The business model for Pilates used to be big studios with multiple instructors seeing multiple clients at the same time. We always had to work like crazy. The hourly rate was more than that of an office job, but we were mostly independent contractors (ie. high tax rate) and Pilates is a tiring job, you don’t work 35 hours a week. 25 hours through my 20s and 30s (and 5 years of grad school) was pretty grueling and, at an average of about $30 an hour, barely enabled me to live paycheck to paycheck. But I chose it because it gave me a lot of freedom and I love the work.
Studio owners aren’t entirely to blame. Sure, owners did better than instructors, but in order to recoup their investment they did need to keep a minimum of 50% of the proceeds.
The pandemic, for many of us, saw an end to this business model because business went online and clients sought us teachers out of their own accord. You’ll notice that there are many less big Pilates studios around and a proliferation of teachers working for themselves. It’s honestly the only way forward in this business - if high-quality work is to be maintained.
At big studios, you’ll probably still find some novice teachers earning their stripes, as they should, but no one can stay in this business for long unless you go out on your own after a few years – in my case that was nearly 20!
What is remarkable to me is that Erika Bloom, the venerable New York studio, recently shut everything down and is keeping it a one woman operation. If the most successful studio in the biz is downsizing because of the stressors or management and the financial untenability of the business model, how are other studios remaining in business without exploiting teachers?