Apr 14, 2017
by Steve Treseler. Our students’ travel schedules, summer camps, and “vacation” mindset make it challenging for private teachers to maintain a steady income throughout the summer months. Here are a few strategies to help you keep the momentum, learning, and cash flow going.
Over the summer, I offer packages of four or six lessons with flexible scheduling. This way, students can accommodate travel and I’m able to secure commitment and payment at the beginning of the summer.
Students who sign up for a lesson package are guaranteed a spot in my studio in the Fall — otherwise they go on my waiting list. This makes students much less likely to take the summer off.
Summer is a great time to mix up your routine. A few years ago, I split my studio into several groups of four to six students for the summer. Each class had a different theme, chamber music, jazz, composition, etc. This kept the energy up and students enjoyed working together.
Each class met one day a week, with the understanding that kids would miss classes while on vacation. This compressed my teaching schedule to a couple of afternoons. While this didn’t generate the same income as full-time lessons, it freed up tons of time for me to spend time with my family and work for other summer programs.
If you have a busy studio, consider starting a masterclass series, camp, or retreat. A couple years ago, my colleagues Neil Welch and Evan Smith founded a successful day camp called the Seattle Saxophone Institute, and it has already expanded to a second week.
Launching a new program takes a considerable investment in time and effort, but these events can help you leverage your time and provide steady Summer income over the long term. Being a leader in the community will also help you attract more students all year round.
I know teachers who add a couple of extra students during the year and are disciplined about saving in order to take a month or more off during the summer. The summer break is a major benefit to public school teaching, and you can design the same schedule for yourself.
I usually host a recital in the Spring, but last year I decided to push it back to late August. This kept my students focused and motivated throughout the summer, and my high school students were glad the recital didn’t interfere with finals.
Some teachers use a year-round membership model for lessons, which helps them keep a steady income over the summer. A good way to structure it is to factor in breaks and a few flexible cancellation weeks, so the tuition might average 3.5 lessons a month. Many families like the convenience of setting up auto-pay or subscription payments, and you can maintain a more predictable income.
I’d love to hear any successful summer strategies you’ve come up with. Please leave a comment if you have ideas to share with other teachers.
Steve Treseler is a Seattle-based saxophonist, teaching artist, and author. He is on 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