The new Pioneer Generation: Freelancers

THE YOGA TEACHER: Skills and mat are all that's needed

Ms Chan sells 10-lesson packages from $80 to $100 a session and conducts group sessions. Each lesson lasts an hour.
Ms Chan sells 10-lesson packages from $80 to $100 a session and conducts group sessions. Each lesson lasts an hour.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

When her yoga students become friends, that is when freelance instructor Peggy Chan is most satisfied with her work.

"Over time, students tend to open up about their lives and we form a deeper connection," she says.

The free-spirited 64-year-old singleton also likes that she does not have to answer to superiors. "That also means when something (bad) happens, I kena (get into trouble)," says Ms Chan, a former travel agent.

A yoga teacher for the past 15 years, she has six students ranging from 40 to 70 years old. Ms Chan says older students "appreciate the one-on-one sessions and know better what they want", as opposed to a younger crowd who might still be figuring out what classes suit them best.

Ms Chan sells 10-lesson packages at between $80 and $100 a session and conducts group sessions. These work out to an income of $1,800 to $2,500 a month. Each lesson lasts an hour at her students' homes.

She has to keep a few hours free each day in case students need to reschedule their lessons. She also keeps three slots open every day.

  • FAST FACTS

  • NAME: Peggy Chan

    AGE: 64

    JOB: Yoga instructor

    A FREELANCER FOR: 15 years

    EARNS PER MONTH: Between $1,800 and $2,500

    ADVICE FOR OTHER FREELANCERS: "Freelancing is not for everyone. You need to consider your financial circumstances. If you have to pay for housing loans or children, your priority should be a stable income."

"Freelancing is tough because you have to find your clients, and it's a niche, a certain type of people who want your services," says Ms Chan. "There are so many yoga instructors. Why would they want to pick you?"

The worry is that students may not sign up again after 10 classes or that she does not get paid on time.

"Some want to stop because they are relocating or want to get pregnant," she says, noting that she takes students only through recommendation.

On being able to cover her expenses, she says: "My income fluctuates so it's hard to predict whether I can make enough in a month."

She adds that she has to pay only for her own bills, food and other necessities.

She lives with a cousin and another flatmate in a Housing Board unit near Geylang. She also rents a studio at a nearby shopping mall to teach groups, but did not want to comment on the rent.

Freelancing really works for her because all she needs are the skills and a yoga mat, she says.

The pared-back life is a far cry from when she was 19 and started work at a multinational travel agency here, going on to London for 20 years in the same line, and fitting in her own travel to the United States, Europe and South America.

"I knew that I wanted to be in the travel or hotel industry because I want to see the world and talk to people," Ms Chan recalls.

After returning to Singapore in her 40s, Ms Chan became a freelance tour agent. She used to earn $4,000 a month when employed by agencies, but as a freelancer, earnings could hit $10,000.

This gig lasted until the mid-1990s when the Internet changed how people did their travel arrangements, and profits shrank.

"People were going online to book their own tickets. They didn't need travel agents," she says.

Ms Chan started to get serious about yoga, which she had picked up in London, and opened a studio in Upper Circular Road around 1995. It ran for about six years before competition and rising rents forced her to close it.

A former student later called to check if she was still teaching yoga. Ms Chan decided to teach freelance."That was how it began, and I have enjoyed the job ever since."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'THE YOGA TEACHER: Skills and mat are all that's needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe