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How do you establish yourself as a music teacher?

  1. Running a guitar business
    iStock/millann
    Christian Annesley

    Christian Annesley Contributor Full Member

    Posts: 3 Likes: 1
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    Music teaching offering private one-to-one lessons has suffered a bit in recent years, as many people feeling the pinch have turned away from music lessons. But there is still lots of regular business out there, of course. How to land it? One busy thread on UKBF has seen good advice flowing in for a music teacher looking for a break. Here’s our look at the thread and at the best of the advice offered.

    How do you get underway as a music teacher? UKBF’s community has lots of ideas on the challenge and is happy to share them.

    The music teacher who started the discussion in the forums, Fluffernutter, is well-established as a private music teacher working across several schools. He posted because his efforts to move away from school-based work and to pick up new private students at his “central premises” was proving a challenge. What’s the possible cause of the lack of new students?

    Lots of variables

    The first thing to say is that Fluffernutter is clearly willing to try things: Google Adwords, Facebook ads, Twitter, a WordPress website (home-made), posters around town, business cards in coffee shops, Yell.com advert – you name it.

    To add to the picture, he notes that his prices are average for the area and he has 20 years of experience. He has even offered a free trial from time to time, but found it attracted time-wasters.

    There are a lot of variables in the mix, clearly, but many in the community think being targeted in his approaches and more personal probably holds the key to boosting student numbers.

    Japancool says a listing on a music teachers directory site should pay off. “That’s how I found my teacher,” he notes.

    “And ignore anyone who tells you your [less-than-perfect] website is a problem. It doesn't have to, pun intended, be an all-singing, all-dancing site. It just needs to do the job. Yours is the kind of business that isn't going to sell itself on a website, but by recommendation and word of mouth.”

    Another who backs up that position is silentjay, who says a bad website won’t be a deal-breaker. Silientjay argues that sometimes a “bad” website can even drive sales if it prompts a would-be buyer to phone for more information, and the person they get is personable.

    What’s the offer?

    Being analytical and business-like about any commercial offer will pay off too, reckons Chris No Limits In Life (CNLIL).

    “If you want to grow your business the first thing you should ask yourself is what value you offer,” he says.

    “What makes your service greater than anyone else? Do you travel further to your customers? Do you offer free lessons? Can you get your students gigs or link them to bands?”

    CNLIL also says attending to the customer works. Who is the would-be customer? Where do they hang out? What can you give them?

    Work those contacts

    If that’s one conventionally-minded approach to growing a business, some on the forums see music teaching as a special case. Sure, there are some basics to be landed successfully, but building trust through referrals and the network matters most here, they argue.

    Nochexman says: “Presumably you will have an address book crammed with the names of every person you ever trained and every parent who ever brought their child along to one of your lessons.

    “Start with these people: tell them what you are doing and ask if they know anyone who they think might be interested in your service. It will take time, but you can only build your business one customer at a time.”

    Don’t compete on price

    Most agree on the forums, too, that finding students as a music teacher doesn’t benefit from a conventional cut-price approach. They argue that just undermines the offer.

    Fluffernutter is competitive on price already, and that’s enough, argues Gecko001.

    “You have to give the impression that you are the best around,” Gecko001 says.

    “You can do this in many ways. One way not to do it is to give cut-price services for no reason. I think it is OK to offer a discount based on a reason a client can relate to, such as a discount on certain days or times. If the discount isn’t explained, clients will wonder.”

    Patience pays

    There’s a happy ending to this story, with Fluffernutter posting three months on from starting the thread and noting a real pick-up in business - “I'm now almost fully booked and thinking about starting a waiting list,” he said.

    So, what made the difference?

    “I guess it just took a little more time than I had anticipated, and I should have been more patient. It seems I'm getting the most enquiries from my website plus word of mouth. Facebook and Twitter don't seem to be attracting much attention as of yet. Once again, many thanks.”

    Remember, though, all that groundwork Fluffernutter had put in up front. Word of mouth, yes, but in the context of someone who’d already spread the word and improved visibility in lots of ways – and with a solid offer based on 20 years of experience and a good location.

    I’m sure we all hope business keeps on growing for Fluffernutter.

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