Negotiating money matters as a freelance yoga teacher 

“When you do it for money- it's not fun anymore.” Moving from yogi to Yoga teacher can be a difficult shift in more than a few ways, one of those being the money. Especially in a practice that some cultures may consider a spiritual as well as a physical service, navigating how you price your work as a yoga teacher may have you feeling odd or even slightly guilty. But whether you are a brand new or experienced yogi, the financial aspect of your yoga teaching will always be worth evaluating and reevaluating. By facing the questions and boundaries surrounding the financials, your personal connection and sense of fun can flourish - a lesson I learned through experience. 

My experience

Filled with the vigor of my new 200hr certification, I returned from my teacher training ready to hit the mat running (or asana-ing). Less than a week after my return, I set to work applying to gyms, studios, and private platforms. While finding gigs was its own beast, a few months later, I was teaching regularly with a full schedule of diverse classes both in location and demographic. But while the acceleration of my Yoga teaching position was exciting, it wasn’t long until the cracks began to show. With the hours spent traveling between clients, the quick changes from different spaces and demographics, my self-motivated review of each class, and the sheer vocal and mental requirements of teaching, I was falling into bed exhausted and still unable to pay my rent without taking a few shifts at the café. Something needed to change.

I could no longer ignore the financial pressures that threatened to reach dangerous levels of anxiety, which could potentially extinguish my relationship with yoga entirely! Time to lessen the dramatics and bring those honest questions to the table without judgment. The balance was between three things; my personal yoga practice, my passion for teaching, and the realistic factor of money. By facing this triad head-on and taking the time to view it from a few perspectives, I was able to reinvigorate my practice with the benefit of greater and smarter financial returns. While every teacher is different, there are a few helpful reminders to think about when negotiating money matters.

Your career as a yoga teacher may shift with every new experience, and replacing feelings of frustration with acknowledgment and consideration can ease the journey. 

Set reasonable boundaries

While eager new teachers such as myself are quick to jump at every opportunity and potential client, mapping out your values as a teacher and businessperson is beneficial to help keep your expectations practical and on your desired path. Making a list of boundaries as non-negotiables and negotiables is an easy way to start. Especially when starting out, some non-negotiables may be:

  • Only teaching one free class a month (or no free classes)
  • Transport costs included in private client invoices.
  • Class fee minimum of $30

Some negotiable may be:

  • Referral discounts for yogi connections
  • Donation class rates
  • Loyalty discounts

While these expectations may change with experience, holding yourself accountable to your own boundaries will help make the task more manageable when you start to amount more business.

Be clear, honest, and specific.

In other words: know what you want and go from there. Going into money negotiations with clear expectations and offers provides a great starting point and establishes a professional attitude. Additionally, a website or physical flyer can be a reference for clients and give them an idea before any further discussion. Continue an honest relationship by proposing a trial period or scheduling a check-in conversation if rates need to be changed.

Being clear with rates does not have to mean being pushy or stubborn. How you communicate (and actively listen) will set the tone of how you navigate money matters in the future, whether non-negotiable or open for discussion. Feel free to set boundaries for when and how to discuss finances. Suggest alternate times and ways to talk about finances away from your teaching space to keep any financial anxiety off the mat.

Consider all things

While reassessing my own rates, I once sought out the advice of a more seasoned freelancer. They shared that their pricing scheme was largely based on how much emotional energy each lesson was. It reminded me that there are more ways of pricing than punching numbers. Factors such as time spent traveling and planning are valid, but so are factors of energy and emotional expense, even if unquantifiable. Feel empowered to find the balance between the calculator as well as your own internal intuition, knowing that if you feel good about your offerings, your teaching will attract yogis that fit your style in more than just one way. And if charging higher for a challenging class forces people towards other options, your gut reaction can be a good indication of whether it is something to reevaluate.

Text Negotiating money matters as a freelance yoga teacher

Be organized

A give-in if you are an experienced freelancer, but for teachers just starting out, set yourself up for success by having a method for keeping up with expenses and income. It will be easier to navigate financial conversations when you have the facts and insight into your situation. If being organized isn’t your forte, seek help! Tools like Momoyoga can greatly ease the financial aspects of booking, rescheduling, and tracking your development, an easy way to stay ahead and ease the stress. 

Remember the Yoga

Be patient with yourself through every success and upset along the way. Your career as a yoga teacher may shift with every new experience, and replacing feelings of frustration with acknowledgment and consideration can ease the journey. This may be a moment to return to the Yamas and Niyamas of yoga and remind yourself that you have chosen this path for yoga, not money. If your passion is being polluted by the administrative and business aspects, be open to options for reinvigorating your practice and following the joy.

While the money matters may at first be a headache, allow yourself the space and time, and you can begin to find more of an instinct that can lessen the stress. Be calm, intentional, and as always-breathe in and out. 

Ashley Willison
Ash Willison is an international yoga teacher and multi-media artist. For Ash, connection to the body is at the very root of all her adventures and skills. Yoga has been her loyal companion ever since growing up in Uganda, and continues to inspire and challenge wherever she goes and whatever she does. Off the mat, she is a multi-media artist, writer, and physical performer with a love for sci-fi and puns.

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