June 14, 2021

Simplifying Payroll during COVID and Beyond

Running a fitness or yoga studio right now can be more difficult and stressful than before COVID. Your studio community needs extra service and support, but you may have lost employees and are managing more people and administrative tasks on your own. At the same time, delivering a quality experience to customers and staff has never been more critical.

Running a fitness or yoga studio right now can be more difficult and stressful than before COVID. Your studio community needs extra service and support, but you may have lost employees and are managing more people and administrative tasks on your own. At the same time, delivering a quality experience to customers and staff has never been more critical.


For Allison Conley, Director of Marketing & Operations for FlowCORPS’ North Carolina-based high-intensityPilates studios, “COVID has completely changed everything. But at the same time, it’s reaffirmed what we do and how important it is to have really good systems in place.”

The FlowCORPS team spent a lot of COVID downtime refining business processes and thinking strategically about what the future of fitness might look like. “When we go back to full capacity, we’ll be ready to roll as soon as we get the green light,” affirms Allison.

Handling ongoing payroll changes

One change many studios are seeing is a shift in how they pay instructors. Pre-COVID, many studios offered attendance bonuses, profit sharing and other incentives to keep instructors happy and encourage them to promote the studio community and brand by building relationships with clients. But simpler flat-fee payments for both in-person and virtual classes often make more sense these days, as there’s simply less money to go around.

One of our Bitlancer customers, owner of a successful San Francisco yoga studio, made the shift to a simpler payroll structure when his studio stopped live classes. “Pre-COVID we paid instructors a per-class flat rate plus bonus tiers for attendance,” he relates. “But now we’re just paying a flat rate for Zoom classes, and that’s it.”

But as clients return to fitness studios in greater numbers in the coming months, many owners plan to introduce additional payroll complexities. These include separate rates for instructors teaching in-person versus online classes, and offering instructors attendance bonuses for in-person classes but not for online classes.

Some studios may choose to incentivize top instructors to entice them back to in-person teaching, because virtual classes can prove so much more lucrative. (One indoor cycling instructor I know has been earning about eight times as much from Zoom classes during COVID as she did from in-person classes pre-COVID.) But even in a “hybrid” world, instructors will come back to studio settings because face-to-face contact with clients helps them promote their own brand and sell their ancillary offerings, such as teacher trainings and retreats.

Are incentives right for your business model?

With more changes sure to come in our industry, now is probably a good time to evaluate your instructor compensation program. If you’re still offering incentives, what are they really doing for you? Incentives make the most sense where they reward instructors who are in more of a sales/community building role. If you're incentivizing instructors for just showing up to teach, you could be wasting money. For example, if you offer a “per-head” bonus, are you inadvertently favoring instructors who teach at peak times?

Another reason studios offer bonuses is to keep instructors happy, or because these perks are seen as “expected.” But that logic could be faulty as well. Professional fitness trainers are busy building other income streams with your clients and may not be motivated by a comparatively small incentivized lift in their studio pay. At the other end of the spectrum, many instructors are passionate former clients, who might not expect—or be particularly motivated by—incentives.

Hillary Zashin, owner of the CORUS45 studios in Ohio, shares, “I look for instructors who teach for me because they’re passionate about what we do. They like the money but that’s not the controlling force for them.” Hillary pays a flat fee per in-person class plus a per-head bonus, and also shares part of any late cancel/no-show fees. The CORUS45 workout doesn’t lend itself to virtual sessions. So as Hillary says,“Definitely we’re not where we were, but I can pay the bills. I feel confident we will resume our incredible trajectory soon.”

Making one hard thing easy

Every fitness business owner faces unforeseen challenges right now. When things are hectic and demanding, just making one hard thing easy to save you time at an affordable cost can bring some welcome bang-for-the-buck. Getting prepared now for tomorrow’s changes can also reduce stress and business risk.

Especially if you’re doing incentives/bonuses or otherwise have a problematic payroll, it’s essential that your reporting process gives you peace of mind that your calculations are accurate. Bitlancer’s Mariana Tek payroll add-on was created to save valuable time for studio owners and managers who want to reduce their time spent on non value-add tasks like payroll reporting.

“I used to spend hours doing our complex payroll calculations every two weeks,”offers Hillary Zashin. “Thankfully our Mariana Tek account manager recommended Bitlancer and now I’m done in five minutes. Bitlancer is worth so much to me because you just can’t make mistakes with it, and if something comes up their support is super responsive.”

Allison Conley had a similar rationale for using Bitlancer to process payroll in Mariana Tek: “We have a somewhat complex and tricky payroll. It’s tiered; there’s a base rate for instructors and then they’re paid per head beyond a certain breakpoint. Some instructors are also paid at different base rates at different studios.”

“The main reason we brought in Bitlancer at a time when every penny matters was because freeing up those hours for me is way more valuable than what the software costs,” Allison explains. “I need to spend my time building the community and making everyone feel supported.”

Our San Francisco customer likewise anticipates that, “Bitlancer will really come in handy for us when we go back to a hybrid world within-person and virtual classes. We’ll be paying teachers a flat rate for virtual classes and a flat rate with bonus tiers for in-person classes.”

Whether your Mariana Tek payroll process is convoluted or clear-cut, we hope there are more classes and customers on the horizon for you very soon. Good luck!

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