5 Steps to Help Yoga Teachers Earn a Living

I am frequently asked by fellow teachers how to set their rate for teaching classes. This comes up as well in teacher trainings but often very little guidance is provided to teachers as to what to consider. Also, there is a bit of an assumption that rates for classes are set more by the market versus the teachers themselves. While it may be a reality that you have little negotiating room when considering a job with a studio, it by no means should lead you to believe that you should not have a rate for teaching studio classes and other kinds of yoga related teaching activities.

Having a rate that encompasses your experience, your expenses, the factors of the job itself, travel and other factors is part of being a successful businessperson. I have conversations with teachers where they say they discount their rates for various reasons that have little to do with the job itself and more to do with their sense of what the market will bear, what the client can afford and how they “feel” about a particular rate. While you may discount your services occasionally or even provide services for free sometimes, this should not be the norm, if you need your earnings to cover your living expenses and are working as a full-time teacher. Your rate should be set before you ever talk to anyone about a potential job and you should be prepared to discuss the reasons that go into any rate you provide to a client.

Let me also insert a quick statement here that while money should not be the primary factor in selecting a career or a particular job of any kind, it is one factor to consider in the scope of all factors around any occupation. Further, if you wish to try to make a living as a full-time yoga teacher, it may be helpful to start to do the analysis below in order to help guide your activities towards things that will yield a return that can help sustain your teaching career.

Here are some factors that you might consider when setting your professional rate:

Step 1: Determine the annual salary you need/wish to earn. While this may pertain primarily to full-time teachers, it can be tweaked to someone who is teaching part-time. The assumption is that you have a budget, you know your monthly expenses and then you’ve added a percentage onto that for fun, travel, and anything else you wish to purchase. Once you have this annual number, break it down into a monthly, weekly and then daily number, using the number of days you wish to work per week. For teachers, remember that 1- you need a day off and 2-even if you work 6 days a week, you may have a few hours each day where you are not working so it may be manageable. This daily number becomes the amount of money you need to earn each day in order to make the annual salary you wish to make.

Step 2: Create a spreadsheet. I call this a “business dashboard.” At the top, put your desired annual salary. Include the monthly, weekly and daily breakdown so you end up with your daily number identified at the top. Then create sections. One section is “Studio classes.” One section might be “ Corporate classes.” One might be “ Wellness Presentations.” One might be “Senior Yoga.” One might be “Children’s Services.” Then enter the work you currently have in black text. Include the rate and multiply by the number of times in a month you teach that class and enter your monthly revenue. Add up the numbers and see what you get as your monthly salary and multiply by 12. This is the actual annual salary you are currently earning (gross).

Step 3: Chances are, the annual figure is less than your desired annual salary (if it’s not, good for you!) This is a common experience. Many teachers are living well below their salary requirements, which is why they build up credit card debt and “go without.” So, now, go back to your spreadsheet, and in red, add teaching opportunities to each section. Keep adding until you get to the total monthly revenue that allows you to meet your annual number. Think out of the box! If you don’t, you’ll always be working short of your goal. If you think, “I’ll never be able to get 3 corporate teaching gigs per month,” you’re right, you never will. But if you identify it as a job that helps you reach your overall goal, you will be able to take directed action on the marketing side of your activities to seek out opportunities that help you meet your financial goals.

Step 4: One thing that you need to consider that is a piece of this analysis is: what will you charge per service? Well, now that you’ve figured out what you have to earn each day in order to make your annual salary, you’ll have an idea of what your rate might be. Let’s say your daily number is $200 and you’ve assumed you’ll work 6 days a week. Using $50 per studio class as a rate (this is just a number I selected for this exercise), you’d need to teach 4 studio classes per DAY in order to reach your number. While you may think you can physically do this (which may not be realistic) the reality of finding 4 classes per day to teach in your area may be slim. So, you can see you need to have a “blend” of teaching opportunities, with different rates, in order to make things work. Read on.

Step 5: The next thing to do is create a rate list for your services. Now that you have an idea of your salary needs, which is based on your actual budget (plus some) you are in a better position to set a rate that helps you meet that goal. This does not mean that you’ll charge $200 for a private, just to help you work less and meet your goal. You need to also consider what others are charging (ask other teachers), the complexity of the teaching gig (custom sequences, working with specialty groups, like children for instance), the travel involved, if you need to take any special training, the time involved from start to finish for the gig (travel included), your level of experience and any other factor that pertains to you and the job. This list of rates should cover anything that you’ve listed as a teaching activity (actual or desired).

At the end of this analysis, you’ll have:

  • A business dashboard that identifies your current teaching schedule and translates it into an annual salary;
  • A list of unfilled, but required and desired teaching opportunities you’d like to pursue;
  • A list of your rates per service (privates, studio classes, etc).

In my next article, we’ll further explore how to expand this business dashboard so you can use it to guide your marketing as well as financial analysis of your business, on a month-month basis. We’ll also discuss how to address the issue of reimbursement at the studio level, where it is often set by the studio owner and is not negotiable.

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