8 Reasons You Aren't (Already) Making Money Teaching Private Yoga Sessions + Action Steps

This blog post is one in a series of the #yogateachertour, a blog tour for yoga teachers looking to up-level their impact by teaching one-on-one private yoga sessions and creating a sustainable business around, powerful individual work. There are a number of awesome yoga experts contributing to the tour over the course of the month. Be sure to check out Kate Connell's post on the top five mistakes (and strategies to avoid them) she made when she started teaching private yoga. And check out tomorrow's post by Erin Aquin, too. Want to get all the #yogateachertour love? Follow along on social media using the hashtag #yogateachertour and get access to all of the insights and a-ha moments here.

8 Reasons You Aren't (Already) Making Money Teaching Private Yoga Sessions

Today I really want to start with the reasons you're not already making money teaching private yoga sessions. (The #1 reason is not what you think).

Before I tell you the #1 reason, I want to let you know that I completely understand how tough it is to ask for a fair wage, how hard it is to find clients for one-on-one sessions, and how difficult it is to teach skillful private yoga sessions. It is difficult to get established as a private yoga teacher.

But listen up, sister (or brother) in yoga. That's NOT why you're not making money teaching private yoga sessions.

You ready for the Honesty Pill? (grab a sip of water - the #1 reason is hard to swallow)

You're not making money teaching private yoga sessions because ....

#1. You aren't inviting people to work with you privately

Yep, that's right: YOU aren't asking for the sale! Instead of being pro-active and approaching your would-be Dream Clients, you're waiting around, hoping the dedicated attendees in your weekly group class will come flocking up to you after that amazeballs class you just delivered throwing dolla-dolla bills, yo! Or at least dropping a "Namaste, yo, do you teach private classes?"

Well, keep waiting sweetheart.

Here's the thing: it's your responsibility to share your services with the Dream Client's who need them most.

Here's the thing: you could keep getting more training (and you really should, if you aren't solid in your anatomy or if you're teaching skills could use some polishing. See #2). Or, you could take the lead. You could help people (i.e., your Dream Clients) understand what a one-on-one yoga session (or 10-pack) can ACTUALLY do for their practice / their sleep quality / their health / their handstand.

Because just like the rest of the human race, your Dream Clients know what they want...NOT what they need. It's up to you to take the lead and connect the dots between what they want (see #3 to figure out what they want) with what they need: one-on-one attention and the support to lovingly challenge, nurture and guide the evolution of their practice.

You (and your awesome private yoga sessions) are the solution your Dream Clients are seeking. When you realize that, everything you do comes from a place of generosity and service. When you realize that, it's 100% easier to follow up their compliment on your most recent group class with a "Have you ever considered a one-on-one session to help you [insert the #1 thing they want]?"

It is up to you to connect the dots between their biggest desire (or frustration) and your services. Then, understand that you are coming from a place of service. Finally, take the lead! Invite them to work with you one-on-one....then make the sale (see below). That's the missing link between your marketing efforts and actually making money teaching private yoga.

@@YOGA TEACHERS: Do you know the missing link btwn marketing + dollars thru the door? @kellie_adkins #yogabiz #yogateachertour@@

What to do:

Take the lead. The next time a student comes up after class and drops a "that was such an amazing class!" or "I just want you to know that I sleep so well after your class!" or "I just gotta tell you that your class has totally saved my marriage" or "OMGosh, I am so inspired by your sexy biceps / rocking handstand!," suggest that a one-on-one session is the best way to get some serious leverage (and long-lasting) results in their yoga practice. Let them know that you practice [insert # of times you practice a week] to [insert what it is that they commented/complimented you on] and that with a one-on-one session, they too can [insert outcome they care about: feel more balanced / feel better in their body / see big changes in their practice].

You must get over your fear and ask for the sale, already!  You need be the leader. YOU are the expert on yoga - not your students (unless they are. See #4). Your potential students started yoga for a reason: knowing what they want and how you (and YOGA) can help them get it, is the key to filling your private client list. And your bank account.

Simple Script to invite the client to work with you. [feel free to make this your own!]

Dream Client: I just want to let you know that the only night I sleep well is Tuesdays, right after your amazing Restorative class.

You: I'm so happy to hear that! Did you know Restorative yoga can help calm the nervous system and regularize your sleeping patterns? I'd love to work with you one-on-one to help you sleep better - more than once a week!

Dream Client: What, like a private session? I didn't know you offered that.

You: I sure do and I'd love to work with you. We could meet once a week for the next month and I'd teach you simple practices to help you rest better all week long. My next available opening is [insert next time] and I offer a new student special of [insert new student incentive or package rate: such as 4 sessions for $375]. I offer incentives for payment up front or we can figure out a payment plan that works for you!

I know stating a session time and a price may feel disconcerting for you, dear private yoga teacher. Remember to focus on the value the client will receive: in the above example, it's the ability to have more restful sleep. People pay for what they value.

P.S. Inevitably, some people (even your Dream Clients) will get Sticker Shock. There are specific ways to deal with that and learning how to anticipate their reaction is key! See #7.

#2: You don't know how to identify your Dream Client

In fact, you might even think your Dream Client is "someone who does yoga or maybe wants to do yoga."

Repeat after me: "I can serve anyone, but I can't serve everyone."

One size fits all marketing will not work (example: Feel better with yoga! Come to my class!). You will reach no-one. Conversely, limiting your message by honing in on a specific target market will actually expand your reach (Example: Are you struggling to balance your energy and tired of feeling tired? Join me for Restorative Yoga for Women's Health - a gentle class designed to harmonize feminine energy and expand your  inner and outer resources).

@@You can serve anyone, but you can't serve everyone. @kellie_adkins #yogabiz #yogateachertour@@

What to do:

You must understand who you want to work with and why YOU are the perfect-for-them teacher. In other words, you have to niche down to expand out. If you're struggling to find clients, chances are your marketing is too general. Take some time to figure out WHY you do what you do (Why do you teach yoga?), WHAT is it that you have to share (What is it that you really teach?), WHO you really love to work with (Who is your perfect client?) and HOW you do it differently (How are you / your classes special?).

YogaPro Tip: Completing this process will help you solve the "I don't know where to find private clients" conundrum.

#3: You don't know what your Dream Client wants or needs

It's not enough to know who your Dream Client is. You have to figure out their biggest problem, deepest desire or biggest need: then YOU have to create a solution.

What to do:

Once you figure out who your Dream Clients are, brainstorm their biggest needs and wants like the examples below:

Dream Client: New moms

Needs/wants: Better sleep, time for self-care, feeling nurtured, getting 'back to their body,' feeling desirable again

Dream Client: Middle-aged athletes

Needs/wants: more energy, better flexibility to strength ratio, anti-aging/restorative practices, appropriate cross-training to avoid injury

YogaPro Tip:Then - create a service, package or series class to address those needs/wants.

#4: You don't feel confident enough / qualified enough to teach private yoga

First, I hear you. Totally. But if you were fortunate enough to attend a quality training that emphasized the skills difference for private yoga sessions vs. group sessions, and you've had a bit of practice teaching (50 hours or so), then you are probably ready. (Big ole' caveat: if you can't tell your humerus from your gastrocnemius, if you have no clue of yoga contraindications or if you are unable to teach a class without performing every posture, too ... then you are NOT ready. Please get some additional training so you will avoid injuring your clients -and yourself.)

What to do:

Competence breeds confidence. Master your skills by hiring a private yoga teacher mentor (here or here ) to help you refine the differences between teaching one-on-one and group sessions. Get focused training in therapeutic yoga and yoga therapy. Figure out who you want to work with, what it is they need and how you can use your skills, strengths and training to provide it.

#5: Your chaotic schedule is inhibiting profit from your one-on-one work

In the service-based industry, the hard truth is that you don't get paid for non-client contact hours. Which means that if you want to earn a good living teaching yoga, your rates need to reflect the hours you spend doing administrative tasks (each new client brings an amount of admin work), transition time (the time between clients and/or the time spent traveling from location to location), and promotion/ marketingtime and costs. If you are offering whenever/wherever private yoga sessions, you will quickly burnout and may actually see diminishing returns from your one-on-one work.

What to do:

Create the space in your schedule for one-on-one work. Choose 1-3 days and time chunks on each of those days for your work with one-on-one clients. Then, when you invite clients to work with you, offer them a choice within those time chunks. Book clients as close to back-to-back as possible (allow 15 minutes between session if you are using a designated space) then FILL THOSE SLOTS FIRST. Once you fill your 1-3 days, begin to branch out.

How do you do that? Check out this sample script:

"Ok, [Client name], based on your intake form responses, your goals for yoga practice and the initial session, I suggest we work together [insert #of times per month] for [insert length of time].

I'm confident that you'll see [insert the outcome that you feel is appropriate -this is related to Client's goals and needs for yoga] with regular sessions over a period of [insert length of time].

I offer private yoga on [insert days of week and time range] and can get you on my calendar as early as [insert your next available date]. Which is better for you: [GIVE 2 OPTIONS: insert DAY of week and TIME of day]?"

Yoga Pro Tip: If the client then asks for another time, consider how that will affect your transition time. Then decide if you want to offer it.

#6: You're undercharging

A number of factors go into setting rates and deciding how much to charge per session varies yoga teacher to yoga teacher. That said, there are some general things to consider. There is an art and a science to pricing strategy but the most important thing to remember is that undercharging for a private yoga session does a huge disservice to yourself, to your clients and to your brother and sister teachers. Undercharging for a premium service actually harms our industry.

@@Yoga Teachers: Are your private #yoga rates too low?@@

What to do:

First, you must remember to factor in your transition time and non-billable hours (#5). Then, consider what other services your Dream Client is already paying for (massage? personal training? acupuncture?). Next, take a hard look at your own finances and schedule: how many hours do you have to devote to private yoga and how much do you need to earn to remain in financial ease? Finally, consider what other teachers (of your caliber and experience) are charging.

This process can actually be FUN when you embrace it as a challenge!

#7: You don't know how to deal with your Dream Client's "Sticker Shock"

So you've done the work of setting your rates (not an easy feat) and you've connected with a Dream Client and pitched them your services. Woo-hoo! But we've all been there: you quote a rate for a one-on-one session and your Dream Client gasps and immediately says "I can't afford that" (or some variation on the theme). Panic and shame rise in your chest and the following thoughts rapid-fire through your brain: maybe I AM charging too much! Why do I think I deserve that? Yoga is service! I should discount the session. No - I should give it away for free!.

Listen up, darling: the problem isn't your pricing. As long as you are charging a reasonable rate for a one-on-one session (more on that later) then the problem isn't your price: it's the potential client's reaction to the price and your response (or lack thereof). Many people don't understand the level of skill, support and attention they will receive with a one-on-one session. When you quote them a fair wage (between $75-$150), they are comparing the cost of a generic, one-size-fits-all group class ($15 or $20?) to a person-centered, customized, high-level service. It's apples and oranges. And it is up to you, dear private yoga teacher, to educate them about the difference.

@@Struggling to fill your Private #yoga sessions? The problem isn't your pricing@@

What to do:

Anticipate their reaction and deflect it before they even have it. This starts by YOU showing them the value of one-on-one work. How do you do that? Make the connection between what they want and need...and what you are offering! Value is a perception, not a fixed quality. People value what is important to them - and what is most important to your Dream Client is having their needs met, getting their problems solved and seeing their desires actualized. Once you take the lead and connect the dots for them, voilà! 

Before you can do any of this, however, you need to be clear on your Dream Client. And you need to become proficient at showing the value of your work. If you aren't clear on What you do, Why you do it, Who you serve and How you do it differently than every other yoga teacher in the universe, then we should talk.

#8: You don't want to work with people one-on-one

Maybe it's a bit obvious but not everyone WANTS to be a private yoga teacher. Even though it's a fast track to more financial ease as a yoga teacher, that doesn't mean it's the only way! There are so many ways to share yoga and yes, teaching private yoga sessions is one way to add 5 figures to your bottom line this year, but there are so many other options. If you don't know how you like to work with people, do some inner work to get clear.

The point is, if you aren't filled with delight at the prospect of working with clients privately, DON'T DO IT. There are so many other ways to 'make it' in the yoga business and you have precious gifts to share with the world. Don't waste another second doing something (or trying to do something) you don't enjoy.

@@Yoga Teachers: Do you REALLY want to offer private@@

What to do:

Figure out how you really enjoying working with people!

Do you like working with small groups over a short period of time? Offer a mini-course or a series class - charge a higher rate, have a clear late cancel/attendance/refund policy and require pre-payment. Offer it once per quarter or build it out into a membership-style offering.

Do you like working with people who want a deeper experience of the practice? Offer philosophy / Ayurveda / lifestyle / "Deepen your Practice" Intensives. Charge a higher rate than a workshop or group class and follow up the Intensive with audio / video / print resources.

Do you enjoy teaching or supporting other yoga teachers? Offer an apprenticeship (live, one-on-one - like "job shadowing") or a mentorship (can be virtual, via Skype or phone) program workshop for other yoga teachers.

Yoga Pro Tip: It pays to build the right business for you. Teaching private yoga isn't the only way to boost your income as a Yoga Teacher —it's one of many.

So, did I miss anything? Talk back in the comments below!