How to look like a professional private music teacher even if you don’t feel like one.
My first experience as a private piano teacher was in a music store. It was a great experience- I met a lot of great musicians, had access to any materials that I needed, was given free advertising, and enjoyed plenty of help and emotional support. Those early days in the noisy, damp basement of that music store taught me a lot about the business, about working with people, and about being professional. Here are a few ideas that I’ve used to increase the professionalism in my own private teaching studio.
Stellar studio space. Back in that music store, I taught my lessons in the basement. There were probably twenty private lesson rooms, each with thin, dingy walls, fluorescent lighting, out-dated flyers, and tons of noise. It was hard to concentrate between the squeaking clarinets, wailing guitars, and um, the really loud drums. But everyone expected it to be that way, so no one complained. Much.
Now that I teach in my home, you won’t hear other instruments in the background. You’ll probably hear the sound of my children, even though my hubby keeps them well entertained while I’m teaching. I do try to keep my studio clean, bright, and welcoming. I have a couple chairs for parents to relax in, a few magazines, and some pretty but neutral décor. I also try to have some kid-friendly items, like seasonal window clings, for them to enjoy.
Modern materials. There are so many method books available, that it’s hard to choose the right one. While I like to teach from the classic piano methods, I make sure that I incorporate modern music, too. A few well-aimed Google searches will net you a plethora of free, fun materials for your students such as worksheets, original tunes, and music games. Seasonally themed worksheets are a great way to entice your students into theory practice. The materials don’t take long to find, but they do help you look more professional, especially if they are well done.
Righteous record keeping. This is one of the hardest areas for me, and one of my favorite things about Music Teacher’s Helper. I really have no interest in keeping track of attendance, payments, and bills. But if you don’t have good, clear records it will reflect badly on you. MTH really helps me to keep track of who is showing up to lessons, who has paid me, and who hasn’t. If a student or parent has a question, all I have to do is look it up. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it makes me look organized.
Spiffier speech. There is one word that I am trying desperately to eradicate from my vocabulary. If you’re under 40, there’s a good chance you use it, too. I’m talking about the word, “LIKE.” Certainly like has a place in our speech, but not in every sentence. Tape record yourself talking during your lesson (or on the phone with your BFF). If you hear yourself saying words such as like, um, now, and ok, or if you find yourself clearing your throat a lot, you may need to spiffy up your speech. And by all means, keep it clean. Nothing makes you sound unprofessional faster than a four letter word.
Pert-near Punctuality. It’s hard to stay perfectly on time in a studio, especially if your lessons are only thirty minutes long. But keep in mind that people value their time, and they will think highly of you if you value their time, too. Try to keep your lessons as timely as possibly, so folks know that they can count on you to get business taken care of during the time allowed.
Professional attire. It’s simple. Just look the part. You don’t have to wear a three piece suit (unless, of course, that’s the clientele you want to reach). But you should look clean, neat, and put together. If you’re in a situation where jeans are the norm, that’s ok, as long as they don’t have holes (not even intentional ones). A great pair of jeans with a blazer or khakis and a great shirt will help you look professional but not over-done. I like to aim for business casual, but I’ll occasionally wear jeans, too. By the way, your hair should be neat, styled, and perhaps a slight bit trendy.
Perky, positive attitude. Nothing says professional like a positive attitude. Don’t whine or complain, rather, fix your mind on something positive to make even the bad days go smoothly. It’s ok if you’ve had a bad day, just park it at the door of the studio. (You can always pick it up again later.) Speak words of kindness, joy, and music into the lives of your students and you will make an impact in their lives.
Even if you can’t change the location of your studio, and you can’t afford a new wardrobe, you can step it up to the next level of professionalism. Is your studio neat, clean, and organized? Do you look neat and tidy? What do people hear when you talk? What is one thing you can implement today that will help you succeed in your teaching business?