Private music lessons are in high demand. They give novices and experts the opportunity to learn or refine their skills, either on-one-one or in groups, in person or online. If you have the expertise, a passion for teaching and the desire to be your own boss, you could start a lucrative business.
How to start your own music teaching business
1. Identify your skills and expertise
Write down your musical skills and expertise, then carefully determine what you would enjoy teaching. You should be reasonably qualified and confident in your teaching abilities. A degree or certification would be ideal, however you don’t necessarily need an accredited qualification to begin teaching, as long as you have significant experience, talent or skill.
We suggest starting small, focusing on one or two areas (such as playing an instrument, music theory, composition, analysis or songwriting etc.) especially if running a business is new to you. This will allow you to put all your effort into teaching to the best of your ability, without feeling overwhelmed. It might be tempting to offer a diverse range of subject matter in the hopes of attracting more clients, but that is not always the case. Have you ever heard the figure of speech “a jack of all trades, master of none”?
Specialization is the key to success.
2. Define your target market
Who you are going to teach? School children, undergraduate students, postgraduate students, adults? What age groups? Are they beginner or advanced learners? Are they located in your town, city, country or across the globe?
Keep in mind that your level of expertise will influence the answers to all of these questions. Try be as specific as you can and find a niche if possible. A niche is a smaller subset of a market with its own particular needs and preferences, such as music students preparing for university examinations for example.
Don’t forget to do a little market research. Is there a demand for what you plan to offer? How much competition is there? How do those businesses operate? What do they specialize in? Use your market research to set yourself apart from the other businesses and teachers so that you stand out. What makes you different? Do you have specialized qualifications? Significant experience? A unique talent? An innovative approach? Worldwide reach?
Make sure that your prospective clients are aware of it. Sum up your offerings in a short, clear statement highlighting a specific need and your solution. This will help attract the right clients, as well as deter the ones that may not be a match for you. For example, a retired music teacher might say “Drawing on my 25 years of experience, I specialize in teaching the absolute basic concepts to aspirational musicians”. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to find your ideal client.
3. Navigate the logistics
In addition to teaching, there are a few other things you need to think about. Ask yourself the following questions:
How do I register my business?
Choose a name for your business and research how to register it with your local authority, then find out if you require any licensing, permits, insurance or business banking accounts.
How will I define my brand?
Design your branding and establish a brand identity that distinguishes your business from others. This includes your brand logo, colors, fonts, design, style, voice, values, personality and public image.
Where will I conduct my lessons?
Determine whether you be teaching in person, online or both. If you plan to teach in person, decide whether your students will come to you, if you will go them or if you will meet in a public space (such as a local school or music venue). If you plan to teach online, ensure that you have the necessary equipment and that you won’t be interrupted by your pets or family.
What are my music business hours?
One of the benefits of private teaching is the flexible hours, however many students have limited availability. Select hours that accommodate your clients’ schedules as well as your own (keeping in mind the time differences if you choose to teach online).
How can clients contact me or book my services?
You need to make yourself available for client queries, payments, customer service and feedback. Create a booking process and decide if you will have a business phone number, email address, website and/or student portal.
How will my lessons be structured?
Develop lesson plans so that every lesson is well structured with clearly defined goals from beginning to end.
How long will my lessons be?
Make an informed decision regarding your lesson time frame.
Will I offer group lessons?
Weigh the pros and cons of teaching one-on-one or in groups then decide what is the most suitable for you.
Will I require a minimum number of lessons?
Decide if you would like to set a minimum number of lessons.
How will I keep track of my schedule and lessons?
Invest in a good diary to help you stay organised so that you never miss a lesson, or make use of calendar management software.
What teaching materials and supplies do I need?
Think of the essential teaching materials, books, musical equipment, stationery and other supplies that you need to obtain to start teaching. Also make a note of a few additional extras that would be nice to acquire later.
How will I find clients?
Think of all the places where you will find your ideal client, then develop an effective marketing strategy in order to reach them.
What are the estimated startup and ongoing costs?
Calculate all the costs involved with starting and maintaining your new business.
How will I manage my finances?
Managing your finances can be tricky but we recommend utilizing some of the helpful tools and software available for business owners, such as Music Teachers Friend that allows you to create professional invoices, automatically invoice clients, receive online payments, as well as track income and expenses.
How will I communicate student progress and performance?
Whether you report directly to your student or to their parent, you will need to let them know how they are performing using clear, articulate communication.
What will be my terms and conditions?
Define your terms and conditions, then decide if you will require your clients to sign agreements or contracts. Make sure to include a payment policy and a cancellation policy that comply with your local government regulations.
How will I follow up with a student?
Create a follow up process to check in with a student after they have completed their lessons with you. It is an opportunity to find out how they are doing and ask for a testimonial.
As your business grows, you will learn what works, what doesn’t and how to adapt.
4. Set your prices
Decide how much to charge for your services. Most teachers charge per hour according to their expertise, complexity of the subject matter, target market, location and overall experience. Hourly rates usually increase as you gain experience but you should also consider supply and demand factors – a high demand for teaching in your area of expertise will allow you to charge more. If you need help calculating your hourly rate, read this blog post.
You may be tempted to mimic your competition’s pricing and use it as your own but we do not recommend it. Leave the guesswork for gamblers! It is imperative for you to do all the calculations yourself so you are familiar with all of your costs.
Whatever you decide to charge, you need to ensure that it is enough to sustain you and your business. Ideally your hourly rate should cover your time, expenses as well as generate a profit. It is important note that there are often unforeseen expenses and most businesses take time to become truly profitable, so plan carefully.
5. Promote your music business
Once your business is set up, it is time to implement your marketing strategy. Begin advertising so that you can find clients. Capitalize on advertising streams (online and in print) that will be of the most benefit to you – don’t feel pressured to sign up on every platform or spam all avenues with your advertising material. Only utilize the platforms where your ideal client will be able to find you. The best place to distribute print advertising is usually your local school, while websites and social media are very popular forms of online advertising.
Remember to speak directly to your ideal client. If you teach children, you will most likely have to advertise to their parents so make sure that you are pitching to them.
6. Plan for the future
Finally, you need to write a business plan. It will combine all of these steps in one coherent document, as well as outline your business goals and your long terms plans for the future. There are many helpful templates available online if you have never made one before.
We hope this helps and we wish you much success with starting your own music teaching business.
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