Organizing the Mobile Office

What is a mobile office? It’s your car. For those of you who travel to your students, I want to talk about ways to stay organized and keep your sanity. If you teach at a studio, or in your home, you have the luxury of keeping all of your books, instruments, and CDs in one place. Being stationary has many perks. You can spontaneously pick a different song for your student if you don’t feel so good about the one she’s singing, you can burn a disc on the fly, and you can even set up a little recording studio for your students to use. If you drive to your students, you have to be way more organized to make each lesson productive and efficient. First of all, there are many positives to being a traveling teacher. One is that you rarely deal with flakes; your students are usually home, even if they didn’t read their MTH lesson reminders and forgot about the lesson.  Another plus is that you maintain you privacy. I do have students occasionally come to me, and it’s really nice and convenient, but I prefer to keep students out of my home. Another plus is that you don’t have to be frantic about keeping your home clean if no one is gonna see it!

So how does one lead this life without going mad? Years of experience have taught me how to stay organized, and today I want to share those tips with you. I will tell you how I used to do it, the ups and downs of my old ways, and I will tell you how I do it now. You can decided which way is best for you. I will name both methods after the 2 different personalities that can best describe why each method is so different. 

1. The Chaotic Spontaneous Don’t Want to Plan Too Much Method

Yes, this is how I was in the beginning. Too much planning stressed me out, so I PLANNED for not planning by creating this system. Some of you (and my current self) will gasp at this method, but if you are the spontaneous type, you may like it.

First of all, you have to do a little planning in order to slack off in the future. Gather all or your music books and organize them by instrument if you are multi instrumental, or genre if you are a one instrument teacher. Now put them in the trunk of your car. This is now your office. Have a few copies of popular learning pieces ready to go so that you can just grab them before a lesson. Keep a small percussion instrument back there in case you decide to get creative with your rhythm lesson. Ipod speakers are a must for voice lessons, because you can store all of your karaoke tracks on your iPod instead of carrying around a hundred CDs. This is the one I use. I love it because they it is wireless and built for travel. Keep manuscript paper, worksheets, and handouts in a separate binder. Keep a small box back there for pencils, stickers, and crayons.  


*If you are too busy to spend time outside of the lessons preparing, then having everything organized in your car will help you stay pretty efficient.


*Running out of essential copies can cause stress, especially if you don’t realize you are out until right before a lesson. 

2. The Totally Type A Totally Organized Method

Ahh it is such a relief to be a part of this personality type now.  Life is so much easier with the TTATO Method. Warning: this method requires a little bit of office space outside of your car, and more than 5 minutes to prepare for your lessons.

Okay. Here is what you have to do. Organize a space in your home with your music books, a copy machine, computer, and 5 stackable paper trays.  Using some small labels write the days of the week on each tray. So one will say Monday, another will say Tuesday, you get it. Put these on your desk. Keep method books near by so that you can easily grab them when a new student starts. Now, each time you teach a lesson and it becomes clear that you need to bring some new material, either new songs, or a CD, write this down somewhere you will be sure to look at again. For me, it’s my phone.  That way I can set an alarm to remind me of this task the next morning (or whenever you like to do this office type stuff).  When it’s time to copy the songs, or burn the CD, or set aside the new method books, put that student’s name on the items and set them in the tray that he or she has her lesson. When Monday comes around and you are heading out the door to teach, just grab the items in Monday’s folder and you can rest assured that you are prepared. 


* There is such a feeling of relief in knowing that you have taken the time to really think about which materials you assign your students, and knowing that they will be waiting in the appropriate tray when it comes time to start your day. 

*There’s no need to frantically pick a song to teach right before your lesson, because with the TTATO Method you have already picked them out way ahead of time and they are neatly organized and waiting for you.


* It’s hard to be spontaneous with songs because all of your books are at home.

* Lugging your guitar around all day is no fun. The solution is to use a traveler guitar like this.


You may want to get a few other things to make your life easier as a traveling teacher. Here is a list of things that make the job a lot more enjoyable:

Satellite Radio

Commercial radio is TERRIBLE so if you are going to spend all that time in your car, you may as well have something good to listen too.

* Hands Free Cell Phone Ear Phones

* Portable Cooler

This is on my wish list. I could plug this into the 12 volt input in my car and have cold drinks and snacks for in between lessons.

* Car Seat Massager

If you have more than 5 students in one day, it can really take a toll on your back, so this can help ease the pain.

* Handheld Recorder

If you want to record your students, this little device will make it easy to do that on the go.

So I hope this information will help you organize your life as a traveling teacher. Good luck!



About the Author

Bella Payne
While working on a degree in Sociology with plans to become a Social Worker, I fell into teaching piano lessons as a way to pay my bills. I had no idea I was stumbling into a totally fulfilling, creative and exciting career! Every day, I teach several students in their homes, in my home, and online how to play piano from scratch. Over the last 10 years, I have seen kids and adults go from timid b... [Read more]


  1. Wendy Cross

    Hi. I’m so glad I read this post which is full of great organizing ideas. I am a professional organizer in Southern California. I would love to share your article with my blog readers as well. Can I have your permission to post a link to your blog post on my site?

  2. Michelle Payne

    Yes, I would be honored! Just please give me credit and a link to my website. Thanks!

  3. Nikkol Daniels

    I am tickled that this was brought up. I teach both at my home studio as well as travel to students’ homes. LOTS of good ideas! Thank you 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *