How do you set up for a private session, or communicate with your clients outside of a session? How much communication is too much? Every client is a little different, so this week we look at what happens behind the scenes of teaching one on one sessions.
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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia, and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.
Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] Today, we're going to be talking about all things private sessions. I got a question from a listener in Australia and she wanted to know kind of the behind the scenes of private sessions, how they work, not just in the teaching of them, but also like how you organize them. How do you follow up with clients? How do you communicate with them? Like those questions as well. So that's what we're really going to be diving into today.
Private sessions are definitely different than group sessions. The energy is different. The way you teach them is different. The way you interact with people is very different. It's also difficult to talk about private sessions in absolutes, because depending on your relationship to this private client, like, do you know them from group classes? Do you know them at all? Are they just coming to your Instagram or your website? Do you have no connection at all to this person? Are they a referral from someone you do know? Like all of those [00:02:00] things can change how you interact with them, as well as personalities. They might appreciate you reaching out to them in a different way, things like that. And also whether you're teaching as yourself or as a member of a studio, like, are they going through the studio or are they just talking to you? That might also change some things and how you interact.
As far as getting private clients, if that is something you're interested in doing, I've talked about in previous episodes, that a big thing you can do is just say that you offer privates. If you want to teach privates, tell people that you teach them and that you think that they would be a great candidate for it. Whether they're someone who is in your class all the time, and you know, that they're really working to nail this one exercise or someone who's maybe struggling a little bit and would really benefit from a little bit more one-on-one attention, definitely reach out to the people who are already coming to your classes and tell them, Hey, I think that [00:03:00] you would really benefit from private sessions. You can also have on your website or on your Instagram just really promoting the fact that this is something that you're passionate about, and this is something that really everyone can benefit from.
Whenever someone reaches out to me, whether it's in-person or on the internet, I always want to get their email address because that's my preferred way of communicating with them. I do have a bit of an email template that I send out to prospective clients. That, you know, when I first was writing the email, I was like, Oh, I want to write, you know, every person their own email, but the questions are the same and the sentiment is really the same. Of course you can customize it. But I do have an email template that gets out the main things.
You know, I want to thank them for reaching out. I want to outline my availability, my rates, and my policies if this is me, the individual. Or if it's the studio, I want to outline the studio's policies. [00:04:00] Because I want them to know what they're getting into and if my availability doesn't match your availability, that's fine. But if it's already not going to work with you or you don't like my rate or something, I want you to know that first thing so that we don't get invested and build this relationship and set up this schedule and then all of a sudden it's like, well, I didn't know that that's what it was and now I'm not interested, you know? So like just get things out and about right at the beginning.
If they're still reading email because they're still interested in working with you, then I want to outline the big questions that I have for them. And that's things like, you know, what are you looking for? What are your goals? What are you hoping to get out of the sessions? What experience do you have with Pilates? What do you love about your previous classes or your previous teachers? What exercises do you love? What exercises do you not love? Also, you know, what's going on in your [00:05:00] body? Any injuries, any surgeries, anything that I need to know about to create a safe program for you? I also want to know what equipment that they have available in their space. If this is something where I'm either going to be going to their house, which I'm still not currently doing because COVID, but virtually as well, like what do you have to play with? Do you have a magic circle? Do you have a ball? Do you have a, you know, some people have a chair or a Bosu or hand weights, like I want to know so that I can use what you have in a way that's interesting to you.
I'll also attach my liability waiver if it's just me. If it's through the studio, the studio has their thing that they can do when they first come in. But I like to have it since I'm teaching virtually before any first session and just say, Hey, please sign this on this back with your answers to my questions.
I haven't had so many people reach out to me that I've had to like schedule intro calls, but I do know apps [00:06:00] like Calendly will let you put in your availability and then it can be either a zoom link or your phone number, and you can schedule out like 15 minute consults. That can be a really nice touch. I would love to do that if I get to a point where I'm super busy, but right now my schedule is pretty full. So I'm not in needing to do that at the moment, but I think that that's a great thing to offer because some people love that face to face interaction, or at least hearing the person's voice. You can kind of feel out a little bit more about the person. And that can be really helpful because a lot of private sessions is like finding a personality match and finding a person who connects with you, not just a schedule that clicks with you, like really to find an amazing Pilates teacher or an amazing private client, like the stars after align. Right. We've got to find that kind of like good match, that good fit.
Usually in my experience, when people have reached out to me through my website or through [00:07:00] social media, just taking that leap and reaching out shows that they're pretty interested. And they usually reply to that first email that I send pretty quickly. But if they don't, I'll follow up in two or three days, you know, just checking in, reiterating what I'd like to know from them, like what my policies are and everything, and, you know, asking them to still reach out if they're interested. And sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.
It's good to know upfront that if this is a person who is not consistently communicating with you, like maybe this isn't someone that you'd really be interested in working with anyway. If you're going to be constantly needing to track them down to get information from them, because you're asking these questions so that you can create a program for them. Like if you, someone reaches out to you out of the blue, you want to know that they're a leukemia survivor. You want to [00:08:00] know that they have a fusion in their big toe and they cannot flex their foot and like a plank or something like you'd need to know that stuff so that the exercises that you do with them are going to fit their body. And so you don't waste their time giving them exercises that they are not able to do or creating something that doesn't match what's going on in their life. You know, so it's a collaborative effort. It's not a dictatorship, it's really a partnership. And you want to make sure that this person is engaging with you.
When I'm offering my availability, I always offer times for the following week or even two weeks out so that we have time to have a little bit of a back and forth and really figure out if we're a good fit via email or if you're going to schedule that call have time to schedule that call.
And I'll always tell them before the first session, you know, I'll send them the zoom link if we're doing virtually, or if I'll be seeing them in the [00:09:00] studio, I'll reach out to them and say, you know, this is what you should expect in your first session. If it's a virtual appointment, I'll tell them this is the equipment I'd like you to have with you. If it's at the studio, I'll make sure like, Oh, you need grip socks, or bring, you know, a water bottle or whatever you're going to need at the studio. I'll tell them that we're going to talk for a little bit. And then we're going to move for a little bit. We're probably going to start slow because as someone who's working with their body for the first time, or, you know, really looking to address their goals, I want to see how they move and see how things are going.
So I want to tell them that that's what they expect. So they're not expecting like, Oh, we're going to do this like fabulous workout on the first session. No, I'm going to see how your body moves in the first session and then make a plan. Right. Because even hearing about it is different from seeing it happen. So I want to make sure that we have time to do that and just like figure ourselves out of it.
I don't offer an intro pass for people who are just [00:10:00] doing privates with me. I'm not that big of a deal. I'm not so busy that I want to like, get you in like a lower rate. Like you can buy one session. And then I do offer 10 packs of sessions. So if you're going to be a recurring client, then you can do that as well. I mean, you can just buy the single session without committing to the 10 sessions and see how we feel about that. That's just me. You could definitely do something like that if you wanted.
And then personally, I don't love clients calling me or texting me because that feels very immediate and like very, you need my attention right now. And that's not something I can offer just in terms of my schedule or in terms of my energy level. So I make sure that I set the expectation and the boundary that, you know, we're going to be communicating via email because that is the method of communication that vibes well with me. And again, totally personal, but I don't like the [00:11:00] urgency of phone calls or texts that I need to be like, Oh, awaiting your call, or I need to get back to you right away. Like this is just Pilates. It's amazing and wonderful and life changing, but you know, I can email you as well.
Coming up after the break, I'm going to talk about teaching your first session, following up from there and just some general guidelines for working on those one-on-one sessions. That's coming up next.
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So you've made it to your very first private session with this client. And the way I see that first session is really about you getting to know them, both personality, their learning style, and then just connecting with this person. You want to do exercises that allow you to assess their movement, their strengths and weaknesses, and really celebrate what their body can do [00:13:00] as well as addressing their personal goals that they've hopefully shared with you so that they feel that, you know, this is a session for them.
And even though for this very first session, I teach probably 90% of it, the same for every body, because I want to see their body in different body positions. I want to see their balance and their, you know, strengthen their upper body. I want to see their stability at the center. I want to see the stability at their shoulders. Like all of these little key items I'm looking for as we go through these exercises. And then of course, throwing in things that are particular to their needs and you know, the movement that they love as well.
But by teaching this, you know, fairly standard first class, that really gives me a jumping off point for what the next session with them would look like. If I see, okay, we've got [00:14:00] a little bit of unsteadiness when we're doing some standing balance work, you know, that's something that I want to sprinkle in. It may not be the focus of the session. If the, you know, their main session is they want to have a stronger core. Sometimes people say stuff like that, then sure. We'll do your abdominal exercises. But I also know that you're going to benefit from balance.
And that's kind of the push and pull I think of private teaching is they have their goals and then you have things that you know that they would also benefit from, and it's finding a meeting point there that addresses both of those things for the very first session.
Especially if this is a person who came to me cold from my website or a person who I was even matched with through the studio that they said, Olivia offers privates at that time and then I'm working with that person, I definitely want to send a follow-up email, thanking them for taking the time, asking how they're feeling, just checking in. [00:15:00] And hopefully from there, if they enjoy it, then we can get them into a scheduled appointment slot. Maybe that slot, maybe a different slot.
But then I do want to wean them off of constant follow-up emails? Again, this is totally personal, but I don't want to email and check in with clients after every single session. Of course, if you're working with someone who, you know, that's what they need, then maybe that's what you do.
You know, I have had clients in the past who were more fragile, older, and they were very invested in telling me how they were feeling the next time. There was like a lot of fear around movement. So if we did some arm exercises, I would get an email the next day that was like, Oh my gosh, my shoulders are so sore. Like I think I overdid it. You know, I don't want to do that exercise anymore. [00:16:00] For me, that would be considered like a difficult client, because now I'm doing all of this outside work because all these emails that you're sending, all these conversations that you're having, it is part of, you know, working with people, but it's not time that you're being paid for. This is time that you're trying to find around your other appointments and your classes and stuff.
So for me, someone who wants to communicate constantly about their sessions would be a difficult client and may not be someone who I'm able to give the attention that they need. Right. So, It really depends. And I've had clients who started like that. And then I try to, you know, wean them off of those conversations. Then I'll just start every session and say, you know, how did you feel after last session? And so then we have a little bit of a debrief moment at the beginning of the session, and I have a class plan for them, which I can, you know, really easily adjust based on, you know, how they're [00:17:00] feeling because we know that soreness or feeling something somewhere isn't necessarily a bad thing. But again, working with a personality or someone who is recovering from an injury, like that might still be a very scary thing for them. And so you again, have to meet them where they are to some degree.
I think it's important that you, when you're starting these sessions, are just setting the correct expectation of how you're going to communicate with them, how you're going to receive payment, how available you're going to be for their conversations. Of course, I always want clients to email me if something comes up or something doesn't feel right, but at the same time, recognizing that what you do for an hour a week is not having as much of an impact on how you're living your day to day life. And that can be a tough thing because Pilates is wonderful, but it's not going to solve all of your problems and it's not going [00:18:00] to give you the answer to everything.
It can do really amazing, wonderful things. But I also don't want you as the teacher to put this pressure on yourself that you have to have the answer and you have to have the solution to all of their ills. What you can do is totally be there for this person, totally support this person, and give them the best experience that you can in this hour or this half hour, however long your session is. But also really seeing this as an exploration and a journey that doesn't have a finish line. That you can really work on this and work together on this for weeks and weeks and months and years, and their goals will change and their strength and their confidence will change. It will adapt. But it doesn't need to be solved in the first session or the second session or the first month.
I think private sessions are really amazing. They're one of my favorite things to teach. I love the energy of this one-on-one [00:19:00] connection and working with this person and really seeing so much growth because you're tailoring your class to them. I definitely plan my private sessions more than my group classes. Because there is a progression because if their goal was to work on their balance, then I want to continue offering them balance challenges in every session. And I want to build on what we've done, whereas if I'm teaching a level one class, it's going to be a level one class every single time I teach it. Are we going to work on themes and stuff? Yeah, personally, but you might have totally different people every week. It's not the same sort of growth that you get in a private session.
I hope that answered your question, Cate. There's so much to talk about in privates, so definitely reach out. Or if you have some hot tips and tricks for working in private sessions, I'd love to hear them because I mean, it's something that [00:20:00] we're all doing, we can all work on. And if you're nervous about getting into privates, I really think that it's a fun thing to do. It's like a fun way to teach and just the connection is a little bit different, I think, when it's you and another person instead of you and many people, right?
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Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual, and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. For more Pilates, goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates [00:21:00] Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.
The adventure continues. Until next time.