As a fitness instructor, the more classes you teach, the more money you earn. And while there are plenty of pros that come with teaching at only one studio, branching out also has its advantages (beyond the extra income). For instance, teaching at multiple studios allows you to diversify your class offerings and grow your overall student following. In some cases, a gig at another studio allows you to experiment with new equipment, and opens up the opportunity to create new routines.
But teaching class at multiple studios does come with a few hurdles to navigate — from scheduling conflicts to potentially awkward scenarios with the studios you work for. Not to mention, striking a balance that leaves you feeling accomplished rather than completely wiped out can also be challenging.
To get some helpful tips on how to manage it all, we asked a few fitness instructors who have successfully expanded to multiple studios for their best advice on how to make it happen.
DO: Pay Attention To Pre-Employment Paperwork
First things first, it’s important to consider what your agreement is with your employer(s). Some studios may ask you to sign a “non-compete” agreement when hired, though the terms of this may vary. Liz Galalis, fitness instructor at Shaktibarre, New York Yoga, and The Yoga Room says that, “They may give a restriction like ‘You’re not permitted to teach at another studio within a ten block radius of our studio.’ Fortunately for me, the studios I teach at are in three different boroughs so I don’t violate any agreement I have.”
According to Galalis, because most fitness instructors operate as independent contractors and are paid as such, teaching at other fitness studios shouldn’t be an issue as long as it’s not outlined in your contract. “You can think of fitness teachers as people who run their own individual businesses and are contracted to work under one or multiple studios – like a house painter who may work on multiple houses throughout the week. As long as I show up on time and teach an awesome class I am being loyal to that studio and their students.”
DO: Open the Lines of Communication
When working at more than one studio, you will find it’s that much more important to communicate openly with your employer about your schedule and your preferences so that you avoid burnout and also conflict with the studio. Let them know, realistically, when you’re available and what you’re able to commit to each week, and always be up front about when you’re taking other opportunities so it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Given community and passion are so important in the fitness business, it’s also important not to come off as disengaged or like you’re just looking for a paycheck. Be sure to still spend time in each of your studios interacting with students and building relationships in person and on social media.
DO: Establish Varied Offerings At Each Studio
One way to balance loyalty between the studios you teach at is to make sure that the classes you’re leading don’t compete with one another. “I make sure that what I teach at each studio is very different,” says Christina Feener, fitness instructor at Xtend Barre Newbury Street, Xtend Barre Burlington and Fit Life Melrose. “For example, barre at one studio and Zumba at another. They’re very different and people usually have different goals in mind for each. Although students may know you teach at different studios, you must also know when not to be ‘promoting’ another so I keep each specialty strictly for that studio.”
Make sure that the classes you’re leading don’t compete with one another.
It’s of course easier to not rock the boat when you’re teaching different methods at various studios. But if you specialize in one particular genre but still want to branch out, be highly mindful of what might be considered copyright or specific to a certain studio that should not be carried elsewhere. No matter what, you should be teaching a different class style that’s unique to each place you teach.
DON’T: Spread Yourself Too Thin
As Erin Antrim, fitness instructor at DharmaCycle Yoga and Barre Bliss points out, even if you’re limiting your schedule to a certain number of classes per week, the temptation to take on additional sub classes can end up leaving you worn out. “The most challenging aspect of teaching at 2 studios is forcing myself to sub no more than 3 classes a week between the 2 studios,” she says. “I teach 7 classes a week total, and usually end up subbing 1-3 classes at least every week, which can add up to 10 classes a week. If I teach more than 10 classes a week, I start to feel very low energy, sore and mentally exhausted, and my personal workouts and the opportunity to take classes from other instructors suffer.”
Galalis echoes this sentiment, adding that making your personal workouts a priority is essential when balancing work between multiple studios. “It’s easy to feel like you can skip a workout when your job requires constant physical activity, but that’s a sure fire way to guarantee burn out. I try to take class every day that I teach. Sometimes that’s not possible, so a few sun salutations, light stretches, and a five minute meditation before class usually does the trick.”
And of course, make sure you’re feeding your body what it needs to stay fueled. “Eating enough throughout the day is extremely important,” says Galalis. “A green juice or a coffee just won’t cut it when you’re constantly on the go.”
For more advice on self-care as an instructor, check out our top tips here.
DO: Embrace Unpredictability
Teaching opportunities ebb and flow — so when you’re expanding your class offerings to different studios, trial and error may be the best way to strike the right balance. “As a freelancer you get to make your own schedule which has its perks — but it also means the money is unpredictable,” says Galalis. “I’m often tempted to add another class to my regular schedule or sub additional classes throughout the week because it’s nice to have the extra cash, but that gets crazy real fast. There was a time when I wouldn’t get home from teaching until 10pm and then I’d have to get up at 5am the next morning to teach at 7am. A lot of weeks I don’t get a day off. I’m still trying to find the right balance for a schedule that allows me enough rest and money to pay rent.”
Working as a fitness instructor is a dream for many, but the realities can be hard to take. To stay motivated, Jaime Dardine, fitness instructor at REV cycle, [solidcore] and Under Armour Performance Center envisions the difference she makes in the lives of her class members. “When my schedule gets really crazy and I sometimes lack that motivation I should have, I think about everyone that depends on me to make an hour of their day the best and that keeps me going.” She adds, “As long as you walk out of the studio with satisfaction in your heart, you know you’re doing something right!”