Private Lessons

It’s funny but the majority of my posts come from conversations or questions that I get asked.

A lot questions about making it in Jiu Jitsu

How to make money in Jiu Jitsu?
How can you do Jiu Jitsu full time?

There are lots of ways to make money in Jiu Jitsu. Maybe I will do a later series of posts covering some of the other sources of income available to athletes and instructors.

Obviously, the majority of Jiu Jitsu practitioners won’t be in a position to do private lessons.

But for anyone considering a career in Jiu Jitsu. This is a major stream of income especially for athletes/instructors starting out.

It’s a relatively low investment, high reward situation.

Think about it.

All you need is your knowledge and a space to train and you can literally take in hundreds of dollars per hour.

Starting out

Starting out, no one’s going to take you seriously until around the purple belt level. Before this it’s just the blind leading the blind. So it’s best to be at the point where you have mastered the basic movements of Jiu Jitsu, fundamental techniques, and self defense. While starting to develop your own style and game.

I remember being really nervous the first time I taught a private lesson.

I’m serious.

I was nervous about what techniques I would show.

I was nervous if the student would like my teaching.

I was nervous about accepting (a lot) money for something that I love to do.

Even if you lack confidence in your abilities. At this point you know more about Jiu Jitsu than 99% of people.

That’s all you need to get started.

Breakdown

If I had to break down what type of students take private lessons. I could narrow it down to three simple groups (ordered from lowest knowledge investment to highest knowledge investment)

1. Belt test private lessons

Most students interaction with private lessons often start as a crash course lesson to help them prepare for their belt test/promotion.

These lessons serve as a refresher for techniques that they might have missed or need help on.

Depending upon the academy. Belt test privates are a good and recurring source of income and not very difficult.

2. General private

This level of private lesson is more complex than the belt test private. Where you have a fixed number of techniques that you need to cover.

While a general private is really a consultation.

A student will come to you with questions on how to improve their guard.

Or possibly assistance on a specific position that gives them trouble. Like passing a knee shield.

You will see general privates more at blue belt level (and sometimes even higher belt levels). Where students will start investing more time and energy developing their own Jiu Jitsu.

Once you have mastered the fundamental techniques of Jiu Jitsu and have a firm grasp of the techniques of modern Jiu Jitsu.

All that’s left for you is to create your own unique style.

Of course, you can emulate others techniques and movements. But at the end of the day you will still have to make them your own.

3. Style specific private

The highest knowledge level of private lesson.

Students actively seek out a particular instructor for a specific move or set of moves.

These are the ones that I really enjoy personally because as a student of Jiu Jitsu I’ve put hundreds of hours into my game and the techniques that I use. So I’m more invested in showing my own moves versus more general techniques.

Example: You want to improve your butterfly guard so you take a private lesson with Marcelo Garcia.

Academy Privates

Most private lessons take place inside of an academy.

If you’re an instructor at an academy then there is really nothing stopping you from having a thriving private lesson business.

In fact, I’m surprised by how many academies (big and small) ignore private lessons.

Academies with hundreds of students might have 2-3 weekly privates going on.

My advice to you is just to promote private lessons more with in your academy.

I’ve been to a lot of academies where they never once talk about their private lesson programs and then wonder why no one takes privates.

If you’re not an instructor at your academy but you are a higher belt or high level athlete/instructor then your ability to do private lessons may be affected.

Some academies only let instructors do private lessons. So you will have to find alternatives.

Some academies charge a fee for every lesson that you teach. I’ve seen anywhere between 10-30 percent.

That means if you charge $100 for a private lesson. Your academy could be taking $20-$30.

Again, you will have to find the best situation that works for you.

In Home Lessons

In home lessons is a good alternative to doing private lessons inside of an academy.

It allows you the flexibility of working during non-standard hours when your academy might be closed or unavailable and all of the proceeds go to you.

Pricing

Pricing your private lesson is very subjective. Traditionally, higher belts charge more for their private lessons than lower belts.

At the high end I’ve seen athletes, world champions mind you, charge anywhere between 250-300+ per lesson.

It all depends on your competition accolades, teaching skill, technique, demand and a whole list of things that is too many to count.

Group Privates

I’m a big believer in group privates. As an instructor it’s easier for me to show a move on one student while the other(s) watch versus having to walk a student through a technique solo.

It’s also more efficient to have the students practice their moves on each other versus having them all practice their moves on you individually.

Group privates are a great alternative for many students that are turned off from the pricing of one-on-one privates.

$200 might be a lot for a lot for a solo private. But split 4 ways is only $50 per person.

Private Packages

In most businesses you give a discount for customers paying in advance.

Sure they can pay full price for a one off lesson.

But say they want to take 5, 10, or even 50 privates with you.

At that point it’s okay to show that you appreciate them deciding to work with you.

Privates aren’t cheap.

But knocking 20-25% off of your usual pricing won’t kill you and can even help promote your lessons.

I know many academies that will nickel and dime their loyal customers. But that’s just a lack of business knowledge.

You reward those loyal to you.

Don’t be afraid

Private lessons are a great source of income that is often under utilized.

I even know world class black belts that still feel weird about teaching private lessons and worry about bringing value to the students each time.

These are guys that are high level and just by conversing with them about Jiu Jitsu would help grow your understanding of the game exponentially.

Ultimately you have to realize that you have a lot to offer and that people will spend good money to learn from you.

And that’s okay.

Bringing in 2017

2017 is quickly approaching and as with each new year this brings with it a rush of new potential clients looking for help in achieving their fitness, personal growth, and life goals.

This time of year can really set the pace for the rest of your 2017. Whether your academy will see real growth (in member numbers and gross income) or if you will continue to just get by.

I won’t lie.

Most Jiu Jitsu academies ignore the potential that the new year brings.

But I can assure you that other martial arts academies and the entire fitness industry are already preparing to take full advantage.

Think about this for one second.

People with cash in hand. Looking for a fun way to sweat and to release stress in a safe environment.

If this sounds like your academy why not help them and yourself?

From bring in the new year (2016):

“January is to the fitness and martial arts industries what black friday and cyber monday are to big retailers. If you’re not marketing your school for the influx of people looking to make good on their New Year’s Resolutions, then you’ll really miss out on the best time to grow your martial arts school.”

Systems

In 2016, I talked a lot about the importance of having systems in place. Specifically, in creating marketing systems to help you generate more leads. I plan on doing a quick review of that but I want you to think bigger picture.

You should have a system in place for everything!

There should be a system that you use in planning your classes.

A system for training new employees and instructors.

You should even have a system for how to clean your academy.

By implementing systems you make your business more efficient. Which means more time and energy for making money and doing what you love.

Examples of systems

Website

Your website is often the first experience a potential client will have with your business.

There should be a process by which visitors (new prospects) can go to your website. Leave you their contact information and you continue to market to them until they try out your services.

There are a few ways to set up a system for your academy that does exactly this but for now I will leave you with a simple checklist of things your website should contain.

  • Branded Items. Have your logo, image, and social media information available so that they know that you are a real business.
  • Contact Information. Phone and email so that interested prospects have a way of contacting you.
  • Schedule. Self explanatory.
  • Instructor information. Post about yourself, who you’re associated with, and of course your credentials.
  • Lead Generator. Have some way of collecting prospective clients contact information. At least a first and last name, a phone number, and an email address so that you can send them more information.
  • Address. Don’t underestimate the power location has in turning a prospect into a paying client. Place your address some where easily accessible and include a map and landmarks if possible.

Live Telephone Answering Service

It seems like common sense but you never know when a prospective client will call.

The worse thing you can do is let your telephone calls go to voicemail.

It’s like having an attractive girl text you late at night to see what you’re doing.

If you’re wide awake at that time and able to respond to her message. All is good.

But what if you happened to be really tired that night and end up sleeping through her message.

You can bet she’s going to be less interested the next time around!

That’s why you have to strike while the iron is hot.

With an automated telephone service, new prospects will call your number and speak to a virtual receptionist available 24/7 when you’re not able to get to the phone. This works really well because they can forward calls to your sales staff to close the deal, or they can collect the prospects contact information and even input their email address into your other systems.

Once you get a prospective student’s email or phone number you can gauge their level of interest and react accordingly. If they’re really gung ho, go right ahead and sign them up, but if they’re not quite ready to give your program a try, use email to build a relationship with them. Inform them of the benefits that you offer, tell them your history, offer them free guides and videos. Whatever it takes to build interest and eventual get them in your doors.

Lesson Plan for Fundamental/Beginners

Coming up with a lesson plan each week from scratch is really time consuming and it sucks.

I’m talking from experience here.

With more advanced classes you have more freedom in planning classes and working different concepts.

But when you’re dealing with with beginning students it’s best to stick with the basics and have a structured game plan.

At my academy we implement a system of lessons for our beginner (white belt) and intermediate level (blue belt) students. That’s designed to teach them the basics of Jiu Jitsu without overwhelming them.

If your academy is smaller and just starting out then it doesn’t make sense to divide your members up. But as you continue to grow and you have students at all levels. It will become increasingly harder to add brand new students to your (mixed) classes without the higher belts feeling like they have to slow down in order get the lower belts up to speed.

At that point, it becomes more effective for the newer students to work on techniques that are appropriate to their experience level (i.e. learning how to shrimp before learning heel hooks).

Eventually you will need to have a system in place that will help your beginner students learn the fundamental techniques of Jiu Jitsu and prepare them for more advance techniques/classes.

Again, developing systems creates less headaches and worry for you. Which means that you can focus you energy and attentions to other areas of your business.

Marketing Your Academy

You should be marketing your academy and your services year round. Especially during the first quarter of the year (January to March).

This time is great because people are actively seeking solutions to their health and fitness goals.

I know a lot of Jiu Jitsu academies have a negative view on marketing.

Why do you have to market your academy when you are the best in the city, or you have the best competitors, or the highest ranked students?

While this is all good. I can tell you right now that the average person off of the street or visitor to your website has no clue how good your academy is compared to the academy down the street.

They don’t care about how many tournaments you’ve won.

They don’t care about how many champions you’ve produce.

But I do know what they do care about.

They care about themselves and how your business can help them reach their goals!

“Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.” – Seth Godin

An easy way to get started is to research the local academies in your area.

Check out their websites.

See what they’re offering prospective clients to try out their programs.

Then use that information to create your own marketing strategy.

A strategy that will set your apart from all the rest.

“Think different” – Apple Computer, Inc.

Online Marketing
This is a fairly broad topic but it includes all of your online marketing efforts and social media, digital products, etc.

We talked about setting up your website earlier. Above all else, it should be informative and simple to use and share.

A few questions to help you get started

  • How is your social media presence? Are you posting new things about your academy and programs daily/weekly/infrequently?
  • Are there any videos of your classes, you teaching, interviews, etc?
  • Are your clients sharing your posts, pictures and other content?
  • What comes up when someone searches your name or your academy? How can you use that to promote your brand.

Direct Mail
I’m talking about good-old fashioned physical marketing tools such as flyers and mailers. It may seem old school but it’s still effective and relevant for a physical location. A well designed mailer, with a modest list depending on the population in your area could generate massive returns.

For example if you purchased a list of 10,000 lead addresses and only had 5%(0.05) of those leads contact your academy. That’s potentially 500 new clients.

Referrals
Your biggest resource and best ally is going to be your loyal clientele.

Do you have a system by which your clients can refer their friends, family members, and coworker’s?

A free trial pass.

A business card.

Even a brochure that your clients can give out would be a low investment -> high reward tool that you can easily implement.

Improving Your Academy

There are going to be a few days during the holidays when you’re academy will be less busy or even closed.

Why not take this time to make some minor (or even major) improvements in and around your academy?

Little touches like:

  • Deeply cleaning your entire academy
  • New coat of paint
  • New/different furniture in your reception area
  • New mats
  • Adding more fitness equipment
  • Wifi for members
  • Complementary body wash

Show that you value your current clients as well as helping you sell your brand to prospective clients.

There is no shortage of things that you can do that will help prepare your academy for the new year.

Having systems in places to help run your academy and focusing on those little touches that will set you apart from those other martial arts/fitness businesses in your area is a good step in the right direction.

The more value you give in terms of the programs you offer, the amenities, and instruction.

The easier it will be to market and sell your services.

This could be the difference between running your academy like a side hustle that barely covers your living expenses versus a business that can generate wealth for many years to come.

Knowing your financials

A few months ago I wrote Is 50k enough to open your own academy? And I was really surprised by the amount of comments and feedback that I received.

Short answer: Yes, you can open your academy with $50,000. In fact many people have done it with far less.

Having this much money or more will not only afford you better facilities in a better location but also access to highly skilled instructors.

Being able to bypass a lot of the physical hands on work that many martial arts academies with less resources go through initially. Letting you focus on developing systems and people.

But there is a catch.

With more resources there is a tendency to think that most problems can be solved by throwing money at them.

In fact, sometimes too much money can be a bigger problem than not having enough money if you can believe it.

I wish I had 50k when I cofounded my first martial arts school. It would have made a lot of things easier.

But because we didn’t have a lot of money. That forced my business partner and I to keep track of where every dollar went. Keeping costs as low as possible

I’m going to ask that you take the same diligence and self discipline that you use everyday in your martial arts training and try to apply it to your business.

No easy task.

We are going to go over a few technical terms but stay with me.

My friend Charles brought up some important topics that I did not mention in my first post that I am going to address in this post. Charles writes:

I’d add financials: knowing the numbers. How many students to break even? Churn rate. How many students in Marketing gets people in the door, sales is what turns them into students. What other ways can you monetize besides the $100’ish a month?

Breaking Even

Breaking even is an accounting term that means that your martial arts business is able to meet all of its financial obligations and total costs including: rent, utilities, payroll, insurance etc.

This means that you are not losing money in your business but also not making money.

But that’s okay!

You would be surprised by the number of companies that haven’t made any profits. A number of tech companies come to mind.

Instead focus on knowing your finances.

It’s important that you have your finances down because when you decide to open up your martial arts business you are no longer just responsible for yourself and your family’s well being.

You are also on the line for those that you employ and their families, as well as all of your clients and their families.

I’m not saying that you will have to be a math wiz or a CPA, but you will need to know some basic accounting and little bit of financial literacy too.

Of course being a business owner, profiting is the next step once you break even. But your profit will be determined by your expenses.

For academies starting out, keep your expenses as low as possible. This might mean that you will have to do a lot of the hands on work yourself at first, but that’s okay.

Find the best, most efficient way to go about running and operating your program and then use this experience to create systems for your future employees.

I put together a sample of a small martial arts academy’s monthly financials. Just to see the how the cost of operating a school can easily add up.

Everything is pretty self explanatory but for now I just want you to focus on the part that says net profit. This is where you will see if your business is making money, losing money or breaking even. In this sample plan the net profit is zero, so that means that the monthly income that this fictional business was bringing in was enough to cover all of its expenses for that month which is great!

Do you know the financial details of your martial arts Business?
Do you know the financial details of your martial arts
Business?

Even if you have a lot of resources and cash saved up, keep your expenses small.

You will thank me in the long run.

New Students In

Bringing in new students will always be the lifeblood of a martial arts business.

For newer schools, your initial income will come from acquiring new students (marketing) but as Charles brought up earlier. It’s what you do when you get them through the door that really matters.

Knowing your breakeven point will allow you to calculate the amount of students you will need to obtain, and retain in order to keep your business running.

Once you have that figured out then any number over that will be pure profit for you to invest back into your business systems (marketing and sales) so that you will be able to make even more money and make your service better (premium equipment and amenities).

The important link here is your sales system. Sales is the process of turning those new prospects into paying students.

I will go into more detail in a later post but for now just know that you will need a system.

Have a system for when prospects walk into your academy.

Have a system when prospects check out your website.

Have a system for your existing members to refer their friends.

If you don’t learn anything else from me, the importance of having systems is key.

Churn Rate

Churn rate is the percent of students that no longer pay for your service.

This also includes employees leaving as well.

No one likes to talk about this in the martial arts industry but most students will fall off of training at some point. Only a few will stick with it all the way to black belt.

Of course some students do find their way back. I have a friend that completely stopped training in 2008. Right before getting his purple belt.

Only to find his way back to Jiu Jitsu in 2015.

That’s a seven year lay off!

But it’s not the norm.

If you have your own academy you will become really sensitive to this.

You will notice when certain people begin attending classes less frequently.

That’s when you will need to motivate them to keep training.

I know that life happens.

But Jiu Jitsu is capable of so many positive life changes. That to let people quit. Only to regret leaving and to take years to get back into, seems like a big mistake.

Once you know your churn rate you will have a better picture of your business.

Use the churn rate to see where people are falling off in your business pipeline.

For instance, many students drop off at or before blue belt.

Can you develop systems to help you identify this drop off?

Can you develop systems to help you retain those students?

And for the students that you aren’t able to motivate to keep training, will you be able to replace them with new students and through other means.

Monetization

When you first start a martial arts academy. Your students will be your livelihood.

Through acquiring new students you will begin to break even and hopefully become profitable.

As you gain more students it’s unavoidable that a few of those students will drop off (churn rate). But as long as you are able to replace those students with new students at a rate higher than the churn rate. Then you are in business.

Once you have a client base of over twenty students you are ready to monetize your martial arts business in other ways.

Producing your own brand of gear.

Adding additional classes such as kickboxing and conditioning classes.

Instructor training programs.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

Most businesses fight tooth and nail for the level of brand loyalty that is built in to martial arts.

But it does come at a price.

The price of having integrity and building, and developing relationships.

Don’t underestimate the power of relationships.

Especially in this industry. Relationships are everything.

If you try to monetize before you have grown a loyal client base then you may risk alienating your existing clients. Many of which could be among your first students that believed in you enough to entrust their martial arts study to your hands.

Know your students.

Know your finances.

Grow your school.