14 Tips for Starting Your Own Yoga Business
When I transitioned from working full time in the corporate world to working for myself, I did a few things to create structure.The start of any business is a fun time but it's also scary. All of a sudden, everything is up to you. If you want to sit in a coffee shop all day and read, you can. If you want to go to lots of yoga classes, you can. It’s up to you to create the structure you need to get the right things done so you can have a successful, self-sustaining business.
I’m not there completely by any means, but I have tried to build some structure, workflow and processes that I hope will help me get there. I also treat my business as seriously as I can, even though I may not be bringing in the revenue I’m targeting yet, or have the physical infrastructure of other businesses or even have partners or employees.
I’ve had a few conversations with fellow entrepreneurs; some yoga teachers, some not, and I’ve shared some things that I hope you might find helpful:
1. Figure out what revenue you need to break even and add some percentage on top of that. This is your revenue target. It’s great to say that you want to make enough to pay your bills, but honestly, you probably want to make more than that. This will allow for you to have money to go on trips, buy clothes and do fun things.
2. Once you have this number, (which you should put on a spreadsheet), figure out what kinds of activities you need to do in order to hit that number. For yoga teachers, that might include daily classes, privates, workshops and other events. But now that you have your magic number, you can start the exercise in identifying “what” and “how many” of each thing you need to pursue.
3. This becomes your “business dashboard.” On this spreadsheet, you have your ideal list of activities, how many on a weekly basis you’ll teach and the revenue that’s possible from each. Tally it up and see if, on a monthly basis, it meets your revenue target. If not, something has to change. Either your magic number has to come down, you need to look for a part-time job to include in the mix, you need to get a partner to increase your revenue opportunities, you need to charge more per service, you need to increase the number of services you offer on a weekly basis or you need to include more services for which your reimbursement per service is higher. I find this is a great exercise for new yoga teachers because it can help you see how many classes and other activities you’d need to teach to break even. This exercise is great to do before you quit your corporate job, if you indeed have one of those.
4. Create a spreadsheet to track revenue: Enter every activity you do, where you did it, what you were paid, if it was taxed or not, how you were paid (cash, check, 1099 or W2). Also track how long the class was, so you can use this sheet to calculate your hours taught at the end of the year. This is helpful for any submission to Yoga Alliance.
5. Create a spreadsheet to track expenses: Track what you bought, where and the method of payment. Be sure to include a column for “category.” Include things like transportation, clothing, office supplies and yoga supplies.
6. Open a business bank account with a checking and savings account. Immediately. Part of having your own business is setting up a separate account into which you’ll deposit your earnings. Even if I get paid in cash for something, rather than put it in my wallet, it gets deposited. It builds the discipline of keeping your ‘earnings’ separate from your ‘living money’ and it allows you to track revenue from your business. It’s also helpful to have your business account in the same bank as your personal account. That way, you can transfer money electronically between the two. It allows you to “pay yourself” and then pay your personal bills from your personal account.
7. Use your business savings account to save money for taxes. Many business owners have to pre-pay taxes. This is a hard but necessary discipline to stick to. Estimate what your tax liability will be (even use last year’s tax return to get a percentage) and put that percentage of your non-taxed earnings into the business savings account. You can transfer this money from your business checking to your business savings. Because your revenue tracking spreadsheet indicates if your revenue per activity is taxed or not, at the end of each week, you can easily identify how much revenue you earned that was not taxed and take your percentage and transfer it to your business savings account.
8. Write a weekly business report. List each day, what you did and what your goals are for the coming week. List any new business opportunities you closed. List your revenue generated and expenses. Write a few words on generally, how you felt about the week. I write a report weekly and send it to my parents. It really doesn’t matter if you send it anywhere; it’s more about documenting what you did, setting goals and holding yourself accountable. If you can convince a mentor to review it weekly, even better.
9. Track leads. On your business dashboard, add different tabs that allow you to track business opportunities. I have tabs for children’s yoga, adult classes, senior yoga and teacher trainings, for instance. When you have conversations with someone and they say they know someone for you to connect with about a teaching job or you get an inquiry email about your services, include these leads on this sheet. Every day, go back to the list and follow up. It’s much easier when your leads are organized and in one place.
10. Get your LinkedIn Profile up to date: As much as I love Facebook, I accept that LinkedIn is more of a business website. Make sure your profile there is up to date. Ask friends to give you recommendations. Include all your professional jobs, not just yoga teaching jobs. Update your overall Summary section so it accurately reflects your passion, focus and what you’re business offers.
11. Create a one-page profile that includes all your experience, not just your teaching experience. Some yoga teachers that have corporate backgrounds ask me if it’s helpful to include that on a resume that you might pass to a yoga studio or other teaching opportunity. Of course! Everything you’ve done contributes to your value to any business.
12. Make sure your teaching insurance is up to date. This becomes so important to protect you and your assets from any potential lawsuit. In addition, create a waiver to use when you teach outside a studio or do private sessions.
13. Investigate what kind of business structure you want to have. Meet with an attorney and decide what kind of business structure you want and the implications for your taxes and tracking revenue and expenses.
14. Make a checklist of regular weekly activities and create a new one each week. I found that there were things I always had to remember to do: writing articles for publications, blog, paying certain bills, billing certain businesses for services, tracking classes. I made a list of all the activities and use it to be sure I do what I need to before Saturday night. Each Sunday, after I write my weekly report, I print a new checklist for the coming week.
The success of your business is up to you. Enjoy creating, growing, developing and expanding your opportunities. Share what you know. Talk to as many people as possible. Keep your eyes and ears open. Enjoy living your passion!