Being a Yoga Teacher, Being an Entrepreneur

This is another post in the series I call New Yoga Teacher to New Yoga Teacher. It’s written specifically for… well, new yoga teachers, but I think it applies equally to anyone new to owning and operating their yoga business.

I came to this realization a couple months into being a brand new yoga teacher, and every day, I’m reminded of how true this is. Today, my friend Lyndi Thompson tweeted about Young Entrepreneur Advice: 100 Things You Must Know!, and I thought it’d be a perfect time to write this blog post. Here it goes: If you want to be a successful yoga teacher, you must learn to be an entrepreneur.

Now, the topic of being an entrepreneur can fill multiple libraries, and so is the topic of being a yoga teacher. So, I will set some parameters around this post as followed.

Assumptions

1) You are an independent yoga teacher, that is, you teach primarily at places where you must do the heavy lifting of marketing yourself and your classes. This might rule out places like health clubs and “mega” yoga studios, where there’s already a steady group of students.

2) You do not teach “pre-packaged” yoga. What I mean by this is the style of yoga that you teach does not have built-in “brand recognition” in the community that you teach. This is *not* to say that if you do, you are any less of an entrepreneur, but I am putting down some assumptions to reign in the scope of this blog post. I could also easily argue that if you teach a “brand name” yoga, you have to work just as hard to differentiate yourself from other teachers. What I’m talking about here, however, is about marketing, educating, and generating recognition where none existed before.

3) Your success directly depends on your ability, as they say in the biz world, to “attract and retain”. That is, you are paid by how many students come to class and continue to come to class, not a flat rate. Again, I am in no way saying that if this is how you get paid *now*, that you’re not an entrepreneur. I’m just setting the assumption that if you are a teacher who’s renting a space and keeping the profit, and if you are paid according to the number of returning students, you might be more motivated to go out and promote yourself, streamline your processes, and so on.

Okay, with that out of the way, here are some things I think a new yoga teacher ought to know, and do. While there are many, many little things to do, here are three big ones that have stood out for me as how you must act like an entrepreneur. Along the way, I’ll insert some quotes from the Young Entrepreneur Advice article, and of course, a yoga sutra. 🙂

Truth One: “This is the United States of James Carter. I’m the president, I’m the emperor, I’m the king.”

As a yoga teacher, you’re the CEO, the CIO, CTO, COO, you’re all the C level executives there can be. You’re also the janitor. You *are* the Marketing Department. You *are* Operations and Admin. You *are* Finance, and Budgeting, and Accounting, and Legal, and Sales. *You* are the Chief Networking Officer, and Information Officer, and Knowledge Officer, and Creative, and Customer Service, and Business Development, and Social Media, etc. The list goes on.

The first thing to realize is that as an independent yoga teacher, you are now a walking, talking, *real* business. You may rent out your own space and fully own your business, or you may work at a studio as a contractor, in both cases you are responsible for getting your name out there, establishing your reputation, gain and retain students, create ways to generate revenue and profit, both on and off the mat, perhaps hire and fire staff, and continue to grow. That, my friends, is an entrepreneurial undertaking.

As an entrepreneur, you will do everything, and you’ve got to figure out how to do everything better and more efficiently every day.

21. I did not realize the level of sacrifice that would be required to become not only an entrepreneur, but a successful entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong, it is worth every single second, but I had no idea that friends and family would not be able to relate. – Amber Schaub http://www.rufflebutts.com/

Truth Two: “Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise.”

I don’t know about early to bed, but the work like hell and advertise bit was true when Ted Turner said that, and it will be true when you decide to be an independent yoga teacher. You’ve got to figure out a way to do marketing and promote yourself like crazy, and do it in a way that’s not sleazy and cheesy.

When you are virtually unknown, one yoga teacher among hundreds and thousands of others, you’ve got to start a marketing campaign, or several. If you don’t teach a kind of yoga that the general public has been exposed to, you will need to start from scratch to generate awareness for your business and educate people on what it is exactly that you offer. This is, as they say in the corporate world, business development.

This goes into a rabbit hole of figuring out your niche, (athletes, cubicle dwellers, gardeners, weekend warriors, etc.), figuring out your main clientele (do you teach children, senior, teens, or athletes?), and telling a compelling and concise story, (something like, “I focus on teaching for stress relief so I do a lot of calming stuff”). Pay a consultant an enormous amount, and they’ll tell you gotta build the pipeline.

Then you need to figure out where are you going to advertise, and where are you going to offer your service? Will you make flyers? Where will you post them? How will you know if one location is more effective than another? Aside from your “home base”, where else will you teach as a marketing tool? Perhaps in a park? At a retail store? In some circles, they like to talk about all those delivery channels.

Okay, you get the idea. Marketing matters. And if you don’t have a marketing department behind you, you’re it.

78. Relationship Marketing – I wish I had understood the importance of staying connected with past clients and nurturing relationships with current clients. Your personal life, your spiritual life and your professional life is all about the relationship. – Sandie Glass http://www.sandstormideas.com/

Truth Three: “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

No stranger to strategies, that Winston Churchill, eh? “Strategy? Don’t you just… show up and teach yoga?” Au contraire, ma cherie. Strategy is the foundation of a successful yoga business (and perhaps all other businesses). This involves thinking about questions such as,

  • Where are you going to teach?
  • What day and time of day?
  • What else is offered in the area, by whom?
  • Who will you align yourself with for potential partnership?
  • What communication tool(s) will you use?
  • How much money will you invest in a particular thing, like building a website or renting space?
  • Will you incorporate your business?
  • What other products and services can you offer?
  • Will you be working another full time job while launching your yoga business?
  • Do you want to travel and teach workshops or teach on-going classes in one location?

Answering questions like these will help you sort out the pros and cons of each. No matter what you do, there are always advantages and disadvantages. You won’t be able to avoid the disadvantages, but knowing what they are, evaluating them, and taking them with calculation will help you deal with setbacks.

100. I now know that businesses are extremely organic & have a way of taking on a life of their own – now I know that though things don’t always work out as planned, there is always another opportunity around the corner…understanding this from the beginning would’ve saved me a lot of stress! – Rina Jakubowicz http://www.rinayoga.com

Yoga teachers have somehow gotten the unfortunate perception that we are “flighty” and ethereal and that our head is somewhere out there over the rainbow. It’s really too bad, because having your head screwed on right over your shoulders, with the left brain and the right brain working, you know, in union, is really what yoga should be about.

I haven’t talked about bookkeeping, accounting, budgeting, operations, and administrations. It’s also extremely important to have mentors and an Advisory Council. Perhaps they’ll be the topic of another post, but they are an integral part of being an entrepreneur as well, for obvious reasons.

Are you an entrepreneur? Are you a yoga teacher? Perhaps both? What are your thoughts? What have your experiences been like?

Sutra 1.14. This practice becomes well-grounded when continued with devotion, without interruption, and over a long period of time / sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih

Did I mention a mentor is super important too?

Did I mention a mentor is super important too?