You most likely decided to pursue a career in music education because you love music and you want to share that passion with the world. To be surrounded by music every day and to be completely immersed in that world, while shaping student’s lives, is what makes music education such a rewarding career. Maybe you are just starting or maybe you’ve been in business for a while, and you’re waiting for that moment when the phone starts ringing and your business really starts taking off. Then the reality sets in. You’re not sure how to get students or how to make your business profitable. If you plan to make this your main source of income, then being profitable is important. The truth is that you can be extremely profitable in music education whether you teach independently or you own a studio with several teachers working for you.
I’ve built my studio several times from the ground up. As to why “several times”….well, it is a long story. But the short story is we had to pick up and move to a different state a couple of times and start all over, and I’m happy to say that each time, within a couple of months, I would have my studio built up again to full capacity with wait list and all. Now I help other music educators to do the same as a music business consultant and coach, and through my music teacher’s database.
So how did I do it? How did I start from zero and explode my business every time? I’ve narrowed it down to 4 key things that you can start doing to grow your studio’s profitability and quickly. Here they are:
I have a business background, so I tend to use terms like “branding” a lot when I am coaching or consulting with my clients. It helps to think of yourself and your studio as a product, just like any other product that someone would create, package, and sell, because whether you like it or not you need to be able to sell your services to clients or you will never be profitable. In order to get the attention of potential students, you will need to let them know why you are the person that they will want to invest in. This all starts with branding yourself and your company.
How does one do this? You need a Unique Selling Position (USP). Start by making a list of all the things that make you or your studio unique. Perhaps you have a doctorate in music, with years of performance experience. Or maybe you teach in-home lessons to working, busy families. Or maybe you were a contestant on a tv talent show or are a recording artist. Or maybe what makes you unique is that you offer games, pizza parties, and a fun music summer camp each year. Whatever it is that makes you unique, figure it out and write it down. Then let people know about your particular expertise. You have now positioned yourself as an expert and given people a reason to call you.
Now that you know who you are and what makes you unique, you should spend some time thinking about who your potential students are. This will help you figure out where you should advertise and also what to say to get them interested in working with you. For example, if your ideal client is someone who is looking for a discount, the location in which you place an advertisement will be very different from if you live in a wealthy neighborhood or if you will be working with students studying for competitions or who are recording artists, etc. Figure out who your “ideal” client is and then you will know how to reach them.
Some great places to advertise for music students: local music stores, Craigslist, newspapers, handing out flyers, online through teacher databases (i.e. Takelessons.com or ilovemusiclessons.com, etc.), social media, and I also highly recommend having your own website in which you can have a photo of yourself and highlight your skills and qualifications. Once you are established, you should create a referral program, such as offering a free session to any of your current students who helps you sign up another student.
Be Organized and Professional
One of the top complaints I received from my students regarding past instructors was that they were not organized and were not professional. Unfortunately, many music instructors do not take their businesses as seriously as they should. Whether you are teaching kids in your apartment or you have a large studio, you have a business. And potential and current clients will know whether or not you see it that way or if you are simply teaching as a hobby. Either one of those things is fine, but if you want to be profitable you need to treat it as the actual business that it is.
The most successful teachers and studios treat everything they do as a business and they take it seriously. They answer their phones, promptly return phone calls, plan lessons in advance, keep detailed records, keep their schedule organized, print out the materials they need on time, keep studio policies, make sure their students are kept informed of changes, are on time for lessons, and are consistent from week to week so students know what to expect.
Be Young at Heart
Although students range in age from 3-99, most of the students you will have throughout your career will be young, in the 5-12 year-old range. The more that you are able to accommodate that age range, the more you will have a marketable business. Letting students play musical games, offering fun parties for students, giving prizes and stickers, and in general simply being upbeat and energetic go a long way. Even if most of your students are adults, most clients will prefer to work with someone who is fun, interesting, and enthusiastic about what they are teaching, and gets them excited each week as well.
Amanda Becker is a musician, a music business coach, and consultant and is the founder of ilovemusiclessons.com, a music teacher database for teachers nationwide. She holds a bachelor of arts in music and psychology, and a masters degree in business administration. She is passionate about music, writing, and education. For more tips and strategies or to ask a question about making your music teaching business successful and profitable: facebook.com/ILoveMusicLessons