Apr 25, 2017
by Steve Treseler.
Congratulations! If you have a full studio and a steady stream of referrals, you have earned a reputation as an excellent and trusted teacher. However, you may have hit a revenue ceiling in your business or feel overworked with a gruelling teaching schedule.
In the world of traditional employment, time equals money. If you view freelance teaching like a traditional job, it may appear the only way to earn more is to take on more students. I know teachers who earn a great living teaching 80+ students a week. One has a studio covered in polaroid pictures of his students because he can’t remember their names.
Looking at your studio through the lens of entrepreneurship reveals pathways for earning more without taking on more students than you can handle.
David Cutler, author of The Savvy Music Teacher, says we maximize our income by maximizing our impact. Creating transformative experiences for as many people as possible will help us make a bigger dent in the universe and earn more in the process.
This mindset along with the strategies outlined below transformed my teaching career. I leveled up my effectiveness as a teacher and started earning more while teaching fewer hours. This allows me to spend more time with my family and focus on my own music.
Some of these strategies are quick to implement, others will maximize your impact over the long haul.
Teaching lessons for a larger organization is a great way to get started, but you may be leaving lots of money on the table. Several music schools in my area charge students $75/hour for lessons, and pay teachers $35. This rate is nothing to sneeze at, but you can double your rate by starting your own studio. If you are getting lots of direct referrals, it’s time to cut out the middleman.
Teaching group lessons and workshops is one of the most effective ways to leverage your time, that is create more impact per hour.
I was resistant to teaching group lessons because I knew the pace would be slower than private lessons, and groups of kids can be hard to manage. Group classes require a different set of teaching chops, but the benefits are worth the effort:
If you have a steady stream of referrals and a waiting list, you should consider raising your rates.
Teachers (myself included) are resistant to charging premium rates for two reasons:
Contrary to what you may think, price is rarely the primary factor when people are choosing a service professional. If your trusted mechanic, babysitter, or massage therapist raised their rates by 15%, would you immediately go to craigslist to find a stranger with lower rates? Probably not, because we’re willing to pay more for high-quality and trusted services.
If you have built a good reputation and people trust you, you can charge more than the going rate. (See my article, The Five Levels of Freelance Teaching.)
If you’re committed to reaching lower-income students, slashing your lessons rates across the board isn’t the most effective strategy for maximizing your impact. You can serve these students by offering products and services at many price points.
I serve a wide range of students by:
By leveraging my time, I’m able to serve thousands of students every year, many of whom pay little or nothing at all. This makes me feel more comfortable charging a higher rate for one-on-one lessons.
Creating a physical or digital product will give your business another income stream and help you maximize your impact. You can turn your teaching methods into a book, ebook, online lesson library, published sheet music, or software/app. Check out the CreativeLive class Turn Your Service Into a Product with Tara Gentile, a brilliant small business coach.
If you are committed to developing products over the long haul, it’s worth the effort to build an online platform, like a YouTube channel, blog, or podcast. This allows you to share your expertise, earn trust, and build a worldwide audience.
If your unique and remarkable teaching method can be turned into a system, you can train other teachers to implement it. You might offer training sessions, certify instructors, or start your own school. Starting a movement and leading other teachers takes years, but it allows you to massively amplify your impact and build a legacy.
If you’re at full capacity and have found a great way to increase your earning, please leave a comment below.
Steve Treseler is a Seattle-based saxophonist, teaching artist, and author. He is on the faculty at Seattle Pacific University and teaches creative music workshops across the U.S.
Download a free digital copy of his book Creativity Triggers for Musicians at stevetres.com