As a yoga/pilates teacher, it’s not unusual to dream of one day having your very own studio. A space to share what you love most about the practice in your own unique way. A space to let your creative juices flow – developing schedules and workshops and maybe even eventually teacher trainings. A space where you can decide what to adorn the walls with. A space that you want to practice in. A space that feels like your very own home away from home. A space for you to create your own community, and an opportunity to allow others to receive the benefits of a practice you’ve found so very fulfilling in your own life.
I have been practicing yoga for 15 years and since becoming a teacher 7 years ago have been immersed in the industry through my work as a multi-tasking manager of a big yoga business and now the editor of Australian Yoga Journal. During this time, I have managed a studio, visited a plethora of them, met an abundance of amazing owners and read countless articles on the topic of studio ownership.
But I never saw myself as a studio owner until recently, when I finally decided I wanted to settle. Now that I’ve made Lismore my home, I’ve decided it’s time to create my own space. A mere few weeks into studio ownership and I’ve already learned so much. Based on my own experience and the experiences of many others before me, I present to you my top tips on starting your very own yoga haven.
Accept that you’ll never be fully ready
Just like having kids, you’ll never feel fully prepared for studio ownership. And, just like kids, this little baby is going to simultaneously suck the life out of you and reward you with more love and joy than you ever thought possible. Like with many things in life, if you think too hard or for too long, you’ll never take the next step, and you’ll miss out on opportunities as a result. Dive on in.
Start small, with minimal risks
Of course there’s an element of throwing yourself in the deep end when it comes to creating your own studio. But that doesn’t mean you have to commit to a lease right away. If you don’t already have a big following, you could try renting a space a few times a week or teaching some classes from home.
Removing the financial pressure from the scenario means that you can rock up and do what you love, without the burden of that little voice in your head reminding you that you need X number of students to cover costs. You can lovingly teach your 2 students – who will become your biggest fans and your first clients when you are ready to sign that lease.
Don’t forget the boring bits
Yep, I said it. There are going to be a few items on that ‘to do list’ that will make you cringe, but they’re no less important than the fun stuff, and are essential in allowing you to clarify your goals and take the steps towards achieving them. First things first – you’ll want a business plan. Depending on the size of your business and what you’re hoping to achieve, this can be a simple one-page document, or 20 (or more!) pages that outline your mission, finances, marketing plan etc. There are plenty of templates online that will help you to develop this, and you’ll feel so accomplished when it’s done.
The business plan will allow you to really refine your vision (which is fundamental for selling your services), figure out how many students you need to cover costs (and if you can accommodate them all) and understand the market and competitors in your area.
Work smarter, not harder
As yoga and pilates teachers we have so much passion and enthusiasm for the work that we do, and sometimes this means we pile our plate so high that we end up burning out. You might become so excited about offering an abundant timetable that you end up teaching 15 classes with 2 students each, instead of filling a handful of classes. I know you love what you do, but anything can become exhausting if you do too much of it. Start small, build up your classes, then add more to the schedule when the demand is there. Look at the facts and the numbers, and even consider partnering with someone who has the skills to compliment what you have to offer.
The first time I hired a space to teach yoga from, I had one student. After that class I went home and cried. These days, if I have 2 students I’m stoked. I know that by nurturing and sharing the gift of yoga with these 2 people, they will eventually become 4…and so on and so on and so on. These things take time. Years. Enjoy those small classes while they last. They are the seeds of your community. They are your friends. And they will likely be your students for a very long time.
Community, not clients
While the business side of things is essential, it’s also important to remember that a part of what we’re doing is building a community. And this is one of the things that we love about what we do. Keep asking yourself, how can I nurture my community? How can my studio give back? At many studios (my own included), you’ll see donation classes on offer. Let’s be honest – not everyone is fortunate enough to have a spare $30 a week to spend on exercise and wellbeing.
Offering a donation or discounted class shows that you’re committed to sharing the practice, and you’re about building community, not dollars (Note: dollars are also good and it’s okay to make some of them in the process of building your yoga family – you need them for essential things like shelter and food).
Never underestimate the power of WOM
You may only have a few students now, but if you give them what they need, they’ll keep coming back – and not only that, but they’ll tell their friends. Our recent survey showed that for yoga and pilates teachers Word of Mouth is still their most successful form of advertising. And the best thing is – it doesn’t cost a thing! All you have to do is keep taking care of those students you have now, and the rest will come.
Choose teachers who you like and trust
I don’t know about you, but I have always found that if I like the teacher, I’ll like the class. They don’t have to be the best or the most experienced, but if I feel safe and supported in their presence and like them as a person – I will always love being in their class. Skills can be improved, but a kind and genuine personality is hard to create. Forget about how many followers they have on Instagram. Choose teachers who you love being around. If you’re doing your job well, you are going to be around them a lot!
Remember what you love, and keep doing that
Don’t forget why you’re here. You love the practice. One of the great things about owning a studio is that you can participate in other teachers’ classes for free. Keep showing up as a student. Keep learning and nurturing yourself as a teacher. Keep discovering more about the things that you love and enjoy sharing them with your community.