Unlike other traditionally commercial professions, the yoga industry often prides itself on the principle that profit is irrelevant, money doesn’t matter and financial gain is for the less enlightened.
The devastating impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has revealed this idealised image of the yoga profession to be wholly untrue. With many cities placed in lockdown, yoga teachers worldwide suddenly have found themselves frantically searching for a means to earn a livelihood in quarantine: their careers suddenly placed under extreme restriction.
But we are a flexible lot (pun intended), and the majority of us have adapted by shifting classes online. For while we could previously exist under the guise of asceticism, when we are left, suddenly left bereft of any income, we see that “teaching for the love of it” simply doesn’t cut it.
So, as we make the move to an online platform, let’s be conscious that money really does matter. It’s time to accept we all need to make a living. Indeed, doing so permits us to share the wonderful potential of yoga. Check out my tips below on how to price your online classes
The Issue with Not Charging
The debate over whether to provide free online classes has generated plenty of traction in recent weeks. The difficulty being that the well-meaning generosity of some will have devastating implications for others. While some instructors have the means to remove class fees, those who cannot afford to do so are pushed into an extremely vulnerable position. The struggle against 0-cost content is more often than not a losing one, leaving teachers in a less fortunate position without any form of income.
This isn’t to say the wider yoga teaching community would not be affected. When fees are dropped significantly low, or taken off the table completely, it has the effect of devaluing the training, knowledge, skills and qualification of those in the profession. Slashing class prices effectively diminishes their perceived worth, thereby damaging the reputation of those working in the industry.
A student isn’t simply paying for an hour of teaching, they are paying for your experience, the time spent creating the class, your training and expert skillset. This remains the same whether you are there to welcome them to the studio in person, or via Zoom’s “waiting room”. Offering free online classes during lockdown could then have long-term negative consequences when physical classes resume, whereby students may be affronted by a return to pre-lockdown fees.
How should you price your classes?
Variety is the spice of life and, it would seem, of online yoga classes. While all of us navigate these very strange times, some lee-way is very much needed.
Multiple pricing options for different online packages enable you to target different customers. For example, a single teacher may have an annual or monthly subscription, a drop-in or “one class a week” fee, and a premium package featuring additional content to access each week. This caters to a wider audience and creates the option for students to interact as much or as little with your classes.
While I believe I have made the point against offering yoga classes free of charge, donation-based options are a suitable alternative. This effectively enables the student to pay in accordance with their personal finances. It may be worth putting an absolute minimum fee and anything above is considered a donation.
Alternatively, take advantage of “Class-Pass” prices and use this as a payment-structure for online yoga classes. This credit-based system allows students to access a certain number of classes per week depending on the price-package selected.
The Magic Number
There is no magic number when it comes to charging for online classes. There are, however, a selection of suggestions for how you may wish to proceed when it comes to your online fees.
As alluded to above, there are many aspects of your teaching that will not be compromised by your physical location (your training, time, experience etc). Your students should still be paying for these. They should not be paying for the heating and lighting of the studio, your travel, time spent setting up the class. Some maths is required for our new set-up; analyse where you will, and will not, be spending money and reflect this in the cost of your class.
Your next option is to look at what other yoga teachers and studios are charging. There are many instructors who have been teaching online for years. Long before the global pandemic hit, they sussed out an acceptable rate for virtual yoga classes. While these prices may have altered slightly in light of recent circumstances, they are a good sounding board for those of us flailing around picking random numbers from a hat.
Of course, the cost will depend on the service provided, but using other teachers as guidance can be helpful. In my personal research, looking at some of the survey results we have collected as an organisation, online private yoga classes appear to be a third of the price of the in-person version. As for the drop-in Zoom class, £5 seems to be the most common cost. This is not gospel, but it could be a good starting point for teachers setting out on their online journey.
The majority of us didn’t choose this profession to make millions, but that doesn’t mean you should be ashamed of needing to make a living (lockdown or otherwise).