In 2009 my wife Lena was at the peak of her carrier in hi-tech, when she decided to leave her 6-figure job to spend more time with our twins. For almost twenty years Lena had been practicing yoga while working as a hi-tech software project manager. We had no idea what a big part of our life yoga would become. After leaving her job, Lena combined her two passions – yoga and teaching kids, which resulted in opening her own yoga studio.
I fully supported Lena in this carrier change and encouraged her to follow her dreams. Still, our family budget was sorely missing her 6 figure salary and both of us understood that in order for Lena to follow her dream, this dream had to become a profitable and self-sustaining business. By combining Lena’s passion for yoga with my business knowledge, we have created a profitable yoga business, and we did it as fast as possible.
Our journey wasn’t easy and smooth. It took us far more time than we expected. Even with a Business School degree and over a decade of international business experience, it was difficult to create a local business with zero budget. We made costly mistakes, but we ultimately learned the specifics of the yoga business, improved, and finally succeeded finding finding a path to a profitable yoga business.
I see so many people trying to follow their dream of teaching yoga, but they don’t know how to start and they struggle to fill their classes. While we create a detailed guide for anyone who wishes to create a profitable yoga business, we have written this post to share basic ideas based on our experience. We want to assist you in making a living out of your passion to teach Yoga.
Blue or Red ocean
One of the most important decisions that each yoga teacher must make is what kind of yoga to teach. It might sound obvious, but many teachers don’t really look into the endless option of yoga types. Usually, teachers begin their practice at a certain school by chance, like it, and after some time maybe have discovered that they are practicing Ashtanga Yoga (or any other type) and simply continued with the same style of yoga for their teacher certification program.
From the business perspective, those planning to teach yoga should consider that they are probably going to compete with several other yoga teachers in their neighborhood. In the small town my family lives in, when someone asks on Facebook for a yoga teacher recommendation, there will be no less than 40 recommendations for different teachers!
The common yoga student, especially a beginner, has no understanding or ability to choose from all those teachers. When there are so many similar options, we usually avoid making any decision.
This is why you must differentiate yourself from all those similar yoga teachers. There is a great strategy book called “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim & Mauborgne. In short, the authors describe the “red ocean” as an ocean full of vicious competition, that has turned red with blood. This is the market that everybody competes in. The “blue ocean” is the uncontested market space. To put it in simple words – by choosing a yoga style that nobody in your area does, you won’t find yourself in the red ocean, competing with others.
After seeing nearly 40 recommendations for a yoga teacher, Lena decided to do Yoga for Kids, as in this space there was only one teacher in our town. Then she moved herself even further into the Blue Ocean by introducing Aerial Yoga for Kids. Even now, a few years after starting Aerial Yoga Kids, Lena is the only one in our town offering these classes. This differentiation approach allowed us to not only fill classes easily, but has allowed us to increase prices, since we see high demand, and we don’t have any competition.
I’m not just telling you to teach Aerial Yoga for Kids (although it’s endless fun), but I am telling you to look for something that nobody else does, that is notably different, and that your potential customers can easily differentiate. This could be chair yoga for older people, yoga for office workers during the lunchtime, or anything. Look for your blue ocean!
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Whom, how much, and how you are charging has a major impact on your income. You might look at other yoga teachers to see how much they charge and in which way, but your business model should be based on the blue ocean you will choose.
When Lena started with regular adult yoga classes, she found herself in an endless struggle to continually bring new people to classes. Even people that were excited and loved Lena’s lessons were not coming to the classes consistently. The reason is very simple – in spite of telling themselves that they need to practice yoga, most people have busy schedules, work hard, and need to spend time with their families. Once it’s time for yoga class they say to themselves “next time”. If you are charging per class, you will constantly be battling this, and you will have difficulty finding a steady income.
There are other, different business models that might create a more steady income. For example, you can work with yearly or at least monthly memberships, or get paid via different organizations that arrange the classes. Another option is based on the target audience you choose. As I already have mentioned, working adults have difficulty attending classes, but children and older people are another story. Older people don’t have as busy schedules and might attend persistently if they like the activity. In some cases their lessons might be paid by nursing homes, or a community center, freeing you from worry about steady payment. Another great group is kids – the parents sign up the kids for the program, and in spite of not being able to attend themselves, they do bring the kids to the classes consistently.
In our case, kids sign up for a yearly program (from September through the end of June) and pay recurring monthly payments so Lena doesn’t need to worry about new customers and new income during the year.
Look for your niche with a relevant business model that is based on recurring monthly payments.
Your customers are your asset.
It doesn’t matter if you are already teaching yoga or just planning to start, you must understand that your current customers are your biggest asset. If people keep coming to your lessons it means they like your lessons and you as a teacher, and they will follow you as their tribe. Your customers are your assets not only because they are actually paying for the lessons, but because they already like you, they may generate additional revenue for your business.
In the business world, it’s called upselling, but in simple words, you can provide additional value to your customers that they will be more than willing to pay extra for. The great thing about upselling is that you don’t need to look for additional customers, you only need to propose something your current customers really need. It can be simple things, like aerial yoga hammocks, yoga mats or other equipment you use in your lessons. For example, I sell aerial yoga hammocks. I buy them from distributors at a wholesale price and my customers are more than willing to purchase them from me for a higher price, as purchasing from me is convenient, and they are exactly the same hammocks we use in my lessons.
You can also propose additional workshops. I teach Fly Yoga Kids and occasionally I do “Parents and Kids” workshops. The kids that love Fly Yoga want their parents to experience it too. Plus, they want to show off a little bit with what they already know how to do! Parents and Kids workshops fill up quite well. As an example, I have a friend who proposes “Sexuality empowerment” workshops for her current female students. There are endless ways to provide additional value to your customers, based on your set of skills or based on what you are willing to learn. You can also work in partnership with other trainers. For example, a “Healthy food” workshop could be delivered by an expert in this subject, and you could share the revenue with them.
Think about what additional value you could propose to your current customers.
If you are the owner of yoga studio or if you are renting, you probably have time slots in your schedule that are empty. You can rent those timeslots to other activities. It might be yoga, but could also be Pilates, dancing or any other activity.
If you are doing yoga for adults, then most of your lessons probably take place during morning and evening hours. You can rent your studio to children’s afterschool actives during the afternoon hours. For us, it’s completely the opposite. Most of Lena’s lessons are during afternoon hour, so she rents her studio to Salsa, TRX, and Pilates trainers during morning and evening hours. Such renting on an hourly basis generates good revenue for the business without the need to work during those hours.
Keep your expenses low
All the points we have discussed until now were mostly about increasing your revenue. To be able to have a profitable business it’s not enough to generate revenue as much as possible. Since profit is revenue minus expenses, you must keep revenue as high as possible while expenses remain as low as possible. You might be surprised at how many expenses you have. Here is a list with a few examples:
- Studio rent – rental fee, utility bills, security, etc.
- Taxes – real estate taxes, annual and incorporation company taxes, sales taxes, etc.
- Marketing – Designing and printing marketing materials like the logo and website, flyers and adds, payment for advertising, etc.
- Loan payments – monthly loan payments related to the studio opening, construction or other
- Insurance – Insurance for the studio and your personal yoga insurance.
- Administrative expenses – bookkeeping (software and/or CPA), office supplies, legal advice, credit card fees, etc.
Review all your expenses and see what can be reduced. If you are not sure how you can reduce your expenses, it might be a good idea to ask an expert or accountant for advice.