This one is for the yoga teachers. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. No, not Ganesha… money.
One of the topics I enjoy to consulting with colleagues on and teaching is the Business of Yoga. While there are many talented teachers out there, a common shortcoming among them is a discomfort or reluctance around the business topics and specifically financial issues. With my formal education (B.S. Business Administration), over 15 years in the corporate sales, and some experiential learning, I’m a little more comfortable with these topics. So, let’s touch on three common financial challenges yoga teachers encounter.
A fair wage. It might seem non-yogic to talk about money, but it’s okay. Yoga teachers do what they do because they have a passion for sharing the practice and I think many of you would do it for free if you had to. But, you deserve to be paid. Most likely, you’ve already invested time, energy, and money in your education, supplies, and business. You probably also put time and energy into creating great classes and offerings. You should be compensated for your expertise and effort.
When thinking about this topic, consider the yamas of ahimsa or non-harming, and aparigraha or taking what is appropriate. You need to provide for your well-being. This includes basic needs like food and shelter. It also includes safe transportation for your job. A fair wage allows you to take care of yourself and keep out of harms way.
The yamas teach us not to be greedy, but to be fair in what we take. So, it is okay to have a matter of fact conversation with the studio or gym where you work about your compensation. Find out what the pay rate it and if there are any incentives or bonuses. Ask if you are paid as an employee or contractor, as each has different tax implications. (Be sure to work with your tax expert on this.) Also, be sure to find out what scope of work is included in your pay. For example, your pay includes teaching the class, but does your pay include cleaning the studio or tidying props? Make sure you are clear about what is expected of you. Then, you can make the determination if the wage is fair or not.
Let’s talk. Be willing to talk about financial questions. It doesn’t stop with the questions about pay and what’s expected of you. There may come a time when you want to expand your offerings like presenting a workshop or contributing to teacher training. You will need to find out how that would work.
First things first. Check your emotions (and ego) and ask, is this mutually beneficial for both your teaching location and you? If it is, schedule some time to present your ideas. Think of this as an opportunity to sell your idea or plan. Bring suggestions of how the financial portion could be structured that is fair to both of you. If you approach the subject with a collaborative energy, hopefully you’ll be met with that same energy. Work together on a solution where everyone feels they are benefiting. Who can say “no” to that?
For example, if you are thinking about offering a workshop that would expose the studio or gym to new clients, they may be more open to supporting and compensating you for your efforts.
Just be sure to keep emotions checked and collaborate.
Why Buy the Cow? Free has a place in business when it is used strategically in areas of promotion. (It also definitely has it’s place in service/seva offerings. Give freely if it’s a cause that is dear to your heart!) But, remember the old adage, “why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?”
If you are offering free classes as a promotional vehicle, make sure the promotion is time sensitive. Refer back to the value of the service your clients are receiving. Help your clients to understand that while the promotional item is free (or discounted) there is value in the service they are receiving.
Also, remember those questions you asked about what duties are covered by your wage? You decided that the trade-off of the work for the wage was fair. Be mindful of scope-creep. It is very easy to pitch in and go the extra mile, as most of the yoga teachers I know are generous souls. For example, once a week you stay an extra 30 minutes to straighten the props. But, that wasn’t included in your original scope of work. You’ve allowed the work to increase without an appropriate increase in your wage.
Now, I’m not saying you should never pitch in to help. It has it’s place, just be mindful of scope-creep and slowly piling on more duties than what you originally agreed to handle.
Finally, be especially mindful of your intellectual property. The way you teach a class, structure a workshop, or explain a concept is unique to you. Be careful not to give that away for free!
So, take a deep breath, take a step back and tackle these financial challenges with an open mind and respect for yourself. You may find that some of your current trade-offs are not fair or equitable. You may find opportunities for collaboration and growth. Just don’t be afraid to ask the questions and have the conversations. You are worth it!