Top Mistakes Music Teachers Make When Starting A Teaching Business
I have helped coach a number of music teachers over the years from those starting at ground zero to those making multiple 6-figures a year. I am no stranger to the common mistakes music teachers make when starting a teaching business. In hopes of preventing you from making these same mistakes, I wanted to share them with you here.
1. Waiting For The Right Moment To Go Into Business
There really is no perfect time to go into business. You are either going to go into business or not. Now I'm not saying don't be prepared. Absolutely be prepared and do your research, but, there are so many people who get stuck on the 'preparing' phase that they never actually get to the 'doing' phase. My recommendation is to set a date for yourself of when you are officially going to go into business and stick with it. Learn how I phased out my 9-5 day job to start teaching business.
2. Not Having A Website Or Having A Website That Doesn't Work For You
You do not know how many music teachers I speak to who ask, "Lauren, I'm not finding enough students. How do I get more students into my schedule?" The first thing I always ask is, "What's your website and what city, state, country do you teach in?" You would be surprised at how many people answer with, "Oh, I don't have a website." Well no wonder you are not getting a lot of students. Having a website is a BARE MINIMUM for your business. In my Business Bootcamp course, I discuss other methods you should be using outside of your website to build leads and credibility, but having your website up and running is a must for any teacher.
Then there are the teachers that do have websites but they are formatted horribly. There are many do's and don'ts to building a website and I have a specific formula I use. In general, DO NOT USE ALL BLACK WITH WHITE TEXT. I see this so many times. Don't do it. When it comes to websites, simple is better. Keep things clean looking and uncluttered and ALWAYS have a separate page with a form prospective students can fill out with Name, Phone Number & E-mail for you to follow up. If you don’t have good photos, buy good stock photos. A good image is worth a thousands words.
I did this when I started. I severely undercharged myself because I was not confident in my teaching abilities. I didn't think people would pay me more than $100/month for 30-min private lessons. Boy was I wrong! You see, I didn't have a degree in music and I was mostly a self-taught musician. So my confidence was way low. But, as soon as I realized teaching was something I could do and something I was good at, I was confidently able to tell people my price was $180/month for 30-min private lessons without them batting and eyelash. (I charge even more than that now for my personal time.)
My recommendation would be to scout out your competition and find out what they are charging. Beware, some of your competitors could be undercharging themselves as well. Shoot to be at the top of the pricing range. Cheap lessons psychologically signify to someone that there is something wrong. Cheap lessons attract cheap and uncommitted students. You will soon realize that the quality of your clients goes way up when you charge higher prices.
4. Not Spreading The Word About Your Business
Your website will help with this, but, you also need to actively promote your business to anyone and everyone you meet. You should look for local town fairs to join to start getting the word out that you are open for business. For some people, it is beneficial to join a Chamber of Commerce group to meet other local business owners and learn about the events happening in your city. Just because you open your doors for business does not mean people are going to come knocking down your door. Since most music teachers teach out of their homes, the chance of people walking by and signing up for lessons is slim to none. Start flyering and visiting coffee shops. The more people that see your name and your business, the better for you.
5. Inappropriately Naming Your Business
Your business name has to reflect something that's not going to turn away your ideal customers. I talk a lot about how to determine who you ideal customer is in my music teaching business course, but to give you a general idea, let's use the following example. Shred God Academy. I know if I were a parent, I would not send my child to your school for lessons. Drum Slayer Underground. Yeah, same thing. When it comes to naming your business, I would stick on the side of 'safe' names like: Your City Guitar School, Piano Lessons with Your Name, Your City Voice Academy, Your Name Guitar Academy. Be smart. You can lose a lot of customers through something as small as a name. Also, think of the big picture. If you are going to grow beyond yourself and open a music school, you may not want to name it after yourself. I wish my music schools weren’t “LB”.
6. Not Getting Help When You Need It
When I started teaching voice and guitar out of my apartment, I realized very quickly that there were a lot of things I did not know about running a business. For example:
How to find and retain clients for long periods of time
The best ways to go about teaching students
How to create a policy form that makes students respect my time
How to get paid even when students don't show up for class
How to leverage my time so I can work less but make more money
These are just a few things. Later, as I grew my business, I had questions about how to hire people. Who should I hire and who should I run away from? How do I automate things in my business to save me time so I don't feel like I'm running around all the time like a chicken with my head cut off?
Finding a mentor that has gone through exactly what you have is a great way to fast track your success. People wondered how I was able to quit my job to teach music full time in only 6 months. Easy, I knew that working with someone who knew more than me would help me reach my goals faster and it absolutely did.
7. Not Asking Your Students What They Want
This is basic selling 101. Many teachers have ideas in their head about what their students should learn. And while there are basics to every instrument, we need to make sure our students are getting what they want out of their lessons along with the fundamentals. If a student loves Taylor Swift and you keep pushing The Rolling Stones and Hendrix, chances are they are not going to stick around very long.
While teaching the fundamentals of the instrument, make sure your students are having fun. Ask them what they love about music and give it to them. Down the road, when they trust you and your judgement, you can make some other suggestions. Remember, 99% of your students are not going to go on to a professional career in music, so don't treat them that way. I found when I started letting my students have fun in their lessons rather than spoon feeding them more material all the time, my retention rates sky rocketed.