Season 2 :: Episode 2
Francesca: Thanks for having me. Hi, Racheal. Hi, everybody.
Racheal: We have spent some time really mapping out what we want to talk about with you guys this season because now that you’ve been mentoring over 100 yoga teachers.
I’ve mentored hundreds of yoga teachers in their yoga businesses, there’s a lot of challenges that teachers are facing as they’re starting their career.
One of the biggest things, I think, both of us are seeing is teachers who are brand new to teaching yoga getting caught up in all the things they think that they should be focused on instead of the things that really impact their teaching and their ability to get a business of the ground in a relatively short time frame.
Today, we’re talking about how to start a yoga business, even if you’re an absolute beginner.
I’m excited to have Francesca join me on this because she’s been there, done it and should have written a book somewhere along the line about what it looks like to really start as a beginner.
As we were making notes about what we wanted to talk about, one of the first things that came to both of our minds is you don’t need a website, you don’t need an email list, and you don’t need a fancy photo shoot.
You don’t need any of that. That’s just window dressing.
Francesca: Yeah. I just want to jump in and framework this conversation. I think before you can even think about starting a business — a yoga business — you need to have a teaching career.
You have to first build a teaching career to become a better teacher, to know what kind of teacher you are, to know who you want to work with and why. Once you’ve been teaching for a long time and you have a career to stand on, you get to mold it into a more specific business.
Racheal: I love that. I think this is very, very true. One of the challenges for yoga teachers is that, often, when you are graduating a 200-hour teacher training, you have never taught before.
If you start right there trying to create a business with basically zero experience, you’re really setting yourself up for, honestly, the hardest mountain you’ll ever climb.
You can see that you want to be a teacher, you can see what it could look like — you’re visioning it and you have it all mapped out what it would look like — but your skill-set isn’t there yet.
There’s a great quote that I love from Ira Glass. This is for more creative people, but I think it’s also applies here. He says:
“No one tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste, but there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make sure, it’s just not that good.
It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. The taste, the thing that got you into the game is still killer and your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit.
Most people I know who do interesting, creative work, went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have the special thing we want it to have. We all go through this. If you’re just starting out or if you’re still in this phase, you’ve got to know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a deadline so every week you’ll finish one story. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you’ll close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambition.”
I think that sums up so much of what we want to talk about today.
Francesca: Yeah. Yeah, it does. It sets us up well because you and I both have such a clear focus on doing the work, on doing the hustle and on being down in the trenches and doing the digging that you have to do to get good at what you want to do.
That has to be your first step.
Racheal: Your first step is definitely doing the work. First step, new beginner yoga teacher, get out there and start building your teaching career.
Let’s talk about, quickly, what it means to start building a yoga career when you’ve never taught before, you have no experience.
In the last episode we talked about how when you started in New York City, you didn’t know anybody and you didn’t have any place to teach.
What is the first step that you think we should focus on for people who don’t have the skills and they don’t have the experience and they might not have the community there quite yet?
Francesca: You have to be out in the community.
You have to find the studios and the teachers that you like and that you resonate with and be practicing there with them and build relationships with the teachers in the studios and the communities that you want to be a part of.
You can’t go in there, drop off your teaching resume and leave.
If you want to teach at a studio, you go and you take class and you become friends with the people who teacher there.
I’ve mentioned this in the interview that we did. You have to teach in a lot of different environments to strengthen your teaching chops and to figure out who it is that you want to teach and what it is that you really want to do with your yoga teaching.
When we do our first 200-hour teaching training, you have a general sense of, “I want to help people. I want to teach yoga.”
It’s only by being out there teaching that you figure out what that really means to you.
Racheal: Yeah. I love that. I think this comes into closing that experience gap and really honing your craft.
You were in a big city — you were in New York City — when you started going out there and building those relationships and meeting all the studio owners and dropping off your resume, but also showing up and taking classes and getting to know other yoga teachers.
That would be great for people who are in a city where there happens to be an existing, thriving yoga community.
I also see a lot of people who are not in the big major metropolitan areas and there’s not many studios. Some places where there might not even be a yoga studio.
I would say in that case one of the biggest challenges I see for new yoga teachers is they’re waiting for an opportunity to show up on their doorstep.
The truth is, the more I’ve worked with people since 2008 in this world, I’ve seen that the people who have those opportunities showing up at their doorstep have them show up because they made them happen.
They went out and created their own opportunities.
If you’re not in a huge yoga-centric city, is there a gym near you? Is there a wellness center near you? Is there a chiropractor near you?
Who is also out there offering wellness that you can connect with and start planting those seeds, whether you teach their clients or teach classes for them or whatever?
- Can you teach in the park?
- Can you create an opportunity to teach in a church?
I’ve had people teach in art galleries and had people teach on the rooftops of museums. All sorts of crazy things, but those opportunities only show up if you put yourself out there and are constantly asking for the opportunities.
Francesca: I have this lovely teacher who just finished my online teacher training this winter. She lives in this teeny tiny town in England.
It’s several hours away From London, but it’s so small there’s not a single yoga studio in it, which I think at this point means it’s a pretty small town, because yoga is everywhere.
There’s no yoga studio in her town. The closest yoga studio is over an hour away. She’s a full time teacher and she’s created that because she rents space.
I’m trying to remember where it is, if it’s in a gym or if — it’s in some kind of a big community space. She rents space three or four nights a week and she teaches group classes there.
Over the course of the last three years, she’s built it up so she teaches over 60 people a week.
She has 15 or 20 or 25 people in every class, which in this small town people have never heard of yoga. I was so impressed. I thought that was incredible.
Racheal: I love hearing stuff like that.
Francesca: We’re trying to figure out how to get her more private clients out of this whole place, so we were brainstorming some ways to do it. I asked her how many people she was teaching a week and she said 60.
I thought she said 16 and I was like, “Sixteen. That’s good!” She was like, “No, sixty. Six, zero.” I was like, “What? That’s amazing.” She just completely created that opportunity for herself in every way.
Teachers will sometimes say, “There’s no yoga here. There’s no yoga teachers here.”
Racheal: There’s no opportunities here because there’s not a studio or there’s not a gym. I grew up in a small town.
My hometown, the only wellness center growing up was a small wellness center attached to the hospital and it was really because it was like a therapeutic wellness center.
But, when I had my twins and we went to my hometown — we lived there for like a good eight months — I actually started teaching yoga in the community center of our neighborhood. It was not big, it was not fancy. Honestly, I traded cleaning the community center in exchange for hosting my class in the open event area.
Francesca: That’s cool!
Racheal: It was the only yoga in the entire town because there was no yoga anything. But I had 10 people showing up twice a week for a little group class.
Francesca: I love that.
Racheal: If I would have decided to continue teaching, I definitely knew that there was an opportunity there if I could find 10 people in the middle of nowhere in a country town with a very, very small population and there’s no wellness centers, no yoga, no natural holistic healthcare there, no Whole Foods.
There was still an opportunity.
Francesca: Yeah. I think it’s sometimes even a bigger opportunity. When teachers will say, “I don’t know if I can do it here because people don’t know yoga. There’s no yoga here.”
It’s like, “I think you’re lucky.” I think it’s such an amazing opportunity if there’s no one else trying to do what you’re doing, if you can figure out how to talk about yoga in a way that is accessible to the people that are there.
Then it’s like a goldmine because you don’t have any competition.
Racheal: I love that.
Create opportunity wherever you can, say yes to opportunities — whether that means teaching at gyms, renting space and finding a way to teacher there, partnering with other holistic health wellness providers to work with their clients — but, it comes down to you need a teaching career first.
You’ve got to build your chops as a yoga teacher. You’ve got to gain that experience.
The first couple of years really is a commitment to mastering the art of teaching yoga. That’s something I think a lot of people forget because we want to skip right into, “This is my calling! This is what I’m meant to do!”
You still have to lay the foundation. You must instill that groundwork.
There’s always a big difference between the teachers who knew that and had that mindset going in and they knew they had to lay that foundation, they knew they had to build the skill setup, they knew they had to get this experience from the teachers who come out and are very wide eyed and, “This is all going to magically appear for me.”
Racheal: That’s really, really an important thing to be thinking of, I think.
Francesca: Yeah. I hope that what this conversation does for newer teachers is take some of the pressure off.
You don’t have to know what you want to call yourself. You don’t need a website, you don’t need a business card. Let’s take some of the pressure off.
Take the pressure off yourself.
Just go out there and teach and enjoy teaching and practice teaching. Then all of that stuff — where you’re supposed to take your career, what its’ going to look like, if you have a website, what that looks like — that stuff will be made clear because you’ll be teaching a lot.
Racheal: Because you’ve done the work and now you have a point of view or you have your own style. This is something I see a lot of people putting the cart before the horse.
They think they need all of these business things before they’ve actually just started working with people. A lot of people come to me and they are like, “I have this idea for what I want to do. I need a website. I need a brand. I need photos.”
I’m just like, “No. Have you worked with anyone yet? Have you proved that you can help people or that your idea makes sense to people or that this is something they actually want?”
It’s incredibly challenging when you start with putting all the wrapping around this thing and it’s like giving somebody a present. You’ve wrapped the outside — it’s looks beautiful — but when they open the box, there’s really nothing of value inside for them.
That’s what you have to do first is create what it is that you have to really offer people, what is that value I’m here to provide?
You can do all the exercises in the world — I teach a lot of exercises to help people figure this out — but really, it just comes down to doing the work, working with people, talking with people and building that experience.
Francesca: Right. It’s best for people to come to this, “How do I create a business work? What does my brand look like,” with a few years of teaching under their belt already.
Racheal: Absolutely. I think that’s another piece to keep in mind. If you know you’re going into teacher training with the intention that you want to be a full time yoga teacher, know that you might be spending the first couple of years closing this experience gap.
Don’t quit your day job.
Teach as much as you can on the side and get ready to hustle and plant those seeds and make those relationships and do all the teaching you can do so that when you do launch as a full time business, you have a clear point of view, you have a message, you know exactly what you stand for and who you’re here to help.
The only way you can do that is by working with people, by teaching people and by being there.
Francesca: This is so cool. I love hearing you say that because — I hope that people really hear you because this is what you do.
You teach yoga teachers how to create a brand and how to create a business and how to run that business in a successful way, so to hear you say, “Do some teaching first,” I hope that people really hear that.
Racheal: I hope it does, too, because one of the reasons I love you and your story so much is people assume that there’s some marketing trick that you did to become a successful private yoga teacher for so many years.
But, I always assume that by the time somebody gets to me that they know what they’re doing, that they have experience under their belt and they actually have a point of view, they have put in the 10,000 hours to become a master at whatever it is that they do.
Francesca: Yeah. Yeah.
Racheal: I often find myself having to take people back a few steps saying, “No, no, no. Hold on. First, can we go get you working with 20 people? Can we just do that before we invest a lot of time and energy into something?”
This is one of the challenges I see for people who do try to start with a website and the business cards and a photo shoot and all this stuff because it’s so backwards, they are the people that are most likely to go back in six months and change the whole thing again.
Their website changes. Their mission changes. The type of things they’re offering change.
If you want to be — honestly, I thing one of the reasons a lot of yoga teachers are seen as flaky and are seen as not serious about what they do and not professional about what they do is because they don’t do this work first.
They don’t do the work of getting to know what they really have to offer; they don’t work with enough students or enough clients or teach enough classes.
They just go about the process kind of backwards. You can put lipstick on a pig, and at the end of the day it’s still a pig. That’s such a southern saying, but it’s true.
You can dress it all up, you can have the fanciest website, but at the end of the day when somebody signs up to work with you, if they’re not getting the value that it looked like you were offering, they’re not going to be the clients who stay with you for eight years.
Francesca: Yeah, but it’s so great this idea.
It’s just go teach, enjoy teaching, teach in a lot of really hard, challenging places to teach — like I was telling you in our interview that I taught seniors in a park.
I’ve taught at a lot gyms that didn’t even have a dedicated space for yoga. I’ve taught in a lot of really challenging places and that made me such a stronger teacher and it made it more and more clear what it was that I wanted to do.
I think that this path of creating a yoga business, if you’re up for it, gets to be so organic and easy and fun.
Racheal: Take the pressure off.
Francesca: Yeah. I really want to take the pressure off of new teachers. If you just focus on teaching and what kind of teaching is fun for you right now.
For me, my business grew so slowly and so organically and I’ve loved all of it — all the different phases I’ve been in — and I’m in a phase right now that I love so much.
After 10 years of doing this, I’ve got my ideal schedule. I teach four days a week. I don’t teach at night, I don’t teach on the weekends, I don’t teach on Mondays.
But, my days are really full with clients that I love teaching. But that took years and years of just doing it to figure out what it was I wanted to do.
Racheal: A little bit of trial and error.
Francesca: A lot of trial and error. A lot of really hard work and a lot of hustle. But, it’s like it gets to be relaxed and easy and fun.
It doesn’t have to be filled with doubt, it doesn’t have to be filled with competition, and it doesn’t have to be stressful. It gets to be… it gets to feel good if you just focus on what’s important to you about teaching.
If you really have clear in your mind, “What do I want to teach? What’s important to me about teaching?” then your path will be illuminated for you.
Racheal: I love that. I think that’s a perfect place to wrap this conversation. Just get out there, build your teaching career, start teaching and the path will light up right in front of you.
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