All this week I’ve been sharing Facebook live training with videos on my Facebook page. I’ve been covering themes from the business chapters of my book, “Stretched: Build Your Yoga Business, Grow Your Teaching Techniques.” I’ve been really excited to use the Facebook live format because I think it’s a great platform to use to provide training.
I wish I had received business training on the career aspects of being a yoga teacher before I quit my corporate job back in 2003 to teach full time. Truth be told, I did a lot of research and networking and talked to other teachers who were doing it already. What I realized in hindsight after getting myself into tremendous debt trying to “follow my dream and vision” was that I never really found out the details of how these teachers were making it work. As I look back, they were probably also in debt also or maybe they had another source of income. Either way, the bottom line was it did not work for me and when I went back to work in 2006 and just kept teaching on the side, I tried to figure out how I could try my hand again at a full time teaching career but do it differently the second time.
After many years of teaching part time and paying off my debt, I once again left my then corporate job. It was September 30, 2010 and I had built up enough work part time that while collecting unemployment (I had been laid off), I built my business up even more. There is so much to learn when working for yourself and on top of it, the yoga industry is a really unique business (too much for me to write on that without going way off track). So, here in no particular order, are 8 business tips for yoga teachers:
Be really sure you have a good sense of your income and expenses before you ever consider quitting your job to teach yoga. When I meet with new teachers for business mentoring, I walk them through my Business Dashboard. I’ll include it at the end of this post and it’s explained in detail in my book. The basic premise is it’s a spreadsheet where you start to map out the teaching opportunities you have or will hope to get so you can start to see what your monthly revenue will be. Most of the time, once you do this, you’ll quickly realize it will be next to impossible to make enough money teaching for you to cover your expenses. So, you’ll need to look at part time work or perhaps draw from savings as an interim step or perhaps you have a partner with whom you share expenses.
Consider building products to add to your revenue. I’ve written two books and am working on the 3rd. I’ve just finished an anatomy manual and have online courses that I sell. I love creating these products and it gives me way to earn passive income; meaning, I put the time and money into building them but then as my marketing plan kicks in, any income I earn is more passive in that I don’t have to re-build or teach in order to earn money. The products that come most readily to mind for yoga teachers are books, online courses, subscription offerings and pay for video formats, like You Tube.
Invest in building a digital marketing strategy (DMS). I have spent a great deal of time learning and building a DMS. Because having an online presence is so much a part of everything I do and because connecting with customers virtually gives me a whole additional ( and much bigger, potential wise) audience, it’s important that I understand the techniques for growing my business online. This involves things like understanding Google Analytics, Lead Pages, webinars, direct marketing strategies to use with your mailing list, Facebook advertising.. the list goes on and on. My investments have involved buying training programs from mediapreneurs like David Siteman Garland and James Wedmore, two leaders in this area.
If you make the decision to devote yourself full time to teaching/building your yoga business, you’ll basically be working all the time. No joke people. Unless you have another source of income and have a bit less pressure as to the revenue you need to bring in, you’ll be compelled to work all the time. You’ll cover classes when you can, you’ll be at your laptop when you’re not teaching, you’ll miss weekends, brunches and vacations. You’ll be dragging yourself out of bed on the weekends and shoveling your way into the studio in the winter. You’ll work to balance life and your career because let’s face it, you’re in the health and wellness business, right? But, you’ll soon realize you’re really an entrepreneur and as such, you’ll be compelled to keep at it, hoping that with a few more weeks, things will finally break. This kind of lifestyle is not for the faint of heart and if you have visions it will involve drinking smoothies and posting on Instagram all day, nothing could be further from the truth.
You’ll need to figure out and define clearly and succinctly what your unique offering is to your customers/students/ clients. Guess what? There are thousands of yoga teachers. Let’s face it; just in your area, there may be hundreds. Just in the handful of studios in which you teach, there might be 100 teachers right there. What makes you different? Why should people come to YOUR classes? When yoga began its huge rise in popularity, you used to be able to just focus on teaching yoga because quite frankly, that was a unique offering in and of itself. But now, with the huge rise of yoga and the number of studios and teachers, it’s not enough to say, “I’m a yoga teacher.” ( of course it’s “enough” but from a business point of view, it’s not enough). You need to be able to share what makes your classes unique and what makes your teaching style unique. What will people gain by coming to your classes?
It’s critical that you build teaching opportunities outside of teaching in studios. For most teachers, teaching in a studio setting is the primary way to earn income. But in most cases, those rates are set by the studio owners with very little wiggle room for negotiation. So, as teachers, the more you build out chances to teach corporate yoga, kids yoga, specialty setting yoga ( think: running clubs, rowing clubs, etc), where YOU get to set the rate, the more you’ll build your income.
Build a thick skin. You’ll need it. With the rise of social media and its attractiveness to yoga teachers, it’s really easy to get caught up in what everyone ELSE is doing and how much better things are going for them. My mother has a saying, “Things are not always as they seem.” Keep your head down. Do your own thing. Know your unique offering and stick with that. As soon as you start to try to be like someone else, you’ve lost your authenticity and that will show through everything you do. Stay out of any drama as much as you can as well as gossip.
Recognize that your annual income may be quite variable. Many of my specialty classes only run at certain times. Also, some of my classes are canceled on or around holidays. You need to keep this in mind when you plan out your revenue stream. Also, depending on the rate of pay for some of these specialty classes, the impact on your revenue could be pretty substantial (think: summer months).
It’s a tough business but if it’s what you love, you, like me, do feel a compulsion to keep at it. One of the hardest things for me to do many years ago was return to a corporate job but at the time, I knew it was what I had to do. Keep an open mind to new ways to do what you love and don’t ever think you know the only way to get from point A to point Z. It will be filled with more zigs and zags than you’d ever imagine.
Interested in downloading the business dashboard I referred to above? Click the button below.