Today’s question comes from a skate instructor who wishes to remain anonymous:
Q: “I’m struggling to make ends meet as an inline skate instructor and I wondered if you could share your main tips with us on “How To Not Fail at your Dream Job”.
A: If Facebook had existed when I started teaching back in 2000, I would have been the Instructor asking this question! After my first summer of teaching classes in London (and escaping my miserable office job) I remember clearly my horror when November came with its wind, cold and rain and my income disappeared in a week with no bookings on the horizon. I wish I’d had someone to ask!
Here are my Top Tips for surviving as a Skate Instructor…
1. Have a Winter Plan if you live anywhere seasonal (or teach skiing in the winter).
For me this involved going to Australia during the first few winters of Skatefresh and working with a fellow ICP Instructor and owner of Planet Inline in Brisbane.
Other winters I went and stayed with my father in Africa where he lives and then I started wintering in Brazil where I had spent my year off when I was 18 and had good friends. But only their generosity allowing me to live cheaply made this possible and continues to be the case 17 years later.
2. Don’t Give Up your Day Job.
Although I did, I never recommend an instructor tries to make it full-time from the start. Having your salary dependent on whether it rains or not is a very vulnerable position to be in wherever you live (and tropical countries also have this issue).
Having skating as a weekend job alongside another career is the best way to build up your business. Having affordable use of an indoor space is almost essential (although I have never used a covered venue in London). Only when you’ve done a few seasons and feel secure, leave your job.
3. Be OK living on a low income
I don’t know a full time skating instructor who enjoys a secure and comfortable salary. The trade off with following your passion and “living in the park” is very often a salary that makes your accountant ask “How do you eat?”.
You need to think very hard if you are willing to make sacrifices in terms of housing, eating out, holidays and shopping. Working weekends can also impact on your relationships and family life so investigate how your skate work affects those close to you.
4. Reframe your Definition of “Success”
Our modern culture values money and status over well-being and happiness and you will need to be able to measure your success on these new parameters.
I placed a high value on being my own boss, not returning to an office environment that really didn’t work for me, working closely with people outdoors and feeling alive and happy every single time I put my skates on.
Ultimately it is my contact and connection with my students that has fed me emotionally and intellectually for so many years and has meant that teaching skating for me ‘never gets old’.
I am fascinated by how different people learn and by how I can adapt my teaching to best suit each client. I sometimes puzzle for months or years over a particular recurring problem that students have, and I test and retest different solutions until I find something that works better than my previous solution. This continues to be my fascination although now with my new online clients my focus is “How can I best teach someone online via video” and I see that each online course I make improves on the ones before it.
5. Be Your Very Best Each and Every time.
My close Buddhist friend comforted me years ago when I was lamenting not having any money for basic marketing materials like fliers or paid adverts. He said “You don’t need all that stuff, just be the very best version of yourself in each and every lesson and try to deliver the most value to your clients. You’ll always be busy”.
An instructor is really there to help skaters to focus on the correct technique, so begin with yourself and focus on your job.
Teach, Encourage, Motivate, Reward. Make each student feel better than when they arrived at your class.
It’s not an easy career choice, but despite the difficulties for me, I don’t regret choosing this path.
I really hope this helps.