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Eight Tips On Setting Up A Music Teaching Business

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A version of this post originally appeared on the Music Teacher Info, written by Martyn Croston.

Starting any business takes a lot of perseverance and patience.

Some people compare it to bringing up a child or having a relationship – more often than not it’s a total rollercoaster!

But if you strongly believe and enjoy what you’re doing, it can be the most rewarding job in the world. Music teaching, like any profession, requires the right approach and strategy in order to succeed.

Here are eight factors you need to bear in mind when setting up a successful music teaching business.

1) Make sure you create a business plan

Before you plunge into the deep end and spend all your life savings on creating a top-notch music studio, you need to bear in mind several factors which can have an enormous impact on your business.

How much competition is there in your town?

Do people have money for music lessons in your location?

Is there enough demand for lessons on your instrument?

Questions, questions, questions…

But very important ones.

While I believe you can make a success of almost any music teaching business providing you have the right marketing strategy, you should create a business plan to cover all the important issues.

2) Set up your studio correctly

Make sure you have a neat and tidy workplace for every student who comes through your front door. It creates the right impression and ensures you appear more professional and serious about your teaching.

Ideally, you should teach in a quiet room, where other household members won’t interrupt or distract your lesson. This will make it easier for you and your student to focus.

3) Make sure you have the right equipment

This also creates the right impression with your students.

Ensure you have a good computer, or tablet, with fast internet access so you can stream videos on YouTube. You’ll also need a good sound system for playing music, some music stands, and equipment specific to your instrument. Decide if you’d like your students to buy sheet music, or whether you’ll do it and invoice them for the bill.

4) Create your payment terms

Don’t be a soft touch!

This is my golden rule with getting paid. If you start being too flexible with payment terms, you’ll make things more difficult in the long run. I suggest asking your students to pay in blocks of 5,10 or 20 lessons in advance, rather than on a lesson by lesson basis. You could even offer a small discount to encourage your students to pay for a group of lessons. Make it clear that prices are subject to review on an annual basis.

5) Create a cancellation policy

A well-constructed cancellation policy can save a lot of problems down the line if a student becomes unreliable and you start missing out on income.

Write a policy and give it to your student during or before your first lesson. If a student has paid for a block of lessons in advance it’ll make things easier as you won’t have to chase them for payment for missed lessons. Here’s an example….

“Lessons are billed in blocks of 10 and the fee is due in advance (by cheque or money transfer). If you are absent, you will still be charged unless you give me 48 hours notice. This is to give me time to rearrange my timetable and give notice to other students. If you provide sufficient notice, I will make up the lesson at a different time. If I am unable to teach a lesson for any reason, I will make up the lesson (if not I will issue a refund)”

This policy shows there is some compromise between you and the student. You are showing you’ll make up lessons if you are absent and they should give you sufficient notice if they are away. Failure to make this clear in the beginning can make people take advantage of you and this will hurt your income.

I know some music teachers who are very relaxed about their payment terms, but I also know others who almost never does refunds.

Just choose a policy which you are comfortable with, but make sure you are protected for any cancelled lessons at short notice.

6) Promote your business

So everything is in place. Your studio looks great, you have a well-written payment and cancellation policy, and you have all the equipment you need.

Time to find those students!

This is the hardest part and often where many music teachers struggle. It takes a big effort to get the ball rolling and find those first few pupils, as you need to get your name out there so people know about you and your business.

So do you sit next to the phone and wait for it to ring?

No way!

You need a solid marketing plan, one which you can work on each day. Consistency and persistence are the key elements here, as it can take the time to establish yourself as the go-to guy for music lessons.

7) Avoid teaching in a student’s home (if possible)

I learnt this the hard way.

Years ago, I taught a few piano students each week while I was studying at university. I would finish my lectures and then drive across town to teach in their homes. And full of enthusiasm to start earning some money, I accepted every student who approached me for piano lessons.

On the positive side, my students were enthusiastic, reliable and eager to improve their piano skills.

However, I spent so much time driving to their homes and being stuck in traffic, that suddenly my rate per hour didn’t seem quite as good.

So frustrating!

Not to mention the lost money due to petrol and wear and tear on the car. Ok, so I was still a student, living at home with mum and dad. And it wasn’t as though I had a wife and two kids to support. But this experience taught me a valuable lesson.

Time is money.

If you spend 2 hours in total to teach a 1-hour lesson, it means you could teach 2 lessons in the same time if you did it in your own studio. It’s something you should think about very carefully as the amount of income you could be missing out on soon mounts up.

Of course, sometimes it can’t be avoided.

If you’re teaching a child, some parents want you to teach in their home so their son/daughter feels more comfortable. That’s understandable, but I would certainly increase your lesson fee if you have to teach in a student’s home, to offset the cost of gas and travel time.

8) Book lessons back to back

Another tip to show your professionalism is to always book lessons back to back, even if you only have a few students. Showing your students you are busy and in demand creates the impression you are a well respected and sought after teacher. This can help increase the chances you’ll gain referrals from your existing pupils.

Martyn Croston helps private music teachers build successful businesses. He shares more advice on his website http://www.musicteacherinfo.com.

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12 Comments

  1. […] post Eight Tips On Setting Up A Music Teaching Business appeared first on Music Teacher’s Helper […]

  2. Robin Steinweg

    Great tips, Andrew! It took me years to develop a professional, business-like studio. I appreciate having a firm approach to tuition and cancellations.

  3. Jeanne Howell

    Great information. I have been teaching for years but I still found your article beneficial. Thank You.

  4. Steve
  5. Marcus

    This artilce is pretty much spot on! I agree with pretty much everything said here (and have experianced a lot of the pitfalls of new teachers, i.e being too relaxed witth cancellation policy and then getting strickter with this after realising I was losing about $1000 a year from people taking advantage of this.

    The only thing I disagree with is teaching lessons back to back. I used to do this but now I try to allow about 5 – 10 minutes between each lesson, to write up lesson notes, make coffee, or visit the bathroom etc.

    One of the great things about having MTH is it has allowed me to offer something none of the other 100 compettitors in my small town offer. I use the MTH account & calender to its maximum and use the lesson notes feature in the calender to keep in contact with students to give them a run down on the lesson and set practice assignments. Whislt this is quite time consuming, the feedback from my students suggestes that they really appreciate this and feel much more supported so it has been worth my time doing this.

  6. Powell academy of music

    This is a great article and I think when most people start a teaching studio they should put most of their time into their marketing.

  7. Elizabeth Harris

    I agree with your points except back to back lessons. I used to do this but felt students and parents felt rushed. I feel a gap in between students gives time for quick feedback to parents. This could be to reiterate ideas given to students for practise or to cover anything else discussed in the lesson. I do write in the students note books but a quick chat to parents is also useful,
    I have started teaching at home , as well as in school, and I agree about the office space. I started by teaching in our lounge but now have a teaching room assigned with a keyboard, music stand, small desk and a mirror. I have found teaching in their feels much more professional and the children know it s their learning environment. The mirror is so useful when teaching flute to show them how to hold the flute.

  8. Harold

    and step number 9?

  9. Kat

    Great tips! These are really helpful. The cancellation policy is so important. I used to be so uncomfortable having a policy, but it’s become a necessity. If people book out your time, that’s time you can’t spend on someone else, and you need to be paid for it!

  10. Juan Oscar A. Nartatez

    Your great ideas from your experience gave us important information about engaging in music teaching business. Our family and close friends with credentials in bachelor in music wanted to open a music school here in Davao City, Philippines. Your shared information is a big help and is highly appreciated, God bless!

  11. Dell music

    fantastic idea. avoid teaching at home is a good idea, but increasing the fee is not that easy as parents differs and instructors think of loosing the client due to increment while enough money has not been realized for setting up your own office. I think with time it will work. thanks

  12. Prokop

    What would be a good website domain if I am just doing lessons on my own at my house?

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