If you're starting a business, keeping orderly records is essential for your own clarity and for passing along info to those you employ.
One of my biggest mistakes when starting out was not recording expenses meticulously. What that means is come April, I have to do a deep dive to find out what I could write off for my taxes.
I had good intentions--I started out with an expense/income spreadsheet, but what I failed to do was set up a system for actually updating it.
If you like to do things manually, excel spreadsheets are your friends. If not, there are apps you can connect to a credit card which you only use for business expenses. They track all your purchases, making it easy to see how much you spent in any given time frame. I haven't tried this yet but will be sure to write a post once I do!
Expenses are likely to include:
Also, calculate 30% of your income each month and add that to expenses, because taxes (sorry, don't hate me).
Whether you choose an automated system or a manual updating method, set a weekly check-in date where you review all expenses. It's important to be conscious of what you are actually spending so that you can plan accordingly.
What methods do you use for tracking expenses?
Running an aerial program is an amazing experience and takes a LOT of work. However, most aerialists are experts at taking on big challenges, and understand that failures along the way are an integral part of a successful process.
I started from ground zero. In 2018 I started a program in a town that didn't even have a dance studio. I started with no prior business experience. Along the way, I have learned and continue to learn a lot, and I always learn the most from my mistakes. My hope is that I can share some knowledge to help you provide quality services and turn a profit.
There are many considerations before launching an aerial program or studio. Here are 10.
1. Are you qualified to teach?
You do not have to be a retired cirque du soleil performer to teach aerial. But you MUST be competent in anatomy, theory (apparatus dependent), and hazards within every skill you plan to teach. Always stay within your scope. Learning under an experienced instructor is the most desirable way to develop the necessary teaching skillsets. In addition to knowing about aerial, you need to know about teaching. Apprenticeships and certification programs are both available in the aerial community. Formal training in teaching physical movement is necessary for you to serve your students well.
2. Will you be financially stable?
It is unlikely to profit much on any business in the first 1-3 years. Be prepared to support your endeavor with other streams of income. You absolutely must not skirt necessary expenses like landing mats and proper equipment.
3. Do you have a strategic plan?
Are you going to do this for the rest of your life? Are you going to sell the business? Are you confident that you will be available to support the business to maturity such that it won't fall apart if you need to step down? There is little point in creating something if you are going to let it die.
4. Are you going to keep up your training?
It's common for new aerial instructors/business owners to see their training crumble as they hyper-focus on developing curriculum. But you want to be an example to your students, and if you're not training, why should they? Continue to develop yourself and be highly disciplined in your practice. Challenge yourself with skills you cannot do yet so you can relate to what your students are going through.
5. Do you love to teach?
If teaching lights you up and hones you in, this could be an amazing opportunity for you. But if you just want to teach as a way to make money, you will quickly find it not worth your while. You have to LOVE teaching and appreciate all the challenges that come with it to last in an endeavor like this. If you have ulterior motives it will crumble in little time.
6. Do you have a safe and reliable space to hold classes?
You will either end up in a shared space or a space of your own. If you don't own the place you want to teach, what are the lease terms? Is there a risk of being kicked out? Are you prepared to consult with a structural engineer to make sure the infrastructure can support aerial? Hire a professional rigger to set up your equipment and perform regular inspections?
7. Will you have employees?
You don't want to be the only person available to teach your classes. Will you have employees or contractors? Who are they and how will you make sure you can compensate them fairly and legally?
8. What do you have and what do you need?
Make a list of all the things you already have, e.g., teaching experience, equipment, a professional rigger, and things you still need, e.g., insurance, a first aid kit, professional booking system (I use this one), email address, etc. Ask other business owners and instructors because you will not be able to think of everything.
9. How will you structure your business?
Are you going to offer occasional courses or weekly classes? Both? What about open train? What pathways for progress will you offer your aerialists? Be prepared to continue to offer valuable classes to students who will be with you for years.
10. What is your goal?
Why do you want to do this? What do you want to get out of it? What to you want to GIVE with it? What is at the HEART of this business? Because THAT is what is going to push you through when you confront the challenges, disappointments, confusions, and many other diverse struggles that comes from running a business.