My first year of full-time teaching is nearing its end. I started out with a fairly realistic view of the business, thanks to good and sound advice from many colleagues, who’d already treaded the same path. Still, there were some surprises ahead. Now it’s time to sum up what’s been learned:
1) It IS possible to earn a decent living teaching yoga. But you have to be prepared to work odd hours and transfer yourself at what seems like the speed of light from one class to another. This job means – mostly – goodbye to free weekends, family time and a social calendar, because when other people have time off, you’ll be working. Particularly in the beginning you can’t be very picky: if someone offers you a class, you’ll take it, even if it means sitting in the car twice longer than the class itself to get there. Later on, if you’re lucky, you might get some say in when and where you want to work.
2) Most yoga teachers are very passionate about their kind of yoga, but workwise it can be a good idea to spread out a bit, so that you don’t limit yourself to just one kind of class. For me, doing Pilates “on-the-side” has proved a good choice. But a word of caution: don’t let your sub-genre(s) mess with your main practice, which is the foundation of your teaching. I have no respect for people who teach yoga but don’t practice it. That might work for other stuff, but not yoga, which has to be taught from the heart. And if you don’t do it, you can’t really feel (for) it.
3) Go easy on the studies. I know – attending courses is my favourite pastime, because you learn a lot and you get to spend valuable time with interesting people. But do think hard about what you actually need, because in the array of stuff on offer, it’s very easy to get carried away and end up paying all your hard-earned money to different institutions. Some will no doubt be worth it and give you a lot in return, but it’s good to remember that every single day spent away from your business, will mean not only paying what the studies are worth, but also losing your income. This is the tragic truth of entrepreneurship. Now, having said that, I’ll turn around and state that continuous education is a necessity in this job. Not only for yourself, but also for the students who keep coming to your classes. If you don’t evolve, they’ll outgrow you and you’ll no longer have much to offer them. As a teacher, staying one step ahead of your students will keep everyone happy. Just choose wisely – perhaps you don’t need to hear (and pay for) the wisdom of every single “guru” visiting your town…
4) Get your paperwork done – preferably on time. This has been my hardest stumbling point. I hate anything that smells of bureaucracy, but as an entrepreneur those things are hard to get around. You just have to sit down, face it and get it over-and-done with. If possible, outsource whatever you can. There’s no point in doing the books yourself if you don’t have to. Besides, having someone else check your papers will mean you’ll get them done. If you rely only on yourself, it’s all the more easy to skip it. And believe me, you don’t want to go there… At one point I had to re-do all my car notes for 3 months, because I had neglected them. It took me 2 full working days to get everything in order. Since then, I’ve kept my diary with me and whenever I drive, I note down every single detail at once.
6) Last but not least: make sure you create a strong network. This means supporting, helping and substituting others whenever you can – if you do this, chances are you’ll get help yourself when needed. Also see to it that you have a ring of like-minded friends/colleagues to toss ideas with and – when necessary – get support from. Being a teacher in any profession means you’ll be out there getting graded every single day for your “performance”. Inevitably, there will be people who won’t appreciate what you’re trying to do and when you come across them it’s great to talk to someone who’s been there too. And sharing each other’s successes is equally important. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely job, so make sure you find the right kind of supportive people to help you on your way – and remember to be that kind of person yourself!
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