I didn’t realize the yoga teaching certification I took didn’t teach me about building a yoga business until after I was awarded my beautiful, embossed certificate and I was faced with the reality of trying to make a living for myself.
“Holy f***,” I thought, “What do I do now? I need to eat, pay rent, and I just gave up my job that allowed for those things to follow my passion. What the hell do I do now?”
I realize there are folks who are probably better equipped for that type of transition than me. I also know that my trial by fire made me learn pretty damn fast about building a sustainable yoga business. It was either that or starve or be evicted.
However, there are still a few things I wish had been included in my teacher training. I share those tips now for all those teachers in the fire with me.
Tips for Working as a Yoga Teacher
1. Teacher training certifications don’t always include job placement.
When I signed up for my first yoga certification, I had fantasies of teaching out of the studio where I got certified. My fantasy included packed classes and coveted time slots. Truth is, most studios already have full class schedules and teachers to teach them. At best, with most yoga studios, we’re able to pick up a less then desirable time slot or begin as a substitute when other teachers are sick or on vacation. As newly certified teachers, we’re better served to look to build private clientele and see folks one-on-one. Teaching private sessions usually pays better with flat fees and rather than a class which is based on number of students. Also, with the right clients, teaching private sessions will be just as consistent as having a weekly teaching gig.
2. The business of building our yoga practice is now our j-o-b.
Most of us want to teach yoga because we love it. Yoga is our passion. But the truth, is if we want to make a living teaching yoga, yoga has to become our job.
More specifically, building our yoga practice with private clients, classes, workshops, retreats, is now our job. We can’t live on chakras and chanting. This is where most teacher trainings fall short. They are lovely in teaching what yoga is about, but not so good about teaching what the yoga business is all about. The yoga industry is a $27 billion/year industry, but how much money are teachers really making? And I’m not talking about the few recognizable names in the yoga industry. Yoga is like the entertainment industry in that way. There are a few folks making tons of money and a lot who are barely making it. It’s those lovely souls who are barely surviving whom I’m speaking to right now: it’s possible to make a living teaching yoga, but we gotta start by becoming the CEO of our yoga businesses, because making this business work is now our job.
3. Making a living teaching yoga has nothing to do with yoga.
First of all, even if our business only consists of us, it’s still a business. And yes, I’m being facetious that building a yoga business has nothing to do with yoga. We can totally be mindful and in line with yogic principles while creating and running our yoga business.
But the truth is, running a yoga business, however small or large, boils down to the same departments all businesses have regardless of their genre: marketing, sales, production. So, if we’re going to be successful in whatever aspect we choose to pursue, whether it’s teaching live classes, creating online workshops or leading retreats, we’re going to have to learn how to market, sell and produce in order to create something sustainable for ourselves.
The good news is if we’re not good at those things, we have something to trade for the services of those who are good at them. Need a website, but WordPress makes you cross-eyed? Look to trade private sessions with a web designer. We can and should look to delegate the needs of building our business whenever we can, so we avoid burning out.
4. Being passionate isn’t enough.
I can feel resistance to that statement even as I write this and then re-read it again myself. I still wish having a great and true love for yoga was enough to make a thriving business. But, here’s another truth: there are a helluva lot of yoga teachers out there, who are just as passionate and in love with teaching yoga as we are.
Being passionate is wonderful—after all, it’s what propelled us into taking a teacher training in the first place. However, it must be followed with initiative, drive and determination to set ourselves apart and innovate the business of teaching yoga in some way so we can set ourselves apart from other teachers. Otherwise, we’re just a name on a business card amongst 20 other business cards left out at the reception desk at a studio.
We need to spend some time thinking about why someone could choose us over all other teachers (and, just a tip, the reason shouldn’t be because we’re cheaper). Also, we need to spend some time considering working in a niche market. Love working with elderly folks or pregnant ladies? We could specialize in making yoga accessible to a specific population and see what that does to our client base. It may seem counter-intuitive to make our potential client-base smaller when we’re starting out, but when I chose to specialize in teaching yoga for people in physical therapy, my referrals went from non-existent to making a good living. Finding a niche also narrows our focus for marketing. Narrowing our focus when we have a small marketing budget or none at all gives us the most bang for our buck.
5. Following our bliss is hard.
When I decided to become a yoga teacher, I thought it would be easier. I guess I thought once we turned our life in the direction we’re meant to that it would suddenly become smooth sailing. But the truth is, following our bliss is hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. As a matter of fact, I think the things worth doing most are the ones we have to work hard for. And we all are tested as we go about living our best lives. It doesn’t mean the decision to teach yoga for a living is wrong or won’t work out; it just means it may work out differently than we originally imagined when we decided to get our yoga teacher certification.
And the lovely part is, there is enough work out there for those that want to teach yoga in some capacity and creating a sustainable, thriving living is possible.
It just takes a commitment to developing our business-mind in addition to our yogic-mind and in the true spirit of yoga, connecting them.
Author: Sara Zuboff
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Wikimedia Commons