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From Subsistence to Sustainability: 5 Tips for Struggling Yoga Teachers

Teaching Yoga | Yoga

The “starving artist” has competition and apparently it’s yoga teachers. It’s no secret that when you decided to become a yoga teacher, there were whispers every which way telling you that you’ll never make enough money, you’ll need a second job, and that this choice won't be sustainable as a full time gig.

Even when we consider the stats: only 29% of teachers report yoga as their primary source of income (according to the Yoga Alliance 2016 stats).

We work from our heart’s centre. We’re passionate about what we do and we love sharing this tool and practice with other people. For some, it can be tricky to find the acceptance of exchanging money for a spiritual service – and I get that.

This doesn’t mean though, that yoga teachers can’t maintain financially sustainable lives that are still balanced with self care. Running between 2-3 studios in a week, teaching 15+ classes for a wage that might end up being nickels and dimes by the time you count your mileage, time spent commuting, time spent planning and time spent before and after classes isn’t very sustainable for a long-term teaching career.

So what can you do right now to get started on the path of sustainability?

1. Check in with your goals and purpose.

Really take a moment to sit down with yourself and write out your “why”. This is the reason, or reasons, you decided to press GO with a teacher training program in the first place. Why are you here? Why do you do what you do?

Next, start to align yourself with your goals as a yoga teacher. Keep them attainable and reasonable, but think bigger picture. For example, you might want to ditch your 9 to 5 job in order to teach full time. Or maybe you want to earn X amount of money in a year through teaching. Perhaps you want to train to become a pre-natal yoga teacher.

Think about your purpose and your “why” and write out 3 stretch goals for yourself.

2. What does your ideal work week look like?

From time to time, I do this little exercise to check in with how hard and how often I’m working on my business. You’re the boss here. That means you’re in charge of deciding how many hours you work in a day, how much vacation time you’re giving yourself along with sick days and lunch breaks and hourly wages.

Write out Sunday all the way through to Saturday along the top of a piece of paper. With a coloured pen or highlighter, draw a horizontal line through your ideal working days. You might now have a coloured line across Monday-Friday, or perhaps your ideal week is more of a Tuesday to Saturday kind of deal.

Then, write out the hours you want to allot to working and teaching. If you love having afternoons off to run errands, or getting on the mat for your personal practice in the evenings, you’ll want to leave those time slots open. Here’s an example of how you can write this out: Mondays: 9am-12pm, 2pm-4pm, Tuesdays: 7am-10am, 5pm-8pm, and so on.

Lastly, under your ideal work week schedule, write out some notes. I want you to get honest and realistic with yourself. How much money do you need to earn per week to cover business costs and personal expenses? Write it down. Now how much would you like to earn? Write that down too.

3. Shift your mindset from yoga teacher to yoga teacher entrepreneur.

To become a sustainable teacher, we need to shift our thinking and learn some new skills in the realm of being a business owner. Without some skills in marketing, accounting, sales and administration, you won’t be able to manage or grow a business very efficiently.

Accounting: Organize your finances and manage your incoming cash flow and outgoing expenses. It’s important to track all of your receipts and invoices. Learning to manage your money and see things clearly is super important in meeting your goals and staying on track.

Marketing: Consider spending some time, energy and some money on marketing your offerings. This might mean having a functional website online, putting up posters or social media ads, marketing yourself for free on social media platforms or guest blogging for sites in your niche or industry.

Sales and administration: When someone is ready to buy a series of classes with you, or attend a workshop, how do they pay you? How do you keep track of your clients? Put some systems in place to make it easy for your clients to book your time and pay you.

4. Set up a consistent communication system.

First impressions matter. The reality is that how we portray ourselves and our brands is important for making a lasting first impression and resonating with your audience.

With all of the ways we can connect with people these days, it’s becoming increasingly important to consistently tie things together and connect them back to YOU.

  • Set yourself up with a consistent logo or wordmark. Use a simple font to put something together for yourself and then the key is to use it consistently throughout all of your communications.
  • Get yourself set up with 2-3 main colours and fonts that you’ll use for all of your communications and graphics. This will help your audience make the connection back to you as they begin to recognize these aspects across multiple platforms and outlets.
  • Lastly, check in with your language and brand tone. This is the way you communicate things verbally and written so that your language is accessible to your audience. For example, if you love to work with beginners, using Sanskrit without a translation might be both confusing and intimidating to your audience.

Having a consistent visual representation of your yoga business helps people start to notice you, recognize you and then remember you.

5. Team up with like-minded wellness pros.

Find ways to meet other yogis or wellness entrepreneurs who have similar values and audience goals as you do. Having other yoga teachers in your corner to brainstorm with, support one another and offer team services can help get you in front of a bigger audience and also add more value to your current offerings.

Reach out to teachers in your community and set up a coffee date or 15-minute phone chat. If your town is lacking in teachers, reach out online! There are a ton of Facebook groups open to support yoga teachers in all areas. I have a group set up with teachers from all walks of life supporting one another in the area of building your yoga brand and creating a more sustainable teaching business.

Bonus tip: Do one thing a day for your yoga business.

There are so many things to put into place to start to grow from subsistence to sustainability. I understand the struggle, the burnout, and the challenges that come along with choosing a career in teaching yoga.

But with the right tools, the right knowledge and the right support, you can start to shift things from a constant hustle to a more sustainable way of being.

If you can do one thing per working day for your yoga teaching business, then you’re in fantastic shape, my friend. That means one thing that will help you grow your yoga business that isn’t standing in front of a student and teaching. You’ve got this!

Image credit: Stephanie Birch

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