How to Gain Experience as a new Yoga Teacher, Coach or HealerNov 07, 2022
“Should I take unpaid work to gain experience and exposure as a new Yoga teacher, coach or healer?
Below I will discuss the pros and cons of working for free at the beginning of your new career and my top 3 rules you should follow when considering whether to work for free or not.
At the end of our teacher trainings Rachel and I are often asked by our students whether they should offer classes for free, or take a job “just for the experience” while they get their foot in the door.
While I always advocate for charging your worth, I also feel this is a grey area, and I totally understand the dilemma. You need experience to get a job and you need a job to get experience!
So, what to do?!
I have a success story of how I worked for free at the beginning of my career. It worked because I made an empowered choice and I gave myself a strict deadline. Read below for the full story…
Did you know that my first career was as a professional contemporary dancer? I danced in music videos and in opera. I loved dancing, performing and expressing myself creatively.
The dance industry is notoriously badly paid. With so many desperate dancers at each audition, it was a breeding ground for choreographers and directors to get away with offering dance jobs in exchange for “exposure” and “great experience”. Argh. I cringe when I look back at this dark side of the industry!
Later, when I started teaching yoga I realised there were some similarities. I needed some experience to get the kind of jobs I wanted (in surf retreats around the world), but as a new yoga teacher I also needed some sort of “in”.
I applied for a job as a yoga teacher at a surf camp in France. I was stoked to get it as I hadn't been teaching for long but I had relevant experience. I was a surfer and a yoga teacher after all!
The pay? Zero money, just food and lodging (in a tent!). After vowing never to work for free again here I was…
I looked at my options, my values and my goals - to work in world-class surf retreats and training centres around the world. I realised I could still make an empowered decision. I wouldn’t get money from this job, but I sure as hell would make it work for me!
I took the job (and had an amazing time surfing and teaching all summer) but I strictly gave myself 2 months, no more, before I would move on and find paid work. I taught 1-3 times a day. I worked with surfers in the area and asked them to give me feedback on how the classes were helping their surfing so I could make tweaks to my classes. I made valuable contacts and improved both my classes and my surfing.
Not long into my time in France I was offered the dream job I had been eyeing up for a year - to work in India at a surf and yoga retreat centre!
My plan had worked! I had enough experience to take the next step in my career!
I finished the summer in France, knowing that that would be the last time I ever worked for free, but I wasn’t resentful. I had given myself an end date and made sure that I made the most of my time before I moved on.
So what do I say to those who feel they need experience but know it’s not good practice to give away their time for free?
Here are my top 3 rules to remember.
- Give yourself strict boundaries.
Maybe you’ve just graduated as a breath coach and you want more practice. Tell your friends, family and community that for the next 4 weeks you’re teaching 10 free classes and encourage everyone and anyone to join. Then, after those 10 free classes, it’s time to start charging your worth.
- Make sure you’re getting something in return.
If you want to gain experience then really gain experience. Set yourself a task to do 10 free yoga classes in a month, for instance, and stick to it!
- Charge your worth
This is a buzz phrase but it’s important. If you have started charging then make sure you don’t under-charge people for your classes or session. If you’ve gained the necessary experience and skills then it’s time to ask people to give something in exchange.
Has anyone been charging less than their worth and feels it’s time to draw a line in the sand and start charging their worth?
If you have then may this be the moment you draw a line under that period and move on to creating a healthier exchange between you and your students or clients?