Yoga is a practice, and profession, based on integrity. While you want trust to be the foundation for your business relationships in the field, a written yoga contract can be a supplemental measure to ensure this is the case. Plus, it’s a great way to prevent miscommunication, disappointment, or damages for any party involved.
One of my friends recently graduated from a teacher training program in Oregon, and was quickly invited to teach yin yoga at the same studio upon her graduation. She had a verbal agreement with the owner to get paid per student in class.
It didn’t take long for her style to catch on with the community, and her class sizes grew daily. Without notice, the studio owner came to my friend and informed her that there was a cap on the amount of money she would get paid per class (despite the amount of students attending). My friend was crushed. She loves teaching, but felt upset about not being paid fairly for her services.
Because neither an initial pay rate or maximum pay rate was established in writing, it caused a lot of strain on the business relationship. Together, we created a plan to craft a yoga contract, and re-negotiate her teaching rate so that both the studio and her own private business could thrive. By looking closely at the 10 points of a yoga contract below, you can prevent making the same mistake before you start teaching at a new location.
Photo Credit: Diane Nicole Photography
THE PURPOSE OF A YOGA CONTRACT
In many cases, yoga instructors are independent contractors who provide their services to a multitude of businesses, such as yoga studios, wellness centers, or corporations. When forming these business relationships, it’s essential to outline the nature of the partnership. That’s exactly what a yoga independent contractor agreement does. And, for the ease of this article, we’ll refer to this agreement as your yoga contract.
Benefits of signing such a contract:
- Provide specific documentation of your agreement
- Clarify the responsibilities of all parties involved
- Ensure you and the company you are working with are on the same page
- Protect yourself and your business
- Freedom to choose who to work with and when
- Flexible schedule
- More control in running and operating your business
- Keep integrity and freedom at the forefront of the partnership
Like all things, businesses grow and evolve. By placing a flexible, yet clear contract in place, you can determine if the business relationships you have in place are still serving you as time moves forward. Reviewing your contracts a few times a year is also a good idea, too.
WAYS IN WHICH TO HAVE A YOGA CONTRACT SIGNED
Before signing a yoga contract, it’s essential to know what’s in the agreement. You can get a glimpse of what a studio (or other business) expects of you by asking pertinent questions in your yoga interview. If you like what you hear, and are ready to move on to the next phase of placing those expectations in writing, you will likely see the contract in three ways:
The business presents a physical document.
This is usually done in paper form and you can read the details carefully before signing. I recommend taking it home and reading it carefully before sealing the deal. Then, if you do agree to the terms, you can request a paper copy. Then, I also suggest that you scan the document and save the digital file in numerous places (cloud, external drive, computer hard drive, etc).
The business provides an online contract.
If the company with whom you want to provide your services is tech savvy, they might have their yoga contract online for you to sign. If this is the case, make sure you can save the document digitally for yourself. Perhaps even print a copy to have on record, too. Just make sure you have read it carefully before providing your autograph.
The business does not have a contract in place, so you must provide for them.
Believe it or not, many yoga businesses do not provide a written contract for their instructors. That’s why I suggest you have a basic template of your yoga contract in place that you can give to the company with whom you want to do business. In this scenario, you demonstrate your professionalism by being prepared. You can fill in contract details based on your previous verbal conversations, and you’ll also be able to set forth your own terms in areas that have not been discussed. Once a yoga contract is agreed upon, just make sure all parties have copies.
In any of the above cases, just make sure you read through all details carefully before signing!
(1) NATURE OF THE RELATIONSHIP
While it might seem like I’m re-stating the obvious here, you want to make sure your yoga contract expressly declares that you are an independent contractor and not an employee. This means your obligations, such as paying taxes, will be different than if you were employed by a company. The IRS differentiates the two in detail on their website. We’ll discuss independent contract obligations in more detail in Point 4 below.
(2) YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
The yoga contract you sign should outline the responsibilities, or services, you are expected to provide for another business. Some agreements spell out these roles in great detail. Others do not. Since you are not an employee, the company you are working with cannot tell you exactly what to do or how to do it. Yet, they will still want to clarify their expectations of your role at their location. Here are some items that can be addressed under this category:
- Professional standards: A company usually wants to make sure you will uphold a level of excellence as outlined by the yoga alliance. They might also have more specific ideas about you aligning with their specific studio policies.
- Types of yoga taught: Your contract might also include which types of yoga you agree to teach at their location.
- Scheduling: There may be a minimum or a maximum number of classes you agree to teach at this location. Other topics, such as expectations about how early you should arrive before you teach, or how long you should stay afterward, might also be listed in this section.
- Administrative responsibilities: The location at which you agree to teach might want you to check in students before class, maintain attendance records, or clean up the space after your class. Make sure you have a very clear picture of these details before signing.
- Substitutes: How does a location expect you to find a substitute? Do you have to select a substitute from an approved list? It’s best to have answers to these questions before you sign on board.
- Place of work: It is a good idea to spell out the location, or numerous locations, at which you will be teaching for this company.
(3) PAYMENT FOR SERVICES
The timing, methods, and pay scale for which you will be compensated for your services should be outlined in this agreement. This prevents casual, verbal changes to be made to your agreement. Some questions that fall into this category include:
- Do you provide a base rate for teaching a class?
- What is the pay per student?
- Is there a minimum payment per class/workshop?
- Is there a maximum payment per class/workshop?
- What is the pay schedule? Or, how often will I be paid?
- Will I be able to verify the business has correct records of my teaching before I am paid?
- How will discrepancies in payment be handled?
- What is the percentage split when I teach a workshop for this company?
- What will I be paid if teaching private lessons on site?
As a side note here, it’s always a good idea to keep track of attendance for your classes and workshops in case the business with which you are working makes a mistake. You can log the number of students in your class in your planner or phone. You might also want to take a screenshot on the computer of class attendance before you leave the location.
Photo Credit: Diane Nicole Photography
(4) YOUR OBLIGATIONS AS INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR
As an independent contractor, you invest in your own business and cover the cost of your own expenses. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Transportation costs
- Professional fees (such as a yoga alliance membership or ongoing education)
- Liability insurance
- Business licenses
- Personal supplies (such as mats and equipment)
When self-employed, you are also obligated to pay your own taxes. And, you must understand that no benefits are provided by the company with which you are working. This means no paid time off, sick pay, or unemployment benefits. If this freaks you out in any way, then perhaps consider finding a venue that wants to hire a yoga instructor as an employee.
(5) STUDIO OBLIGATIONS
Just as you want to make sure your role is clear in this business relationship, you want to know that the company with which you are teaming up with will sustain a high level of excellence, too. You will want to make sure the location where you’re teaching will be kept in good repair and will comply with health standards. You’ll also want to know it will be a safe place for you and your students.
Be sure to note that studio/venue provides:
- A furnished space
- Yoga props
- High cleanliness standards (how often floors and bathrooms cleaned? How often blankets washed? etc)
- Proof of building insurance (make sure you keep a copy of this for your records, even if only a digital copy)
- Proof that repairs made up to code if studio being built or remodeled (not always necessary for a contract, but might be nice to have for your own peace of mind).
(6) DEFAULT AND TERMINATION DETAILS
Because you want to remain in control of your relationships and your schedule, it’s important to be able to get in and out of your contract easily. Make sure that the details in which either party can end the contract is crystal clear. Look for answers to the following questions in your agreement:
- In what cases does the agreement terminate automatically?
- How might the studio end their relationship with you?
- What is the time frame in which they need to notify you about ending the contract?
- How must the business contact you to end the relationship? (usually, this needs to be in writing!)
- Can the business seek reimbursement from you for any damages that you might have caused? If so, how?
- How you can terminate your relationships with the studio.
- What time frame do you need to provide to end the relationship, and how will you need to notify them?
For example, if a studio fails to pay you as a contract, you should be able to immediately end the contract. Perhaps there are other circumstances, like you are moving or just no longer able to keep a location in your schedule, perhaps you provide two weeks notice. Both parties can agree on these terms. Check out this sample yoga contract if you want more ideas.
(7) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary works, or art. With regards to the yoga world, this relates to pictures and content developed to promote you or the business with which you are working. For example, let’s say you are going to teach a workshop at a studio and they create a flyer for the event. They might request that any marketing material for such a production are the intellectual property of the studio, and must remain the property of the studio (even after you cease to teach there).
While that might be acceptable to you, you’ll also want to know when you can take and use photos to grow your own yoga business. Perhaps the studio has great lighting and you want to schedule your own photo shoot. There are easy steps to get the additional paperwork in order to ensure any photos taken on site can be used by you at any time and remain your intellectual property. Just read the fine print in your yoga contract first! This will prevent having your hands tied from the get-go.
(8) UNEXPECTED FEES
As an independent contractor, you often assume less risk than running a physical business (like studio space rental, building maintenance, or employee hiring and firing). Thus, there are times a yoga contract will outline fees associated with breaches of the agreement to offset this risk. This could include:
- A studio finder’s fee. This would prevent you, as an independent contractor, from stealing clients from a studio. Again, this is a fine line, as social media and online communication encourage teachers and students to connect outside of the studio. Clear dialogue from the beginning can help you decipher if a client is considered “yours” or “the other parties’.”
- Workshop or class cancellation fees. If you don’t show up for a class or workshop that you agreed to teach previously, then the company who took the risk to book that time slot might want compensation for letting down their students.
- Failure to follow studio procedures. Again, this is a gray area as a business cannot tell you exactly what to do and how to do it if you are not their employee. But, if you have signed an agreement that outlines your responsibilities, and you break that contract, there could be repercussions. If in doubt about a clause in a contract about fees, I suggest you seek guidance from a third party with legal experience.
(9) OTHER CONSIDERATIONS or PROVISIONS
Each yoga contract you come across will have its own unique details that pertain to the specific needs of the parties involved. There will likely be a section in your agreement that covers these unique details. Some of these provisions could include:
- How to notify the other party should your contact information change
- Details of how legal proceedings would take place
- Reminders that all communication should be documented in writing
- Any additional appendices, or changes to the contract.
This last one is a big times saver for all involved. Often times a studio will create an addendum that would revise your contract. Instead of having all independent contractors sign new agreements, they just need new signatures on the revised portion.
If you agree to the changes, then by all means, sign away and continue teaching at that venue. But, if the new policies are not in alignment with your integrity or future in the yoga field, then perhaps speak with the manager or owner directly. Remember, when you use assertive communication in your business relationships, you can make confident decisions that will support you and your business.
Photo Credit: Raw Pixel
(10) NON-COMPETE CLAUSE
The non-compete, although mentioned last in this article, could be the most important section of any contract. You want to make sure that you are free to teach at multiple locations, and if a yoga contract prevents you from doing this, I suggest you greatly reconsider signing the agreement.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
As an independent contractor in the yoga field, it’s essential that you use a yoga contract to keep integrity and clear communication at the forefront of your business relationships. The 10 points above will help you understand the foundation of many written agreements. And, once you have clear expectations set in place, you can teach your classes with more confidence, clarity, and purpose.