I just signed up for pilates teacher training, Cert iv matwork. And naturally, before I’ve even completed my first online unit, I’ve started sussing out venue hire options and getting an understanding of the market.

Pilates and yoga are sometimes considered hand in hand, but ideologically are quite different. Yoga is considered a moving meditation, and the aim of the practice is to achieve stillness of the body and mind, eventually. Pilates is about mindful movement for the healing or prevention of injuries – many dancers become instructors after personally experiencing the benefits of the practice.

The different ‘sports’ appeal to different people, and for me pilates has a consistently hands-on approach and specificity of movement that works for me. However I do find yoga appealing because of its link to mindfulness, and I often enjoy yoga classes with a spiritual component. I could see myself eventually studying yoga as well.

I went with pilates training over yoga first because the pilates course involves rigorous teacher training, and there are no cheaper options for becoming qualified in this way. Yoga teacher trainings are a dime a dozen, of varied quality, and range dramatically in price.

The devaluing of the yoga market
To start, yoga is difficult to make big money from, so many schools now offer yoga teacher training (YTT), meaning there’s a saturation of qualified teachers in the market. This is already a pretty bad situation, but the devaluing continues further along the chain. A few people I know have done the cheapest option for YTT, a 30 day 200 hour YTT,  but don’t feel fully qualified to teach after this point. To bridge the gap in their teaching experience, they do classes for free or for cheap, which in turn devalues the rate of yoga classes. To compete in the market, some yogis are caught in the price competitive trap, but many others have sought to differentiate themselves with high qualities of service, excellent venues, or ‘gimmicks’ such as singing walls, hip hop yoga, beer yoga, and any other fad to come along.

An exception to the idea of devaluing yoga is a friend’s model of ‘pay as you feel’ yoga. Her ideology is that yoga should be free to anyone. While it’s true that she attracts clients seeking the cheapest option available, she also attracts clients drawn to the social cause of her studio, who then pay the price of a regular class. The nature of her traditional yoga practice (she returns to India regularly to train and gets up at 3am daily for her own practice) adds integrity to the model. Because of the ideology behind the free classes, her model is differentiated from competitors and has achieved excellent press coverage. It’s notable that she has her own physical studio inner city studio and has a recommended donation model – I know teachers who run pay as you feel yoga in parks and attract mostly travellers, develop no regular customers, and generate no revenue.

Considering business model options for pilates

Physio pilates
Considering that pilates matwork has such similarities physically to yoga, it’s interesting that pilates practitioners remain largely aligned to physiotherapy or osteotherapy studios and don’t advertise the prices of their matwork classes. Pilates has a focus on remedial injury prevention and rehabilitation, and after a pilates diploma you can charge clients through their private health. Because of this, the pilates through the health system isn’t seem as price competitive at all, and would be offered at a premium rate quite separate to yoga prices.

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Gym or yoga studio pilates
Although trained at the same places, gym or yoga studio pilates operates in a very different way in the market. I asked around and yoga instructors at studios are paid at $80-$100 per hour, and pilates instructors tend to be paid slightly more, and pilates classes tend to be charged higher. Yoga classes can go for $10 but the average is $20 per hour or 1.5 hours. Pilates classes average at $25 – not quite as high as infrastructure based sports like pole dancing or aerial silks which go at apprx $30 – but high for a class that requires no infrastructure.

Booking a hall or organising classes with a social club
I’ve been considering booking my own room in a library, for example. I’m looking into prices which look like $30 per hour, so to make it more worth my while over working for someone else I would have to be getting 6 people at $20 each minimum. The benefit of booking a hall or local council community room can be using their marketing channels like pin up boards and newsletters to advertise classes, creating a built-in audience. They also tend to have good locations, good access and free parking. The downside of this method is creating your own marketing. Fortunately I feel ahead of the game on that front, but it may be worth starting in a studio to ‘cut your teeth’ and develop a reputation or following.

Going with a social club is even better because they can organise a venue for your for free, and you can make it an option to only run classes with a certain number of people signing up for a 6 week block, guaranteeing your revenue.

Privates
Privates are charged at between $75-$150 depending on your experience. Another benefit of privates is not having to book a venue. The downside is travel for a single session. Pilates naturally lends itself to one on one care because of the remedial nature of the sport. You will need a personal relationship or have taught people before to do privates, however, or be recommended by a physiotherapist. So I expect that this is something that will grow over time.

I have no idea which model I’m going to go with, and there will be variables with type of studio and the personalities that I meet along the way, and many practitioners go with a mixture of these options. I should probably finish the course first. 😛