12 Ways to Survive the Slow Season as a WCS Teacher

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Since dancing tends to slow down during the summer and winter holidays, it can be stressful wondering how you're going to pay the bills before classes start up again. You also may fear losing the momentum and enthusiasm that you worked so hard to foster in your community during the regular season.

So how can a WCS teacher better survive the slow season?

This question was asked in the West Coast Swing Teaching Community Facebook group and several teachers generously suggested their ideas. I wanted to compile a complete collection of ideas and offer a few resources to make it easier to succeed!

1. Incentive Programs

This one’s a no-brainer, but if you're going to offer discounts, be careful not to undersell yourself or your fellow teachers. Instead of lowering your private lessons price too much, consider how you can add value to your regular price for a limited time. For example: “Buy 6 private lessons before Monday and get a free instructional video”.

Consider incentivizing existing students to get free entry if they bring a beginner to class/party. You could also run a referral campaign to reward your existing students with a kickback when they refer a friend to you who buys a lesson or package.

2. Bootcamps

  • We are not local teachers, but Myles & I try to stimulate/sustain our local community momentum by offering a special 4-week blitz series during one of the quiet summer months.
  • Your could offer summer group classes at a discount when purchased all at once.
  • Offer a few one-day 3-hour bootcamps on one topic per day, like Blues, ladies’ styling, or footwork.  One of them should be a “WCS Crash Course” to drive traffic to your next lesson series.
  • Promote a bundle of any of the above with a weekly practica and discount on privates.

3. ProAm Routines

Plan ProAm routines that debut in the fall, so students need to work on it in the summer. This guarantees you regular lessons and income during a time when the studio is more available and your schedule is less crammed.

If you're not in a region that is used to the idea of ProAm routines, you would need to prime your students with the idea first by showing them videos from events that have ProAm routines they can relate to.

4. Host a Workshop Weekend

After teaching weekend workshops and Intensives for years, we've seen it all -  the good, the bad and the ugly. We LOVE teaching our full weekend Swing Literacy Intensives by the way - it's one of our favourite parts of our job. See a menu of our workshop options here.

If planned wisely, workshop weekends can be a great way to contribute to the community while making a little bit of money. It’s not difficult, BUT there are many pitfalls to navigate so you can avoid losing money and disappointing your students.

Sneak Preview: We're in the process of creating something BIG for community builders, that will include all the nitty gritty details on how to organize workshops. But in the meantime, we made an essentials checklist for you!

Downloadable PDF checklist:

Download this PDF checklist to guide you so you don't forget to plan any essential steps for your WCS workshop weekend!

5. Summer Camps

  • Community Centres and dance schools plan their summer programming in February. If you have a program/camp idea, this is the best time to pitch them. 
  • If you have a connection with a university, check to see if they offer summer courses - space will be easier to find during the off-season.
  • Reaching out to Home school networks; parents often want to have their kids involved in activities ... and there is usually government funding for homeschoolers to participate in activities (at least in the US)
  • Another great resource to tap is second language schools (for adults). They are often government-funded and required to provide & pay for opportunities for students to socialize (such as dance classes and parties). These would be a great place to recruit younger adult dancers into your community.

6. Westie-Bombs

Let’s get one thing straight: a flashmob is not a Westie-Bomb. The original intention of a flashmob is to create a public display and then peace out - disappearing into the background. This is not ideal for WCS promotion, because it makes people curious, wondering “what was that dance?”, but the dancers don’t stick around long enough to acts as agents of WCS and be approached by potential newbies. 

Even the International Rally has limitations for promotion: the dancers are clearly doing choreography, which is not as relatable to non-dancers. Also, without some kind of promotional materials, it's still hard for curious onlookers to inquire about what they just saw.

A Westie Bomb is when a small group goes improv social dancing at a venue that is not a typical dance party venue. They dance, mingle, and hand out promo materials to curious observers who are amazed by the improvisation skills and ability to dance with different partners to different songs. 

Besides restaurants and bars, a great place for a summer Westie Bomb is a free public outdoor event, such as a fireworks display night, or an outdoor festival. Be sure to wear t-shirts that have WCS or your studio logo on them.

7. Public Shows

There are tons of community events and shows that are at least open to if not eager for performers and/or ways to engage their audience. It's like free advertising, and gives your students something to work towards besides their next dance convention.

One WCSTC teacher had a group perform at the Christmas tree lighting in their town. which required them to come to class during a typical slow season and learn a set of basic patterns set to a certain song. If you choose to do more complex choreography that works too.

Piggybacking off the massive outdoor free public dance showcase hosted by DanceSportBC, Myles & I run the WCS week which brings in >1000 public attendees. Each year we do something to involve the local dancers to show off WCS - this year we are choreographing another team performance, which gives them something to work on (and reasons to get coaching)

8. Study & Prepare

Take a sabbatical to study under a master dancer or master teacher. We started offering these a few years ago each summer when several random students asked us when they should plan their vacation so that they could get coaching from us while they're in Vancouver. 

Go visit a neighbouring city that has some fun dancers at your level to practice with. Set up small group practices or maybe get coaching from a pro together.

Catch up on your administrative tasks: organize your playlists, finally learn that graphics app, update your website, set up your bookkeeping, create new postcards & business cards.

Take a Swing Literacy course to upgrade your teaching so you can enjoy prosperous classes the rest of the year that will carry you through the off-season. The Teacher Development Program is a 60-hour online course aimed at existing teachers who are looking for smarter ways to retain more students and help their student progress faster. You can start immediately and transform your teaching practice for September.

9. Personal Development

  • Cross-train in other dance styles (we do HipHop and Lyrical classes), but you could exchange with a teacher of a different style such as Zouk or Tap
  • Set up practice sessions with local peers, sometimes with a Skype lesson from a Pro to guide you
  • Take a communication course or music study (we like Landmark)
  • Read those books and start listening to those podcasts you've been saving.
  • Start a fitness regimen that will supplement your WCS

10. Wedding Lessons

Start promoting these right after New Years. Consider sponsoring a local wedding show - this is a prime opportunity to get exposure to hundreds of couples that are going to need dance lessons and need help planning them. You could run a Groupon special, but this is only worth it if you can offer something people can upgrade to.

Everyone knows people who are getting married. But it's easy to forget to connect the dots. Remind your students that you teach wedding couples, so if they know of anyone getting married locally, to give them your card.

If you are skilled at creating social promo graphics, you could promote on Facebook & Craigslist - look for wedding vendors & services groups.

11. Get out of town

If nothing is tying you down, now’s your chance to escape! Not on vacation though - set up a workshop weekend for yourself in another town or smaller town. Insist that they billet you so they don't have to pay for a hotel. Stay extra days so you can guest teach some regular classes and offer more private lessons.

While you're away, is it possible to rent out your place on AirBnB? This is a great way to have your home make money for you while you're not in it.

Host a big extra curricular trip like a cruise or dance get-aways. This takes more organizational effort, but can have a big payoff. One WCSTC teacher reported that last . December they recovered $5000 they would have missed out on by taking a studio dance cruise together with the students.

12. Get a side hustle

Life tip: You need a backup plan. Don't be naive and think that you need to avoid getting a second job because you need "focus on your dream". The statistics are not in your favour.

When you are passionate about your dance career but don't have the money to build it, sorry to break it to you, but you. don't. have. a. dance. career. yet. In order to build your WCS dream, you need tools, training, and travel. If you're not teaching enough to afford these things, you are a part-time dancer. You need a side hustle.

This doesn’t necessarily mean waiting tables. A side hustle could be some post-secondary education, or a trade, or online business, or a flexible part-time job that allows you to take extended weekends. A trained teacher has desirable skills that are marketable to a tutoring company, summer camps, community centre classes, writing, or marketing.

Have a productive off-season!

As long as you are willing to plan ahead, get creative, and take advantage of these resources, you have lots of options that make it easier to sustain the community and survive till classes start up again.

Here's that article again, for easy access:

Downloadable PDF checklist:

Download this PDF checklist to guide you so you don't forget to plan any essential steps for your WCS workshop weekend!

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