Feb 9, 2016
Building a thriving business as a private music teacher takes patience. Getting your first few students can seem like such an arduous task. Maybe you teach a friend’s child, get a job at a music school, or put fliers up at grocery stores. I’ve tried all of these things, and more, many times over. You have to relentlessly canvass for business to build a community and a clientele, but it will be worth it.
Your ultimate goal as you continually market your teaching work is simple yet elusive: you want to have a full schedule of current students, a waiting list of new students, a few inquiry calls each month and the freedom to let students move on from your studio when it’s time. I taught for eight years before I reached this stage in my teaching studio. Here are some things I learned along the way.
Community, Community, Community
Let’s just assume you are a master of your craft, and have a desire to share it with others. The only long term strategy to build a successful teaching business is to be part of a community.
As a musician, I played guitar at weddings and funerals, sang at preschools and spoke about being a musician at career days. I loved taking some students to a retirement community to play some tunes. That’s all the marketing that ever really worked for me.
There’s an element of just taking what you can get in the beginning of your career, but all careers are like that. I got my first private student in Seattle checking groceries at a corner store. I was practicing Asturias behind the counter, when a customer asked if I gave lessons. I taught her child, performed at a party they threw and probably picked up a dozen lessons from that one interaction. This is building a community. And this is how you can build a successful teaching business — through community interactions.
Over time, your name will become synonymous with your craft and people will mention your name when your craft is discussed. The community you work in becomes your biggest marketing asset.
Word of Mouth is the Best/Only Marketing Plan
Sure, you can hang up fliers in a grocery store, advertise on Craigslist, get some friends to write Yelp reviews for you, but you will get very few, if any, new students.
If you’re new to teaching, it’s a drag to get your first batch of students. Once you’ve got a few students, treat them with the utmost respect and care. Make their progress a priority in your life.Look forward to their lessons.
All is takes is one socially-connected proponent of your teaching to get you that waiting list of new proponents. I can honestly connect nearly half of my current students to a parent of a child I taught nearly a decade ago.
Why Are You Doing This?
Building a reputation and a community as a private instructor can be tough. Remind yourself you are teaching because you have spent your life studying something you are deeply passionate about. I find it deeply satisfying to share this knowledge with others.
I also believe it’s our responsibility to pass culture and learning on whenever we can. If you do your best to remember these ideas, continually practice your craft and have patience, you will build a thriving teaching community. You will share your gifts with that community, and they will support you in living a bountiful life.
When I began teaching, it never occurred to me that my students would someday babysit my children, become close friends, or even co-workers. The UX designer for our startup Fons was once a student. And so many other great connections have come from my musical community. The community I work in provides a foundation for a happy existence, and it’s an awesome feeling.