Be careful for what you want.
Dear Yogi Muse,I have been teaching yoga for six years and I want to know how to get to the next level. My classes are fairly full, and I have consistent, regular students. Where do I go from here? Should I branch out to other studios, or become a travel-teacher? What is next, oh Yogi Muse?Restless YogiDear Restless,First, let me say that the grass is always greener wherever you water it.I happen to know you personally, and your circumstances are like many others: you have a strong local following, you work in a studio close to home with minimal commute, you make the top wage at that studio, you do virtually no marketing to sustain your business, and you are loved by your students. Seriously, there are not many yogis who have an iota of that.But I understand the desire for ‘more,’ and if a local following is not enough, then let’s go.How to Get “More” as a Yoga TeacherFirst, decide your goal. Do you want?
- More fame. Do you want to be well known?
- More money. Do you want to have enough for retirement?
- More power. Do you want to control and direct how yoga is practiced?
If you want more fame, then start by developing your social media presence. So much depends on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You need to get active and get on it. Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen has 10 million followers. You can buy these followers, you can hire a PR agency to get them, or you can post 10 times a day, but either way, you need to do it. I write more on this below.If you want more money, then supporting yourself solely with weekly classes is a grind. You need to find a way to monetize your yoga. You could sell your students something: essential oils, mala beads, supplements or herbs. You can monetize your YouTube videos, teach more workshops, and travel to other venues. A travel weekend, depending on attendance, will net you between $2,000 and $8,000.There’s also this other way of making money and it’s called a job, with health insurance and paid days off. It’s just something to think about; I don’t want to discourage you.If you want more power, then management is for you. Manage a yoga studio, get paid to review yoga teachers and teach YTTs. Studio managers make their yogis either very happy or very miserable. You will get a salary, and most of all, you will be in charge.Now that you know what you want, here’s how to get it.You’ve heard the old expression, it takes money to make money. Well it’s especially true in yoga. You may have a beautiful practice, but it takes more than the splits to move ahead. It takes investment. There’s a reason the famous yogis are famous. They have invested time and money into their careers. Here’s a few incidentals you need right away:
- An E-500 training: $3,000 to $5,000
- Professional Photography: $500 to $5,000
- Professional Website: $1,500 to $10,000, plus maintenance fees
- Flyers and Postcards: $250 to $2,500
- Investment in social media. Sponsored posts are seen. $200 a month. And a selfie stick, $20.
- If you’re not associated with an online yoga distributor, then put some on YouTube. $500 for a decent camera.
- The wherewithal to travel. There is an “opportunity” cost here that could range to $1,000 upfront for expenses and lost income from local classes.
- Clothes make the yogi. $1,000 for 10 pairs of pants. If you travel, you will need 3 outfits for that weekend alone (that’s what I take).
- A PR firm. Surprise! You thought the famous yogis did it on their own? Fat chance. Yama Talent and others work on retainer. $5,000, and I’m totally serious.
In addition you will need:
- The job of becoming a star is huge. Most bigtime yogis have a spouse, an assistant, or a trove of loyal fans who work for them. I have heard horror stories of assistants working up to 60 hours a week and receiving no salary. I try to pay everyone who helps me, or at least work out a barter situation where I feel they have received something in return for their time. The Yogi Muse cannot do this alone either.
- If you want to make $40,000 a year and work just five hours a week, you are totally high. Most yogis I know who have a viable income do marketing for 40 hours a week, even if they only teach five classes.
- To be an extrovert. Not everyone is cut out to put out.
- Persistence. There are 20,000 registered yoga teachers in the U.S.; you’ve probably heard of 20 of them. Keep going and never, ever give up.
- A niche. Lots of yogis want to spread the love. My best advice is to find your niche, market or tribe. The tighter the niche, the more you get riche.
What You May Not Need
- A yoga business course. There are a lot of yogis selling business webinars these days. I trust the courses from yogis who are successful. If someone you never heard of, who doesn’t teach yoga, wants to tell you how to become successful, be forewarned. On the other hand, if you have no business skills, then take a course immediately. Yoga is one of the most competitive, cutthroat and ruthless businesses in the world. Love and peace is only what we’re selling.
- Cold calls. Calling studios to see if they will host you for a workshop may work, but it also may not. On the one hand, if a studio calls you first, then they really want you and will sell your workshop. On the other hand, if you wait for the phone to ring you may be waiting a long time. You can also ask your social media fans to ask their studio to host you. Whatever works is my motto.
- Many studios. There are pros and cons to working in multiple studios. If you are let go from a studio to make way for a newer, younger, or stud-lier teacher, then you have a backup. However, if you work all over town then it’s likely you are killing yourself for small classes and supporting multiple studios. Five classes of 30 or more students is generally more sustaining than 17 classes of 5 to 6 students. Remember, you still need time to do marketing. In general, I believe it’s good to work for two studios. That way nobody owns you and you can reasonably support both with your presence.
- A thin skin. Don’t be too vulnerable (Sorry Brene Brown). You will get rejected. You will hear ‘no’ over and over again, until you get a yes.
Things You Can Do Now
- Build your mail list. Have a sign-up at every class. If a studio won’t let you create your own mail list, find another studio. I got this advice from Amy Ippoliti, and it was the best business advice I ever received.
- Increase your media presence. If you don’t know how to work the media, take a class from a community college or hire a media expert.
- Support your studios. Get involved, show up to other teacher’s classes, sub a lot. Let the students get to know you and don’t be shy.
- Get into Yoga Journal and other yoga media. If you figure out how, then tell me too.
- Create a signature workshop. Become known for your unique offering.
- Find your unique voice and message. There’s a lot of yoga teachers. There’s only one you. If you look at the successful teachers, they are fairly unique. Find out what you are about, then work it in your themes and teaching. There’s a book for that as well (hint hint).
- Create a website. Make it easy for students, studios and potential partners to find you.
- Assist for the senior teachers in your area. Offer the travelling yogis to assist for them as well. It may not be a paid gig, but you will increase your exposure. Most famous traveling teachers started as someone’s assistant.
So, does this sound like fun? Otherwise friends, this is the best advice I can offer:
Be happy with what you got!
Life is good, and it is short. Invest in the trainings and development that bring you joy. Sustain yourself both financially and spiritually. Take care of you, so you have something to offer your students. Squeeze every bit of pleasure you can out of your yoga and your life.This is what I know for sure: one day you will discover that time is running out. You have a choice in how you spend it. It may or may not mean that you become famous. But I do know that being happy and successful involves being loved, and nobody will love you more than your local students.Michelle Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an E-500 RYT, an award-winning journalist and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga and Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga. You can find her writing on Elephant Journal, Mantra Yoga and Health Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.