Just a few weeks ago I was having a meltdown because I did not trust the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel to make its glorious appearance. As a beginner yoga teacher, I would find myself stuck in traffic adding up the total I’d have to write on the babysitter’s check and sulking as I realized that the number was hardly less than what I had just made that afternoon. I would thank the universe for aligning all the stars in such a manner that I could drive my husband’s electric car, slightly reducing my expenses. I was trying real hard to pretend that the $4k+ I had spent on yoga trainings and the hundreds of extra dollars dished out for props, insurance, marketing materials, was in fact a lottery win put to good use. I was starting to feel guilty about the plan to invest yet another $7k+ on Yoga Therapy studies the coming fall.
Recentering and mindfully taking it one day at a time, relying on early morning meditation, a daily asana, and daily-gratitude journaling, I managed to regain a positive outlook, to find again the inspiration and motivation to share my yoga teachings with all who could benefit from its healing powers. I devised a strategy which already starts proving successful and I am hoping over the span of the next few months will allow me to create a yoga teaching practice that is relaxed, convenient, and lucrative.
1. It’s okay to say “no.” As I was beginning my teaching journey, I was so determined to find work that I did not care teaching a yoga class would require me to board a shuttle and fly to the moon. The first teaching job I got in a retirement home was 30 minutes away on no-traffic, one way. I knew it was a bad idea logistically, but I was so eager to start, so excited with the opportunity to practice my teaching, so motivated to make myself known in the community that I said “yes.” Had I known what I now know, I would have probably turned down this opportunity and looked further. I was lucky to find another seniors residence between my home and this location and I started teaching there the same morning, which then made a bit more sense logistically and financially. It may not always work that way, though, so trust your instinct and do not fear to say “no” at times.
2. It’s okay to briefly sell your soul. The beef I have with yoga classes in the West, I’ll narrow it down to the West Coast of the USA, and even further to West LA, is that classes are so focused on strength building and sweat-wringing that few people actually understand what yoga is. Not only that, but the classes are so large and often open to various levels of practice which can only mean that the beginner yogi struggling at the back of the studio will never get the attention they need for a safe and beneficial practice. My goal has always been to teach small-group classes, five students tops. Well, I kind of had to wave this ambition good-bye, because it ain’t working. At least for now. Unless I charge semi-private rates, which people will not be able nor willing to pay, there is no way I will make any money out of teaching five students in a rented studio. Also, I was adamant about teaching gentle, restorative, and yin yoga, because that kind of practice makes magic happen. Unfortunately, as a business I gotta play by the demand-supply rule, and the demand is for power vinyasa classes. I only teach one power class a week and I do it pretty much for marketing purposes.
3. Get people to come to you. The hardest part of my life as a yoga teacher is the commute between class locations. I felt that all the driving around was a complete waste of time. We’re far from an accessible beaming technology, I understand, but something needed to be done otherwise I could never dream of making a profit. While I still use the roads to get to some classes (I will continue teaching at the retirement homes in Palos Verdes, because I value the opportunity I was given as a first-time yoga teacher and I grew attached to my delightful ladies and gents over there), I made the decision to rent a studio by the hour and luckily I found one not too far from my house. Clustering two classes a day, twice a week, should allow me to start making some headway financially. I am just now planning the promotion of these classes, but I’m optimistic that the spots will fill up and my teaching practice will take off. Rent a studio, clear up a spare room in your house, find a neighborhood park, and get people to come to you.
4. Promote yourself. Be real-estate-agent aggressive. Have you noticed how they are all over the place? In your mail, in your local newspaper, on community boards, at social events, on social media. Wherever you turn, there’s a realtor talking about the houses they’re showing the coming weekend. Order your business cards; make a few flyers/post cards to disseminate in your neighborhood, in stores that you know your type of students shop in; contact your local newspaper and see what opportunities there are for advertising, or an article about your story; join community events, meet your neighbors and do not be shy about hinting at the class you are teaching the next morning, and hand out those business cards. You printed them for a reason. Use your personal network. I am guilty of not doing this. The fear of failure has always kept me quiet about my endeavors; the less people knew about what I was doing, the more comfortable I felt. I changed that. Not only do I invite my family and friends to take part in my yoga events, I beg them to share my news with their circles. Do not forget about your yoga family. Those souls who grew alongside you on your journey to becoming yoga teachers. Reach out to them and see if they can help. Offer to help them, too; they may be in the same situation as you are, not yet ready to ask for a hand.
5. Focus on private sessions. The biggest return on investment will definitely come from individual classes. The rate will usually be the highest, it is usually a weekly commitment, and you can always choose a location that is most convenient for you, otherwise charge a few extra bucks as travel expense. When doing your self-promotion, emphasize the advantage of one-on-one classes and your availability.
We all have to start somewhere (unless we are born to the king and the queen, in which case, without any effort at all, we’re princes and princesses). Each and every one of those successful yogis you see on the covers of magazines, in viral videos, found themselves in your shoes once. The process of setting up a business or a career is not unlike building a brick house; both involve careful planning, the patience for the foundation to dry and settle, so you can safely start to build upwards, followed by methodical layering of building products, in a manner that provides foundational stability and safety no matter how high the construction will reach. The higher the construction, the more bricks, time and effort required! 😉
If you’re lost at the beginning of your yoga teaching career, take my advice and see how it can help you. Or allow my words to inspire you to find your own strategy that will work in your particular situation. If you have some tried-and-true tips to maximize the time and effort invested in a yoga teaching business, please share them in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Be challenged. Be healed. Namaste.