Last week I had a lovely conversation with one of my students. She asked me how the business is going and how I cope with all the tasks involved. If I was a plumber this would have been a normal question, but as a yoga teacher running my own business I was DELIGHTED. Why?
In a country where becoming a personal trainer or fitness coach to make a living is heavily promoted in the media the profession of a yoga teacher is pretty much neglected – despite the fact that more and more people attend yoga classes for health or lifestyle reasons, and yoga being recognized by many health funds as a useful complementary therapy or to maintain good health.
Usually, when people ask me about my classes the next question is “And what is your actual job?”, assuming I work at least part time in a “proper” day job or me being a stay at home mum with plenty of free time who will go “back to work” as soon as our kids are old enough. Being a yoga teacher is mostly seen as a nice add-on to earn some extra bugs or as rather voluntary work for the community.
Well, for many of us yoga teachers things may have started like this initially, but still, as soon as you begin teaching for money yoga becomes business. And it involves a lot of organisation, planning and expenses before you can even start! Let’s have a look:
STAGE 1: TEACHER TRAINING
The typical career of a yoga teacher begins after completing a yoga teacher training, which is now widely available in many variations. Thus you have already invested a significant amount of money before you can even think of having an income through yoga. Depending on style and program we are talking about $1500 – 2500 approx., which doesn’t include additional costs for a number of practice sessions before enrolment and as a trainee, travel, accommodation, course material etc..
STAGE 2: CONTRACTOR
As a new yoga teacher you are likely to gain teaching experience as a contractor, working for established yoga studios or at a gym. This requires some paperwork: You need an ABN and public liability insurance (comes at approx. $350/ year). You will not only need time to prepare and teach your classes but also need to keep track of your hours and write invoices to claim your money. You will definitely spend some time at the desk, even if you are teaching only once or twice per week, not to mention the time you need to reserve for your personal practice.
STAGE 3: STARTING OUT ON YOUR OWN
After a while, once you feel confident enough, you may decide to offer classes yourself. But where? If you have a nice garage or a sufficiently sized living room you may let the students come to your home. But as you can imagine, this is not suitable for everyone. More often you will look for a room at a community centre, a school or the like. This involves additional costs: room hire (which in my area varies from $25 – 50/hour), some mats for new students who don’t have their own yet plus additional items such as bolsters, straps or blocks, depending on the way you teach. Most places ask for an upfront deposit and/or a bond payment, and will also ask you to provide insurance. And the work load is getting more, too! Apart from preparing your classes and setting up the room, you need to collect your student’s details on registration forms (for insurance reasons and follow up), collect money and keep track of your own ongoing expenses. This includes advertising in form of flyers, posters, business cards, maybe a website and on social media, which also requires additional time. Furthermore it is a good idea to register with a yoga teacher association (membership fees!) who usually ask you to provide proof of further training each year (more fees!).
STAGE 4: A SERIOUS PART TIME JOB
As soon as you start offering more classes you will need to invest even more time – and money, eg. for specialized booking and marketing software, a proper website or – yes! – childcare/babysitting. If you are lucky, you will gather a good crowd of loyal students so that the turnover covers your ongoing expenses and hopefully allows you to save some money in the bank account. Given you are now offering 4-5 sessions/week we’re already talking about a part time job of let’s say 15-20 hours/week.
STAGE 5: BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR
At some stage you may start hiring contractors yourself and look for some commercial property to start a proper studio. Latest at this point you are really into business and need to have a significant turnover to pay your rent, fit-out/maintenance, outgoings, insurance, advertising and so on. You will be so busy with the day-to-day tasks of running a business that you are basically working full time, 5-6 days/week (or more) and will probably consider hiring permanent staff or outsource work so that you can concentrate on your core tasks.
Of course, everyone is different, and not every yoga teacher is pursuing a full time career in the yoga industry. In our case we are currently entering the last stage – full time – while raising 4 young kids (basically another full time job!) and being active in our community (which includes voluntary work). Sleep and free time are precious! So, you can imagine that I’m annoyed by the question “And what’s your actual job…?”.
TEACHING YOGA IS A SERIOUS BUSINESS. Even if we yoga teachers absolutely love what we do we make an enormous effort to serve you, support you on your way to better health and wellbeing, help you unwind and turn towards a healthier lifestyle. Similar to what a personal trainer or fitness coach does, just using other techniques. And we will always have an open ear if you need to talk. So, next time you meet your local yoga teacher please take a moment to remind yourself what he/she has already invested to make this session happen. You can be sure, THEY DO AN AMAZING JOB!
Carmen is the founder, owner and head teacher of Inner Smile Yoga & Health in Altona (Melbourne, Australia) which she runs together with her husband Klaus. Check out their website www.inner-smileyoga.com or follow them on www.facebook.com/InnerSmileYoga.