Once upon a time, and not that long ago, music teachers found new students and communicated with existing ones using something called paper! We used to place adverts in shop windows, local newspapers and hand out flyers all in the hope of attracting a new student. If a message needed to be given before a lesson, a phone call was made or a letter written with a pen and delivered either by hand or by something known as the postal service! Oh how times have changed! There may be the odd “old school” teacher that uses these methods still, but for the rest of us, we’ve been moved into the technological twenty first century, either willingly or dragged kicking and screaming!
The really important question that freelance businesses like ours need to ask is, how do potential students find me? Turn the tables for a moment, how do you look for products and services? I’m sure that, like me, you would “google it.” Even if someone has recommended your teaching services, the truth is that a potential student will probably try to find you on the internet to ascertain your contact details and see if they can find out some more about “what you do.”
Spin Your Web
Never before has there been a need for independent teachers to
setup and maintain their own website. Think of it as having an electronic “shop window” where potential customers can take a look at what you are offering before deciding whether to take the next step.
To those being dragged through such rapid electronic evolution, the prospect of grappling with yet more technology might first appear daunting. So the purpose of this article is to focus on “how to” make use of a fantastic feature of MTH (music teacher’s helper) namely the included website provision. Now let’s just make one thing quite clear at the outset. I am not a website programmer. I am a mere musician and I managed it! Setting up and maintaining your own MTH website is REALLY easy and hopefully by the end of this article you will have been able to follow some logical steps to creating your own. If you already use this great feature, maybe there might be a few new ideas with which you can improve your existing site. Please feel free to comment at the bottom with any other tips you might have for me and the other readers. Part 2 (next month) will focus on how to make your website engaging and successful from a marketing point of view. This month however, I want to start with the basics.
Every website has an address called a domain name. For example, you will be familiar with www.amazon.com, www.ebay.com or www.musicteachershelper.com When you create your own website with MTH you will automatically be given a website address. Mine is “https://reubenvincent.musicteachershelper.com”. That probably will be fine at first.
Later, you might decide to buy a website address of your choosing that will look better on your business cards and when you sign emails. For example I pay www.1and1.com a small fee (the price of two or three coffees) every two years for the privilege of using www.reubenvincent.co.uk I logged into my account on their website and setup my domain name to point to my MTH website address. Now when people type my domain name, www.reubenvincent.co.uk they are directed to my MTH website. Easy!
Once you’ve logged into MTH, you need to visit the “Settings” link in the top right hand corner (fig. 1).
Next click “Website Preferences” where you can choose the name of your studio which will be displayed at the top of all your website pages. Here also is where you can “Change Your Website Address” (fig. 2). Remember to save at the bottom when you have finished editing.
Now it’s time to get familiar with the main “Website” drop down menu!
“Website Pages” – This is where you can add new pages to your website and edit their content.
“Layout/Theme” – Here you can very quickly switch the design/look of your website in a matter of seconds without any effort. Instead of you worrying about how to make your website look professional, all the work has been done for you. It’s just a matter of going through the many designs till you find one you like. Even more themes have been recently added under the tab “Prime Themes” giving you plenty to choose from. Just select the word “Apply” to instantly transform your content to a new look without having to change your text and other content like photos. Why not have a change of look every few months? My favourite is called “Outreach” (fig. 3).
“Studio Announcements” – Do you have something to announce to the world or your students? Maybe you are offering a new service or a student has achieved an outstanding goal? Perhaps you’ve just had a student concert and there are photos to share? Or an important event is coming up in your studio calendar? Select “ADD ANNOUNCEMENT” and then choose whether the announcement will be seen on your website or when students and parents login. Give your announcement a “Title” and also add the date and time if you wish. Then you can type your “Message” in a box that looks just like a word processor. You can add photos and links to other websites or pages in your own website. More on that later. Finally, you have the option to set a date when the announcement will be removed or you can leave the box blank if you wish to remove the announcement manually. To organise the vertical position of the announcement, enter a number into the “Sort Order” box.
“Photos” – When you have pictures of your studio or concerts etc. that you want to show, simply click the “NEW PHOTO” button and choose the files from your computer that you want to upload into your photo gallery. You have options to “Edit” the caption and change the order of the photos and “Delete” (fig. 4).
“Links” – These links to other websites will appear on the “Resources” page and is a great way you can send potential customers to your Facebook network, YouTube channel or other sites where they can find out more or even buy your products. Just hit “NEW LINKS” and paste the website address into the “Link Url” box as well as create a “title” and “description.” Don’t forget to press “Save!”
“File Area” – This is where you can upload files that only your students can see when they log in or will be available, if you choose, to all visitors to your website. How about sharing some of your teaching diagrams or recordings so that your pupils have access any time or so potential students can see the quality of your work? Pdf and mp3 files are probably the best formats as all computers can quickly download in these types of files (fig. 5)
“Studio Logo” – An option if you have your own specific logo (although I haven’t used this option with my website).
“View My Website” – Finally! The moment we’ve been waiting for…drum roll please! Here’s the button to choose when you want to see what all your hard work looks like.
Creating Web Pages
Now it’s time to focus more on the details! Some of the pages, called system pages have special functions that have limited editing. For example, the “Registration” page is a special form that potential clients can fill in to join your waiting list. As soon as they submit their details you will be automatically informed by MTH via email. This is a very clever feature and really gives your website a professional image as well as saving much time from tediously collecting data. You can specify what information is required and also as a few questions of your own.
The “Contact” page comprises of a simple form that the public can use to make enquiries and the “Login” page is where students and parents can go to access all sorts of information ranging from invoices and statements to the lesson and event calendar, lending library and practice log. These are such amazing features of the website that are automatically set up by MTH that really help teacher’s to stand from the competition in an extremely efficient and professional way (Fig. 6).
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that the button “Website Pages” from the “Website” drop down menu was the place to add new pages and edit their content. After selecting “New Page” in the top right hand corner, you first need to decide on a title. Next is the “Slug (URL Name)” which is automatically filled in after you choose a title as an extension of your existing domain name. For example, the full link for one of my pages (including the “slug”) is https://reubenvincent.musicteachershelper.com/teaching-frequently-asked-questions. This is handy for emailing or using as a link elsewhere to direct people to a very specific place in your website for their attention.
When adding text to each page of your website, you have all the normal options that you would have using a word processor. That’s one of the benefits of the MTH website is that it’s easy and familiar to use. No complicated programming here thank goodness (fig. 7).
To add pictures to your page, select the “Image” icon (fig. 8). Next choose “Browse Server” to select an existing file or to upload a new photo. On this pop up page you have options to choose the width and height of the image as well as how much border there should be between the photo and the text. For some reason I seem to have the most success by “Aligning” my pictures to the “Right” (fig. 9).
Adding links is a great way to take your reader to another place on your website or to take them to an external website page. First select the text that you want to become linked and then click the link icon (fig. 10). Paste the link address into the “URL” box and select the “Target” tab and then choose “New Window” if you want the link to open in, wait for it, a new window! This is handy so that your prospective client doesn’t wander off on an internet adventure and forget all about you because your website is still visible.
So you’re getting the hang of this website building and you want to move onto adding videos! First of all you need to upload your video to a hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo. Then click on the share button of your video on the external website and select the “Embed” option. There are normally a few options to select and you will need to choose a size for your video. Finally copy the code. Now back on your MTH website page that you are editing, select the “Source” icon and once the page has transformed into code, find a spot for your cursor and paste the embedding code. Press save and after wiping the beads of sweat from your brow, choose “view” to see if you are a programming genius. Yes?! It’s worked?! Well done you! You’ve earned yourself some serious bragging rights! Ha, ha!
Similarly, recordings need to hosted elsewhere and I use the extremely popular and free hosting for recordings; SoundCloud at www.soundcloud.com. Like YouTube, you can choose whether the file that you upload be public or private and either way you will be able to access the embedding code which can then be pasted into the page that you are editing after selecting the “Source” icon.
The people at MTH have gone out of their way to help you through the process of creating and maintaining a website with telephone, live chat and email support as well as lots of excellent videos tutorials. In the help section is a comprehensive FAQ section, Knowledge Base and Community Forum with much advice on website issues. Click here to watch an excellent video tutorial to get you started aptly entitled “Setting Up Your Website” or click here for another relevant video called “Website Customization.”
I love the integration between my website and all the other amazing features of MTH. I’ve tried building websites in the past with varying degrees of success but I can honestly say that it is so much easier now that I use MTH. I love the fact that it doesn’t cost the earth and just comes as part of the service. I also love that I can keep updating my content myself from time to time without any stress. It’s quick and easy!
Next month I’ll be focusing on some tried and tested marketing techniques, some traditional and others of the technology age, to really help make your website as effective as possible at bringing you new clients.
Yes, like it or not, the need for “spinning your own web-site” to “attract and capture” new clients is an essential survival skill of the modern business owner. And thanks to MTH it doesn’t have to take long or be stressful to dress your “shop window.” If I can do it, anyone can! Have fun…