One Saturday, I got a call around 10:30. It was the mother of my 11:00 student calling to cancel their lesson. She said, “Sorry for the late notice, but it took me a long time to find your phone number.” The validity of that excuse aside, I began thinking about how easy it is to find my contact information. That led me to thinking about all the things I do (and that you can do too!) to be more “findable.”
Put Your Contact Info on Everything
Literally. Put your contact information on everything you hand your students. Put your contact information on you lesson policy, on your invoices, on your business card, on your website, on your handouts, and on anything else you ever hand your students. That way, your students have absolutely no excuse for not getting in touch with you.
Some of you are probably thinking, “that’s ridiculous; I shouldn’t have to babysit my students and their families like that.” You’re right, you shouldn’t have to. In theory, you should have families your contact info at the initial meeting and be done with it. We all know, however, that it never works like that in practice. People misplace things, spill coffee on things, throw things away accidentally, leave things in rental cars, etc. You can’t afford to have your contact information be one of those things.
Think about the last business card you received. What about the last pamphlet from your child’s school, your church, or your gym? Do you know exactly where it is? Maybe, but if you’re like most people I know, you have a stack of papers just like that sitting around somewhere “to be filed.” The more often your contact information is in that pile, the easier it will be for families to get a hold of you.
Also, don’t forget that students might be looking for your contact information to give to their friends and classmates for referrals!
Be on the Internet
Last summer, I went to my college roommate’s wedding and met a woman named Carrie. We were seated at the same table for the rehearsal dinner, hung out at the “after rehearsal dinner” party, danced at the wedding, and hung out after the wedding.. The night of the wedding, we left it at “see you tomorrow at brunch.” Except Carrie never made it to brunch, and I headed home with no phone number or contact information of any kind.
On Monday, I spent about 30 minutes scouring the internet for a way to get a hold of Carrie. She wasn’t on Facebook, she wasn’t on Myspace, and she didn’t have a personal webpage of any kind. Her last name was reasonably distinctive, so it’s not like she was lost in a sea of Carrie Smiths. She simply wasn’t on the internet. By the time I got her number a few months later from the groom, she was already seeing someone else, who, quite frankly, is probably less cool than I am.
The moral of the story is don’t be Carrie. Your students and prospective students will not spend 30 minutes looking for you on the internet. More likely, they’ll spend 30 seconds. Google yourself often and make sure that you appear on the first page of the search results. If you have a common name like “John Smith” then you might not be able to pull that off. Still, do what you can to make sure you appear on the first page of search results when someone googles “John Smith music teacher” or “John Smith your instrument.”
Having a personal webpage is a great boon to being findable on the internet, simply because you can control your own meta tags (or have someone do that for you) to increase your search engine rank. It’s even better if you own your own name as a domain. Frankly, the first place I’m looking for John Smith on the internet is at www.johnsmith.com. Most web hosting companies now offer a service where you can buy a domain name for around $10 per year and then have the site redirect to somewhere else (your MTH page, for example).
Personally, I have my own website (which admittedly is now several years old and desperately needs to be updated, but it still has valid contact information), a web site for the music store where I teach, and accounts on Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. I try and put as much contact information as possible on each of those pages so that I am as findable as possible. I like to think that the average 6th grade student, given my name and an internet connection, can have me on the phone in five minutes or less.
How do you make yourself findable? Leave your answers in the comments below.