Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Mystification of the Yoga Business - Yoga Teacher Class Rates (Part 2)

Not too long ago, I fell in love with my yoga practice and began daydreaming about how beautiful life would be as an instructor, everyday sharing with others a heaping dose of light and love through soothing adjustments, a welcoming smile, and a gentle voice. Years later, I've left my job to find that the dream is pretty darn close to real life. Life as a yoga teacher is incredible. I love planning sequences, reading texts in search of inspiring class themes, and finding myself constantly surrounded by people actively working to be happier, healthier, and more present.

So why don't more yogis leave behind the stressful nine-to-five and dive into the beauty of a boss-less, cubicle-less, dress code-less existence? One simple and not surprising answer: the money. In general, yoga teachers do not make even a modest salary and therefore need to be motivated, creative, and unrelenting in their artha (trans. the pursuit of prosperity, including material prosperity).

In this posting, I'll specifically discuss yoga teacher class rates, which are structured in several different ways. Below, I have listed the structures which I have encountered.
  • Base rate plus $X per student for each student over X.
  • Flat rate.
  • $X per student.
  • X% of total income earned from students attending class.
I have read on Yoga Journal (http://yogajournal.com/lifestyle/1857) that teachers should seek to diversify the structure of their class rates to ensure optimal income and minimal risk. While this may make sense for some, each situation is quite unique and it would be difficult to say which structure is best without knowing more about the studio (e.g. typical attendance, future marketing endeavors, intentions to grow, etc.). Further, most studios, health clubs, etc. already have a pay structure in place, so if you want to work at a certain location, you'll likely have to be amenable to their current set-up. There's always room for negotiation; however, owners won't likely stray far from status quo (e.g. moving from a flat rate to $X per student) unless you are a well-established teacher with a strong following.

Here is a run down of my current and past class locations, pay rates, and length of classes. Please keep in mind that I teach in a densely populated city:
  • Studio A - $35/class + $3/head over 10 students (e.g. 11 students = $38)
    • 1.25 hours
  • Studio B - $35
    • 1 hour class
  • Studio C - $35/class + $2/head over 8 students (e.g. 11 students = $41)
    • 1.5 hours
  • Studio D - Flat rate $30/class
    • 1.5 hours
  • Corporation - $50/class
    • 1 hour
  • 24 Hour Fitness - $25/class
    • 1 hour
  • Country Club - $45/class
    • 1.5 hours
  • Health Club - $30/class
    • 1 hour
My corporate class is generally the best paying, though at times my classes at Studio A will be quite large bringing in upwards of $65 per class. Unfortunately, attendance is extremely variable there; thus, my salary fluctuates as well. You also need to consider that some studios require their teachers to register students, which means arriving to class at least 15 minutes early. The time for your commute as well as the distance of the drive (as relates to the cost of gas) should also be factored into your salary analysis.

As a brand new teacher, I was thrilled to simply be hired at studios and didn't do much haggling over pay. In the past few months, I have learned that pay rates are actually uniform at all but one of my studios and even in that last studio, there isn't much difference between pay for new teachers versus seasoned teachers.

With 10 classes per week and an occasional substituting gig, I make on average $1,700 per month ($20,400 per year). Please keep in mind that this figure is pre-tax (deduct 15.3% for the IRS's self-employment tax) and does not factor in holidays or sick days. As you can see, a yoga teacher's job cannot end with classes unless he or she has married well!

Are your class rates very different from mine? If so, what are they; what city/state do you work in; and what is the class location?
Have you found certain pay structures to be better than others?
Do you have other "lessons learned" on class pay rates?
Have you attempted to negotiate with a studio owner over pay? If so, how did it go?


Lola said...

Like you, when i first started teaching I was just happy to have the work. After a few years I have really looked at what I need in order to continue to teach and enjoy it and make a living that is worth it. I stay firm on my rates even though some are a bit higher than others but I kinda have a niche as I specialize in Children and Senior Yoga. I have more requests than I accept so the rate of pay is not normally an issue. That being said, I will teach at a reduced rate for a group that I believe in or feel that it needs the yoga I offer. Another thing I have learned is to try to geographically plan your classes so that you are not spending have the day traveling to teach 2 or 3 classes. This has helped me a lot. Also, I don't teach a lot of 'studio' yoga as the employment contracts are often very rigid and controlling and they just don't pay well once you are established. When students are coming to the class for you, you should be compensated accordingly
There, that's my two cents for now

Felicity Bell said...

Thanks for contributing Lola. I'm glad to hear that you have a strong following and have been able to work independent of studios and with organizations you personally support. Plus, you're able to pay the bills. Sounds like the dream! Hopefully, one day soon I'll have that degree of freedom as well. For now, I plan on continuing to build a community through my studio and corporate classes as well as working to find my own niche. I've heard this suggestion several times and have been waiting for something in particular to resonate with me. I don't want to get caught in the trap of haphazardly choosing a college major during the first semester of freshman year. Thanks again Lola!

Go Green Girl said...

Wow, there is a big difference in rates from place to place
I live in Canada so it maybe different (I think it costs more to live here)!
I am billing $45-50 PER HOUR not per class! So some classes are one hour, some longer. I started at $40 per hour and as my classes filled up and demand drew, I raised my rate
It makes no difference how many students are registered (although they do have a min number to run it)

I actually don't teach at any Yoga studios which is good and bad.
I teach at a high end gym, A University fitness center and a community association .

I may have had more control over my pay since two of these places had no Yoga before so I built it from the ground up.
I also worked a "joe job" as I was building in a coffee shop. That was hard I was teaching 8-10 classes and working part-time.
A year ago in spring I quit my "joe job" and started teaching full time, now 13-15 classes a week

I have also made sure my classes geographically linked, so in the evenings I typically teach 2 back to back at the same location. I have chosen not to drive (good for the earth, good for the wallet) so this is even more key, since I am
walking busing, or riding my bike!

what I am having trouble with is privates. It seems of course everyone wants a private session at lunch or in the evenings and that is when I have all my classes.
Also I don't have space in my abode (and Cats) so location is an issue.
I had considered going to Students homes but travel time was crazy and it got to the point where it wasn't worth the money! Any insight on Privates sessions and how to find students that have flexible availability ....Maybe I need "Ladies Who Lunch" where do I find those?
any insight

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