Along with your clubs location the time and day(s) that you run your club can play a major part in how successful it will be and the kind of students you will attract. The availability of venues in your area may limit your choice of days and time or you may find that some venues are cheaper at certain times and that could influence your choice. If the choice is completely up to you then there are some things to consider when deciding this.
Are you free? – One of the most obvious things to consider is what days you can make a commitment to instruct on. This is going to be the same days for every week for the foreseeable future. Consider your family and work commitments as well as the nights that you currently train. You want teaching at your new club to be a joy and not a hassle so pick a day that is convenient for you too.
Other local groups – Check out your local newspaper or parish newsletter and do some web searches to look for local groups in the area to see what days other clubs operate on. If you are looking to run a martial arts class for children and you find that there are already successful Brownies, Scouts and Ballet classes running on a Tuesday night in the local area then perhaps you should avoid that night. By doing this you are not excluding all of the potential students that are already doing other clubs.
Mondays –On the face of it a Monday evening looks like a good choice of day for a class. It is the start of the week and hopefully your students will have lots of energy. However in the UK, Monday is the day when most bank holidays occur. There are 4 Bank holiday Monday’s in a typical year; Easter Monday, two in May and the summer bank holiday in August. Your venue may be closed on holidays but even if it is open your students may take the advantage for a long weekend away and miss training anyway. Maybe you can afford to miss 4 classes a year but if not then think about looking for another night.
Daytime Versus Evening – The makeup of your class is going to completely change depending on whether you run it during the day or on an evening. By running it during the day you are excluding school age children and people that work a normal 9-5 pattern. The type of people that can train during a normal week day will be stay at home parents, unemployed, retired, students, shift workers etc.
If you want to have a children’s martial arts class then the time of day can be quite crucial. If you have a class that starts not long after the end of the school day then you may get a lot of kids doing it as an after school activity. The parents they may view your club as a cheap way to have their children looked after for a couple of hours. This may not be the best motivation for students to start but once you have them it is up to you to engage them and get them excited about training.
If you want to include adults in your class then you need to be thinking of a later start time. Some people will be happy to go training straight from work but a lot like to go home first, have something to eat and see their family before going training. With this in mind you would be looking at a start time no earlier than 6pm and probably 7pm or 8pm would be more appropriate. However the later your class starts the less appealing it is for younger students that need to be in bed at a decent time. It is a tricky balance and you may lose potential students based on the time so it is important to try and get it right. If your venue is flexible then your times don’t have to be set in stone and you can talk to the students to see what works for them. If a change of time would make it easier for them or people they know to come to class then consider changing it. Just don’t do this after you have posted 10000 leaflets with the old times on.
Another option is to run multiple classes on the same night with an earlier junior class for younger children followed by a class for older students. You could overlap these if that helped so that the older students come in for the last half hour of the younger class and then start their training later.
Weekday Versus Weekends – With all the considerations around weekday times it may seem like a good idea to have your classes on a weekend. People are free from work and study and you can have a morning class or afternoon class when students will be more alert. Unfortunately there are downsides too. Venues such as sports halls will be busier at weekends and may charge a premium to hire a room. Students may not be around every weekend. People take long weekends away, attend weddings and other family functions, go to football matches and other live sporting events for example. Basically there are lots of competing things to do on a weekend. On top of that your association may organise gradings, competitions and seminars on weekend days so you may need to cancel classes when these clash.
Regular Intervals – If offering more than one class a week then you need to think about how close the classes are. I think it is beneficial for students to have a gap between training sessions of a day or two. If you offered training on a Tuesday and Wednesday, for example, but then nothing else for the rest of the week then the students are getting an intense two days but a large gap before the next session. This doesn’t give chance for the students to recover from any aches and pains from the first class and the longer gap will make it harder for the students to remember techniques.
Take all of the above point into consideration and come up with a day and time that works for you that will bring in the volume and types of students that you desire.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Types of venue
There are a huge variety of different venues that can be hired for your martial arts clubs. The obvious choices are school halls, community centres, church halls, sports centres, scout hut etc. Really it can be anywhere that is a good size with suitable flooring. You should avoid carpeted floors but wood, laminate, linoleum or concrete should be fine. As a minimum size I would suggest the size of a badminton or squash court. If you are just starting out it would be wise not to jump into hiring a huge full sized sports hall. Start small with a view to expanding later. With this in mind try to negotiate hiring terms for say 3 months at a time so that you can change your venue if needs be.
The cost of your venue is going to be the main on-going running cost of the club and so it is important to get a good deal for your room. You don’t want to be making a loss on your club so you need to think about how many students you are likely to get and ensure that the price they pay per class will cover the venue hire. Ideally you want a surplus to build club funds to buy martial arts equipment and to give a small buffer for weeks when fewer than expected students come to class. When agreeing the terms for hiring the venue it would be a good idea to suggest paying on either a week by week basis or to pay at the end of a term. You don’t want to pay up front for a long term hire as that would be a large outlay right at the start before you have any money coming in.
When hiring your venue make sure you find out when the room is available. If you are hiring a school hall you need to know if you can get in the hall outside of term time. Having no venue for the school holidays is one sure way to kill your club off. Also check out how you can gain access to the hall. If you are reliant on a key holder or caretaker it could also mean that the venue becomes unavailable when they are not around. Ideally you want a venue that is open year round with easy access or better yet where they trust you as a key holder.
Proximity to other clubs
Have a search for other martial arts clubs in the area. This will be your competition. If you open a club in the same village or town as other clubs then you are going up against established clubs to try and grab a share of the available students in the area. Sometimes this is unavoidable and to be fair most places have at least one martial arts club in operation already. If the other clubs are completely different styles then you will not be in too much conflict but if there are clubs doing your style then it might be an idea to look elsewhere. Some associations try to ensure their clubs do not encroach on each other and have a set minimum distance for how close clubs can be to each other. In some cases it can be quite handy to be close to another club within the same association or style as you can form an alliance and complement each other by offering instructor cover for each other’s class to cover holidays or sickness.
When picking a venue try to get a feel for the population in the local area. If there is a secondary school close by then there should be a large number of teenage children in the local area. Look out for other local community groups such as Scout troops or Brownies to give an indication if the area can support youth groups. A venue near a new housing development might be able to attract younger families and people that are new to the area looking for clubs to integrate into their new area. Just try to get a feel for if the location can provide enough students for your club to be a success. A village hall may be cheap to hire but if it is in a village with very few homes made up of mainly pensioners then it might be an idea to give it a miss unless of course that is your target market.
There are some other considerations when looking at a venue that are not as important as the ones listed above but these can make the difference when choosing between one venue and another. These are more like the icing on the cake.
- Parking – Is there adequate parking for students at the venue or, at the very least, a safe area for students to be dropped off and picked up?
- Transport links – Is the venue close to good transport links? Bus stop, train station, cycle lanes, for example.
- Storage – Does the venue have any permanent storage space where you can safely store club equipment? If you can leave large bulky items like martial arts pads, free standing punch bags, mats etc. it will save you having to transport them to and from each class.
- Equipment Share – Does the venue already have shared equipment that can be used by your club? Some schools and community centres will have basic equipment like mats, cones, hula hoops, foam balls etc. These can be useful for training in some circumstances if the venue will allow you to use them.
- Kitchen facilities and chairs – If you have a class for children and the parents are staying to watch the children then a venue that has tea and coffee making facilities and chairs could be useful. If you get some parents on side to run a tea bar then you may have an extra way to generate some club funds too.
Buying permanent premises
I don’t know much about this as I would say the majority of clubs in the UK use a hired venue but I know there are some studios which have a permanent base. I have seen some clubs that have a permanent studio in a converted industrial unit on an industrial estate or clubs where a church hall has been bought and converted into a studio. The advantages of having your own permanent studio are obvious; It is yours, you can gain access easily and have classes whenever the time suits you, you can lay it out exactly as you want it and you can leave equipment set up. However unless you are wealthy enough to buy the premises out right you will need to take out a mortgage to pay for it and that means you need to be looking at class fees to cover it. It can be done but you will need a lot of students or high class fees to take care of this. It works for some but for most part time instructors hiring a venue is the way to go.