The honest truth about making money as a yoga teacher

So you’re making money as a yoga teacher and you want to know how to make this your “real job” instead of just pocket money. You want to be able to choose the work you do, rather than running from studio to studio with an awkward 5 hour break in-between classes.

You want to earn a great income that will allow you to travel and take time off, not just minimum wage. You want to just teach yoga. You don’t want to do the 50 other side-gigs to make money.

I’ve been teaching yoga for the last 17 years. At times it’s been a couple of classes on the side. At other times teaching yoga is all I’ve done. During maternity leave with my second boy I started actively working to create a passive income from my yoga teaching. I wanted to be able to teach the yoga I loved, without having to be away from my family at awkward times in the early morning and at night.

Now I earn a full-time income passively from my online yoga business. This business gives me the freedom to choose the work that I want to do. And for the record, at the moment that means working part-time as a primary school counsellor and a couple of days each week on this business. Choosing to go back into a “9-5” is probably another story for another day (let me know in the comments if you’d like me to share that one with you).

My work-life might not always look like this. I reserve the right to change my mind at any point in time in the future. But there is SO much freedom in being able to make decisions from a place of not worrying about money.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember calculating how many classes I would need to be able to teach to make childcare worth it. I remember choosing work I didn’t love because I needed money now. I remember desperately googling how to make money as a yoga teacher while dragging myself to other jobs I didn’t love.

There’s a lot of people on the internet shilling their “6 figure secrets” to making money online. But I know (from experience) that the only money they’re making is through teaching others how to make money teaching others how to make money, teaching other people how to make money. Or something like that. It all starts to feel a little bit pyramid- schemy when you stop and think about it. Doesn’t it?

I make 90% of my money teaching yoga in online spaces. Most of my income comes from my membership and online yoga courses. (For transparency the other 10% comes from my speciality yoga teacher trainings and a course I’ve put together to help other yoga teachers build their business online.) So with all that out the way, let me share with you the honest truth about making money as a yoga teacher.

5 honest truths about making money as a yoga teacher

You don’t have to be “all in” to be a “real yoga teacher”

When I first started teaching yoga it was “only” a few classes each week on the side of my regular job. I didn’t feel like a “real yoga teacher”. It felt like a hobby rather than real work, because I wasn’t earning much money from it.

What I failed to realise was that it only felt this way because I CHOSE to think about it like this. Teaching yoga in any capacity makes you a yoga teacher. You don’t have to be doing it full time to be committed.

In fact, I could probably argue that those of us who aren’t burnt out from having to teach 20+ studio classes a week are able to give much more in the classes we do teach. I know for me personally I’m a more creative teacher when I’m teaching only a few classes each week as opposed to many. I’m more likely to be giving my everything in a class when I’m not stressed about money or feeling exhausted from teaching every single day.

And that’s why I recommend new teachers keep their day job and not go “all in” on yoga teaching until they can create some passive income in their yoga business. There is absolutely no shame in continuing to work your regular job while you grow your yoga teaching on the side. Or taking on other part time work while you build your following.

Don’t believe those “experts” who say you have to “burn the bridges” in order to make this business work. In fact putting financial pressure on your teaching or business too early can make you fall out of love with it too soon and give up. You’ll be making decisions from a place of desperation, instead of making choices that will create long term growth.

Let yourself be a yoga teacher and a barista who is building an online business. Or a business owner and a casual teacher. Or work in the corporate world and also grow your passion for teaching yoga on the side. Let yourself be this AND. Stop limiting yourself (like I did) and believing you have to be either OR to be taken seriously.

Freedom as a yoga teacher comes from passive income

Making real money as a yoga teacher comes from creating a passive income. This usually looks like selling digital products (videos, ebooks or recordings). It’s considered “passive” because you can sell these products multiple times without having to be physically present each time someone buys. In contrast to physical classes where you trade your time for money and have a cap on how many students you can fit into the studio space, digital products can be sold an unlimited number of times.

That being said, don’t be fooled that “passive” means low effort. It’s absolutely not. You will have to do a lot of work to create the product initially and then find a way you market your online work going forward.

In my experience creating passive income is very challenging at the start. At first you’ll be working a lot for very little return. But after experimenting and finding what works for you, your work will snowball to a point where you’ll only need to do a little bit of work each week for a large return.

If you’re just starting and learning how to grow a passive income as a yoga teacher, I share how to do this in detail in my course Presence. In 6 weeks I’ll step you through creating your first digital product, how to grow your audience and how to sell your work.

It’s hard work, not a quick fix

The “6 figures in 6 weeks” click-bait articles are my biggest gripe in the online space. Selling people this idea of a quick fix business devalues what you can actually create online if you have the right perspective from the start.

Growing an online business (just like growing an in-person business) takes a lot of hard work, time and effort. You’ll invest time into your craft (yoga or whatever speciality you teach). You’ll spend time learning how to grow your business (online marketing and strategies). And then you spend a boat-load of time implementing (trying, failing and following the breadcrumbs of success).

If you expect it to look anything other than this (I.e going viral on day one) you’re probably going to give up before you succeed. Please know you’re not doing anything wrong if your first offering doesn’t sell out.

Mine didn’t. I only had 3 sign ups for the first course I created. It was barely worth creating (and I no longer even sell it). But it did teach me everything I needed to learn in order to create my next 3 courses (which have now earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

I find it helps to think of my online business as a “body of work”. Instead of trying to create something for a quick win, I think of it as what I want to leave behind. The legacy of my work.

Save & invest even when you’re earning pocket money.

This one feels like Dad advice but bear with me. Even if you’re only earning $50 each week from your yoga teaching you should be putting aside some of it for tax and to invest for retirement.

Most yoga teachers are paid as contractors rather than employees, which means you’ll have to sort your own super and tax. This might not feel like a big deal when you’re only earning pocket money, but trust me when I say you don’t want to get a surprise tax bill at the end of the financial year when you realise your yoga teaching income did actually add up to something substantial.

Work out your tax rate depending on the country you’re in and put aside that percentage each pay from your yoga teaching income. I also recommend you take 10% and put it into an investing account to invest in shares when it gets to about $1000. Again, it likely won’t feel worth doing when you’re first getting started, but it will snowball to something significant over the course of 20+ years.

I say this one from a place of wishing I’d done it sooner. If only I’d invested 10% of my money over the last 17 years. But better late than never right? I’m now committed to growing my investments as yet another way to grow a passive income for the future.

Don’t be in a rush

Too many yoga teachers expect to go straight from their teacher training to packed-out classes immediately. I want you to know this doesn’t happen. Expecting it to will just set you up with false expectations.

You should expect to have small classes to start. You will have workshops that flop. None of these things mean you’re not cut out for yoga teaching. They just mean you need to practise more.

You need to have patience around your in person teaching as well as your online work. If you’re in a hurry you’ll jump on the quick fix (aka the scams people sell to make them money, not you). Instead, take the time to learn how to grow a sustainable and profitable yoga business.

Instead of feeling frustrated about how far you have to go, try to appreciate where you are right now. (Like we teach our students in our classes right?)

You can make money as a yoga teacher that supports all your dreams, you’ll just have to work hard to get there. Make sure you enjoy the journey there. X

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