Updated: Nov 4, 2020
About half of all yoga teacher training students invest in the training to deepen their own practice. They never intend to teach yoga full time. Nevertheless, during the life-changing experience of YTT, many students get an itch to quit their J-O-B and teach yoga full time.
On the surface, it seems so glamorous. Yoga Teachers set their own hours, they get to be the best part of someone else's day, and they travel the world for free teaching at yoga retreats. Wait, where did you hear that?
Yes, it's true, some yoga teachers get to travel for free, and some get to choose which classes they teach, but most yoga teachers have to hustle ridiculously hard to make a living in the yoga industry. Why? Because wages are inconsistent, health insurance is rare, and being a self-starter does not come easily to everyone.
When I started teaching yoga, I taught a lot of classes--17 each week, to be exact. Seventeen hot yoga classes. I was tired all the time and my clothes expired very quickly from the funk of sweat. I couldn't drink enough water to keep me awake, and I put almost 19,000 miles on my car in ONE year. To make matters worse, I was only making about $20,000 gross and without a partner to help pay my mortgage, I was quickly going under. This is why I am qualified to share with you the mistakes I have made and so many other teachers have made so that you can avoid these pitfalls!
Mistake #1: They don't have a financial plan or budget.
People do not start teaching yoga because they want to earn a lot of money. If somehow you got the idea into your head that millionaire yogis are commonplace because of a few IG or YouTube stars that you watch, you might want to rethink your relationship to yoga. This is not to say that you can't earn a lot of money. It's just to say that if that is your sole motivation, you're going to hate where you have to start.
So, assuming that you know that you might have to live off of $25-45,000 each year, at least initially, it's important to get your finances in order. Meet with your financial planner or accountant, have a discussion with your significant other, and create a budget! I cannot stress this last part enough. If you have never created a budget before, download my free workbook to see where to start. You may have to sacrifice some "wants" to enjoy your yoga career. For example, if you find yourself saying, "I work really hard so I deserve this pair of shoes," put the shoes down. You work really hard so that you can enjoy the lifestyle you chose for yourself--the lifestyle of a yoga teacher. While the hours may not always be flexible, they are fewer. And as long as you can find a sub, you can take vacation whenever you want.
Too many new yoga teachers jump ship on their full time job with benefits before they've really considered the sacrifices they'll have to make as a full time yoga teacher. You'll be giving up many evenings at home on your sofa watching TV, early mornings snuggling in bed with your dog, and the more serious like health insurance, disability (so much more expensive to obtain on your own in this industry!), and paid time off. And then you'll be adding in the additional expenses of extra gas, mileage and wear and tear on your car, yoga clothes (okay, that's a fun one), and nursing potential overuse injuries in your body. It is possible to plan in advance for these things, so review your finances before you quit the day job.
Mistake #2: Even though they chose to start a career in yoga, they don't treat yoga like a professional career.
It's so easy to be all unicorns and rainbows when you leave the high-stress corporate world and join the essential oil-sniffing, palo santo-burning, tarot card-reading hippies at the yoga studio, but doing those things and nothing else is not a sustainable way to make a living. You must do those things AND the business things to be successful. You must treat yoga as a business...because it is! No matter what your feelings on yoga as a business, if you are entering the yoga industry to earn a living, you better be professional.
There are many ways to be a professional. Talk to your accountant or lawyer about starting an LLC for tax write-offs, order business cards and open a business bank account, build a website and enter your expenses into QuickBooks...the list goes on and on. But the most important part about being a Yoga Professional is to treat yoga like a profession and not just a side hustle. Get to work on time. Market yourself. Get enough sleep each night so you are your best at your morning class. Plan your class in advance. Talk to your students with encouragement. All the things, friends! If you are not sure how to do these things, follow this blog! Or shoot me an email. I've got all the ways.
The consequences of not treating yoga like a profession are that you might struggle to reach the level of excellence necessary in a competitive field. It will be harder to get the best spot on the schedule at your favorite studio, it will be a challenge to cultivate a loyal following, and you will waste a lot of time and money trying to "make it" in this industry with little success. The best way to make it in this industry --and any industry, for that matter--is to give it your all and treat it like you want to be there.
Mistake #3: They rely on someone else to build their brand.
It's 100% okay to hire someone to help you build your brand. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about being authentically you in your marketing, and have a marketing plan, even when you work for someone else. Let's dive deeper.
When you rely on the studio you work for to promote your classes as a new yoga teacher, you are essentially admitting to the world that you just don't care if no one comes. It's not your problem. However, when your classes cease to have students, they will be dropped from the schedule. And this can happen even if you are an excellent teacher! Sometimes the time slot isn't working, and sometimes the owner of the studio is NOT marketing as much as they should, and that's not your fault. But if you aren't trying to build your own following, or nurturing the following that the studio has started you off with, then you are not really interested in helping people or earning a million dollars anyway. Your actions speak louder than your words. If you think that sounds harsh, it's time to reevaluate why you are teaching yoga. Of all the reasons I'm aware of, none include "So I can see how hard the studio will work for me."
To market your classes, you just have to put the word out there. If you are on social media, use it. If you are a part of a social or religious organization, tell people what you are doing. It's important to promote yourself. And this doesn't have to be in a "sales-y" way. When someone asks you "Hey girl, what are you up to these days?" You respond, "I just started teaching yoga at XYZ Studio and I'm so excited about it! Have you ever tried yoga? I'd love to have you come to my class!" Or however you sound when you talk. Be you. Authenticity is what sells your class. It's what they were talking about in YTT when they told you to find your teacher voice.
Marketing your classes helps you find loyal students, get on the schedule more, help more people, and makes you more money. NOT marketing your classes is a costly mistake, but it is one that is easy to avoid. In my FREE workbook, 5 Things You Must Believe To Be A Yoga Professional, I give you loads of ideas for self-promotion. Use them!
Consider these three mistakes when setting out into the yoga world for a full time career. With enough planning and awareness, you can be a yoga professional, and a successful one at that! There's no need to waste time and money making mistakes that other people have made. Learn from these mistakes and set yourself up for success!