How to Teach Yoga When Studios Aren’t Hiring. ~ Leah Fulford

Via on Jul 19, 2011

Need a yoga job? Make your own! (A step-by-step guide for the unemployed yoga teacher)

It should come as no surprise to anyone that in most metropolitan areas of the United States, competition for jobs at yoga studios is fierce. Yoga studios clearly have the upper hand, because they can pick the best of the best. And why shouldn’t they? We benefit as students when the best teachers teach us.

The obvious catch-22 here is that for a new yoga teacher to become a studio’s ideal pick, the teacher either needs to be great friends with a studio and hope that the studio will hire soon, or get started on building a solid reputation and client base.

I’m for the latter. And I think that everyone with the motivation to do so can get their own clients.

When you establish a reputation of being a great teacher, you can garner appeal from many yoga studios, increasing your likelihood of getting the job you most want. That’s not to say good ol’ fashioned studio friendship doesn’t work too, but your potential for success is greater when you take the initiative to find your own students.

Here’s how I recommend you get work while establishing a reputation that will get you hired by a studio:

1. Pick a niche. Select a group of people with whom you are passionate about working. If you love running, try to target runners. If you just had a baby and know some new moms who want to start to get back in shape, show them how to do that with yoga. Focusing on one group will guide your teaching and your outreach.

2. Brainstorm all of the places that this group hangs out. Partner up with community organizations, retail stores that your client base frequents, and key people who are connected to the group you want to serve.

3. Explain how yoga can specifically help your client’s life and goals. If your client is a runner, tell them how yoga can help reduce injuries, improve flexibility and decrease their race time. If your clients are senior citizens, demonstrate how yoga improves mobility and mental clarity. Explaining the real benefits to your clients proves that you’re not just “selling” something but that you’re giving them a tool to achieve their goals.

4. Offer up your services to these groups. Offer a couple of reduced-fee or donation-based classes to show your group what they can expect from you and a yoga practice. They will not know if they want to work with you unless they have an idea of what they’re getting themselves into!

5. Work with your new clients to decide on times to hold a full-price series of classes. Giving them a series shows them that you are not locking them into something forever, but that you can make a real difference in 6, 8 or 10 weeks. Don’t wait for your client group to approach you about this, because they likely never will. Be confident and take the lead.

6. During and after this series, you can also offer private instruction for clients. Offering private instruction outside of a studio environment is typically best anyway, as you are not competing with your studio employer for students. And don’t fall into the self-sabotaging trap of thinking that private instruction is just a folly for celebrities and the rich. New moms who might not want to leave their babies for long periods of time will be grateful for someone to come to them. Likewise, competitive runners who are looking to improve their race time are already motivated to invest in their success, and some will likely see the benefits in working one-on-one with someone!

7. Serve, serve, serve! Now that you have your first group of clients, treat them like gold. Answer your client’s questions. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. Give them what they want and need. Give more than you promise. Be the best teacher you know how to be.

While it will take some work to get this rolling, you will be putting yourself in a prime position to be making a living while you build your resume for a great studio job. Studios will love to see you as someone who has a reputation of initiative and happy clients!


Leah Fulford helps yoga teachers start and run successful, mindful businesses. She supports yoga teacher training programs and individuals in developing the confidence and know-how to achieve their goals. You can find more yoga business tips at www.leahfulford.com, as well as on Twitter @leahgfulford.

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11 Responses to “How to Teach Yoga When Studios Aren’t Hiring. ~ Leah Fulford”

  1. Maria says:

    Leah.
    Thank you! A very interesting article, and one which I hope will provide motivation to newly qualified teachers. I detect a US-based bias to the article, which is fine, as you are writing from your experience.
    I'd like to share my initial reaction which was – "wow, if it was only that easy!"

    I'm a qualified teacher and have been teaching for a few years. I have a good reputation (in a small community, but nonetheless its important to me) as a teacher and have ran my own classes, and worked in a studio setting. i also have taught Individuals and corporate classes, and have given talks and demos to total yoga virgins.

    The fact is, that no mater how good you are as a teacher, or what service you can provide, if you are operating in a recessionary market where the disposable income of your potential students is / has dropped, it is extremely difficult to get bodies in the door.
    Well that has been my experience, in any case.

  2. Maria says:

    Since going out on my own, and organisisng my own classes (I left the studio where I was working as the owner started orientating his studio in a way I wasn't comfortable with, and began to treat some teachers and clients in an unprofessional and unethical manner), I have had mixed success. But I have noticed, that there is an inescapable co-relation between the recession here, and the drop in numbers of people doing yoga (or pilates, or going o the gym, or anything that involves shelling out cash for what is percieved as a luxury service/item).
    I have done everything that you have prescribed here, and unfortunately, I had to stall my classes for now, as the gap between the rental on my yoga space, and my income from students was moving in a negative direction. I was breaking even at best, but running at a loss the majority of the time. Move to a new space? I looked into that, but the room rental rate is pretty much standard across the city, and I would have had to change class times, and loose the precious students I already had!

  3. Maria says:

    There is only so long that one can operate on such a basis. I reduced prices, I emailed, I facebooked, I flyered, I targetted specific audiences…. but unfortunately, there was no improvement. People simply do not have the money to spend, even if they want to.
    I am not alone in this asessment.

    I have personal knowledge of fabulous teachers and studios that are struggling to maintain their client base, and keep afloat. I am lucky in that I also have a full-time job (albeit temporary) at the moment, and I dont rely on Yoga as my key source of income.

    However, I also belive that yoga, on this side of the pond at least, does not really have a mass appeal. I dont really know why this is. My gut feeling is that for the majority of people it still has a "hippy dippy" connotation attached to it, and thus is not taken seriously by those in the health and fitness industry. This is changing, I will admit, but its a very very slow process.

    Maybe you could do a second article, focussing on establishing a yoga business in a recession / difficult economic climate. This would prove extremely useful for a lot of teachers and studios.

  4. Maria says:

    sorry for multiple comments but elephant for some reason doesnt allow me to post long responses!
    grrrr….. can someone fix this???
    thank you! :)

  5. Yogini5 says:

    If it means getting a day job, even if in an unrelated field or going mass market (yogaglo, yogavibes,youtube) or giving community classes, teachers can still teach yoga if they want.

    Not everybody has the body for/is young enough to/wants to learn the kick-butt poses or make a "studio scene" that isn't worth it past the age of 30 …

    Maybe YogaCITY NYC would learn this too and start teaching a few things on their site instead of just "reporting" on a scene that may not continue to bounce …

    Signed,

    Can't Afford to Retire

    • Maria says:

      Yes, I agree.
      I have a full time job, to support myself, but i love teaching :)
      I am lucky as I have private clients also, and I get subs all the time.

      When I had just qualified as a teacher, I volunteered and assisted for free at a couple of studios, so I could build a relationship with the teachers and students there. It meant that they called on me to sub for them when they were on hols/sick/unavailable. It was a great way to get practise at teaching, working with different bodies, finding your own style of teaching, before going out on your own.

  6. Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Also to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  7. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  8. Maria says:

    I agree, some studios and teachers charge unrealistic prices.
    I dont think €8 per class is greedy? Maybe it is…. but that was what I was charging for a student to attend a 1hr15 minute class….
    I'm grateful for any advice in this regard!
    Can you elaborate on the "honesty is the best policy in attracting students who dont have extra cash lying around" I'm not sure what you mean?

  9. Maria says:

    Gosh, that is not a nice experience.
    I am gonna be straight up with you. I would never go back to a teacher who adjusts too far, or is not respectul of different abilities, and then tries to foist a "private lesson" on you. Thats just BS. If I was the richest person in the world, I wouldn't go back!
    The business woman in me says up-selling is all very well, but there are ways of doing it right, and ways of doing it wrong.
    I think if one is a teacher outside of a Studio environment where you can set your own rates etc, there is much more room for manouver in terms of adapting to your students requests for backing out of a class pass, or allowing them to pay for 4 out of 6 weeks because they are awy on holidays for two classes or whatever.
    Thank you for your honest replies :)

  10. Yogini5 says:

    By backing out I meant backing out of the deal. I'd been quoted a price for being upsold (in your words) to an unlimited monthly pass at a price that would match what I had been paying for a regular fitness center (unlimited access) at a deep discount. I had been told to get this person in private once I used up my class pack …

    But I saw telltale signs over time, while I was continuing to use the class pack at a snail like pace. The teacher did have an otherwise plastic and transparent face but during this skating-on-the-edge pitch, it showed nothing. The teacher, otherwise enthusiastic like a puppy, made no overtures about the upcoming "deal". I was already his mark; and he did not know it yet—that I was figuring it out.

    This same man taught me the class with the yanking. I had not seen it coming during class.
    Pitiful since he is a brilliant teacher. I think he moved on to a yoga retreat's management and planning position (great day job: executive) and may not be teaching much.

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