New to Private Teaching? Here Are 9 Tips From the Pros

Feb 28, 2017

New to Private Teaching? Here Are 9 Tips From the Pros

Setting up a private teaching business is no small undertaking. It can feel daunting, confusing and, at times, you’ll probably get advice from anyone and everyone on how to run a successful business.

But running a private teaching studio is very different to other small businesses. You’re part of a community, you’re passing on your expertise to the next generation and you’re probably wondering where on Earth to start with it all.

Don’t panic. We’ve spoken to our Teach Well community to find out what advice they would give to those eager to set up a private teaching business. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Just do it!

It’s natural to feel nervous about setting up a teaching business, but be confident. Saxophonist and teacher Steve Treseler explained: “I know many new teachers are insecure about not feeling ‘ready’. If you have some expertise, are enthusiastic about serving others, and are committed to growing as a teacher, then you’re ready! We all have to take the leap and learn as we go.”

2. Be yourself — and use that to your advantage

It’s important to find out what makes you different from other teachers, as Doug Hanvey from the Portland Piano Lab said: “Articulate your Unique Value Proposition — what makes you different from other nearby teachers. You need this to empower and clarify your marketing, including your website.”

3. Be confident

You may be new to teaching, but remember you have a wealth of skills and experience to bring to your students, as music educator Erica Darr explained: “Remember that in your student’s eyes, you are the expert. Avoid making statements such as ‘I’ve never done this before’ or ‘You’re my very first student.’ Keep it focused on your professional accomplishments and experiences with statements that reflect upon your experiences and professional engagements, such as ‘I have performed in over 20 different musical theater productions’ or ‘I have spent the last few years studying a variety of vocal techniques to help increase range and improve tonal accuracy’.”

4. Be upfront about fees

Make sure you’re clear about your rates too, as sports therapist Judith Barrass said: “Make sure your fee is agreed before you start. This can cut out embarrassing conversations further down the line. If you’re working for a larger organization, agree the fee and have it confirmed in writing, then they cannot change at a later date when you have already spent time prepping the class to teach.”

5. Be organized

Andrew Ingkavet from Park Slope Music Lessons said: “Be organized. The more organized you can be for yourself and your student, the easier it is to transfer knowledge. Make it easy for them by providing materials. Remember you are a service business so think about the best service you have ever received — whether it’s a restaurant, hotel, spa or just your local coffee shop. Then ask yourself, how can I create that feeling in my students and clients?”

6. Find a student’s motivation point

Go back to basics to work out why a student wants to sign up to your classes, as David Lindberg from David’s Music House said: “Inspire students to discover WHY they are learning music. There are many reasons why a student starts taking music lessons… from the parents wanting them to learn music, an instrument is in the family home, a student wants to be like some famous musician they know…but what will keep a student playing and learning, is knowing WHY they want to learn. I call my teachers Music Mentors, meaning that it is their actions, performance ability…whatever they can think of that makes them love music…will set an example to the students and also to talk to students about WHY they love music.”

7. Teach teamwork

Teach your students to respect other students, as David added: “One of the most important goals of my school is to mentor students by, for example, teaching them how to perform with others and to ‘listen’ to the other students you’re performing with. It is not the performing skills of a single player that is most important, but the entire performance of everyone, that creates the ultimate experience for the audience. We want students to learn how to support the others they perform with and not to be the only star on the stage. This will help them carry this trait into how they treat everyone, throughout their lives. That is the underlying mission of my school.”

8. Build a community

Expanding on David’s point, remember that you’re part of a wider community, as Seattle-based guitar teacher Eric Branner said: “Be patient in finding and building your community. A full studio usually comes from one amazing student. Many of my students today are a direct result of a wonderful family that I taught over a decade ago.”

9. Personalize your lessons

It’s also important to adapt your lessons to individual students, as Oklahoma-based music teacher Cory Moon explained: “Parents and students want something to show for the time and money that they invest in music lessons. Be sure to supplement a song that the student and/or parent will recognize. The method book is essential, but remember to work with songs to keep the student engaged, interested, and motivated to practice.”

Think you know better?

If you have any tips you’d like to share with potential private teachers — please leave a comment below! Or, if you’re a private teacher and want to write for Teach Well, drop me an email — [email protected]. We pay all our contributors and I’d love to hear your articles ideas.


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