No matter how much you want to resist it, yoga in today’s world is a business and unfortunately with that comes the need to not only know yoga but know the business world. Each instructor out there is their own business and putting on those kind of goggles can help you navigate the yoga business world with a bit more clarity and hopefully better profits.
Here are my FIVE MUST’s for all (new) Yoga Teachers:
- Become an LLC. Say what? Yes, become a limited liability company; this is in your best interest. In today’s world Uncle Sam does not care if you are a yoga teacher and what your yoga morals and values are, all he cares about is what amount of money you are making, how you are getting paid and how you are filing your taxes each year. Now becoming an LLC is not just for Uncle Sam’s benefit but also for yours. Being an LLC acts as a barrier, that if anything would ever happen while you are teaching, your company is liable (being your LLC) rather than you personally. Secondly, being a legit business will help you expense things more clearly and keep your personal life and business separate. Finally, if you are being paid as an independent contractor to your personal name- that is a no no as far as the IRS goes (if you are an employee, that is different). It is only a matter of time before your business gets the ax in filing solely in your name, weather you are a Tupperware queen, an oils junkie or a yoga teacher, if you are selling anything (as a yoga teacher you are selling your services) then become an LLC. I require all my teachers to open an LLC before I will pay them both for my protection and tax clarity as well as theirs. Not interested in becoming a business? No worries, you don’t have to do anything different other than have checks written out to your LLC and not you.
- Get insurance, I don’t care if you teach one class or you teach twenty classes, if something should happen you need to know that you have your back covered; you cannot rely on the hoping that the facility you are working at: studio, church, rec center, spa, salon, or park will cover your back. Before my yoga life started I was a swim instructor and lifeguard and witnessed an incident where someone was severely hurt and the patron’s parents were not only going to sue the rec center but the life guard as well. That person could be you, without insurance how will you cover the possible expenses if God forbid something would happen. If you already have insurance then make sure you switch it to your new LLC for coverage, you will have to pay a bit more, but if you want to be a business then you have to operate as one. So long story short GET INSURANCE. Organizations like Yoga Alliance, ACE, Yoga Journal offer plans and partner with companies that are worth looking into. And if you are a yoga teacher, hopefully your yoga teacher training program has educated you to this process as well.
- Stay a student. Easier said than done (believe you me), but staying a student will keep you fresh, inspired, connected, and your ego in check. . I tell all my yoga teacher trainers, once you graduate you will probably have more question than answers, because the more you know the more you realize you don’t know, isn’t that the formula for learning? My best teachers at my studio are the ones who keep coming to class and work hard to incorporate their practice into their lives. Their teaching is fresh, lively, and surely not the same thing in just a different order. When we remember that we are forever students and we can learn from everyone and every experience we come in contact with we can prepare ourselves for not just teaching yoga but for life as well.
- Be realistic. Being realistic is something I tell all my newly graduated yoga teacher trainers, why, because now that they completed their training and are egger to go out and start their yoga career/life the idea of teaching dozens of classes looms in their psyche. And speaking from experience, burn out can happen real fast. So that being said, sit down with your current schedule and see where it would make sense to add in teaching a class, then ask yourself can you commit, for how long and after you answered that, go back and check to see where your practice will fit in, if you didn’t already consider that, shame on you, but if you did, does it all balance? You can always add in, but once you are teaching and you want to take away be prepared for people to be upset and sad that their potential “favorite” class is no longer.
- Get it in writing. As yoga teacher and also studio owner, get what you have agreed on in writing. I don’t care who says what, all the murky waters I have ever been in have been because nothing was in writing. You want to trust, but when push comes to shove and especially when it comes to money, having an agreement ahead of time, having those hard conversations and then getting it in writing will make things a lot easier in the long run. And what if someone doesn’t want to agree, well, they probably don’t want to truly be a team player anyway. Getting it in writing can be an agreement or contract with the place of business your services are being utilized at. What is the policy for termination, quitting, subs, and what is the split on classes, workshops, are any studio protocols you and the owner need to be in agreement with? But when both parties have each other’s best interest at heart and are in it 100% then that contract is like the bare minimum and you most likely are going over and beyond, because the more you put in the more you will get out-right?
I could go on and on, but reality is that taking the teacher training is the easy part, going out an applying it to your life and doing it in a legit, business-like manner is often another. I have owned a yoga studio going on ten years and teaching for nearly half my lifetime, and what I have come to find is yoga or not, when you become teacher and especially when you open a studio, you must adhere to proper business practices. Sell products, you better file sales tax, are you and independent contractor or employee, do you own a studio? Writing off expenses is different depending on what you are, teacher student conduct, proper waivers, and of course the unwritten rules of yoga interwoven into business make often for a few sticky situations along the way, but if you work to act in a professional and respectful manner people will treat you that way. My hope is to save you time on the learning curve, time I spent trying to figure it all out myself.
Have a teaching or yoga business question? Hope might be able to help! Contact her for information on a yoga business conference by phone, video chat or in person. E-Mail