How Did You Start Your Private Yoga Business?

HGY's First Promotional Postcard!

HGY’s First Promotional Postcard!

This is, by far, the most popular question that people ask me when they hear about my [super] job.

Many are asking how I switched from a private law practice to a private yoga practice. Others are wondering about the nuts and bolts of small business and “solopreneurship.” Other teachers often want to know how I developed a full client list within 6 months and have maintained it ever since, especially in the well-being world.

Truth is, I’m crazy for this topic and I could talk about the answers to those questions for hours…

Except I actually can’t, because those are hours (and hours and hours!) of time that I devote to my gorgeous clients and business affairs, my exceptional family and inner circle and, of course, my own restoration and care. 

Still, I love sharing this super-cool life story with the amazing people who write asking about it. I personally share details on my transition in a video (link below), and here I’m listing some of the most popular Qs I’ve received and the As I’ve offered:

1. What has your shift from lawyer to full-time yoga and wellness teacher been like? Were there any major factors or questions you asked yourself before you started a private yoga business?

My path has been, and continues to be, organic, messy, uncertain… and outstanding. One of the biggest factors was listening to my heart, even when that voice was small. There’s such an inner knowing that we all have, and when we cannot quiet an idea (even if it’s just a whisper), I’ve found that’s always something true and pure that needs more attention.

Another big factor, of course, was determining the physical, financial and emotional viability of my ideas — important practical realities that no self-employed person can afford to ignore (literally)! It’s especially true for this industry. As a good friend once told me: “it’s a lot easier to take care of others when you aren’t worried about keeping the lights on.”

To help with this process, I asked things like:

  • Vision — Ideally, what does my job look like? How many hours and days will I work each week? Who will I serve? What will my day-to-day tasks be? How many years do I want to do this?
  • Community — Who will support me? Who will offer mentorship? Technical expertise? Cheerleading?
  • Finances — What will my lifestyle be like, and what can I do to make sure I’m self-sufficient? What percent of savings can I spend? How much post-tax, gross profit do I need to make?
  • Self-Care — What toll will this take on my whole health (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual)? How will I take good care of myself so that I can provide excellent service to my clients?

There were many more questions, too, and the initial thought process took a few months. I used a catch-all journal to jot through it, as I believe that writing (with pen and paper) stimulates thought in a special way. It always helps me experience my own answers on a more visceral and true level than typing. I still use a journal to capture my thoughts as my business evolves (but Evernote is a critical complement!).

2. How did you actually transition out of your legal career? Did you know what you would do?

A few years into my law practice, I knew that I’d shift into something else but didn’t know what. The most effective technique was when I started using something that I teach to every client now, called kaizen — a Japanese word that has come to represent the process of making continuous, tiny changes to move forward.

My kaizen was pretty diverse. I began spending less each month, and transferred money from every check to a non-spending account. I volunteered with organizations and events that seemed even remotely interesting, and did more pro bono legal work. I started making a list of  the tasks I did as a lawyer, and highlighted the ones that I liked (yes, I did enjoy many of them!). I spent more time in yoga and meditation to quiet down the natural noise that comes from living in New York City (or just in your own head).

I also practiced riding the waves of external circumstance instead of fighting them. When the recession began to result in a decrease of my workflow, for instance, I focused on staying calm and took a yoga training. At the time, I actually had no inclination to ever teach — my only intention was to learn how to do home practices because I always got home too late to take a live yoga class. Years later, it became a very handy skill set to have.

3. How did you train for your current job and get private clients?

I’m a big believer in getting professional certifications and degrees when necessary, and employing self-education when it’s not. While I’ve completed a number of professional steps over the years, I’m also self-taught. My training, experience and client results offer a solid foundation for my work. I’m also committed to continuing education in all of my practice areas: wellness, yoga, myofascial release therapy and pregnancy/birth.

4. Where can I learn more about your story, or the key points on starting a small business and getting clients?

You can learn more about me on the “About” page of my website, It has more information, an interview I did with Bloomberg Law’s Stealth Lawyers series and a press list with books/articles that have featured my work.

For small business info, there are so many sources out there! I love Chris Guillebeau’s NYT and WSJ best-selling book The $100 Startup (I’m featured there, but love it regardless!), Pam Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation book and website, Jonathan Fields‘ work on entrepreneurship and small business, Marie Forleo‘s business tips and Rachel Rodgers’ Small Business Bodyguard for awesome legal information.

Your local SCORE office can also be a great, often free, resource. As you’re reading, take notes and make lists to complete the big steps in business start-up, like establishing your legal status (sole proprietor? LLC? S-corp?), managing corporate expenses, establishing a tax ID, identifying your market, etc.

Finally, on developing and managing a strong private client base, I’ve used strictly referrals… but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t marketing involved. There are many important pieces of this puzzle, but some key components are:

  • Who — who is your market, and who are your connections within it?
  • Where — where is your market located?
  • What — what is your service, specifically?
  • How — how will you serve? how is your service tailor-made for your market?
  • How much — how much will you charge for your made-for-market service?

Sketch out your ideas in your notebook. Plus, since getting clients requires getting educated, spend some time on Google! Look for experts in entrepreneurship, small business start-ups, client attraction (Fabienne Frederickson has a whole system on this), client delight (check out Jeff Riddle’s The GiveGive) and optimizing your blog or website (Social Triggers’ Derek Halpern rocks that out).

5. Do you offer mentorship or internships?

Yes! I love this sort of thing, but do it rarely. A few mentorship sessions are open each month, and internships are available from time to time. Check the Private Client Business Primer for more info.

I hope this helps you get a few steps farther along your path. Warmest wishes and best of luck to you and your business!

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