to dance games!

Dance lesson plan template

Ready to get started on your own dance lesson plan? Fill out our editable dance lesson plan template so you can get moving.

Previous section: 
Next section: 

Marketing your dance studio

Marketing is an important part of starting a new business. You need to get your name out there and let your community know about your offerings so you can build your customer base. With the right marketing strategy, you can get a strong group of students to make your first year as a dance studio a success.

Email marketing for dance studios

Email marketing is useful if you already have a list of email addresses from reaching out to the community or running previous programming. When you send marketing emails, it is important to know you are fighting for visibility in busy inboxes. Keep these tricks and tips in mind to be successful with email marketing for your dance studio.

  • Use a strong subject line to hook the reader. One of the main goals of email marketing is to get your email opened. Create a sense of urgency, intrigue the reader, and showcase your value with a strong subject line. Here are a couple of examples:
  • ~Only 10 spots left for beginner ballet!
  • ~Book now! Dance summer camps are almost full
  • ~See what families have to say about our dance classes
  • Offer incentives. If you can provide incentives like discounts or promo codes, email is a great place to do that. And if you are able to do this, you can really hook the reader by including that info in the subject line! 
  • Keep it short. People are busy and their inboxes are crowded. It is important to get right to the point with marketing emails. Tell them why you are emailing, show them your value, and give them an easy way to purchase.
  • End with a call-to-action (CTA). At the end of your email, use a strong CTA that encourages the reader to make a decision. Sometimes, the decision will be registering for your classes. However, other times it might make more sense for the CTA to be “schedule a call” or “learn more” if the reader is not yet ready to make a purchase.

Review our guide for more in depth information on email marketing for small businesses.

Social media marketing for dance studios

Social media is a very important platform when marketing dance classes for kids and adults. Pew Research reports that 72% of all adults in the US use social media. When it comes to parents, they found that number to be even higher: 83% of parents use social media. Therefore, social media is an important medium for reaching potential customers. Consider these recommendations when you use social media when marketing your dance studio.

  • Utilize high quality photos. Professional photos are best, but you don’t need to pay for high quality photos. Smartphone photography is a great alternative. These images are the first impression a customer will get of your studio, so make sure they are full of smiling faces! And if you use photos of children in your classes, remember to always get permission from a parent or guardian beforehand. 
  • Highlight user-generated content. Ask customers to share pictures in photo contests, reshare positive reviews, and get the excitement flowing with social media takeovers. Check out our full guide on user-generated content to see even more ideas.
  • Interact with potential and current customers. Social media is such a great tool because you can easily interact with your community. By making connections, you are increasing the likelihood that they sign up for your classes and refer friends.

For more guidance on social media marketing for camps, check out our article, which includes helpful information about setting up business accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

Advertising for dance studios

Google Ads are a useful, and often cost-efficient, marketing tool. Google Ads follow a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model, allowing business owners to bid on search terms, rank higher, and pay for the clicks their ads receive. There is no spending requirement, which means you can set your own budget. Follow these steps when setting up your Google Ads strategy.

  • Do your research. Before you can create your Google Ads, you need to decide which keywords to target. Keywords are the words or phrases that people search for on Google that trigger an ad. The first step is to see which keywords your competitors are targeting. You can find this information by searching those words to see what ads appear.
  • Choose your level. Google Ads have two different levels: campaigns (higher level) and ad groups (lower level). Creating different ad groups for different keywords will help your ad be more effective with customers. 
  • Create your budget. You need to consider two different elements that go into your account’s overall spend: daily budget (the amount of money you spend on each campaign each day) and bid (the cost when someone who searches for your keyword actually clicks on your ad).
  • Pick your keywords. Google Ads has a free Keyword Planner tool, which you can use to generate a helpful list of keywords for your campaigns. The Keyword Planner helps you see if certain keywords are too expensive. You also need to decide the match type, which refines where your ads appear. 
  • Choose your devices. Do you want your ads to appear on mobile, desktop, tablet, or all three? In our 2022 Children’s Activity Business Trend Report, we found that 60% of parents booked activities on mobile, 39% on desktop, and 1% on tablet.
  • Write your copy. Write something catchy and enticing and don’t forget to include the keywords in your ad copy. Plus, be sure to add a call-to-action (CTA) like “Sign up today” or “Learn more”.
  • Activate and monitor. Turn your ads on and then see how they are doing with Google Analytics, which is free and connected to Google Ads. For more advanced tracking, you can also install a Google Ads pixel on your site.

Looking for more details on setting up Google advertising for your kids camp? Check out our guide!

Making connections with schools

When you teach classes to children, making connections with schools can help you build customer trust, increase your enrollment numbers, and find new families in your community. And, for a new dance studio, school connections can help you get your first batch of students. Here are some of our top tips to help you make connections with schools.

  • Reach out to the right contacts. Try finding members of the school board, administrators at the school, and/or the PTA to start the conversation.
  • Write a strong outreach email. Be straightforward but polite. Catch their attention with your subject line, then in the body, introduce yourself and explain what you are offering. Let them know why the students would benefit from your classes and how you can make life easier for the school, too. End your email by thanking them for their time and let them know how they can get in touch with you to continue the conversation.
  • Use our outreach email generator. With our outreach email generator, you can easily input the above information and create an email that will help you make strong connections with local schools.

Use our guide to learn more about how to make connections with schools.

Previous section: 
Next section: 

Common challenges of running a dance studio

As you start and continue on your journey to setting up and running a dance studio, you might be wondering what you are missing. What other elements should you consider that you might not be thinking about from the get go?

Luckily, at Sawyer we work with children’s activity business owners every day to make starting and running a dance studio more simple. We’ve outlined some of the common challenges of running a dance studio and how you can solve them to help you get grooving.

Managing rosters

Managing rosters is one of the biggest challenges when you run a lot of different classes at your studio. Rosters help you and your instructors keep track of everything you need: registered students, important information like pronouns, allergies, and more, attendance check-in and -out, and more. If you do not have a system in place, rosters can become overwhelming. We recommend using a class registration and management software like Sawyer to keep your rosters organized.

Auto-generated rosters

Once a student is signed up for a class, they are automatically added to the roster along with all of their information like parents’ names, pronouns, birthday, allergies, t-shirt/costume size, and more. Instructors and administrators can also track attendance at drop-off and pickup online on the roster or by exporting and printing. And if something comes up, instructors can email everyone on the roster to keep them in the know.

Learn more about how Sawyer can make managing rosters simple for your dance studio.

Managing waitlists

If you have more interest in your classes than space, that’s a great sign! Utilizing waitlists can help you capitalize on these potential customers and ensure you don’t leave money on the table. Plus, waitlists are a great way for you to see which specific classes resonate with your audience more strongly.

Sawyer provider Oh! Canary, which offers art camps and extracurricular activities for young children in New Jersey, explains that waitlists are beneficial because they also act as a growth projection and planning metric, providing insight into the interest in each class. Lacey, founder of Oh! Canary, explained that “waitlists are helpful because we can really see in real time the demand for our classes. In some weeks, our camp waitlists are up to 70 kids! It shows us the potential of what could be possible.” Read more about how Sawyer helped Oh! Canary grow and scale in our case study.

Taking online registrations

Millennials are digital natives. They do everything on their devices. That’s why it is important to show that your classes can be booked online, 24/7, without the need to make a call or send an email. In our 2022 Children’s Activity Trend Report, we reviewed 7.2 million activity bookings and found that 42% of parents book outside of typical business hours (9am to 5pm). Plus, over 60% booked on mobile! To capture this business, you need to be available for online bookings and mobile optimized.

Selling semester and drop-in options

By offering registration options for customers, you can increase your enrollment numbers. People are looking for flexibility when they make booking decisions because they have busy schedules. However, it is difficult to offer options like semesters, camps, and drop-in classes unless you work with a class registration and management software that has these capabilities built in.

With Sawyer, you can choose to offer semesters and summer or school break camps as well as drop-in classes. You can even offer multiple options for one class, so some customers can choose to pay for the whole semester or month while others pay by week or even by day.

Allowing transfers

Life happens. Sometimes bookings need to be changed due to unforeseen circumstances. Class management software makes transfers an easy process. You can allow customers to choose whether they want to transfer into a different class or program or request a refund. With a few clicks, the booking has been updated, saving you and your team time!

Getting the information you need

If you do not use registration and class management software, you need to ask each customer to print and fill out registration materials, waivers, consent forms, and more documents before they can participate in class. Then, you have to file these papers and keep everything organized. Instead, you can use class management software like Sawyer to seamlessly collect information about each camper and access it easily from anywhere.

Custom form fields

Require custom forms for registration to keep track of consent and waiver forms, important responses about medications, allergies, and pronouns, and emergency contacts. This information is then exported automatically into the roster so that instructors and staff have access to everything in one place.

Previous section: 
Next section: 

Do you need to use class registration software?

Class registration software makes starting and running a dance studio successfully much easier. Rather than relying on phone calls and email, handwritten forms, and spreadsheet rosters, you can have everything organized and accessible. (See how Sawyer helped Shredder get organized so they could manage their six locations). 

Software keeps you and your staff more organized and efficient. In fact, class registration software Sawyer can save you 28 hours per month on administrative tasks, so that you have more time to spend planning lessons and activities, growing your business, working with your staff, and teaching your students.

Features to look for in class registration software

There are a few different class registration and management softwares on the market. How can you tell which one is right for your business? Here are some questions to ask yourself and features to look for so you can find the perfect class registration software for your dance studio.

  • What is your main goal? Do you want to improve staff experience by freeing up your team’s time to focus more on connecting with students? Do you want to appear more professional to your customers and provide an easier way to register? Are you looking to process payments or dive deeper into business analytics?
  • What do previous customers say? Check reviews on sites like Capterra to hear firsthand from business owners about their experience with certain softwares.
  • Do they have great customer service? As a new business starting on a platform, customer service is incredibly important. Look at their website to see what they offer. Do they help with onboarding and continued education? When and how can you reach out to the customer service team? These are important questions to ask when considering a registration software.
  • Can they help you grow? How will the features and options on that platform help your business grow and scale? Do they accept customer feedback and make changes so that they grow with you? You don’t want to be stagnant and neither should your software.

Check out our guide to learn more about how to find the perfect registration software for your dance studio.

Previous section: 
Next section: 

Frequently Asked Questions

Still not sure if starting and running a dance studio is the right decision for you and your business? Making the jump is a big endeavor. Check out these frequently asked questions about running a dance studio to see if it is the right choice for you.

How much does it cost to start a dance studio?

According to Studio Growth, it costs about $10,000 to start a dance studio. This is spread among rent, licenses, insurance, a sound system, registration software, and dance studio necessities like mirrors, proper flooring, and a barre. New dance studio owners can reduce some of these costs by renting space at a studio that is already set up. 

However, it is very important for new business owners to look at their own expected expenses and income to determine the cost of running a studio for themselves.

What licenses are needed to start a dance studio?

There are a few different licenses that are needed to start a dance studio. First, you must register your company as an LLC, C Corp, or nonprofit. Once this is done, you will be issued an Employee Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, which is also necessary to start a dance studio. Likewise, dance studios need music licenses for their classes and performances. These are issued by music rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

How much do dance studio owners make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary of a dance studio owner is $47,662 or about $23 per hour. However, this number is not set in stone. Expenses, location, and other elements should all be considered when determining salary.

When should I invest in class registration software?

If you want your dance studio to start off on the right foot, you should invest in class registration software like Sawyer from the very beginning. You want your first customers to have a great experience when they register for classes so they keep coming back for more. With a class registration system, you can ensure your bookings are seamless, payments are always taken, and important information is organized.

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to start and run a dance studio successfully. At Sawyer, our mission is to help children’s activity businesses thrive. With our suite of tools and helpful resources, we can help you spend less time on administrative tasks and more time with your students. Want to learn more? Talk to a member of our expert team and see how Sawyer can help your business grow. Or get started with a free trial.

Previous section: 
Tips for even happier dance students
Stay up to date on the latest resources for music business owners
Thank you! You’re all signed up!
Oops! Something went wrong. Please refresh and try again.
Stay up to date on the latest resources for dance lesson business owners.
Thank you! You're all signed up!
Oops! Something went wrong. Please try again.