Being a yoga teacher for hire is a uniquely Western role, with some uniquely Western challenges. How does one balance making a living with helping others in their practice? How do you align myself with a studio that serves its students as well as its bottom line? How do you make sure you’re getting paid what you’re “worth”, and how do you put a value on that in the first place?
While you might not ever be able to answer all of these questions definitively, giving them some exploration may help you successfully navigate the world of teaching for money and getting a fair yoga teacher salary.
Getting Started – Know Yourself and What You Want to Offer
One of the best resources I’ve run into is Sadie Nardini’s course on starting out in the yoga and wellness teaching world – This is a great course to help you decide what you have to offer the world and how to market yourself once you have decided. It is especially helpful for those wanting to work for themselves and start their own unique business within the health and wellness arena.
Starting Your Own Business
This blog post is primarily for those teaching under someone else’s umbrella. However, if you do decide to start your own project, there is one avenue you definitely need to check out, especially if you are a woman, and especially if you are a woman of color. In many states and cities, there are low-cost loans – and even scholarships! – set aside for small-business entrepreneurs. There are frequently even better terms available for female entrepreneurs and sometimes even more benefits if you are a woman of color, as many cities are actively encouraging this sub-set of business owners. This is great for the health and wellness sector, as we often fit this now-encouraged demographic! Don’t forget to at least check in to what’s available for you!
If checking into these benefits immediately makes your inner-critic speak up and say, “No one will want to give you money for your little business”, silence that right up with an online course on Being An Unstoppable Woman. The teacher is a hugely successful woman and a great motivator!
Out On Your Own
For those of us just dipping our toes into teaching, or for those of us just figuring out how to transition into a career in health and wellness, you might decide that teaching or working in someone else’s studio is the best place to start. Or maybe you dislike working on the business details and find that working within the framework that someone else has already put in place enables you to be freer, more creative, and a more-focused teacher. Regardless of why it draws you, it is the most common way of getting a yoga teacher salary.
There are two main payment models that businesses mostly use. Between the two, there are quite a few things to carefully consider.
1. Standard Employment
As a regular, standard employee, you would be fully employed by the studio or gym. This is a common option with larger businesses (Crunch, 24 Hr., Equinox, YogaWorks, etc.).
Benefits to this model are tax and payment status simplicity and an existing member base to consistently teach to (read: a smaller but possibly more steady yoga instructor salary).
Under this model, you would sign on as a regular employee and be paid under their current employment structure. Be aware that you’ll not have a lot of flexibility in how you are paid, how you sign in for work, and in many of the Human Resource aspects. But you will be able to count on getting paid on a regular day and having an HR representative for all of your questions. You might qualify for any employment benefits in place, such as sick time, health insurance, etc.
You will also pay taxes on your regular paycheck, so you might actually receive a refund when tax time rolls around!
The teaching benefit here is that the larger gyms and studios have a large existing student base. You don’t have to hustle up as many students as if you had your on slot and class time as a freelancer in a studio – they are there for you. You just have to keep them coming back!
The downside is that larger gyms and studio pay you a flat fee for each class, and it’s frequently on the lower side. You might also find that negotiating on your salary gets you nowhere here – the pay for yoga instructors might even be set nationally and there’s not a lot of play.
All in all, standard employment tends to work well for the green teacher or the teacher looking to build their name awareness and popularity. Payment is streamlined so you can concentrate on how you uniquely share the teachings. You just may need an existing financial cushion or a 2nd gig – anywhere you might live and even if you pick up 20 classes/week, it’s difficult to make a sole living off of this type of yoga teacher salary.
2. Independent Contractor
Many studios will employ you as an independent contractor, and there is a lot of opportunity to be truly successful with this flexible work option.
In a nutshell, being an independent contractor means that you are solely responsible for paying your taxes, for getting health insurance, and for when and how you work. For better or worse, you are not considered an employee of the gym or studio.
Generally studios will either pay you a flat fee for each class, or the better studios will understand the value in paying you per student. Some studios will be simultaneously employing teachers under both models: flat fee yoga teacher salary for greener teachers, and a per student yoga teacher salary for more established teachers who are very popular and well-known.
If you’ve been offered a flat fee to teach and feel that you have enough of a following to be paid on a per student model instead, definitely negotiate. In fact, trying to negotiate for this type of payment at any stage is a good idea (unless you have an unfortunate class time or are still working out your teaching kinks) and will immediately make you seem more valuable and confident to the studio owner or manager. Learn the skills to help you negotiate for your yoga teacher salary or any salary for that matter. As a woman, you can get even more proactive with this opportunity and learn some great negotiating tools strategized just for women.
The Bottom Line
Now here comes the tricky part: even if you’ve negotiated for a per student yoga teacher salary, how do you come to a number that each student is “worth”? How do you decide what 60 or 90 minutes of your teaching is worth to them?
Sometimes capitalism works this out for us neatly in the form of market value. Doing your research into what other local studios are paying can make this an easier conversation, and won’t spin you into the “worthiness” and money conundrum. Keeping in mind that Western yoga practitioners probably spend upwards of $60/month on coffee alone might also help boost your confidence!
For those looking to teach, online courses can be a great first step before committing to a larger 200 or 500 hour program:
- For an authentic yoga immersion in 3 modules
- For a focus on anatomy by a “rockstar” teacher!
- To be a rockstar teacher yourself!
And don’t forget the most helpful course for yoga teachers in regards to Messaging, Marketing, and Money!