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A Personal SWOT Analysis

Use a tried-and-true business planning method to target your next growth step.

As a Pilates instructor, you’re continually striving to enhance your clients’ well-being. But now and again, you must take some time to do a little soul-searching and assess what is best for you. What are your needs, wants, goals and aspirations? Maybe you’re ready to further your education or you’re eager to work with a new market. Perhaps you’d like to open your own studio or expand your current business. Taking the next step in your career can be stressful—you want to make good choices. Self-reflection takes part of the guesswork out of career decisions and helps guide you down the path to success.

To give structure to your introspection, consider performing a personal SWOT analysis. Businesses often conduct SWOT analyses to focus on these elements:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

What works for companies can work for you. A SWOT analysis is an excellent way to investigate your professional preferences, abilities, advantages and disadvantages. With a SWOT analysis in hand, it’s much easier to form personal-development goals, forge a career path, create business-growth strategies and direct your positioning in the industry.

Start With Strengths

Begin by analyzing your strengths—obviously your greatest assets—but don’t stop there. Think about what you enjoy, what you do better than other instructors, why clients love your sessions, what personality traits enhance your job and why your supervisor values you as an employee. Don’t be modest. If you excel at eyeing muscular imbalances and creating programs to correct them, say so. Be sure to add in qualities above and beyond your role in the Pilates industry. If you have a background in marketing and communications, write it down. That’s great knowledge to have when promoting yourself, a program or your own studio.

Weigh Whether Weakness or Winner?

Weaknesses are skills and qualities we are less confident about. We all have them. Evaluate what you lack in comparison with your peers, what you enjoy least about your job, what constructive criticism you have received and any personality traits that may hinder your advancement. Be brutally honest. Coming to terms with your weaknesses can help you compensate with strengths and reduce possible career challenges.

Open to Opportunities

Opportunities are any external factors that may contribute to your personal or career progress. For instance, do you have a relationship with a physical therapist who may be willing to refer clients to you? Is a Pilates coordinator position a possibility in your booming program? What need can you fill that competitors aren’t filling? Brainstorm, and list every potential opportunity that comes to mind. Later you can weed out those that seem too idealistic.

Think Through Threats and Obstacles

Threats are challenges and obstacles that can complicate career advancement. If your dream is to open your own studio, but the local market is flooded with Pilates programs, you may need to rework your plan. Maybe you want to earn more, but your schedule is packed. No doubt you’re a qualified and experienced instructor, but is everyone? Dig deep to find all possible challenges. Confronting threats puts your challenges in perspective and helps you overcome them.

Sample SWOT

Here is a SWOT example based on an experienced studio instructor:


  • 10 years of teaching experience; fully certified
  • experience in working at multiple facilities, studios and clubs
  • good reputation, with high retention rates and many long-term clients
  • creative thinker with good computer skills
  • enjoys working with active older adults
  • successful at correcting muscular imbalances and alleviating back pain
  • enjoys forming relationships and genuinely cares about clients


  • packed schedule and can become overwhelmed
  • dislikes administrative work
  • has many peers with similar backgrounds
  • not as passionate about working with the general fitness enthusiast
  • does not particularly like teaching large-group classes
  • shy personality; does not enjoy self-marketing


  • Pilates industry strong and stable; always needs instructors
  • active-older-adult market always growing; huge client pool
  • knowledge of technology can be used for marketing
  • adding a specialty in active-older-adult instruction, back pain and/or imbalances
  • could improve knowledge base and credibility

  • more Pilates programs needed in local area; starting a business is a viable option


  • missing a huge market by avoiding general fitness enthusiasts
  • desire to boost earning potential limited by schedule
  • lack of enthusiasm for group classes shows when teaching, limits access to solo clients
  • management jobs not attractive, limiting advancement options
  • desire to build referral network of health professionals hampered by lack of contacts

Analyze the Outcome

Once this step is complete, analyze your information. First, evaluate how you can professionally position yourself within a niche. What distinguishing characteristics make you “you”? Our sample instructor can position herself as a dedicated, caring instructor who is experienced working with a wide variety of clientele but specializes in successfully tailoring programs to correct back pain and muscular imbalances. Although clients of all ages have these issues, this positioning will attract many active older adults.

Next, prepare a list of realistic goals and next steps. Focus on optimizing your strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Here are some hypothetical conclusions based on our example:

  • Our trainer wants to increase her earnings, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. Since she doesn’t enjoy teaching group classes, she should consider dropping them to free up time to pursue more personal clients.
  • Self-marketing isn’t her thing. Therefore, a client-referral program would be an excellent idea. Clients who refer friends and neighbors and talk to their health professionals (to get a referral network going) can get a slight discount on sessions. This will encourage clients to do the talking.
  • She can use her creativity and computer knowledge to start a personal website. Long-term clients can write rave reviews and post them. When curious consumers ask about her services, she can simply give them her Web address. This will eliminate the need to talk about herself.
  • Although she doesn’t enjoy the business side of Pilates, starting a business may be a good option. By hiring additional instructors to carry the load, she can continue to grow her clientele and increase her earning potential. Partnering with a colleague who enjoys administration and has opposing strengths and weaknesses will allow her to fill in all the gaps.

And the list could go on . . .

Career advancement becomes much easier with clarity. Performing a SWOT analysis encourages you to paint a realistic picture of yourself and the opportunities at hand. Many folks work endlessly but keep spinning their wheels owing to lack of direction. Putting all your cards on the table will help you make educated job decisions, shape the future success of your career and present the best “you” going forward.

SWOT Resources

Stephanie Vlach, MS

Stephanie Vlach, MS, is a certified fitness professional with 17 years of experience. She has held numerous roles and positions within the industry. Currently, she is a group exercise instructor and freelance writer in the Chicago area. She can be reached at [email protected].

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