Most of us don’t begin a career as a yoga instructor for the income; we have a genuine love for the practice and hope to share it with others. But for an industry that claims it is filled with love and positive vibes, it can be a very competitive space where it is difficult to make a living.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes I see new yoga teachers making when they are first starting out:
1. Focusing Too Much on Studio Classes
This is one that I definitely fell into when I first became an instructor and was a lot easier to do before my kids were born. I would teach anything, anywhere, at any time. At my busiest, right before I got pregnant with my first, I was teaching about fourteen classes a week. And guess what? Despite working six days a week, constantly driving everywhere, I was barely paying the bills.
Let’s do some quick math on how that happened. We’ll assume that I was making about $40 a class (which is actually more than what I was making).
14 classes at $40/class is $560
$560 x 52 weeks is $29,120/year
Maybe $29,000 per year doesn’t sound terrible. But the math above assumes that I taught every single class, every single week. It doesn’t account for sick days or appointments, vacation time, professional development, snow days or those days where a weekly class fell on a holiday. It also doesn’t account for injury. I am 100% certain that if I hadn’t had to pause teaching to have my son, my body would have made me stop.
Trust me when I say that teaching this many classes isn’t sustainable, not in the long run. It’s important to have lots of streams of income—some that may involve lots of hands-on work from you and others that might take a lot of initial set-up, but not a lot of day to day management. Rather than running yourself ragged, think about things you can offer besides studio classes. Can you teach private classes? Do you have an idea for a series? What about workshops and retreats? Think outside the box.
2. Being a Jack of all Trades
Kids yoga? Okay! Kundalini? Sure! Corporate mindfulness series? Why not?
A lot of us start out teaching so hungry to get experience that we say yes to opportunities that really aren’t a good fit for us. This can be a bit of a Catch-22—we need to try out a few things before knowing what we don’t like. Unfortunately, when we try to serve everyone, we end up serving no one. We dilute what makes us special and unique.
If you think about your favourite yoga teachers, you can probably list a few things that they are really good at. I’m sure that there is also a whole slew of things that they just don’t do. Find the things that light you up—that you can talk about for hours—and become really good at those. Share what you know and help others to see why you are so passionate about a particular style of yoga or subject matter. Become the go-to person on the subject. Your people will find you.
3. Covering Up Their Personality Online
I see this a lot with very new instructors. We all want to seem professional. We may even have aspirations to grow our business to include others. But that doesn’t mean that you should run your social media accounts like a big faceless organization. People aren’t looking to follow “Yoga Inc,” they want to follow real people with real stories. Stock photography and copy that doesn’t reflect who you are can be alienating in an industry that is all about personalities. People usually don’t attend classes with an instructor because they expertly cue a sun salutation: they attend because they like the instructor’s personality.
Include details that people care about in your social media bios, such as where you are located and what you like to do outside of yoga. And please please please include your name and a picture of yourself. You don’t need to break the bank on hundreds of professional photos—an iPhone or Android can take great photos. Let people get to know you before they decide to practice with you.
I don't hold all of the answers, but I hope that this has given you a bit to think about. Please let me know if you have any questions. Experienced yoga teachers: what mistakes did you make in the early days? What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Hi, I'm Gillian.
I’m obsessed with helping women live their best lives. Together we'll use yoga and mindfulness to build confidence, reach goals and have some fun!