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Whether you are thinking of starting your own music leaching business, or looking for ways to improve the management of your self employed music lessons business, these 10 tips have been written with you in mind. All of these bits of advice are related to my own business and are things that I do or have learned throughout the 6 years of teaching music in schools and doing private lessons, while being self employed and organising everything else involved outside of the actual teaching.
1. Plan your week with a digital calendar
Easily manage your schedule online and sync it to your mobile devices. Reschedule lessons on the move and set reminders to pop up at certain times if needed. The main advantage of a digital calendar is that you can schedule recurring lessons to be the same every week, and then modify each one individually if you need reschedule for one week – saving you lots of time writing in the same things into your calendar each week. I use google calendar and sync it with my phone’s calendar.
2. Get a digital to do list
A todo list that syncs to your phone, like Remember The Milk, is very useful and can help build up your reputation of someone that is reliable, because you will actually follow through with the things you say you will do. There is always something that crops up in the day that needs to be addressed at a later time. A busy music teacher can have hundreds of little tasks in a week that crop up, and adding them to a todo list will make sure they get done. Tip: On super busy times, sometimes I do ignore my to do list so I email myself absolute must do things so I can’t ignore them.
3. Organise your lesson plans and content
Structure your teaching into ability levels and topics. Make sure you are covering everything that you should be teaching to the best of your knowledge. Create lesson plans or exercise sheets, or compile ones from books or online lessons. Keep digital files and print as needed. I keep my files in google drive so I can use them on the move. Don’t hand write everything in your own time unless you are only doing it once and photocopying it for future lessons. You should end up with more content than you can carry with you at once. Therefore you might want to structure lesson material into different topics throughout the year, or use or create a series of books that the students can progress through.
4. Use books and booklets rather than individual lesson handout sheets most of the time
If creating your own lesson plans, try to compile them into a book or booklet that can be printed out and stapled or binded together, or used as an ebook. This will mean you won’t need to worry about printing off new lesson handouts every week or so. Even better, the student will be able to visualise their progress as they make their way through the book. Furthermore, you could think about selling your books online. It can be a nice way of passively bringing in an extra income while you are doing other things. I use a company called Payhip to sell my ebooks and premium downloads.
5. Offer to teach grades
Working through a grade book is a good way of learning and teaching. Make sure you only teach grades that you could do yourself. You should always be at a higher grade than what you are teaching, and ideally be several higher.
Grade 6-8 award ucas points, which are a good incentive to start learning early and have dedication to progress up through the grades before university age, where extra ucas points might prove useful.
6. Dress smart and be professional
If you take your job seriously and want your students and parents of students to take you seriously then I believe you need to make the effort to look smart whilst working. You might also be a musician and have a strong image as well, but it is best to save certain things for the stage. Being your own boss is great so you don’t have to, but people feel more comfortable if you make the effort with your appearance, especially if you work in schools as a peripatetic music teacher.
7. Make sure you work enough hours per week
Music teachers can charge much more than minimum wage, which is great unless they don’t do enough billable hours. To make this job pay a decent wage you need to make sure you are putting full time hours during term time at least. It is easy to fall for the illusion of charging a high hourly rate, and working part time hours, only to end up with a low income at the end of the year.
8. Have music related goals and activities outside of your teaching
Keep your dreams, goals, ambitions and love of music alive. You might downsize them as the years pass by, but always remember why you play your instruments and do all you can to be a musician as well as a music teacher.
9. Practice and improve
There is always something new to learn in music. Never stop learning and improving! Make sure you practice – practice what you preach to your students. I also see recording music to a click as practice, and you are also getting a physical end result from it.
10. Keep a contact list of all pupils or parents of pupils
I use mailchimp as my registration form (this was implimented to be GDPR compliant in 2018), and I transfer these to google contacts so I can stay in contact about lesson times and news etc. I group them by instrument, and also by which school they have lessons in, or if they have non-school lessons. Emails are the best method of contact I think because you can send to many all at once easily, most people use email now, it is free, and you can attach things. In fact, parents started to request invoices to be emailed, so I switched to that too. Phone calls are inconvenient to many now, texts are not as easy to send to everyone quickly, and facebook and twitter messages/updates are easily missed. However, texts are great (preferred) for late cancellations and last minute rearranging of individual lessons.
11. Invoicing Software
Jan 2019 Update: I have started using Quickbooks for my invoicing, because some off my emails sent from Gmail were going straight to spam folders, probably due to sending a pdf file to multiple BCC contacts. It’s also been quicker for me to create, send and chase up invoices. This is especially useful for teaching instrumental music lessons in schools where you invoice the parents directly, because you don’t usually see them in person.
I hope you have found some or all of these points useful and relevant to you. There are many other things I could write about in this list, and I hope to write another one in the future. Meanwhile, have a look around the internet for similar things as there are many helpful bits of advise. One website that I constantly find tips from for running a business, which I would recommend to you, is: www.entrepreneur.com