In my career as a movement teacher I have worked in large studios, worked out of my home, owned a studio with 10 trainers, and now, after 24 years in the field, I’m finally settling on what is the best option for me, a home studio.
The home studio is becoming a more attractive option for many trainers post-covid. The benefits are many, such as autonomy, low overhead, easier home/career balance, control over the work environment, and no commute.
Currently, I’m working out of a tiny studio space in my basement while we work on building my dream studio behind our house. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the home studios of many colleagues and it’s always fun to see how people create spaces that work for their homes and their lifestyles. I’ve seen basement studios, converted living rooms, spare bedrooms, free standing buildings, an industrial warehouse loft, and a yurt. As young trainer I had half of the living room of my one bedroom apartment set up as a studio space for awhile, before I found my first full studio space downtown.
While having a home studio can be an ideal solution for many trainers there are a few things to consider.
What are local regulations? You’ll have to do some research to find our what the local laws are regarding home businesses in your area. For example, in my neighborhood I can only have five clients come and go in a day, I must have adequate parking space for my clients, and I can have no more than one person employed who does not live in the home (I won’t be employing anyone, but it’s good to know). If you live in an apartment or condo you’ll want to be sure about what’s allowed by the landlord or condo association. I know in my old apartment building, years ago, home businesses were not allowed, but I just kept it very discreet. This might work in a pinch, but for building a long term business you’ll want a situation where you can be upfront about what you’re doing and don’t have to hide it or fear neighbors will complain to management.
There are also zoning rules for how big a separate structure can be and whether or not it can have plumbing, or various other features that would be important to know before embarking on a major building plan.
Consider how foot traffic will flow through your home. If your best studio space is on the third floor of your house, through a child’s bedroom, but with only a bathroom on the first floor, you’re going to have some serious traffic flow issues. Think about what door the clients will use, what rooms they will walk through, and how they’ll access a bathroom.
In my situation, we’re not allowed to have a bathroom in the separate building because there’s an ordinance against Auxiliary Dwelling Units in our city. So when we were remodeling our house before moving in we planned a little mudroom and small bathroom at the back of the house, with an entry door right by where the door to the studio will be. We also had a door put in between that area and our kitchen, so clients can access the bathroom without feeling like they’re walking into our living space.
That bathroom is also the one clients are currently using because it’s close to the door to the basement studio, although they do have to walk through the kitchen.
Keep it clean and professional. When you think about what parts of your home the clients will see you’ll want to make a strategy for keeping those areas clean and tidy. While some clients won’t take much notice, others will be put off walking through the chaos of your daily home life. Laundry baskets and dirty dishes don’t create a welcoming, professional vibe. Try to look at those areas of your home from the perspective of someone who’s not seen it before. Our own clutter and chaos can be invisible to us, but somewhat jarring to someone who’s seeing the place with fresh eyes. You may want to touch up paint and declutter these areas. Also be aware of any unpleasant smells that may be present. We can become accustomed to the odors in our own homes, so you might want to ask a friend to come over for a sniff and to be very candid with you about their olfactory observations. You’ll then want to address unpleasant scents with cleaning, air purifiers, or essential oil diffusers.
Make sure the bathroom that clients use is super clean. My 11 year old son isn’t always the tidiest in there, so I always do a double check before clients come in.
If clients will be walking through a kitchen, make sure family members or housemates know not to leave dishes on the counter tops that you’ve just tidied.
Listen to your clients, if there are complaints, or if you get the sense that a client who is too polite to complain might be uncomfortable with something in your setup, brainstorm some creative ways to make changes and address the issue.
Keep chaos at a minimum. Aside from any visual clutter, there’s also the chaos of the household member themselves, as well as the disruption to the household by the clients coming through. If you live with others, understand that you running your business from home impacts them. Your partner can’t walk around in their underpants, and your kid can’t practice drums while you’re working. Don’t forget to express gratitude to your loved ones who are helping to make this work for you.
One great source of chaos can be pets. Before clients come to your home studio for the first time they should be aware of any pets they might encounter. Some people may have fears about dogs or other types of animals. I always warn clients or students coming for training that there are cats in the house, so if they have severe allergies they should be aware. My cats aren’t so much a problem for seeing private clients in the mornings, but if a have all-day teacher trainings the cats may need to come through the studio to access their litter box. This won’t be a problem in the new space, but for now teacher training students at my home studio must love cats.
Be conscious about insurance and safety issues. Your insurance might have some restrictions on what it covers for a home business, or you may have to pay a higher rate to be fully protected. You’ll need to be vigilant about safety maintenance, making sure sidewalks are cleared and salted in snowy climates, banisters aren’t coming loose, walkways are clear of tripping hazards like loose rug edges, etc. Clients should of course sign waivers, which may or may not hold up under law, but might provide some protection should something go wrong.
Be selective about your clients. If you don’t feel comfortable with someone you are not obligated to have them in your home. Bringing clients into your home, even if your work space is somewhat separate from your living space, can feel far more invasive than seeing someone in a public studio. If someone feels a bit creepy, you don’t feel comfortable with them, you don’t like them, or they simply have “bad vibes”, it’s probably best not to have them in your home at all. One good thing about a home studio is the overhead is low, so you don’t need to churn so many clients through just to cover studio expenses. Over time you’ll build up a comfortable network of clients through referrals and through your social networks.
What about pricing? If your space is really funky you might consider charging a little less, but the clients are still paying for your expertise, so it’s perfectly reasonable to charge the full rate that you would charge in a public studio. One of the primary reasons for having a home studio is to make a better living in this field. If you cut the rates you charge to reflect that you’re not paying rental on a space outside your home, or that a large percentage of your hourly rate isn’t going to your employer, then you’ve just undercut yourself on one of the greatest advantages of the home studio.
A home studio isn’t the best solution for every trainer, but personally I love it. It gives me the freedom to travel for teaching or just for fun without the financial burden of studio overhead, allowed me to manage homeschooling my son during Covid, and gives me the freedom I need to work as I like. The other advantage is that without an affiliation with a particular studio I feel I can reach out more to the entire local movement community in my area, sidestepping any awkwardness of politics or competition between studios, which is refreshing for me as a Master Trainer.
Do you have a home studio, or are you thinking of creating one? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, or what might be holding you back!