You’ve completed your certification and passed the exam – now what do you need to do to build your clientele and establish yourself as a professional instructor? Here are 2 key points to think about:
Define your ideal working day
Many instructors are drawn to the fitness industry partly because of the opportunities to manage their own schedules. It provides for the flexibility and control to see clients on days and at times that work for them.
But often, new instructors will try to over accommodate studios by providing large swaths of daily availability.
In order to avoid the risk of your time being monopolized or becoming burned out too quickly, time management is essential. Avoid giving too many open hours at once because you don’t want to be in a weekly commitment of having a client at either end of your day with large gaps in between.
Determine what part of the days are your ideal work times and allow for both prime and down times to be part of it. Cap your availability to no more than 7 hours (breaks included) so that you’re offering a more condensed amount of time for studios to fill.
Generally speaking (at least in Toronto, anyway), down times range anywhere from 11am – 4pm when most people who aren’t retired are at work.
So if you choose a morning shift from 7am – 2pm, you’re getting in prime times between 7am – 10am but also allowing spots at the end to build up a decent shift.
Same as the evening; if you offer 2pm – 8pm then you’re providing the opportunity for clients to train with you after work but also offering up slots at the start of your shift for clients who have more flexibility in their day.
Part of building a regular clientele is being tuned in to where the demand is based on your location; if you’re in the downtown core then early mornings and late evenings will attract those who want to get a workout in either before or after their workday. Conversely, if you’re in a neighbourhood setting with young families, you might find busy times peak around 9-9:30am after kids are dropped off at school.
Inform yourself with where the demand is and then integrate your ideal work day into it.
But be realistic and understand that in the beginning, the opportunity to work with clients means committing either evenings or mornings in order to retain them.
Find a mentor
Whether or not your long term plan is to have a home studio, train clients remotely or open your own bricks and mortar, when you’re starting out it’s a good idea to find an experienced instructor who can be a mentor and resource to help while you get yourself established.
Having a senior instructor that you’re able to develop a mentoring relationship with is a good way to focus on what you need to improve upon and how to engage and interact with clients. And if that one instructor isn’t available, working in a studio where several instructors are on the floor with you is equally beneficial and advantageous to learn client management, programming and studio protocol.
Approaching a mentor
As newly certified instructors, we’re frequently drawn to the Instructors Trainers’ who taught our Pilates certification programs because the proof is already there that they’re able to mentor and advise us through challenging clients and exercise modifications.
But there is a lot to be learned by instructors who don’t hold that designated title. With their wealth of information on training clients and how they developed their teaching style and niche, many can offer a more true to life experience of being in the studio, working with others and training clients full time.
They’re able to convey the steps they’ve learned to retain and draw clients and can share the lessons learned that have helped them better manage time, deal with challenging clients and work within a shared studio space.
I recommend researching on social media and studio website bios what instructors resonate with you and keep your list of potential mentors to no more than 3 or 4. When you’re ready, approach them by clearly communicating that you’d like to cultivate a mentorship with them in order to assist with your professional development.
Most senior instructors will provide clear boundaries and guidelines of what they can offer you and in what format (in person, online, written vs oral communication). Be cognizant of their time and learn how to ask your questions succinctly in order to reap the most benefits from their response.
Preparations for a Good Mentorship
Some things to think about as you research who might be your ideal mentor within the Pilates industry:
- What method of Pilates do they teach?
- What is the focus of their continuing education and skills development training?
- How long have they taught?
- What is their background/what brought them to Pilates?
And some guidelines for the mentorship:
- Am I able to reach out to you bi-weekly/once a month (anticipate your ideal communication schedule and then adjust as needed)
- Is it possible to review programming in person/online if I need to explain with visuals?
- Are you able to commit for at least 4-6 months to helping me with my professional development?
- Is it possible to observe you teaching clients?*
*clients will need to approve of this as will the studio where your mentor works. If it isn’t possible, consider observing them teaching a class so that it’s a less obtrusive experience for the client.
Remember that your mentor is there to guide you; not to teach. If you’re looking to learn more beyond your continuing education then you’ll need to book private sessions with him/her in order that their time and your development are respected.
Enjoy this process of establishing yourself in the Pilates community. Remember that every interaction is an opportunity to learn and becoming mindful of both your time and the time of others is part of directing your career into the direction you want it to go.