Teachers corner #1: Stepping up your studio

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Are you happy with the size of your studio, or would you like more students?  I think most of us would say that we would love to have more students; because more students means more steady income.  As musicians its not always easy to find secure, reliable income.  Unless you are lucky enough to have landed an orchestral job, collegiate teaching position, or a really great steady, chances are always on the hunt for new sources of income (and even if you have one of those great jobs chances are you are also supplementing your income with freelance work).  A private studio can provide one of the most reliable sources of income for a musician.

I have been thinking a lot lately about sustainability.  I find myself asking what I can do to create a more financially sustainable situation for myself and my loved ones.  As a classical musician finding a sustainable balance like this requires a great deal of creativity, moxy, and a willingness to get it wrong 100 times before you get it right.  The days of waiting for potential students to come to you has past.  In order to remain relevant in the younger generations we must actively seek out ways to engage with them and with their parents.  This means bringing your studio into the 21st century!

Does your studio have a website?

Logo1I’m not talking about a page on your website.  I mean a website all its own.
Check out my studio website.

Set yourself apart for the numerous other options that young people have out there by creating a beautiful, functional website that showcases what you are able to offer to students.  I’ll bet you that the karate studio down the street has a website… and I bet it’s pretty awesome.

Kids have lots of choices in which activities they are going to pursue… but beyond that it’s the parents that we need to draw in.  By creating a website specifically for your studio you are presenting yourself and what you do more professionally, which parents will appreciate and recognize.

Don’t have great computer skills?  Consider using Square Space to create your website.  Its incredibly easy to use and is basically fully customizable without the need to have a knowledge of computer coding.  My studio website, and the website for my non-profit, the Project Largo Music Foundation inc, are both Square Space pages.

Set more boundaries with students.

One issue I was having when I first began to build my studio was parents who would cancel lessons at the last minute.  Once, I was already en-route to a lesson when the mother called to let me know what her daughter had been sick all day… “thanks for the notice,” I thought.  Do you have a studio policy agreement that you require parents to sign?  If not, I implore you, make one and start using it.  By putting something like a 24 hour notice requirement in writing and having a parent sign it you are showing your clients that you value your own time, as they should.  Something like this may seem very formal and business like to you… but it will benefit you and your students, and teaches all parties to respect each others time.

Check out the first page of my policy agreement that I require all parents to sign.

Come up with a game plan.

Think about the area that you live in.  How does the community engage with one another?  Consider the following ways to get the word out about your studio:

  1. Advertise a package deal on facebook through your studio page, targeted to your area
  2. Post on local school forums
  3. Speak with the music directors or local churches and offer to give a youth presentation
  4. Attend/purchase both space at a local home schooling convention
  5. Give presentations at local public schools
  6. Take a small harp out and play for tips at coffee shops (visibility is key!)

Get some guidance.

I just finished reading “How I Made $100,000 My First Year as a Piano Teacher” by Kristin K. Yost, which was a really interesting read that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to anyone wanting to build their studio.  One of the things that Kristin Yost recommends most in her book is to find a mentor to help you in building your studio.  This person can be a teacher whose career you admire, a colleague who is more successful in acquiring and retaining students than you, or a professional consultant.

I enrolled in “30 Days to 30 Students” at the end of last year.  This program is run by saxophonist and consultant Jessica Voigt Page, and gives you step by step instructions for how to get yourself in a position to start accepting new students.  I cannot stress the kind of inspiration I drew from working with Jessica.  She is so insightful, and has a way of always saying exactly what you need to hear, when you need to hear it to spark inspiration.  I may never have 30 students… but I am confident that by presenting myself in the most professional light possible, and actively seeking out new and unlikely students from my community, I will succeed and find a more secure and comfortable way to live as a professional musician.

A journey begins.

I am just starting my journey to having the studio of my dreams.  I am working hard at finding ways to expand my reach, and am grateful for the opportunities that I have had already.  In this series of blogs: teachers corner, I will be taking you all along with me as I experience the ups and downs of private studio teaching.  Remember that you are in charge of your creative output.  Find something that excites you and find a way to make a living doing that thing.

Are you a private studio teacher and have ideas for how to help others build their student numbers, excite their program, and draw in under-served communities?  Comment below with any tips or send me an email if you want to have your studio featured!  Happy harping!

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Miami based Dr. of harp, gown-addict, lover of bulldogs, and fitness enthusiast.

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