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Teaching fitness and wellness classes: hobby or career?

As a business in the fitness and wellness industry, we are aware of the different challenges that most professionals face on a daily basis. One of these challenges is to be taken seriously when it comes to building a career as freelancers. Ring a bell? Think about going to your friends and family and saying “Hey, I am going to quit my 9 to 5 job to become a restorative yoga teacher”. Unless your loved ones have extensive knowledge and experience of the yoga world, it’s most likely they’ll be a little perplexed. 

Both the yoga and fitness industries have their challenges. The yoga industry often prides itself on the principle that profit is irrelevant, making it hard for teachers to earn a living from their classes and content. When it comes to fitness professionals, they often have to compete with established gyms and an insane amount of free content available online. Despite this, there is a big opportunity for both groups, with the fitness and wellness industry consistently growing year on year. Of course this is partly due to the pandemic, which has helped wellness entrepreneurs to see the possibility of building a business from the comfort of their own living rooms, but it is no doubt a trend that will continue far beyond life in lockdown. In 2020, the number of users attending online classes increased to 85% compared to 7% the year before, and 73% of consumers are using pre-recorded video versus 17% in 2019.

Now here’s the most important question to ask yourself: is what you’re doing a hobby or a career? You may have heard of the term ‘passion economy’, which is where you probably land  as a content creator, passionately monetising  your skills through your online community. The passion element is what makes this a tricky debate for us.
Let’s begin by separating one from the other.Author Elizabeth Gilbert gives us this beautiful distinction between a hobby, job, career and vocation

  • A hobby is something you do to keep life fun and interesting. With a hobby, the stakes are zero. You don’t need it to succeed. It’s simply something you enjoy doing. Hobbies are a reminder that you’re a human, not an automaton.
  • A job is an exchange of your time and effort for money. We live in a material world and money is a common currency to survive it. A job is doing a thing someone needs doing, and getting paid to do it.
  • A career is a job you’re passionate about. A career requires cultivation and sacrifices — which you’re willing to do because you believe in your career’s mission. Disliking a job might be okay because there’s a straightforward exchange — task for money. But disliking a career is a tragedy. Better off finding a new career, or just getting a job. “You should love a career, or not have one.”
  • A vocation is a calling. It’s sacred, mystical, maybe even spiritual. It’s something you can’t not do. Someone can take your job or a career away — but no one can take away a calling. No amount of money could stop you from pursuing a calling, nor seduce you to start a new one. It’s on a higher plane than a hobby, job or career. Fortunate are those who can make their callings both a career and a job.

Going back to that initial question, what do you want from your passion? If it’s a hobby to you, then great! You should continue having fun with it and mostly zero expectations. 

However, if you’re hoping to make it into a business, here are some things you should be considering while building your brand or scaling your business. 

Knowledge is power 

Think about the amount of hours, money and effort you put into becoming who you are as a teacher or personal trainer. (And of course the continual professional development required within both of these fields) You can obviously quantify the amount of money spent and perhaps you could also put a price on your time. Now what does this mean when it comes to offering your services? Is your time and energy worth the amount of money you are charging your students and clients? Is there anything you could change to reflect this within your pricing strategy? 

Investing in your education, when it comes to something you are passionate about, comes easy, you probably don’t think about it twice and it’s wonderful! However, be mindful of how you share your knowledge with your students and clients. If you give everything away for free, you are probably instilling the perception that you haven’t paid that much for your qualifications. And we all know that’s definitely not true, right? 

Knowledge is power…use it! 

Resources 

Let’s get into the list of things you need to run a business, and before you say “but it’s just me and my expertise ”, think again or else you’ll slip into that hobby category. You need a few basic tools and skills to get started, and whilst we could try to  give you the ‘top five tips on how to kickstart your career’, we want to be real with you. There’s no five tips, not even ten. Why not? Because setting up your business requires a tailored approach and there’s no magic recipe to overnight success. Growing requires time and effort, and if you have already embarked upon your passion project, you will know that consistency is key here. 

So let’s take a look at what is particularly important within our industry: 

  • Basic marketing knowledge, so you know how to  promote your offering, to what audience and through which channels. You might think you’ve got it under control because you have a few hundred followers on Instagram, but we bet you that Mark Z. is laughing out loud right now thinking of ways to screw you over with his latest algorithm update. Don’t worry, there are plenty of resources out there and courses that you can attend. You may even find some great free content if you dig around. Otherwise be sure to follow us on Instagram for a super cool Marketing & Business workshop launching really soon. 
  • The right tools, and no, we’re not talking about the best yoga mat or the coolest set of kettlebells. We are talking about booking systems, payment methods, scheduling tools, streaming platforms and much more. You have probably already navigated the not-so-exciting world of Zoom and Google Meets. Were you happy with it? Like, really happy? Or did it all seem a bit grey and sad? Did it take you back to when you worked in an office? Zoom fatigue? Yeah, we get it. Zoom wasn’t made for downward facing dogs nor burpees! That’s why we created Kuula, because we wanted something to be purpose built for our industry! And the same goes for payment systems and booking platforms. Why do you want to torture your students and clients with multiple systems when you could get everything in one place and offer a seamless experience. Surely it’s a no-brainer…?
  • A little bit of tech knowledge won’t hurt you, and we’re not talking about NASA-level science here. We are talking about basic video editing skills, a good mic, a great camera and some other digital marketing tools that will make your life easier and your setup look much more professional. Because after all, you want to be a professional right? 

Creating high quality video content is something that is becoming easier and easier to do, without the need for high production costs or extensive expertise.  There is a constantly evolving landscape of equipment, accessible  to the average person – such as high quality phone cameras, affordable microphones, video editing tools, and more. With the right equipment, all we really need to record quality videos is a better understanding of some key tips and tricks. We put together some incredible suggestions for you in our previous blog posts, so make sure you check them out here

Time management

How do you value your time? We could write a whole separate blog post about this, but  let’s briefly touch on the importance of how you manage and value your time.
When we run our own business it’s hard to find that healthy balance between work hours and well, “life” hours, because your business is your life. You pour your heart and soul into what you are doing, but at some  point, you will have to become professional about your business hours. And trust us, clients will respect you more for having those boundaries. Set yourself up for success by taking time out of your week to plan ahead, decide your working hours and set aside some time to engage in other hobbies or just relax. When you are managing your own business the risk of burnout is considerably higher, so be mindful of how you spend your time and be careful not to undervalue your content and offerings. 

Outsourcing 

Investing in others to help you grow your business is never a bad idea! Although it’s good to understand why you might want  to outsource and the pros and cons of doing so. Let’s begin by understanding what outsourcing really means. Think of it this way, you could potentially involve  others within your business, helping you with the things you really don’t like doing yourself, or, perhaps in essential areas where you lack the necessary expertise. . By outsourcing to other specialists, you are giving yourself more time to spend on your passion , and your business will be more successful and professional because of it. Your approach to outsourcing will be unique to you, your experience and your skillset, and of course will also be determined by  the stage of business you are in.
If you are just starting out or are relatively new, it’s good to  spend some time learning and understanding about the different e aspects  within your business. Only then will you come to realise what your limitations are. Where is your time and energy best focused? And on the flip side, what is a poor use of your expertise? Take some time to research and ask questions, there’s so much free content online. You can find some fantastic masterclasses, podcasts and blog posts by experts sharing their knowledge. Invest in yourself and learn how to do the basics. 

If your business is more established, perhaps you are looking to take the next step and upscale your offering. Is it time you thought about outsourcing? Here are some areas that you might consider:

  • Finance: once your business is thriving, tracking incomings and outgoings, managing expenses and tax returns can become overly time consuming and take you away from growing your business further. Find yourself a trusted accountant who can help you with bookkeeping and related admin. Make sure you get  a few quotes and  a recommendation from friends or family is always good.
  • Ads: this is a very interesting topic and it’s difficult to cover it comprehensively in a few lines here. There’s a whole “science” behind advertising and digital marketing that is not easy to understand and master by just watching some tutorials on YouTube. We strongly recommend learning about the basics, but then ask someone with more experience to help you out. We will be running a workshop with a Kuula marketing expert very soon to go through this topic more in depth, so stay on the lookout for more information. 
  • Digital marketing: if you want to grow your community but you feel stuck, you may consider reaching out to a Digital Marketing expert who can help you explore new ways of connecting to a wider audience. There are multiple ways to grow your digital presence, from newsletters, to social media, lead generation campaigns and so much more. Again, these are topics that would warrant a whole series of blog posts!, But perhaps we can give you some food for thought and encourage you to become curious about the ways in which you and your business can grow. Again, watch this space, at Kuula we are committed to providing you with quality and relevant content that will help you to nurture and grow your passion project.

Quality vs quantity approach 

Last but not least, how to differentiate your career from a hobby when it comes to quantity. Whenever the ego is involved, it’s easy to get caught up in numbers and no matter how well we’re doing, there’s always someone out there who we perceive to be doing better than us. However, this is exactly where our business hat needs to stay put on our head. Don’t feel like if you don’t have x amount of students today or make x amount of money by the end of the month, you are failing. Because you are definitely not. Eagerness and that impatience to get things done quickly is part of our entrepreneurial spirit, but success takes time and consistency. Choose quality over quantity, in every field of your business! Unless we’re talking about money, you should go with quantity there 😉 

The aim of this article is to challenge you to think about what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are going about it. Is your current strategy and mindset aligned to the vision you have for yourself and your business?. As a company our mission is to empower yoga teachers and fitness professionals. We stand by you no matter what approach you take for your career, but we also want to help you tackle the important but often difficult questions, so that both you and your business can flourish and grow.

We are about to launch an exciting and incredibly relevant programme for fitness professionals and yoga teachers, which aims at giving you the tools you need to build or upscale your business, so stay tuned for more information!