For the past six years, I've been a professional traveling yoga and movement instructor. What started as a transitional job picked up on the road to offset the cost of travel and keep the journey going, quickly turned into full-time gig. At this point, I've been doing this longer than any other title on my resume.
With respect to the nature of what I do, I can say with great confidence it seems that I'm in the minority of people who do what they love and love what they do. This does not mean, however, there's no work involved… not by a long shot. Organization, planning, budgeting, promotion, marketing, travel, logistics, maintain a self-practice, training — and that's just the prelude to actually teaching.
Whether you're considering the life of a traveling yoga teacher or simply want to be more effective at organizing your efforts at home, here are some of the best practices I've found to help maximize results.
1. Have a clear and unique offering.
You're not the only teacher in the world, and it's highly likely you're not the only one doing what you do. If people don't know who you are, why should they care? Be as clear and descriptive as you can without being too wordy. Vinyasa teachers are a dime a dozen. Alignment-based ashtanga-vinyasa teachers with a background in Pilates who specialize in hands-on adjustments and structural awareness are not as common. Even as you hone in on your specialization, recognize that there are still others doing what you do. Don't be afraid to stand out. You're totally worth it.
2. Create an interesting bio with engaging workshop descriptions.
This is an extension of the previous tip. Once you know what you've got, learn to market the heck out of it. For more tips on how to do this, check out my other article on how to write a better personal bio. That should help you on both accounts.
3. Warm hearts beat cold-calling.
If you have any connections to the community you wish to visit, use them! Having a local ambassador make an introduction to a studio on your behalf goes a long way, especially if they like what you do. Bonus points are studio owners themselves.
4. Enjoy the local flavor.
If there's an offer to stay with a local yogi, accept it! In addition to saving on hotel costs, you'll experience the culture as a traveler instead of a tourist. I love to cook with my hosts, and always offer a guest invitation to the workshops in kind return.
5. Cover your asana (CYA).
A contract is a clear, agreed-upon outline of the agreement that both studio and teacher feel will result in a successful workshop. Believe me, it's better to have one and not need it than need one and not have it. It's not just for your own peace of mind, but for the studio as well. Be sure to clearly outline payment structure (Industry standard is 70/30 teacher/studio), make sure costs are taken out before the split, and define parameters for marketing (social media, flyers, comps, etc). Don't be greedy, just be prepared.
Another side to CYA, insurance is something you'll want to look into for safety and peace of mind. Teacher's insurance is often required by studios, and also protects you in the rare situation someone gets hurt in class. Travel (or homeowner's) insurance covers theft and damages. The small yearly free can save you great pains later on — consider it a necessary cost of doing business.
7. Social the heck out of your media.
If you don't have a website, build one. Even if it's simple, give people something to find if they want to learn more about you. Take pictures and share them. Get testimonials and post them. Keep a schedule so people know where to find you. There will be days it's the only way you'll know how to find yourself.
8. Check out the privileges of travel-related memberships.
Frequent flyer miles are awesome. Credit cards offer travelers a lot of great benefits, including limited travel protection. If this becomes something you really get into, take full advantage of every mile traveled.
9. Stay up to date on visas and immigration.
Although fairly obvious, this is one oversight you don't want to have to deal with last minute when leaving the country for any extended period of time. Don't expect your host to remind you about visas. For the most part, having a U.S. passport offers me a great deal of ease when traveling abroad. Make sure you are familiar with what you need before boarding that plane.
10. Stay healthy.
Traveling isn't all that easy on the body, especially on long journeys. Nutrition and self-practice are usually the first two things to buckle under the stress of extended expeditions. If you're gluten- or dairy-intolerant like me, it would behoove you to plan ahead. I'm a big fan of bringing emergency meal-replacement bars when traveling in foreign countries. Also, you might want to learn to practice without a yoga mat. Get creative!
11. Sort out your legal situation.
It's illegal to teach in other countries without a work permit. Speak with your host in advance about how to handle this potentially challenging situation.
12. Be realistic, because nothing is guaranteed.
Trust your intuition. Remember that these are all tips on how to best set yourself up for success. Actually becoming a successful teacher requires hard work, patience, and an ability to work well with others. One cannot expect an audience without actively engaging the community. There are often times you've got to do all the work. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. It takes time to build a following, and those first few workshops may not be well attended. Persistence is key. Heck, even after years of success, nobody is immune to having a bad day. Shift happens.
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