When I first began teaching piano lessons I had no idea what my pricing should be. I didn’t understand the economics of it all, I honestly was just looking to make some money on the side while I was going to school. I started off at $30 for an hour lesson. I was in college, and most of my friends were working some retail job for a little above minimum wage, so I thought $30 was really good, and it probably was. But what I didn’t realize was I was leaving a lot of money on the table.
As self employed teachers, the single most valuable asset we have is our time. If you price your lessons low, you may get more students, but you will be working more and making less. Before we start thinking about what we should be charging for lessons, we need to understand how the market works.
The cost per hour of a fairly average lawyer will be in the $300+ range. Even the best music teachers don’t make that much per hour. But why? Does it have to do with experience? Obviously not. You can be a lawyer and start charging exorbitant hourly fees with seven years of school. Seven years!? Sounds like a lot, but how long have you been playing your musical instrument? I’m going to venture to say most experienced music teachers have much more experience and knowledge of their craft than lawyers do theirs. So why can they charge such astronomically high fees? The answer is simple: the market.
Who needs a lawyer? Businesses with deep pockets and individuals in trouble or looking to file a lawsuit. That’s really the end of it. In all cases there is an absolute need that the person or business can’t avoid. Lawyers can therefore charge fees that make our heads spin, and people pay them.
My point here is not to encourage you to be a lawyer. It’s to help you understand you shouldn’t be charging what you think you’re worth, you should be charging what the market will pay you. The market will pay you in most cases much more than you think you’re worth.
Be the Premium Product
Music teachers aren’t lawyers. You are unlikely to be able to charge $300 an hour. Can you charge $100 an hour though? Maybe. For most people, price denotes quality. Are you positioning yourself as the low cost provider, or the premium product? There are plenty of people in this world that have more than enough money to pay a private teacher $100 an hour. Those are the type of people that are likely looking for the most premium teacher to hire. In your advertising, your website, and the way you talk about your lessons you should let people know that your lessons are some of the best out there. If you think of yourself as a premium teacher, you’ll come off as a premium teacher and students will want to take lessons with you.
Don’t only teach your students during their lessons. Write articles on your website about how to play, and have your students study them throughout the week. Those articles will go a long way in establishing yourself as a premium teacher. Potential students will see them, and know that you are the real deal.
Videos are also an excellent way to get yourself out there, and enable you to charge more for your lessons.
Why It’s Important
Once you start to teach you’ll find that your best students will stay with you for a long time. If you started the student at $30, it’s going to be a very difficult thing to raise that price significantly. The student came in looking for a low cost teacher, and you’re fulfilling that role. If all the sudden you say, “No I’m actually worth $80 an hour” all they see is a price increase. You’re the same teacher, just way more expensive.
Unfortunately the only way to fix low priced lessons is often to drop the students and gain new ones. This can be a pretty emotional experience because as teachers we can grow pretty attached to our students. Unfortunately it really needs to be done if you’ve priced yourself too low.
Let’s imagine you have 30 hours of students a week at $30/hour. That’s $900/week. The limit to how much you can make is your time. It’s hard to even get 30 hours a week of students because most of your students are in school during the day, and have a bed time. Even if you wanted to work 12 hour days, it’s going to be difficult to fill.
So the answer is… charge more! You’ll be glad you did. If you started charging new students $80 an hour, but only find 15 hours to teach, you’re already coming out ahead.
My simple suggestion to you is to start advertising much higher prices. Double them. Even if you already charge $80 an hour, charge $160. Most likely what will go through potential students heads is “Wow, he must be good.” I’m not saying that in all cases you’ll be able to double your prices, but you really should give it a try. If you were to find one ongoing student for double your rate, it would be worth it. Don’t stop at one though. If one person will pay you that amount, two people surely will. It’s your job to find them.