Yoga Musings

Yoga Business Ethics: Private Lessons

Here’s a very common scenario: A yoga teacher teaches at a studio, makes connections with many students, some of these students want private lessons and hire the teacher, independently from the yoga studio, to give them private lessons at home. I’ve seen this happen with individual students, and even with an entire group of students. Basically, the studio gets cut out of the picture, potentially never seeing another penny of the student’s (or students’) money. Does the yoga teacher behave ethically in this situation?

I think there are many considerations here, and the answer to whether or not the yoga studio should get a cut of private lessons is not clear. If the private lessons take place at the yoga studio, it seems plausible to me that the yoga teacher should be paid a flat rate, and the yoga studio should get the rest. Something like a 50/50 or 40/60 or 60/40 split sounds reasonable to me. But what happens when the student says something like this to the teacher?: “Hey, why don’t you just come to my house and give me lessons there? You’ll get 100% of the money, and I won’t have to pay as much.”

Technically speaking (one might argue), the yoga teacher is not really providing the same service at the person’s house. Giving private lessons in someone’s home involves commuting time, wear and tear on the yoga teacher’s car, gas, and other costs which the teacher won’t incur if he/she simply teaches private lessons at the studio where he/she already works. In other words, this might be a consideration in favor of saying that the yoga teacher acts in a perfectly ethical way when he/she takes a private lesson client away from the yoga studio, because the yoga studio doesn’t offer private in-home lessons, and the yoga teacher does.

But what happens if the yoga studio demands a cut of the money from the private in-home lessons? Some studio owners do exactly this, claiming that the yoga teacher never would have met the student had the teacher not worked at the yoga studio in the first place; thus, the studio is owed a kind of referal fee or royalty. If the yoga teacher does pay a kickback to the yoga studio, should it be a one time thing ? Or is the teacher obligated to pay a percentage of his/her earnings back to the studio indefinitely?

I’m interested to hear what other yoga teachers, students, and studio owners think about this issue. It’s a touchy issue, and it’s one that can often strain the relationship between owners and their employees.

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10 thoughts on “Yoga Business Ethics: Private Lessons

  1. I am amazed at the teacher’s responses on the blog.
    The yoga studio pays rents, bills, and hires the teachers.
    The teachers may get a set fee – regardless of whether
    or not any people show up to a class. The teacher may even getpaid more if more people come to the class. The studio owner takes financial risks to open the studio. If a teacher meets up with a student in a studio it would be unethical for them to give them private lessons outside of the studio space without consent of the studio. If a teacher wants to get their own students through their own merits then that is great. But if a studio owners put their sweat and toil and money into attracting every customer it would be a kind of stealing to be hired by a studio and in that space steal the clients. I believe in other businesses you have defined rules so that a plumber working for a plumbing company cannot go to someone’s house on the company time and solicit his own services and cut out his employer.

  2. Most teachers are independent contractors. Sure, a studio hires them. But the success of the class is dependent on the quality of the teacher, and in my experience, NOT the studio alone. And frankly, a lot of teachers rent their spaces and are not on any kind of payroll from the studio. That means they pay a rent, regardless of who shows up, and collect any and all tuition. In the case of privates, it is usually the same deal. The teacher rents the studio, and collects the tuition. It is not usually a percentage split. A percentage split is used for workshops and trainings, where the studio and the teacher will both walk away with a few hundred dollar apiece. For a studio to expect a percentage split on $100 or less is ludicrous. Either way, a studio is only as good as it’s teachers. And if a teacher and a student decide to do privates in their own home, the teacher is the one doing all the work, and it is because of the level of their own expertise and experience, not because of anything the “studio” did, besides providing a venue for the two individuals to meet. If a teacher doesn’t like it, I would expect that they can and do, leave to teach at a more responsible studio, and usually take their students with them.

  3. At the end of the day these are students of Yoga, not students of a teacher or a studio. However since money is involved and a studio owner has the overhead their are ethical guidelines one should consider following.
    If a student walks into a studio that the owner has provided the space for classes, then the owner should set the guidelines for all teachers regarding classes and privates. When a student request a teacher for privates within the studio space it would be ethical for the teacher to talk to the manager or owner of the studio to set it up. If the conversation takes place outside of the studio then it can open up into privates at the studio or another location.

  4. We have clear rules set in our contract with the teachers – and yet it happens again and again that some folks try to bypass these rules.
    – if a teacher meets a potential student at the our studio, then the teacher shall go through the studio to do the booking, handling the accounting and payroll, paying the insurance.

    we apply this rule also when the student wants to have classes at home: we pay a higher salary based on transportation etc than at the studio.

    – if a teacher meets a potential client outside of the studio, say at a party and without relationship prior within the studio, then the teacher is free to take on this student on his/her own terms

    – teachers working at several studios are asked not to advertise in our studio their classes elsewhere, just as much as we do ask them not to advertise our studio elsewhere, to us it sounds just mutual respect for every studio owner.

    is this non-yogic or hurting the teacher?
    well the rules are clearly defined, so we ask everyone to follow them and this saves us a lot of headaches. we pay the teachers well, way better than the 50% split mentioned above.
    and yet, some teachers are greedy and do not respect the rules; sometimes their students call the studio to cancel their class, as the teachers apparently make the clients believe that the studio gets the money…
    result: depending on the outcome of the talk with the teacher either a warning is outspoken or the teacher may even get fired on the spot…
    because in the long run the teacher is acting non-ethical…

    we know of teachers who heard about our great reputation, see the money we make, but do forget that we have to pay also many bills… yet forget that there is a lot of work to have a steady client base.

    if everyone acts respectful it is a win-win.

  5. “teachers working at several studios are asked not to advertise in our studio their classes elsewhere, just as much as we do ask them not to advertise our studio elsewhere, to us it sounds just mutual respect for every studio owner.”

    don’t you think it would be mutually respectful in the reverse? by sharing advertising between studios, students have a free choice to pick the space and instructors they prefer.

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