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Side Hustle Series: I’m a Yoga Instructor

by J. Money on Thursday, May 31, 2012

yoga pose beach

(Guest article by your average 30-year-old with a full-time job, teaching yoga for the peace of mind and extra dough :) As part of our Side Hustle Series.)

I started practicing yoga three years ago after injuring myself training for a marathon.  I was going to classes 5-7 times a week and it wasn’t long before I started imagining my life getting paid to practice yoga and getting certified to teach my own classes.  For me, yoga was the avenue I chose because I was good at it, but for you, this might mean Pilates, spin, Zumba, and the choices go on and on.

How To Get Started

Getting certified to teach a fitness class can be time consuming, and will most likely require an initial investment on your part, but there are quite a few programs out there that will get you certified and ready to teach.

My particular yoga program was 9 weeks long (mostly weekends) and required about a $2,500 investment – but this was also a top notch program and Yoga Alliance accredited.  This basically translates to being able to teach just about anywhere (studios, health clubs, gyms, YMCAs, private companies, hospitals, churches, you name it).  To be certified to teach a basic gym yoga class may only require a day of your time.  There are quite a few other certifications that might only require a weekend and cost in the hundreds.  The initial time and money can be a tough pill to swallow, but the money isn’t hard to recoup.

How Much You Can Make

As a yoga teacher, you can expect to be paid anywhere from $15-$40+ per hour.  This depends on the market you live in (Chicago and NYC will pay more than say Denver or Dallas) and where you’re teaching.  An upscale studio, spa or health club will pay higher than the local YMCA or community rec center.  The “hour” might also include being at the studio to open up 20-30 minutes before class and can include staying afterward to clean up and lock the doors.

As for private lessons, most teachers charge from $60 and up per hour.  Some of the studios I teach at will allow me to use the space for that as long as there isn’t another class scheduled.  There are also studios that will pay you per student in the class so it’s mostly about finding a space and money situation that works best for you.  I’ve found I prefer the gym setting because I walk in to the classroom, teach the class (usually less than an hour) and then leave without any other duties.

The best benefits?  I no longer pay for gym memberships or studio classes, since everywhere I teach gives me access as part of my employment.  One of the places where I teach has also offered me the chance to get certified in other disciplines (Pilates, personal training, etc.) and they would pay for it.  My husband can also often practice yoga in my classes for free and he has a very reduced price spouse membership at one of my gyms.

How I Got Started

I had an interesting situation when I started as we moved from Chicago to Dallas about 3 weeks after I finished my certification classes.  If I had stayed, teaching jobs would have been slightly easier to find as I could have applied to stay on where I took my cert classes and I already had contacts at several studios and gyms. Starting from scratch in Dallas, however, was easier than I thought it would be.

jenny blake yogaFirst, I contacted quite a few group fitness coordinators and studio owners.  I found my own class to teach within a week and broke into some other places by offering to be on their sub list (teachers or managers will contact you when a class is available to be subbed and this happens ALL THE TIME).  I’ve actually found that substitute teaching is more convenient for me (since I also work full-time) so that I can teach when I want to and as my schedule allows.

I started teaching in September and have already recouped all of my training fees.

The money I’m making now via teaching goes directly into a new travel bank account I set up.  Doing it this way has made me more motivated to pick up classes as each one makes that vacation fund grow!  I’ve also had some regularly schedule classes fall into my lap as time has gone on, and I’m at the point where I’m turning things down from time to time because I’ve gotten so busy.

My original thought behind getting certified was that I might do it as more of a full-time hustle if we ever have kids and I want to quit my current gig.  For now, my goal is to get on every sub list in town and continue to get my name out there so that when I do want to take this as more than just a side hustle, I’ll be ready.  I’m currently turning down 1-2 classes a week that I’m offered, and in fact I was just offered another permanent class opportunity via email while writing this up for J$!

Other Things to Keep In Mind

As a fitness instructor, you are typically paid as an independent contractor so you will have to be aware of the taxes that need to be paid at the end of the year. However, you can also write off quite a few of your expenses related to teaching:

  • workout clothing
  • mats and other props/gear
  • pedicures (because who wants a yoga teacher with gross feet!)
  • cell phone usage/internet
  • music purchases for class playlists, etc.

Some places will also require you to have your own yoga liability insurance (less than $200/year) and to get CPR certified, but again, one of my employers pays for me to do this and pays me for the time in training.  Next year, I will most likely not carry insurance for myself since my current employers don’t require it (unless I have an influx of private lessons coming in).

You also have to be comfortable in front of people as your students will watch your every move.   I was nervous before I started the certification program, but my teachers did a great job of preparing us for that.

Yoga in The Future

The yoga and fitness community is exploding right now and there are constantly opportunities for growth.  In the six months we’ve been in Texas, several new studios have opened, existing studios have remodeled and expanded, and most gyms are trying to offer more classes to their members.

I had to hustle for a couple of months when we got here, but now that I’ve become more established the opportunities to make money have been falling into my lap.  It’s especially great as a side hustle since most of the classes are held in the early morning, lunch hours or evenings.

If you love yoga or fitness, give it a shot!

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Got a side hustle YOU’D like to share with us? Let us know!

(Top photo by lululemon athletica, bottom photo by Sean Ogle of the beautiful Jenny Blake!)


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 NancyO May 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

my upsale yoga studio charges $90 for students and $120 for everyone else. If you clean the studio for 3/hours a week, you get free yoga. You also get about 50% off all their yoga trainings, boot camps, and other programs.

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2 From Shopping to Saving May 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm

This is AWESOME. I fell in love with pilates a few years ago when I was in college, and I have thought about teaching. The pilates studio I go to right now have teacher certification and they are expanding quickly. I’m going back to school and moving, but I was thinking it would be an amazing opportunity if I wasn’t. I would love to do it though.

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3 Stephanie C May 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm

What a great article – thanks for sharing your experience! I’ve thought about becoming a dog obedience trainer and am looking at the different training and certifications there are.

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4 Amy Lou May 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I’m not so sure about writing of pedis… That’s a stretch.

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5 Christina May 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I highly doubt you can legally write off a pedicure.

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6 Shannon-ReadyForZero May 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching yoga myself, but feel that I need to become more skilled at it first. I also wondered if it was possible to make enough to make up for the cost of yoga instructor training. This has motivated me to get more serious about it though, thanks so much for writing about your experience!

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7 Wayne @ Young Family Finance May 31, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Seeing how you made up your costs so fast is very encouraging. My wife is attempting to do a little “side-hustle” of her own and get an extra teaching certification. It can be hard to put up the initial investment, but it helps to think of how much it can make in the future. Do you think that yoga will continue to have such a large following in the US, or do you think it will eventually decline as a fad?

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8 Side Hustle Yoga Teacher June 1, 2012 at 8:50 am

NancyO brings up a really great point. If I had known about the Yoga For Trade (YFT) program before I decided to get certified, I could have saved half of what I paid.

I can’t stress enough how positive this experience has been for me but before I started, I was really nervous (doubted my abilities, worried about the money, etc.). My only regret was not doing it sooner. I’m lucky that my husband convinced me to take the leap of faith and just sign up. The initial payment was a tough pill to swallow but it’s allowed us a financial freedom that we didn’t have before and for a truly negligible 3-6 hours of my week. I wrote this for J$ awhile back and I’m still turning down work and opportunities regularly because I don’t have the time. A co-worker of mine recently started teaching full-time and studios continue to open and flourish in our area.

I think yoga/fitness have a lot more room to grow. Fitness gets more and more importance every year and group fitness classes will continue to draw people (just like me) that are more likely to get the workout in with other people to hold them accountable. Yoga, in particular, draws people in because it’s a workout followed by some light meditation and relaxation. The busier we get as a society, the more that it becomes a necessity.

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9 PB @ Economically Humble June 1, 2012 at 10:45 am

This was a GREAT post. My partner just finished her yoga certification and is doing the same thing. I’m gonna report your story on my site… it has tons of great tips for the new instructor!

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10 Melissa@LittleHouseInTheValley June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Thanks for sharing. This sounds like a great way to save money on costs you were already incurring as well as making money, so it is a win-win.

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11 J. Money June 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Glad y’all liked this one! I still have yet to try Yoga or Pilates or any of that kinda stuff – even though I WOULD be up for it as it looks pretty peaceful and relaxing :) I feel like I’d need to go w/ friends or something though as I don’t have the balls to try it on my own, haha… maybe one day…

And thanks again to Mrs. Anonymous Side Hustler for sharing this with us today! Very very cool stuff, you’re awesome.

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12 Mr. Everyday Dollar June 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I have been thinking about yoga as a side hustle. I currently pay $99/mo for hot yoga! The break even point for getting certified for $2500 and teaching for $40/class would be 63 classes. If you figure you can teach at least once a week that’s close to a year which is not bad at all! Plus, typically you get free yoga classes or reduced cost at the studio you teach at which makes it a win win.

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13 Simple Rich Living June 16, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Hi there, thanks for sharing. I got into yoga (primarily hot yoga) about a year ago and I haven’t been practicing as much as I would like to. About two weeks ago, I learned that one of girls I know is yoga instructor certified and I started to think about getting trained myself. I plan to get yoga instructor certified this Fall/Winter and plan to do it as a side hustle. Like some of you already mentioned, I am a lot of growth opportunities in the fitness/yoga industry for the future. Once certified, it gives me the flexibility to pretty much teach anywhere and as much or as little as I want to (assuming I can find work that is).

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14 J. Money June 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm

@Mr. Everyday Dollar – Hot Yoga? Never heard of but sounds better than normal yoga! ;) Let us know if you end up going for it – 1 year ’till break even isn’t that bad at all.
@Simple Rich Living – Yeah, go for it! You and Mr. Everyday Dollar can teach “hot” yoga together maybe? ;)

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