cSamantha Nolan SmithGuest post by Yoga Teacher Samantha Nolan Smith.

Note from Brook: I first met Sam at a first aid course (as you do) and we started corresponding online. But it wasn’t until the Yoga Australia Conference in April this year that we had a proper pow-wow about yoga-business-money-feminism-effectiveness-communication-writing-service. Over to Sam …

I trained as a yoga teacher in 2006 and when I first started teaching it was wonderful. I loved the art of teaching and I loved seeing my students transform their lives through their dedication on the mat.

After a few years though, I grew tired of lugging my mat, my oils and my music around from place to place. I grew tired of going out in the dark at night, and of having to teach so many classes a week to make a comfortable living.

Even though I still loved teaching, I could feel the pull to deliver the work differently. In a way that was consistent with my other desires for my business and life:

  • I wanted to be location independent
  • I wanted to increase my capacity to earn more money in a way that didn’t involve me trading more and more of my time
  • I wanted to expand my reach – to work with people around the world, rather than just in my local community.

When I got clear on my requirements, what I had to do became blindingly obvious. I needed to go online.

The online options for yoga teachers at the time were these:

  • online yoga stores were springing up,
  • teachers were selling their books and DVDs, and
  • membership sites were just kicking off – sites selling students a monthly subscription in exchange for a whole swag of yoga classes that they could download and take at a time and place that was convenient to them.

As I reviewed the options, I knew those models weren’t quite right for me. In addition to my yoga teacher training, I had trained in a number of therapeutic models and I wanted to explore the potential of bringing them all together in an online workshop format.

By that time I’d been blogging for about a year and against the advice of my business coach (who thought I should wait a few more years), I put out an offering to my subscribers. It was a 12 month chakra course called Dakini Circles, which I marketed to my mainly corporate and non-yogic readers as a personal transformation program.

Here’s what I learned from that first experiment:

1. Keep it simple and build from there

The first iteration of Dakini Circles was very simple. I convened one online meeting a month and in between I sent the participants weekly emails. I didn’t have a membership site, facebook groups either weren’t around or I wasn’t aware of them, and I didn’t have anyone doing any fancy design or development work for me.

I simply worked out how to convene an online webinar by participating in other people’s, and I put everything else together using excel spreadsheets, word documents and my email list.

2. You don’t need a huge list to get started

I had a tiny list of about 200 people when I offered the first round of Dakini Circles and I ended up with 17 participants.

That’s a good conversion rate for online products and programs and here’s how I managed it; I knew the needs of the people on my list. I delivered strong content to them every week via my blog and created an engaged community that trusted me.

List building is a waste of time if you’re not building loyalty. It might sound impressive to have thousands of subscribers or facebook followers but if the majority of your readers delete your email without reading it or are turning off your facebook notifications, then you’re far better off with a small list that loves your work.

A small but loyal list will trump a large and uncommitted list everyday. (Click to tweet.)

3. Cheaper is rarely more popular

What made Dakini Circles profitable for me in the first year was the option that participants had to upgrade from just doing coursework, to working one to one with me.

I sold two program streams; participation in the program or participation supplemented by one to one work. In the first year, over half the participants chose the upgrade and in the second year, even though the upgrade was double the price, 95 per cent of participants opted for the upgrade.

4. Small numbers are a blessing in the early days

In that first online offering I might have wished for more participants but in retrospect I’m glad I wasn’t inundated with 100+ students. Why? Because I wasn’t ready.

In addition to teaching content that I knew well, I was learning a huge amount in that first year:

  • I was learning to hold a global, virtual space with people uncovering their limitations and meeting resistances at different times and at different levels of intensity over the course of a 12 month period.
  • I was learning how to convene an online webinar that ran seamlessly from both a teaching and technological perspective.
  • I was learning to administer the program as efficiently as possible.
  • I was learning to create and teach the program in a way that saw people realising the best possible results, at the same time as I was writing the content for future modules.

Yes, it was a lot of work. Which brings me to my final lesson in taking yoga online.

5. Your investment pays off, but you have to be willing to see it through

The second year I ran the program was so much easier than the first. I made improvements to the program, I added a private webpage for members to access materials, and eventually we formed a private facebook group. I was also able to spend more time marketing the program and as a result, I doubled my business revenue in that year.

It’s now almost four years since I ran my first online program and I have found that it’s absolutely my favourite way of teaching. I’ve developed a number of online projects since:

  1. A multimedia guide to running yoga retreats at home.
  2. A 6-week online course focused on mastering energy use and clearing the koshas, and
  3. I’m currently launching a membership site called The Freedom Collective.

Yoga has always been a teaching in freedom. So many people who work in the online world are seeking the same thing. My sense is that there is an enormous field of untapped potential in terms of what we as yoga teachers can offer in this space if we simply approach it in the same way that we approach our practice – step by step, one posture at a time, mastering the basics before we progress to more and more advanced practices.


Would you like to hold your first online Class?

Learn how in just 90 minutes at my online course creation class!


About Samantha Nolan-Smith
Samantha Nolan-Smith has been a yoga teacher since 2006. She teaches yogic philosophy online, drawing on the ancient teachings and translating them into modern tools and techniques for people who want to wake up and live and work differently in the 21st century.