CNNMoney recently published an article listing “Pilates/Yoga Instructor” as a position where the median income is $62,400, and the top pay as $119,000.
While this amount may be the experience of some yoga teachers, I’d say the median income for a yoga teacher is more around $30,000, which is a far cry from what CNN quotes. This kind of reporting may mislead aspiring teachers about the financial realities of teaching yoga.
Teaching yoga can be incredibly rewarding, which is often the draw for people, and each year, hundreds of new teachers are out there looking for work. Here are some helpful tips for new teachers out there who intend to eventually leave their full-time job to teach yoga.
1. Don’t quit your full-time job until your yoga earnings cover at least half your living expenses.
This might sound harsh, but it’s a great way to start teaching at minimum risk. It can be hard to find teaching jobs, and ones that pay enough so you can even consider leaving your full-time job.
Teaching yoga while keeping your day job lets you apply your knowledge and experience the positive things about teaching, without stressing out financially.
2. Find a part-time job to fill in income gaps until you can replace it with teaching income.
Consider keeping this for the short or long term. This job would be a stepping stone between leaving your full-time job and teaching full-time. Look for something that’s hourly, possible to skip if something teaching-related comes up, and something that doesn’t require you to do any extra work at home.
3. Before altering your current work schedule, map out how you plan to earn the money you need to cover your expenses (plus savings).
Before teaching full-time, I created a “Business Dashboard” in Excel. I provide great detail and a template for this in my book, “Stretched: Build Your Yoga Business, Grow Your Teaching Techniques.”
This map helps you identify what you wish to earn annually (your “Dream Number”), and identify all the teaching opportunities you need to book to make that number. This exercise gives you an idea of how many teaching gigs you’d need to earn the money you want and need.
Remember that as a full-time teacher, you’ll almost never get health insurance, and most of your employers won’t withhold anything from your pay, so you’ll need to save for taxes, including self-employment tax.
4. Set your hourly rate and only take less if it makes sense.
I’ve heard of yoga teachers who make less than $40 per class. This can even be within the same studio system where they’ve studied and spent over $2000 for training.
I suggest $50 is a good starting point for a one-hour to 90-minute class. Even as a new teacher, think seriously about accepting anything less than that or what YOU feel is a reasonable baseline given your investment.
5. When set your teaching rate, factor in travel expenses.
Depending on where you live or how you get around (many teachers live in urban areas without cars), it may take over 30 minutes to get to a class. Factor this into your rate.
6. Think carefully before doing anything for free.
One of the most rewarding things to do as a teacher is to share yoga with those who have little or no access to it. This might involve teaching children in tough spots in town, or bringing yoga to different charities.
However, think carefully before you teach, assist, do administrative tasks, or anything along those lines for nothing. They might provide exposure, partnership, learning, or networking opportunities, but be sure you can justify it in your own mind (and on paper).
7. If you intend to teach full-time, start living on less than what you earn now.
Find areas where you can cut back and ways to save money. As part of my plan to teach full-timeyears ago, I sold my house and bought a condo closer to where I’d be teaching. I used the money from the sale to meet earning gaps until I filled in my teaching income.
I also took out a business loan, which turned out to be a very bad idea, as I leaned on it a lot to meet income deficits. This ended up as debt I paid off using my retirement plan. Please don’t make the same mistake.
8. Evaluate additional trainings closely.
If you teach full-time and live solely off of your earnings, only consider attending additional trainings if you have the income you’d miss for that day or week in a savings account, to replace lost income from the classes you’ll miss. Also factor in saving for any expenses from the training.
9. Don’t use a credit card to pay for training unless you have the money to pay it off.
If you’re putting your training on a credit card, map out a plan to pay it off within three months. Also, consider local trainings or half-day workshops you can attend so you’re investing in your skills at a lower cost.
10. Find ways to teach outside studios where you can bring yoga to a different population and set your own rate.
When you teach outside a studio, such as schools, offices, athlete training centers, women’s groups, or mothers’ groups, you’re usually the only teacher in the setting, and as such are considered an expert. More than just teaching, you can provide support and answer many questions about yoga.
Another advantage to teaching outside studios is you can set your rate. Most studios offer teachers a non-negotiable rate. There are so many teachers out there that if you won’t accept a studio’s offer, they can easily find some other teacher who will.
11. Find ways to share your knowledge through products instead of services.
One of the biggest financial issues with teaching yoga is that it’s not scalable, meaning that your teaching is the only way you make money, and that if you’re sick or on vacation, you don’t make money.
To grow your livelihood, create revenue streams apart from your actual teaching by writing for income, writing a book, creating a series of DVDs, and providing your knowledge about yoga and wellness to others at a cost.
Teaching yoga is wonderful and rewards you in ways you can’t imagine. However, if you dream of teaching full-time, with no other source of income, be very specific and proactive in your plans to get there to avoid financial distress.