As an addendum to last Tuesday’s post, Can You Actually Make a Living as a Yoga Teacher?, I thought it might be useful to say a few things about how yoga teachers get paid. More specifically, I’m going to talk about how teachers are typically compensated for teaching classes at a studio or gym. Of course, the amount of money a teacher gets paid per class can vary widely, but the payment structures or schemes are actually not that varied. In this post, I’ll outline the three most common pay schemes I’ve encountered over the years, followed by a brief discussion of a fourth alternative, which is the model we used at Bloomington Power Yoga (the yoga studio I started and managed from 2007-2010).
FLAT RATE PER CLASS
Under this model, each yoga teacher gets a predetermined amount per class taught, regardless of how many students show up. For example, at a studio I used to teach at in North Hollywood, I was paid $25 per class, end of story. It didn’t matter if two people showed up or twenty. This was good for me, since the studio was relatively new and they didn’t have a large student base yet. So there were nights when I had only a handful of students, but I still made $25. (Of course, you can hardly pay for gas with $25, let alone your rent, but that’s a separate issue…) The downside of this model is that if/when your class becomes more popular, you get paid exactly the same, even though the studio is making more money.
PAY PER HEAD
Under the pay-per-head model, a yoga teacher gets a few bucks for each student who attends the class. This can be anywhere from $1 per student to over $10 per student. The average is probably somewhere around $2-4 per head. However, there’s usually an important caveat with this payment scheme. Not all students are created equal, so you might get less commission, or none at all, for certain students in your class. For example, employees of the studio usually get to take classes for free, so they typically won’t be included in the total headcount of a class. Monthly unlimited students may not count towards the total headcount either, since they typically do not generate as much revenue per class. The same goes for those students who are taking classes on a Groupon or other introductory offer. What this means, ultimately, is that you can be paid at a rate of, say, $4 per student, have ten students in your class, but only make $16 because six of the students are not full-paying customers.
BASE PAY PLUS PER HEAD BONUS
This third model is basically a hybrid of the first two payment schemes, and seems to be the most common way that yoga teachers are paid. Under this pay scheme, a base pay of, say, $20 per class, guarantees that you’ll make something no matter how many people show up. But you’ll also be rewarded if you build up a following and start to pack the room. Usually, the per-head bonus only kicks in after a certain number of students. For example, you might be paid $20 per class up to ten students, and for every student beyond ten, you get an additional $3. So if you have fifteen students in class, that’s $20+($3 x 5) = $35. Of course, there are endless complications and variations on this hybrid scheme, but the basic structure is pretty straightforward, and provides both a minimum amount of pay as well as an incentive to grow your class and keep the students coming back.
ALTERNATIVE MODEL: THE YOGA TEACHER CO-OP
This alternative payment model is what we used at Bloomington Power Yoga. Basically, this was a teacher-owned studio, and each teacher on the schedule was able to make far more than she could under any other pay scheme. Under the teacher co-op model, each teacher gets to keep, say, 80% of the money that each student in her class generates. The other 20% gets put into a common pool to pay for things like rent, props, advertising, website upkeep, etc. The accounting for this model can be tricky, but it’s manageable. The only real downside of the co-op is that no one person — i.e., a studio owner — has the financial motivation to do the sorts of things that are necessary to keep the place thriving in the long term. Of course, if a few core teachers are really committed to keeping the co-op running, then it might have a chance of being competitive with more traditional studios.
For whatever reason, yogis are not very comfortable talking about money. But in the interest of honesty, fairness, and full disclosure, teacher training programs really ought to be more upfront about the realities of making money as a yoga instructor. The math, unfortunately, doesn’t add up that well for most, which is probably why so many teachers end up branching out into other, more lucrative sources of yoga income. As one of my teachers said, teaching classes at a studio or gym is valuable not because of the pay, but because it can give you access to potential clients for private lessons or your next retreat. Some yoga studios, however, can’t stand the thought of teachers making this money on the side, and enforce strict policies against teachers promoting their own private yoga services or retreats. As you can see, it’s not easy making money as a yoga teacher. It’s even harder when people are cagey or dishonest about how teacher get paid, and how much they can reasonably expect to make.
- Can You Actually Make a Living as a Yoga Teacher? (Part 1) (yogaisforlovers.wordpress.com)
- You’re Never Going to Make a Living as a Yoga Teacher (and Other Things Nobody Tells You at Yoga Teacher Training). (elephantjournal.com)