How To Start a Successful Yoga Business in the Studio and Online

You might have heard people say that you should turn your passion into profit. And if yoga happens to be that passion, then the road may seem pretty straightforward: there’s a lot of demand for yoga training. Still, starting your own business can be complicated, and to do so in a competitive market like yoga requires a lot of care.

To start a yoga business, you find a niche, decide whether your target market prefers online or in-studio training and advertise to get in front of potential clients with irresistible offers. Once you have enough clients, you should invest in your brand and service for customer retention.

This article will serve as your in-depth step by step guide to starting your yoga business. You’ll learn more about each stage of the process, including how to

  • Decide the best niche for your yoga business
  • Figure out if your target market is best served online or in-studio
  • Calculate business expenses
  • Diversify revenue streams
  • Register your business
  • Advertise your yoga training services
  • Retain your clients via goodwill

Figure Out Your Niche

One of the most common mistakes yoga entrepreneurs make is thinking they can serve everyone. If your target market is “anyone who would like to learn or do yoga,” you don’t have a target market. You will see people of all backgrounds belonging to different demographics doing yoga, but you’ll rarely see them doing it in one studio.

That’s because even though a broad enough public is interested in yoga, their reasons for wanting to perform are different. Consequently, the marketing and branding that appeals to them vary. Think about an athlete who wants to be more flexible to avoid injuries and sore muscles. He would not be charmed by some studios’ undercutting strategy to attract those with surface-level interest in yoga.

So you have to figure out your niche and be specific while you identify your ideal customer. One way to do this is by merely naming one person in your target market and describing him in detail. Let’s assume your target audience is, broadly speaking, females under forty. To get more specific, you’ll name someone in the market, like Regina. The next step would be to describe Regina in sufficient detail.

Regina is a mom who would like to stay fit as she has seen other moms give-up on their figure post-pregnancy. She has a small business, which adds a little to their overall income, with her husband bringing in most of the revenue from his C-level designation at a corporation. His long hours lead to significant boredom for Regina.

While the above option is neither right nor wrong, it is an excellent example of how you can narrow down your targeting. With the above example, you can disregard all women who aren’t mothers or have a full-time day job.

This is what scares most yoga entrepreneurs. However, they must understand that even though they let go of “non-mothers” and “career women,” there are enough mothers with a side-business that the yoga studio can get really specific with their marketing and turn the practice into a community. When most people visiting your studio are similar to each other, it spontaneously builds a community.

It then creates what’s called the network effect. Facebook and Apple are great examples of the network effect. Despite lapses in privacy and creator protection, Facebook has stayed a leader in the social media space because you can’t go to its alternatives if all your friends are on Facebook. Similarly, you can’t switch away from the iPhone if you want to use iPhone-to-iPhone features with your friends.

While the network effect is most prominent in tech businesses, you can create a network with niche-targeting. When someone joins your yoga studio and connects with others like them, they can’t switch to your competitor who has a random group of practitioners.

Please note that the example of Regina above isn’t a recommendation. There is no evidence suggesting that homemakers are better yoga clients than career women and vice-versa. One of the better ways of finding out which market you should serve is to find out the market you want to serve. Here are the three questions to ask yourself.

  • Who do you enjoy the company of?
  • Who do you genuinely care about and feel empathy towards?
  • Who will have enough money to fit your pricing expectations?

Decide the Mode of Instruction

Once you understand your target market, you’ll have a clear idea of what they would prefer when it comes to getting yoga training. Retirees over fifty will not appreciate having to figure out their way around zoom, while students living alone miles away from you will enjoy the convenience of video-call instruction. This is especially true for younger people.

That said, it isn’t always tied to one’s age. Factors like busyness, proximity, and lack or abundance of extroversion play an essential role. In the previous section, you narrowed down your target to a single personality profile. Does Regina like to get her training in person or on zoom? Asking such a question regarding your customer avatar will help you figure out which kind of business you must start.

More importantly, ask yourself what kind of environment you thrive in. If you feel alive in person, you should not handicap yourself by serving a demographic that prefers Skype yoga sessions.

On the other hand, if you choose to teach over zoom, you should not target clients who like social connectivity and in-person yoga instruction.

Since you can decide on the mode of instruction and adjust your niche accordingly, let’s explore the pros and cons of each so you can make this adjustment sooner than later.

Pros of Online Yoga Business

If you set up an online yoga instruction business, you have advantages in reach and can avoid the limitations of physical space. Here is how that plays out in terms of tangible benefits.

Scalable Within Reason

Many online businesses are infinitely scalable. For example, if you sell a course and don’t have to check in with your students regularly, you’ll have to put in the same effort for forty students as you have to exert for four million. This pre-recorded class model is best exemplified by Masterclass.com, which is a digitally native brand.

However, yoga instruction is usually delivered live, even in a remote setting. Therefore, you can still scale but within reason. While your physical studio might limit you to twelve students per session, you may have up to thirty in a live session and still manage.

If you scale your live training business, please hire one person to monitor the cams and let you know whenever a student uses lousy form. That way, you can afford to pay attention to your own practice.

Low Set-Up Cost

When you choose an online yoga business, you avoid the rent burden of a physical studio. If you don’t live near a yoga studio, you even save on the cost of travel. In other words, there’s quite a lot you can retain from your startup capital.

However, you cannot conduct sessions from your kitchen. You should save money but not at the cost of professionalism. Ensure your performance space emulates a yoga studio and that you have a white background, so your movements are clear in a distraction-free environment.

Access to Clients Worldwide

One of the best aspects of remotely teaching yoga is that you could be in a country with a low cost of living and have high-paying clients in other countries. For example, if you establish your base in Bali, you’re making the same as working in the US, but your living cost is significantly lower. You can live a one-percenter lifestyle of just $2,000 per month, including rent. The same is true for India.

Cons of Online Yoga Business

While there are many advantages to delivering yoga training online, there’s a reason why yoga studios still exist. Below are the drawbacks of going digital native with your practice.

High Marketing Costs

You spend a significant amount of money advertising to get your clients because the barrier to entry is significantly lower. If anyone with a spacious living room can claim to be a yoga instructor, then everyone will try to get remote clients if they’re interested. This dilutes the credibility of online yoga and is unfair to those with an accredited yoga teacher education.

Low Loyalty

You can build exceptional relationships online, so this is more of a generalization. Exceptions aside, however, it is true that the network effect and community aspect aren’t as prominent in online yoga groups. Your clients may still develop a bond with you, but it isn’t a big part of their life’s priorities. This becomes a problem when other yoga teachers try to poach them via related ads and interest-based targeting.

Pros of a Yoga Studio Business

Here we will explore the pros of having a yoga studio-based practice.

Instant Legitimacy

While this may not be fair, it is how human perception works. We have been programmed to connote authority with its signifiers. Whenever you see a man in a white coat, you’re likely to take his medical advice. Similarly, seeing someone in yoga pants in a yoga studio, you are likely to trust them because they pass off as the mental image you have of yoga instructors.

For now, doing the same over Zoom or Skype is going outside of most yoga students’ experience.

Better Stick-Rate

Amazon made its money not by selling the same products to different people but by selling different products to the same people repeatedly. How is that relevant to yoga? Well, you will spend a pretty penny acquiring clients, and if they don’t stick around, then you’ll not be profitable or financially secure for a long time.

When your clients visit you in person, they are more invested. Furthermore, they have a community they get initiated into. All of these things act as barriers when other yoga businesses try to poach them.

Cons of in-Studio Yoga Practice

While people prefer to practice in a yoga studio, some brick-and-mortar store drawbacks linger on. Here are the disadvantages specific to yoga studio businesses.

High Upfront Cost

If you are on a tight budget, you have to forget about a studio-based business. It costs significant startup capital to set up a yoga studio or an instruction practice within a pre-built studio. You also have to commute if you don’t live next to it. Travel costs and rent may be tax-deductible, but it still is much cheaper to start your business online.

Scalability Dead-Ends

The difference between a business and a job is that in one, you’re trading your time and effort for money, and in the other, you’re receiving money for providing value. In yoga, that means you’re doing a job if you’re personally training people. Only after you scale and start making money with multiple instructors training your students can you be counted as a standard business.

This scalability doesn’t come cheap, though. People can scale online by adding clients to the same Zoom call, but it has to be within reason in the physical realm. For every group of five to six people you add, a new instructor needs to be hired, or a new time block should be filled.

Needless to say, this reaches a point where you cannot scale the practice anymore. Even with multiple instructors, you reach the limits of time. There is a limit to how many classes can be conducted in a single studio.

Figure Out Your Costs

If you proceed further with your business-building without taking the costs into account, you might end up with a broken business model. You must understand the different expenses of marketing, studio rental, and human resources when building a successful Yoga Studio or online training practice. By now, you’re already committed to one or the other model.

Your marketing costs should match the kind of clientele you want. You can invest a lot more if you’re looking to work with actors, celebrities, and star athletes. If you’re going to run a budget yoga group, then you cannot spend like you’re trying to attract Tom Brady.

Prioritizing expenses is also quite important. We can assume that you already have a yoga teacher training certification, but in the spirit of starting from scratch, here are the expected business expenses of launching a yoga business.

  • Yoga teacher training ($2,500 on average)
  • Marketing expenses ($1,500 to 5,000 depending on niche)
  • Studio rent ($80 to $200 per hour)

Initially, using peerspace.com or similar hourly rental services to rent a yoga studio is highly recommended. You’ll get to build your practice while focusing more of your budget on acquiring clients. A great thing about this approach is that your clients will feel like they’re a part of your journey, and it will be quite a celebration when you sign the lease for a yearly rental.

However, in two to three quarters of launching your practice, your expenses will shift drastically. Renting a studio yearly can cost $10,000, while buying a studio will cost $75,000+. Depending on the trajectory of the business, you can go for either option.

You might stop sales-oriented marketing once you have reached equilibrium but should never quite brand-centered marketing. It is advisable to keep posting high-quality content on your social media and even film for Youtube. And that brings us to the cost of an online Yoga business.

Starting an online Yoga business can be relatively inexpensive but costs just as much on the marketing front. Therefore, you can expect the same costs minus the rent when launching a zoom-call-based yoga teaching business. You’ll need to make a solid content-centered marketing plan, which we will discuss later in this article.

Brainstorm Monetizing Strategies

Blue Ocean strategy refers to finding new waters instead of fighting over the saturated territory that most of your competitors are active in. When it comes to yoga, there is a saturation trend in the training and studio space rental business. Therefore, you should diversify your revenue streams to get in a better position before other companies catch up. In this section, we will explore how you can monetize your yoga studio or online business.

Diversifying Your Online Yoga Brand’s Revenue

You can make money teaching yoga online, but why limit yourself to just that? Here are five ways in which you can make money as an online yoga expert.

Yoga Training

The lowest cost and highest value service you can provide is as an online trainer. You can give one-on-one training or break your classes into group sessions. Either way, you commit your time to the dollars you make per-session.

It is advisable to have a portion of your revenue come this way. You may be tempted to fill your entire workday with classes. But if you do that, you’ll constantly be working and have no free time to build the other income streams that bring you money while you rest.

Yoga YouTuber

Youtube is one of the few social media platforms that shares its advertising revenue with its creators. Once you have over one thousand subscribers and more than four thousand hours of watch-time, you’re eligible to monetize your videos. People watching your videos will see ads before they play, and you’ll get a cut of each clip. This takes around one year if you’re dedicated and build your channel with good content.

Yoga Influencer

This strategy is slightly different but leverages the same principle of monetizing reach for third-party advertising. As a yoga influencer on Instagram, you can pitch other products associated with your lifestyle. From protein shakes to vitamin supplements and yoga mats, you have a wide range of products you can recommend and earn commissions from.

Yoga Wear Brand

While this isn’t strictly online as certain parts of the supply chain are in a physical space, you can conduct cloth-selling online. By setting up a digital shop and connecting with a made-to-order supplier, you can start selling yoga pants and other yoga apparel for little to no risk. The product is only produced upon order and is shipped directly from the manufacturer’s warehouse.

Yoga Marketing Business

Finally, you can turn your yoga success into a marketing agency. This is more of a pivot than an income stream addition. We advise you don’t do this right away as you need to build significant social proof to establish credibility.

Ways To Diversify Your Income From a Yoga Studio

Here we assume that you’re not just a yoga instructor who books a studio but have progressed enough in your career to own a yoga studio. As a yoga studio owner with your own yoga teacher training certificate, you have multiple monetization possibilities. Here are three ways in which you can make money owning a yoga studio as a trainer.

Yoga Training

This is the most straightforward road to revenue. By hosting yoga classes yourselves or hiring trainers under you, you can provide training sessions and get paid directly for the time you or your trainers spend with the students.

You might initially start as a solo trainer, but please don’t stretch yourself thin. Finding a good trainer to replace you to work on other revenue streams is logical, albeit quite scary. Learn to trust others and delegate training to a competent person.

Space Rental

The second way to make money is by letting other trainers use your space for a fee. This, however, is more of a substitution than an addition because the hours you use the studio are also the hours that other trainers want the studio.

If you make the bulk of your money being a host, then you might have to let go of the training practice. We recommend renting out a studio if you have multiple spaces. That way, both income streams remain parallel without interfering with each other.

Relevant Retail

If your yoga practice is big enough to have a stream of people walking in and out of the space, you can add vending machines and similar retail portals. This can range from something as small as a coffee machine that accepts a quarter to an entire juice bar with staff.

You can also stock up on Yoga mats and similar products that you can sell to your clients. These shouldn’t be too specific. For example, a yoga mat is easier to sell than yoga pants because pants are too size-specific.

Register Your Business

With the above steps taken care of, it is time to launch your yoga business. Setting up the correct legal entity is essential. While you can operate a business as a sole trader in many regions, it is wiser to have an LLC designated as an S-corp for tax reasons and better liability cover.

Before you file your paperwork, it is essential to meet an accountant and discuss various tax benefits available to you. For instance, having your business income flow to your personal income and being taxed accordingly could simplify your tax returns but may cost more in the long run.

An s-corp may lead to double taxation but can save on medicare and social security. Regardless, operating as an LLC sufficiently separates your business entity from you as a person. And that’s the bare minimum you must do. Whether you create a C-corp or have an S-corp depends on what makes sense to you, given your other income, tax bracket, and the state you’re in.

Launch a Marketing Campaign

Once your business is registered, you’re set to spread the word. You can start spreading the word. By following the steps in this section, you’ll make sure you get your service proposition in front of relevant potential clients.

Demo Class Giveaway + Influencer Marketing

Countless platforms have popped up and helped facilitate communication between influencers and businesses. Instead of going for massive influencers, we advise going for micro-influencers with a more relevant audience.

Look at your target avatar and ask yourself which personalities they’re likely to follow. Going to those influencers, you can pitch a campaign where they offer your classes for free to some of their followers via a contest. This works great for online yoga businesses because geographic restrictions don’t apply.

Alternatively, you can make a post announcing your free sessions and use advertisement platforms to promote it via Facebook and Instagram to geo-targeted locations. You can customize the parameters on a map and have your advertisements show only within a few miles of where your studio is located.

Referral Marketing

Another great tool when you’re bootstrapping your business launch is referral marketing. By working with publishers, and promoters, you can get clients flowing in provided you give a commission to the referral source. Affiliate marketing is great because you don’t have to pay for advertising or promotion. Your affiliates handle everything. However, you cut them in on a significant portion of the profit, often up to 30% of the overall earnings.

Guest Workshops

Depending on your target market, you can arrange for guest appearances as a way to attract clients. Let’s suppose you want to attract retirees who wish to be more active in their daily lives. By arranging to appear as a guest at a retirement home, you can expose yourself to your target customers in an authoritative setting.

Getting introduced as a guest speaker, you soon become engaged with the community. It is advisable to make a time-sensitive offer when you initially pitch your services. This creates a sense of urgency and motivates people to sign up. Again, the example just illustrates one way to use guest appearances as a tool for self-exposure. The specific organization you work with depends on the kind of audience you wish to attract.

Use Search Ads

While the above methods are great for discovery and impulse-purchases, the most intentional audience you’ll get is via search ads. People searching for yoga instructors are likely to do so on Google, the number one search engine in the world. By advertising for the keywords, you can appear on top for queries like “yoga teachers near me.” That said, you should be prepared to pay a premium for that real estate.

Google’s advertising system is based on a bidding model. That means that keywords for which other businesses want to advertise will be more expensive. Since yoga teaching is competitive, you might have to outbid instructors in your region and pay up to ten dollars per click. Not all who click convert, so you may be paying hundreds of dollars before getting a single client.

However, once you have the client, you’ll make your money back in a month or two, depending on your pricing. If you charge $250 per month per client, you should be prepared to pay $250 to get the client. Most businesses break even on client acquisition and make their money in the subsequent months.

Protect Your Business

Most business owners believe that getting clients is the only challenging part of starting a yoga business. The harder aspect of running a business is keeping clients satisfied. When clients feel like they’re not getting their money and time’s worth out of your practice, they’ll not just leave but may also persuade others to walk away as well.

The opposite is true as well. If your clients are pleased with your business, they’ll actively refer their friends not as a favor to you but as a favor to them. That’s the value of being a quality service provider.

The best practices conveyed in this section make up the bulk of actionable advice you must follow once you have achieved equilibrium. Equilibrium is the stage where you have enough clients to float the business and pay you a modest profit.

Customer Service Goes Beyond Contracts

Gyms are notorious for locking clients into contracts with huge discounts on annual contracts. But once someone signs up, it is almost impossible to get out without paying an early cancellation fee. You can use this to your advantage. By making it super easy and hassle-free for your clients to leave, you disrupt their negative expectations and get positive attention in the process.

It also allows you to get more clients who genuinely value your services as it frees up your time because people who don’t find your services valuable can easily walk away. It also motivates you to care about people beyond the sign-up stage.

Contribute to the Community

Small businesses have the edge that corporations wish they had: community acceptance. People love to support small businesses, provided those establishments care about the community as well. With your target market in mind, you can start looking for opportunities to give back. Whether through pro-bono classes or sponsoring events, you can spread a positive word regarding your business and make your clients proud to be a part of your journey as well.

Have Value-Added Perks

You should have specific honors for your clients who have been with the community for a long time. This can motivate others to stick around. Having a free trip where your longest-subscribed members come along is a great idea. You can also have benefits that get unlocked after a specific amount of time.

These could include anything from pre-recorded videos to fee discounts. Your pricing strategy can be centered around this. Instead of charging $150/month, you can charge $300 for the first quarter and then charge only $100 per month for the rest of the year. This motivates people to stay with your business past the first quarter.

Promote the Network Effect

As described earlier, the network effect is very powerful and builds a fort around your business. While it is not as potent online as it is in person, you should do the best you can with what you have. Do not give up on a solid network-effect if you conduct training online.

Host movie watch-parties and have zoom discussion sessions where you facilitate networking between your customers. Let them feel like a community. In-person, you can do this to greater effect as there’s already a sense of companionship. But people from different sessions rarely meet each other. Throwing big parties can help with that.

Integrate Online and Offline

Finally, you should understand that even though you may start off as a digital-only business or an in-person studio, you can start expanding into the unexplored territory once you’re profitable. That means, as an online trainer, you should gather some of the business income and start giving in-person sessions.

And if you’re a studio owner, use some of the money to start teaching online. Initially, trying to do too much will scatter your focus and dilute your effectiveness. But when you reach sustainable success in either domain, moving onto the next is the only logical step.

Final Thoughts

Starting a yoga business can seem complicated if you have limited guidance. However, if you know how to execute the following steps as described by the article, you’re off to a great start:

  • Pick a niche
  • Find out whether it is best to teach online or in studio
  • Figure out how much it will cost
  • Brainstorm monetization strategies
  • Get your business registered
  • Market your services
  • Have a client retention strategy

Sources

Sita

Mother of three and Yogi of 20+ years and 200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. I am also a Certified Thai massage therapist and I have taught Gymnastics for more than 10 years. In the last couple of years, I've been a big promotor of intermittent fasting.

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