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The Side Hustle Diaries: Earning $1,000 (Or More) A Month As A Yoga Teacher

The Side Hustle Diaries is a column showcasing how different real-life people earn extra money on the side — because you totally can, too. Click here to read more!

I started practicing yoga when I was 12, at a studio that was biking distance from my house. My family had just made a fairly big cross-country move, and I was looking for something to fill my days before school started in September. Though that studio has long since closed, I remained an avid practitioner. Yoga was a grounding constant during my college semester abroad, my mat perpetually rolled out on the tiled floor of our hostel; a place of communion and connection during an otherwise intensely lonely internship in New York; and, most recently, just a thing to look forward to at 5 PM, carrying me through my first year of Post-College Full-Time Employment™.

That’s why, when I finally bit the bullet and decided to take a teacher training seminar, I was startled to find that I didn’t enjoy it. It felt strange and distancing, and it made me overanalyze every move I took when I was the one on the mat. (I know, this feels like a weird intro to a Side Hustle Diary — but I promise, I’ll get there!)

But I don’t regret taking the seminar. It’s made it much easier to lead my own home practice, and I’m able to teach pay-as-you-can classes at a women’s shelter close to my office. In the end, though, it was $1,800 and two months spent pursuing a side hustle that just didn’t work for me, even though it involved a hobby that I loved.

This is all to say: not every side hustle is right for everyone. Though the common (and often true!) bit of advice is to pursue a side hustle that involves something you already love to do, that doesn’t have to (and might not) be the case. It’s totally fine to love a hobby and hate it as a side hustle, and it’s also totally fine to feel ambivalent about a side hustle but do it to give yourself more room in your life. More room to save, to splurge, to travel, to build a donation/fun/house/education/emergency fund.

So this month in the Side Hustle Diaries, I spoke with Emily, a friend I’d met during my teacher training. She loved her experience and has now been a part-time instructor for a little over a year (I take her classes sometimes!). Since our seminar, she’s also taken a number of adjunct trainings in addition to teaching, while juggling her full-time associate job at a local PR firm. Today, she shares a little bit about that balance, the surprising ways that her practice has informed her full-time work (and vice versa), and the financial goals that her side hustle has helped her meet.

How does your side hustle fit into your average day?

It depends on the day! I teach at a couple of different studios, and sometimes I’ll take on an extra class or cover someone else’s. When that’s the case, I usually end up running straight to the studio from my office, picking up a quick dinner somewhere between classes, and then driving over to another studio for a later evening class. I teach an early morning class almost every day during the week, which I actually really like; it’s a better wake-up call than coffee. So: yoga/office/yoga, usually. And then I try not to teach on the weekends, so I can still spend time with my partner, or my friends, or just to read a book in a coffee shop or something.

How did you find your way to that position?

Well, I’d been going to the same studio for a while, and one of the instructors there told me that the place where she’d gotten Yoga Alliance-certified was leading a new training, and they offered a discount for people who could commit to teaching discounted “trainee” classes for three months after the training. I’d been thinking about it for a while anyway, so I decided to take the course, stayed on as a trainee, and then they ended up hiring me on as an instructor. While I was a trainee there, I also auditioned at a couple of other studios (essentially, you lead a class with a bunch of the current lead instructors and they evaluate your style and fit for their studio) and ended up getting a contract position with one of them.

How much do you make during an average week from that side hustle?

When I was a trainee, I was making $20 an hour, but now my rate is around $24-30, so I usually get paid around $36 per class. Last week I made $400, but that was kind of a weird week because one of the other instructors was sick and I took over all her classes. Usually, it’s more in the $250-300 range.

What’s your favorite thing about having a side hustle? Your least favorite?

I love that it’s so different from my full-time job, if that makes any sense. I like that I can just switch my brain to a completely different gear when I’m writing out and leading classes; and I get to meet so many people, which can be really fun. I think that’s both one of my favorite things and my least favorite things. Because I work in PR, a lot of my day job is spent communicating with people; and so sometimes after long days at work, it’s hard to be in a headspace where I’m ready to teach and be engaged with even more people. But I’m an extrovert, so usually, it’s a positive part of my day!

If you keep a budget, how does income from your side hustle fit into it? And if it fits into multiple categories, would you mind doing a mini budget-breakdown of that income?

When I first started, all of my income went towards my student loans and building an emergency fund, because I’d just moved here and I literally had no money left in my savings account. Now that I’ve got a fairly stable emergency fund, that income mostly goes to paying off my student loans. I’ve also started spending a little bit of it on things that’ll hopefully help me up my rate as an instructor. Like, right now, I’m taking this extension class with one of my studios, and once I finish, I’ll be able to teach “Tier II” classes there, which have slightly higher pay. I’ve also started building a wedding fund, because I have a ton (like five or six!) friends getting married this year, and between bridesmaid dresses, outfits, presents, travel, etc., things really add up.

How do you see that side hustle changing or fitting into your long-term plans (if at all)?

I’ve kind of considered whether it’d be possible to do this full-time, but I’m worried sometimes that I’d like it less, or that it’d cause me more stress if it was my only source of income. But I definitely want to keep teaching, and I’ve loved this extension class, so I could see myself doing more of them and maybe ultimately getting certified to lead teacher training programs. Although that takes, like, 2500 hours of practice, so I have a while to go!

Last question; is there one financial goal that you feel like your side hustle has helped you meet? 

The emergency fund is a big one! I was able to save six months of expenses much faster once I started teaching, and it’s such a calming thing to know that that fund is there.

Julie Zhou is a writer, editor, and born-and-bred Midwesterner. She loves unreliable magazine quizzes, cast-iron pans, and the Oxford comma. She hates the question, “No, but where are you *really* from?”

Image via Unsplash

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