Launching a business is a process that begins with discovering a passion and exploring the possibilities it could lead to. When Tilly Ferrari, owner of Yoga with Tilly first discovered her passion for yoga, it started as a way to overcome the hardest moments in her life. She didn't know it would become what she dedicated her life to. Now with a thriving yoga business and years of experience as both a teacher and a business owner, Tilly shared her story with us. We learnt what led her to teaching, how she earned her certification, how she learned to run her own business, and she gives advice to aspiring yoga teachers and studio owners from giving engaging in-person and online classes to building a customer base.
I started yoga when I was about 13 years old. A friend of mine passed away and I was struggling with grief because I was so young. My secondary school began offering yoga during PE because many of the students were also struggling with grief. It was the first time where it felt okay to not be okay, and feel strong enough to move on. I started to accept that he was gone and it became a part of my healing process and helped me get through that patch of my life.
And then when I was 18, I had anorexia and I was in the hospital and I wasn't really responding to the treatment. They then re-introduced me to yoga and meditation and suddenly I remembered why it helped me before and it helped me get through my recovery. I was experiencing a lot of self-doubts and wondering if I was worthy enough to be healthy, and yoga practice helped me on my journey of self-love.
I continued to do yoga. I didn't think I was ever going to become a teacher, but I decided to study Sports Coaching with Yoga and Pilates in Australia as a hobby because I wanted to learn more about it, but when I returned home from Australia, I began to think I could teach.
1. Becoming a yoga teacher
I knew I had to start from scratch. I had been abroad for so long and wasn't sure what to do. I started teaching my friends and family yoga, and they really encouraged me to pursue teaching as they were really enjoying it, so I said well, 'let's give it a go'.
Other people then heard about my classes through the grapevine and then through more word of mouth I seemed to be in demand. I suddenly became a fully-fledged yoga teacher. I got all my credentials, teaching training, insurance, and covering for other teachers, and it took off from there.
I never had a solid plan. Everything sort of evolved really authentically, which has been amazing. I now teach yoga and also do sound healing. I've just finished a music degree focusing on vibrational therapy and sound healing, so I mixed that in with my other services and the business is ever-evolving.
2. Earn your yoga teaching credential
When you do your yoga teacher training program, you do a little bit of work on how to promote your business, but you're not taught things such as how to do your tax return. You're not taught about what insurance is best. You're not taught how to use booking systems and book people. You're taught how to teach people, but you can't teach people without them being able to get in. For me, it was more talking to other people who were in the industry and finding how they got everything together, from insurance to booking. It happened quite naturally and I never felt very forced.
The Yoga Alliance
It's important to note that there are some insurances or licenses specific to yoga, so if you're with the Yoga Alliance, you have a specific license and pay regularly to affiliate with their organisation.
When I did my yoga teacher certification, it wasn't part of the Yoga Alliance, and I found that was a little bit of a struggle because a lot of places want you to be Yoga Alliance certified. I did my training in Australia and at the time the Yoga Alliance was not present or offered in for my specific certification. I have the proper credential and teaching certificate but without that stamp from the Alliance, I found it difficult to work in the UK.
Keep reading for Tilly's advice about building credibility as a yoga instructor
3. Building credibility and experience teaching
I found it difficult at the start because, without people coming to my classes and experiencing them, studios might only look at your qualifications to see if you're good enough for their studio, rather than actually seeing how you teach or if people attend your classes. For both students and studio owners, it's important to have the right qualification but it's also important to experience a class rather than only relying on which qualification you do or don't have.
There were two gyms that, although I was a certified yoga instructor, wouldn't employ me because I wasn't certified with Yoga Alliance or one of their approved training schools. But now those gyms are begging me to teach there because people have told them about me.
I'm established now, no one asks me about it anymore because everyone knows that I'm good at what I do. You have to stand your ground and know your worth as a teacher. People underestimate the amount of time and money it takes to actually train as a yoga teacher as well. Some will want to pay you one amount while others will want to pay you another, and you have to know your worth as a teacher. I don't really know how I got around it, I just taught and kept teaching where I could and then grew more in those areas.
Don't rush into getting a certification without experience
Don’t feel pressured to rush into obtaining all of your certifications in order to establish yourself.
Experience and confidence are KEY.
For example, I have just finished my massage training and have the certification but for a long time, I’ve been massaging friends and family - because without certification one is unable to take on public clients.
I’ve had many massages in my life (it's really important to include self-care as much as possible) and have been to some places that have pressed on my spine work worked into an area that I KNOW they shouldn’t and thought 'how do you not know that this is just not what you do?'. They have a certificate and insurance to say they can do it but lack confidence and experience.
It's the same with yoga. You might have a qualification, but if you have not built up the confidence in teaching a group of strangers in different environments, you're not going to be the best teacher that you could be.
Cover other teachers' classes
I think it's all about experiencing, teaching, covering and going to different classes. I feel that was what helped me to gain confidence, experience and also my reputation. I covered so many already established teachers which helped me to gain further teaching opportunities.
Have the confidence to keep it simple
I think if I look back on maybe my first year of teaching, I think 'oh what was I doing?' I was trying so hard and when you do that you overdo it. I'd get up really really early before a class and put up all these lights, and light incense and try to make it this perfect experience for when people arrive. But then when I'd begin to teach, I was terrified and I didn't have much confidence.
Now I can literally just turn up five minutes before class. I put on a little light next to my mat and that's all I need. Have the confidence to keep it simple. If I look back at how much I tried to make it a better experience because I wasn't confident as a teacher when I first qualified to now, I am much more confident to not need all of the paraphernalia around me, and I think it is a very, very special thing.
Find out how Tilly launched her yoga business and why she chose TeamUp as her yoga management software
4. Launching a yoga business
I used to teach in various community halls in Weston-super-Mare. When one of the companies I was teaching for closed their business, meaning I lost my regular teaching classes. From there, I decided to run my own classes and the students continued with me and I started my own public classes in my own name.
I started building up classes and would receive emails for class bookings regularly. At that time, I didn't have a system to manage bookings, only a WhatsApp group. My students would arrive at class and pay for maybe five sessions which would last for a few weeks. I thought that worked because then people had already paid me and it was easier to keep up with and record on a sheet instead of PAYG.
5. Finding the right yoga management software
I realised I needed to get a booking system because doing all these sessions, having different WhatsApp groups for different venues, classes, dates, and people and it was confusing.
I decided it was time to have a look and go online. I wasn't really in a position to be paying loads for a booking system because I was just starting out. I started off with Calendly and it worked but they don't accept payments online, but it was fine to start.
Then we went into lockdown. I didn't know what to do and Calendly just wasn't working very well for me. There were issues with payments and putting through Zoom and stuff like that. So then I went on to TeamUp and it was just all in one place and it meant that everyone's details were stored.
They didn't have to put their email address in each time. They could just create their own profile. They saw all of my classes on the timetable, which you couldn't do with Calendly. I did the trial with TeamUp for a month, said 'let's give it a go and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.'
Then I thought, 'I don't know what I'm going to do without it'. If I didn't have it I knew I'd have to spend so much more time on my laptop doing the things that I really don't want to do. I want to get out and teach. So it was good because it meant that I could put more time into teaching and planning classes and planning events as opposed to doing what a PA would do for me.
6. Delivering yoga classes in-person and online
With COVID restrictions and lockdowns, we were limited to the number of people we could have in one room. Prior to the pandemic, I could have up to 10 people in one room, but now can have about four. The price of the room remains the same, but at a lower capacity, I am at a loss with my rates remaining the same. I had to reassess and increase my price per class, which everyone was happy with, but I also began streaming my in-studio classes. I could have 10 people on Zoom and four people in the class, which is more than before, and it has worked really well.
Bonus: Planning for the future
I'm offering yoga, massages, and holistic healing. Eventually, I'd love to own my own wellness centre. In the new year, I have Reiki training and would love to get other teachers involved as well to help them along their journey of becoming teachers. I’m looking forward to having my own centre one day where I’ll run workshops, craft days, art therapy, music therapy, yoga, cooking sessions. It's everything that I love. And now that I've finished my music degree, I'm well on track.
Find out more about launching a yoga business by reading our guide, how to launch your yoga studio with TeamUp software, and read about finding the right yoga teacher training program to start your journey as a yoga instructor.
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