Long before covid lockdowns shut down virtually all brick-and-mortar gyms and schools... more and more teachers were becoming independent and "doing their own thing".
Nowadays, it's easy to organize your own classes in alternative venues or to teach online.
As independents, many instructors are finding themselves more in control, more able to teach exactly what they want and in the style they want, and they're also able to earn more income as a result of teaching online.
The post-Covid19 era presents massive opportunities for independent teachers!
So how much money do dance teachers make? How much do fitness instructors make? How much does a yoga instructor make?
Well, when you're the one running the show, it's kind of up to you... a better question is: how much can a (yoga, dance, fitness, yoga) instructor earn per class?
There are many variables that go into it, but one crucial part of the calculation involves pricing: what should you charge for group fitness classes? How much to charge for a yoga class over Zoom? What kind of discount should you offer with class passes?
Before we get into things, let's talk about mindset.
Maybe you've already been teaching for a while, but you're now going it alone. Whereas in the past the venue handled class pricing, promotions, passes and memberships... now it's all up to you. Or maybe you've just started on your teaching journey and you're making a go of things from scratch.
Whatever the case, here's an important fact to get comfortable with:
As independent teacher, you are an entrepreneur who's running a business..
This means that to be successful, you'll have to do a little more than just show up and teach. Some planning, organization and "business thinking" is required.
Maybe not as fun as teaching... but really not so difficult. But a pre-requisite is that you must view yourself and everything you're doing as a business.
That's not to say that it's the only thing you think about. But when this is a part of your perspective, everything becomes so much easier.
Now in any business, one crucial element is pricing. Classes, private lessons, passes and memberships, recorded videos... what should you charge?
More often than not, newly independent teachers under-price their offerings. Badly.
It's typically either because they're not greedy, they are people for whom "money & business" are uncomfortable topics. Or they're just a little too desperate to get (and retain) clients, so they worry too much about loosing potential customers who might find cheaper options elsewhere.
But you have to eat and pay rent! And if your teaching is to be sustainable, then properly valuing what you do isn't just about money. It's also very important for your personal happiness and sense of self-worth.
As regards the fear of loosing potential clients who don't want to pay much for things: they're generally not the sort of people who will make your teaching rewarding (in every sense). They aren't very motivated and they tend not to stick with things... which means they'll probably be lost to you anyway, even after they do a few classes with you — no matter how cheap your offer is.
Got it? OK, below then are some specific tips for pricing your classes, videos, passes, memberships, and private lessons too. Let's start with regular "drop-ins" for group classes:
In-person group classes
Your pricing considerations should start with face-to-face group classes. They are the business backbone for most teachers, whether you teach yoga, dance, music, art, cooking... whatever.
What should you charge for single drop-ins? There are different ways you might try to figure it out:
- You could look at what other teachers are charging. Or you could base your decision on looking up the 'average yoga class cost' in your area. But chances are that other teachers are under-pricing their classes... and of course their client base and overall situation is probably very different from yours, too.
- You could just think about your needs or desires: say you want to teach 20 classes a month and earn $2,000. That means you want to earn $100 per class. If you estimate you'll get an average of 10 people per class, it seems straightforward: charge $10 for a drop-in. Easy, right?
Let's say you teach yoga, just as an example: the hourly rate for yoga instructors who work in a gym or studio is only $25. Similarly for fitness: the average fitness instructor salary is $26 per hour in the US.
So if you could actually make $100 per class, that's awesome! Right?
Well, the problem is that what you want or even need to happen is not what's actually going to happen. Because the number of people you'll see in your classes will depend on many things... including your pricing!
Let's say you already have a list of 40 people that might like to regularly take classes with you... do you know how many of them are super motivated?
How many are kind of poor and can't spend a lot of money? How many do you think would want to do just once per week, and how many would love to attend every single class you teach?
And what's the capacity of your classroom?
Consider different scenarios: from your list of 40 people:
- Maybe you really only have 7 students who would pay $10 per class... so if you charge $10, you'd earn $70 per class.
- Maybe you have 16 students who would probably show up for $5.... so with lower prices ($5) you make more money ($80).
- Perhaps you even have 30 people who would definitely sign up for $3 classes... so now you're earning $90 per class, and your classes are really full... that's awesome! But with 30 people in class, you're probably too stressed out. And can the room can handle that many people? Maybe 20 is the limit? Well, now you're earning only $60 per class, and many people can't come because you're "sold out" all the time.
- But now let's consider higher prices. What if you could count on just 5 serious clients who love your classes and who would be happy pay $20 per class? Well, with just these 5 dedicated clients you will hit your $100 target — and you still have room for many more (which will be important as your business grows)!
The best way to find out what your students will pay for your in-person classes is to ask them directly.
It won't be as uncomfortable as you maybe imagine! You can sample just a few people, or send a mass email and ask everyone. The more people you talk to, the more insight and clarity you will get. And your pricing decision will become much, much easier.
One way of asking people indirectly, especially if you're just starting out as a teacher, is to price your classes "by donation".
Many new teachers on Ubindi start off this way, and they're generally surprised to see that people end up paying more than what they would have set as a fixed price.
Donation based classes is also a good way to gauge individual students — because you can see exactly who paid what.
In the longer term, you'll probably want to move away from "donations" to a fixed price set up for your classes. But to get a feel for things in the beginning, it works really well.
Looking at the data on Ubindi, it's pretty clear that teachers who charge more, earn more. This is independent of the number of students a teacher has on their list.
With very rare exceptions, the teachers who charge $5 or even $3 for their in-person classes as a rule barely earn enough money to pay for groceries.
One last thought about pricing group classes: consider how prices can help to attract new good clients. By "good" we mean people who are actually interested in what you teach and who are happy to pay for it. Such people will probably pass you by and look elsewhere if your prices send the signal that what you offer isn't very valuable.
At the same time, you can make extraordinary offers to first time students. For example, it's a common strategy for teachers to offer the first class free to first time students.
A "first class free" offering is a great idea! You can even offer a referral bonus to your existing students when they bring you a new client. Such a referral program can really help to grow your business, especiallyin the long run.
The "first class free" strategy can also work for online classes, of course. And that brings us to the next topic:
What to charge for online classes? Teaching yoga over zoom or leading virtual pilates sessions from your living room is a little different from the in-person scenario. Or is it?
Online group classes (live)
You might feel that the quality of classes taught through a screen is not as good as a real-life, face-to-face interaction.
That's maybe partially true in some respects... but many teachers report that the online format is actually working really well for them and their students.
Every student can clearly be observed on their own little screen, and you can "zoom in" on individuals and make sure that everyone is getting the attention they deserve.
With in-person classes, very often the people at the back of the room are not getting that.
It's also true that your overhead is much lower when you're teaching from your living room. You don't have to travel anywhere, and you don't have to pay rent for any facility. You can also accommodate lots of students (20 people in class is perfectly reasonable for an online format).
So yes, you could probably afford to give people a break and charge less for online classes than for in-person ones.
But don't forget: you're still putting a value on your time, your energy, your expertise! A big mistake is to make your online classes ridiculously cheap. Some teachers still think of online teaching as a temporary "crisis" thing related to Covid19... but that's long over.
Online classes are not temporary. Many surveys suggest that the majority of people out there really do like the convenience of online. They actually prefer attending class from home.
So you should regard your online classes as a permanent thing, and something needs to be sustainable for you. In fact, teaching online is your biggest opportunity as independent teacher, since you can theoretically connect with millions of clients, not just around town but all around the world.
Whether you're doing hybrid classes (streaming an in-person class out over the internet, with some people in front of you, some remote), or you're doing a 100% online-only thing, a rule of thumb is that your virtual class should not cost less than half of what you charge for an in-person class.
Here's some more data from Ubindi: the more successful teachers barely make any price distinction between their virtual and theirin-person classes.
Just as for in-person classes, it's best to directly ask your clients what they feel a virtual class with you is worth and how much they are willing to pay. Armed with that knowledge, do the the same kind of calculations as we outlined above.
Recordings & on-demand videos
Teaching virtual classes online has the added advantage that you can easily record them and build yourself a nice video library.
You can then offer access to videos to the people who may have missed the live class, to your general client base, and maybe to everyone on the internet!
<span class="special tip"><span class="materialicon tip">lightbulb</span>There are huge numbers of potential students out there who just won't come to live classes. they prefer to "watch & follow along". They don't need or even want anyone looking at them or interacting with them while they do a class... and class recordings are perfect for them!</span>
In addition, with some rehearsing and a bit of editing, you can create wonderful "evergreen" content that can produce slow and steady income for you, long after you did the work to put the video(s) together. So definitely think about "video on demand".
Of course, because you're not actually present when people watch your videos, and because there are literally millions of free videos on places like YouTube, you won't be able to charge very much money for access to your videos (unless you've spent months creating a "masterpiece" course where the secret to life is finally revealed).
As a marketing strategy, it's a great idea to post some class videos (or perhaps just 20 minutes of a class) on YouTube, 'cause it's where new people can discover you. Let the general public watch some videos for free, and hopefully they'll become interested in taking live classes with you.
But making all your videos freely available is not a good idea.
Charging some money for videos sets the right expectations (that what you offer has value). And as you build up your client base, videos can provide a good fraction of your overall income, without costing you any extra time and effort.
When deciding on video pricing, it's important to remember that for your students, your class recordings are not just "some videos", lost in a sea of millions of other videos on YouTube. Your classes are special, and they are specifically geared towards students who already know you and love what you teach. For them, a familiar face teaching them just the right kind of things in the right kind of class is very valuable!
So don't think that your clients won't want to pay... they will! Specifically, when pricing recorded classes, a good rule of thumb is to charge 50% of what your live (online) class costs.
Lastly, another great marketing strategy is to include access to your videos as part of your bundles and packages (like memberships). This raises their perceived value and will increase the number of buyers and subscribers for your packages. And that leads to one of the most important pricing topics for independent teachers:
Packages, passes & subscriptions
Offering package deals to your students will boost to your bottom line tremendously. All the studios, schools and gyms do it... in fact, almost every business in the world offers bulk discounts and membership deals to their customers. For very good reasons.
For one thing, passes and memberships are really effective "loyalty programs" that create strong incentives for students to commit (both emotionally and financially). They're encouraged to attend more classes, and to stick with you, rather than go around sampling classes with other teachers or in other places.
Secondly, creating subscriptions and memberships for classes will increase your revenue. This may sound harsh, but when a student pays you for a month of classes in advance, you really don't have to worry so much about whether or not they show up to class. In the same way, passes that have an expiry date create a "use it or loose it" mindset for your students. So they are more motivated to come to class... but if they don't (and sometimes they won't)... well, you got paid anyway!
Packages are also a convenience for your students (they don't have to whip out a credit card to sign up for each class individually) — but for you, they are a truly massive time saver. When people are automatically billed, you don't have to send out annoying reminders to get people to sign up for class or purchase a new package. It's all automatic.
Last but not least, if you accept credit cards, (and you definitely should!), packages can save you considerable money in processing fees. The credit card processors all charge a small percentage PLUS a small fixed fee (around 30¢ cents in the US, €0.25 in the EU, 20p in the UK).
These fixed fees can actually be very expensive for things that don't cost very much (like for a $10 class: 30¢ is an additional 3%)! But when you're selling packages that cost around $100 or more, those small fixed fees really are negligible.
So the question isn't whether or not you should offer packages to clients, that's really a no-brainer. The real question is "How should I price my class passes and memberships?".
You want to offer an attractive discount for class passes. On Ubindi, for the more experienced teachers, we see:
- 5x Class Passes typically have a ~10% per class discount compared to drop-in pricing. For example, if your drop-in is $10, then your 5x pass would cost $45
- 10x Class Passes typically have a ~15% per class discount, so for example, if a drop-in is $10 then your 10x pack would cost $85
Pretty straight forward. Subscriptions (memberships) are more complicated...
These are usually "unlimited" deals, meaning that a subscriber gets to do unlimited classes with you (and probably gets unlimited access to your class recordings, too).
You can do things where a certain kind of membership gets the client into certain kinds of classes, or a certain number of classes... but it's probably best to keep things simple.
Memberships are subscriptions with automatic billing, and they are the most powerful tool to help you earn money as independent teacher.
Some studios and teachers have seen an immediate 50% revenue increase after they started offering memberships. Really! And that's with the same number of classes happening per month, and just slightly higher attendance numbers!
The most common membership plan is a monthly auto-pay (where the client is billed automatically every month).
But you can also be creative and offer a weekly plan, which feels like less of a commitment since a smaller amount is being charged to the subscriber each week.
Annual plans (client pays for the whole year) are more rare, but you might as well offer one of these too — with a large discount built in.
Up to this point, you've read a lot along the lines of "don't under-price yourself". So you might be surprised to learn that the most common mistake teachers tend to make with pricing their membership plans is to make them too expensive. It's counter intuitive, but let's think about it...
One reason teachers charge too much is because they imagine that students will take advantage and come to every possible class. So they calculate what all their classes would cost via drop-in payments, and then just add a small discount to make a membership plan. But that is the wrong approach.
Firstly, no student will come to every single class. Even if they have a membership that allows them to do so.
Secondly, when you make your subscription plan expensive, you will only get your most dedicated students buying it. So you actually won't earn any extra money, since these people come to class religiously anyway, and they're also happy to pay your drop-in prices.
Let's look at an overview of your student base. Broadly speaking, you will see that you have three kinds of clients:
- "high user": comes to class three times (or more) per week
- "medium user": comes to class once or twice a week
- "low user": this person is seen only twice a month, or even less
To get the most out of your membership program(s), you should target the "medium users". Provide them with a compelling offer! Of course your "high users" will also subscribe, but that's OK.
Here's a simple approach:
Count the number of classes you teach in a month and multiply by the cost of a drop-in. For example, say you teach 20 classes per month, where a drop-in costs $10, so that's $200.
Now a "medium user" only comes 8 times a month... so appeal to them with a membership where they could come to some additional classes for the same price (i.e., create a $80 monthly membership).
Yes, "high users" (those fanatics!) are getting a great deal — and you might even loose a little money with them.
However, some of your "medium users" will be turned into "high users"... and many people who were coming less than twice per week will grab your $80/mo offer and pay a little more for more access to classes. Some will show up for class more often (which is nice)... but many actually won't.
It doesn't matter, because you are still being paid. At the end of the month, you will come out ahead.
Lastly, a small aside about your packages: they might just sell themselves... but doing a little leg work is guaranteed to help a lot.
So you should make sure that all your people know about the various packages you offer, and simply reminding them from time to time is a good idea.
Running specials works wonders, too. Like having reduced prices for your passes for a limited time, or doing "introductory memberships" which cost less for the 1st month and then go up to the normal rate. Specials also provide a good excuse to send out an announcement about something and remind people that you exist and your classes are happening.
This last one is straight forward: what is an hour of your time worth to you? Plus the time spent preparing, and perhaps traveling?
Keep in mind that while teachers of all sorts are often struggling financially, the folks who do private lessons for yoga (or personal training or tennis or whatever) are generally not. They won't have a problem paying $100 for a private class, and it may even be the case that they prefer to pay more, rather than less. Because it makes them feel they're getting something "exclusive".
In short, make sure you charge for privates in a way that makes them worth your while.
Offering "semi privates" is also a good idea, so you might offer lessons for couples or very small groups. As regards pricing these, a common strategy is to reduce the cost for the 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) person, so that $100 for a 1:1 can turn into $150 for two people, $175 for three, or $200 for four people.
And yes, of course you can create packages for private classes, too. For example, you could create a bundle of six private sessions for the price of five.
Here's how to figure out what prices to set for your classes and offerings:
- start with in person class drop in prices. don't underprice these!
- estimate what your existing clients are willing to pay. Ask them directly, or do a few classes "by donation" to see what people will pay
- The price for live online classes should should be similar for in person classes
- Recordings and on-demand videos should be relatively cheap — but don't offer videos for free
- Passes & memberships should offer a nice discount for students
- For private lessons, you should charge at least what you think your time is worth
We hope this helps!
More info for teachers
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