I think by now we’ve moved to agreeing that yoga is a business too, right? There was quite a bit of discussion over the years about the “business of yoga” and the “practice of yoga” and concerns that yoga is turning into TOO much of a business. While this is not the focus of this blog post, my feeling is that yoga IS indeed a business, as the business world has seen that there is much (read: millions) of dollars to be had in yoga. Whether it’s opening a studio, selling clothes, running trainings and workshops, writing books, creating products… the list goes on.
So, now that we’ve established that yoga is a business, for the independent yoga teacher, how and what should we be doing so that we can support ourselves in the business of teaching? This does not mean that we ignore the teaching side of yoga but it means, ESPECIALLY if we are teaching as our sole source of income, that we need to be wise to the ways of the business side of the industry so we can make money. Money supports our livelihood and helps us maintain a certain standard of living so we can continue to do what we want.
I wrote an entire book on the business and teaching side of yoga and in the business chapters of my book, “Stretched: Build Your Yoga Business, Grow Your Teaching Techniques,” I offer much information around key business ideas and techniques for teachers. Here I’ll share some key ideas from the book along with some new concepts that I’ve been learning over the year and a half since I released the book:
Your network is your business lifeline. Yoga teachers find business through their network more than in any other business. This is most often because the yoga business is one of the few left where there is very little posted online about job opportunities. This means that it’s a “who you know” business more than anything else. So, what can you do to optimize your network? Looks for ways to connect with teachers. Cover classes for teachers when you can. Treat your studio jobs like gold, meaning be on time, be professional, follow the guidelines set by the studio. Say “yes” as much as you can. The more you do this, the more those in your network will know you’re a “go to” person and they’ll share that with others too as well as sharing opportunities with you.
Look for ways to grow your revenue even when you’re not teaching. This is a HUGE one for teachers. When I worked for many years in the software industry, we talked about the problem with “single threaded developers.” This meant that they were working on a project and were unable to work on another one until that one was done. That meant that other projects we had needed to sit and wait to start until he or she was done with their current one. As teachers, generally, we make money when we teach. But since there’s only ONE of us, that severely limits our ability to make money unless we have ways to earn revenue even when we’re NOT teaching. This generally is done through developing products. I have a DVD, a few online courses and a book. These things generate a bit of revenue each month and don’t require I teach. They also build my brand. Look for ways that you can “product-ize” your business. I can help you if you need assistance with brainstorming.
Look for ways to build your mailing list. I have invested a lot of time and some money in trainings by mediapreneurs that specialize in building mailing lists. Why? Because building your brand involves more than just seeing students face to face. It involves all sorts of virtual connection through social media and, even better, email! Yes, email! These days, every social media platform is limiting how many people you can reach with your posts unless you pay them for an ad. This is how they make money. So, you are left with trying to connect with people via email. In my view, this is even better. You can share a newsletter, a blog post, a promotion, news about a new product or ask them for feedback. If you’re looking for ways to build your mailing list, my favorite mediapreneur is David Siteman Garland founder of “The Rise to the Top.” He always has excellent tips and free videos and PDF’s with ideas for building your brand and sells courses on several different techniques to build your brand and community and share your knowledge.
Find some experts in different areas of need and invest some money in their services. This was a hard one for me. I’m a “do it yourself” kinda gal and I can say that after 5 years of being in business for myself, it’s exhausting and not all that effective. Paying an expert gives you more time to do other mission critical business tasks and gives you the input of an expert in a certain area where your skill might be just “so-so.” I use experts for things like photography, graphic design, website development and have invested in some targeted services from a marketing agency. If you’re looking for referrals, please message me and I’ll share the contact information.
Track data. This applies to your classes, your revenue, your expenses, among other things. Data is your way to look objectively at your business and make critical decisions about how it’s doing. So much more on this in my book, “Stretched” noted above.
Teach as close to home as possible. I do all my studio teaching in places where I can either bike, walk or take the train and get there in under 30 minutes ( the train is my least preferred mode of getting to class due to it’s unreliability). Why is this important? Because you are NOT paid for your time to get to, or return home from, classes. So, the more you can minimize this travel time, the more you maximize the money you make when you teach.
Look for as many private, non studio teaching opportunities you can. This involves teaching in businesses, private sessions, training centers.. this list goes on. I have a lot of this in my book as well. Why? Because in these scenarios, you are able to negotiate your rate. In a studio setting, you’ll almost always be told what you will be paid and you’ll have no room to negotiate (unless you’re a teacher who regularly commands upwards of 50 people per class and have been proving this by teaching in large studios for years). So, the more you teach in these non-studio locations, the more your revenue per class will vary so you’ll have classes that are in the $50 range but some that are a bit higher.
Know your rate! Quick: What’s your rate for teaching a studio class? A private? A corporate class? A workshop on yoga? Know your rate. Know what it involves. Know that it’s a baseline and should be modified as needed depending on the specific circumstances being presented. Many teachers don’t know their rate and flounder when asked. Talking about money can be uncomfortable and part of our job is to get more comfortable sharing this information.
Always be professional. Your reputation is so important and is developed and built on what you say, how you say it, how you communicate, in what fashion, how timely you are with responding, how you respond, what you post online.. this list goes on. Suffice it to say, be professional, dependable and timely in all you do in your work.
Be objective about your yoga business. Within the past year, I had to decide that it was necessary to take on a part time job. It’s 20 hours per week, 4 mornings a week at a local Starbucks. I had to do it as a way to bring in more revenue. This was not an easy decision and hopefully, it’s a temporary one, but it was necessary. It was fueled by my objective knowledge about my business, knowledge about my business pipeline, knowledge about data tracking from year to year and once I got over the emotion involved in the decision, I realized it’s the perfect way to make some extra money while not impacting my ability to take on teaching opportunities in any significant way. If you want to hear more about my decision, take a listen to my podcast here:
I will never sugar coat the reality of being a yoga teacher where teaching is your primary source of income. Heck, I had to take a part time job to help make ends meet and I’ve been teaching for over 10 years! Keep in mind as you’re inspired by what you see on social media, read on blog posts, read in books and hear from others that it is HARD WORK. Being in business for yourself always is and this industry is a tricky one. There ARE ways to make it work but it’s a lot of hard work, constant learning, networking and being creative.
Keep your eye on the ball, stay in your own lane and keep moving forward!