Do you ever stop to think about your vision for yourself as a professional yoga instructor? Do you notice how the presence of such a vision (or lack thereof) might impact your professional performance and public image? This dynamic plays out in how we market ourselves, the venues where we put our efforts into offering our services, how we present ourselves professionally, how we build towards a strategic outcome for our own careers, and more. All of this is essential for yoga instructors, the majority of whom are independent contractors (whether full or part-time with other paid work to help pay the bills).
Employees of corporations, agencies, and non-profit organizations are most often hired under very specific job descriptions. Logistics such as full or part-time, pay rate, et cetera are agreed upon. Initial training reinforces the skills and expectations that such descriptions outline. Nine times out of ten, periodic performance reviews/meetings/assessments (whether in-person or written) occur. These are platforms for supervisors and employees to check in on employees’ growth and strengths, areas for continued improvements, contributions to employers’ outputs thus far, and employees’ personal comfort levels with their daily work. This is clearly a very structured process for supporting employees in reaching the place where they can optimally perform in their positions.
Compare that with independent contractor yoga instructors. We dutifully study for, and graduate from, our trainings (200 and/or 500 hour, RYT or CYT). Perhaps we seek to teach full-time, or to combine teaching with other professional work for optimal fulfillment and financial security. In the best cases, we carefully determine the amount of teaching that we need to be doing to keep ourselves fulfilled and financially afloat, and put in the necessary effort to achieve that amount (which, yes, takes time, patience, and diligence). We may or may not have clear ideas about the types of people we want to teach (for instance, corporate employees or seniors or children or those in fitness settings) – and, again, strategically market ourselves accordingly. Teaching schedules build, and we come to feel good about how things are going.
At a certain point, however, we might feel a certain lack of definition about our professional image and goals. What exactly are our professional duties; how exactly are we balancing time in the classroom, class planning and post-class evaluations, continuing education and other informal research, and our own practices? Where do we see ourselves, career-wise, in five years? In ten? In twenty? Then there are rough patches when we might lose a few private students, and a class that paid very well (Lord, in the same week, no less!) Are we prepared with other viable leads to follow, to fill in those gaps? Doing so is important to, again, keep ourselves growing and fulfilled as instructors - as well as to keep our personal finances balanced. Without formal evaluations, bi-monthly direct deposits into our checking accounts, and supervisors, there is no one to keep all of that clear for ourselves but ourselves.
Keeping ourselves more accountable to ourselves in these ways can come with a few relatively easy steps, small efforts that can be very worth the while. Firstly, write out a “Job Description” for yourself – similar to those posted in any job-search engine or Jobs page of any corporation’s website. Include short and long-term duties. Those include things you do as part of your yoga instructor work daily (teaching and planning, for instance), to the amount of workshops and other continuing education efforts you do over the course of one year.
Then write out the skills that you need to perform these duties. These include anatomical knowledge and competence at conveying it to your students in understandable ways, personal abilities as a yoga practitioner (read: demonstrating), physical cueing, prop usage, et cetera. Some important skills as instructors that we often overlook include our self-marketing and “branding”, objective and knowledgeable advocating for yoga as a healing and wellness practice (for instance, how well can you answer those tough questions about what yoga can offer for those coping with various medical complications?). In a following post, I’ll describe further clear steps that we can take to evaluate our current professional standing and how to reach where we want to go. Om Shanti!
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