30 Tips and Ideas to Schedule Music Lessons
Teaching music lessons is a fun way to share a skill and encourage budding musicians, and staying organized will help you save time to spend doing what you love — teaching! Let’s look at tips and ideas to schedule music lessons so you can build your teaching business.
Preparing to Teach
- Establish a Location - The first thing you’ll want to do before starting to schedule lessons is to establish a safe, clean, somewhat soundproof location that is easy to find. You can rent a room at a local music store, which comes with the added bonus of free advertising and foot traffic. Or you can rent your own space in an easy-to-find location. Lastly, you could teach out of your students’ homes and charge a premium for mileage or travel time.
- Prep Contracts - You won’t want to start taking students without having a good contract in place that states your policies, pricing, expectations and cancellation policy. The most common issue you will have is how to handle missed lessons, so prepare for how you’d like to handle this. Write your contract in plain English using friendly language and ask all new clients to sign and date a copy for their file.
- Choose a Scheduling Tool - You’ll need to be punctual and consistent with your lessons. Use SignUpGenius to track lesson time slots and payments.
- Have Extras on Hand - Kids will forget books, so keeping a copy of one book per level or have copied sheet music pages for each level. Keep an expandable file folder full of copied music for different holidays, popular songs and more to use as extras and to cover lessons when books are forgotten.
- Consider Rewards - What will you use to mark completion and celebrate achievements? A simple sticker on passed songs will lift morale. A certificate for finished levels with a small prize will be so exciting. These small extras add up to big wins in motivation and excitement, particularly for small children.
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- Fliers - Consider posting fliers with removable phone number tabs at local hot spots with bulletin boards, such as coffee shops, local diners, libraries and more.
- Local Newsletters - Does your neighborhood have an online site like Nextdoor? What about a community center where you can take out a small ad in their mailer? Look into local businesses that could trade recommendations with you. For example, you have business cards for the local kids’ dentist and they have your cards out on display. This strengthens the community as a whole and builds relationships.
- Private Schools - Try calling private schools and asking to drop off a flier about your services. Teachers are often asked for these kinds of recommendations and will appreciate having something to hand out.
- Offer a Free Lesson - Offer one lesson for free as a try-out. This is just as much for you as the student, so you can start to sort through what type of student you work with best.
- Give a Referral Credit - Referrals are your best business. Offer your new clients a discounted rate if they send another student who books lessons. This can be one free lesson or even a free month of lessons.
- Be Consistent - Good teachers can be hard to find. Be consistent and build a positive rapport with your students and families and word will get out about you.
- Local Music Stores - Music stores are always looking for good teachers to recommend. This is especially true if their teachers are fully booked. You can work out a deal where you offer a month of free lessons for each instrument purchased in your niche. This gives the music store a bonus to add to sales and you will get more student referrals.
- Schedule - Decide on a schedule for lessons and stick to it. Are you offering weekly 30-minute lessons? That’s the average, but what works for your instrument? Also, consider levels. At advanced levels, one week may not show enough growth and they may need longer lessons times. Schedule your lessons how it works best for what you teach and stick to it.
- Structure - Design a lesson flow that works and be consistent. For example, start with a quick chat about how their week of practice went. Then, go through warm-ups. Progress to the songs they worked on. Work out any issues. Proceed with new pieces. Discuss homework. When listening to songs they worked on, it’s best to let a student play a song straight through without interruptions the first time. Then, discuss what can be improved. If a student is constantly stopped and corrected, they’ll lose their flow and you’ll lose the opportunity to catch areas where they are more comfortable. This allows you to see where they are struggling and succeeding.
- Payment - If you discuss payment in person, do so at the end of the lesson. Or make a quick comment at the beginning and expect them to be prepared at the end. Example, “Today is tuition day! I’ll check in with you at the end of lesson.” This will take the least amount of time from the lesson. Genius Tip: Include lesson payments at the time of registration scheduling sign up.
- Parent Participation - Decide what you’ll do with parents who want to be involved. Some children are nervous to be alone with a teacher, so have a chair in the room where parents can sit. If this negatively affects the student’s performance, let the parent know that the child does better when they have privacy. Have chairs directly outside the door as well for parents to wait. If the door doesn’t have a window, always leave the door ajar so your lesson can be overheard.
- Safety - Always put safety first when you are working with children. Be sure that your lesson can be overheard and seen at all times and if possible, work at a facility that has a camera system inside and outside. This protects you and the students at the location.
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- Performance Opportunities - As their teacher, it’ll be important to present performance opportunities to your students. This can be a local audition for a performance, invitations to recitals or local groups where they can play. Schools like Bach to Rach offer performance opportunities for groups of young musicians and many local orchestral groups have young musician sets, too.
- Share Tips - Always prepare student for new experiences. Practice the art of performance with your students. How should they enter? How should they set up their instrument and music when in a group setting? Where do they put an instrument case? What should they wear? Who do they go to for questions?
- Check In - If a student tries out for an advanced program or award be sure to support them. Show up to live shows. Let them know you are there after the performance and congratulate them.
- Build Relationships - If you are a professional musician, you have connections with other musicians. Use these relationships to provide more opportunities to your students.
- Plan Ahead - Planning is most of the work of recitals. Plan out how many pieces per student. This will depend on show time and how many students you have. Schedule and rent a facility. Ask other teachers for recommendations in your area.
- Special Guest - Consider having a special guest perform at the start of the show to inspire students and provide a welcoming environment as families enter. You’ll need to be greeting families and setting up students, so don’t plan to do this yourself.
- Introductions - Start the show with an introduction and short speech on the art of music and how proud you are of your all your students’ hard work.
- Design a Program - Design a clear program that has the name of each student and the piece they will play. Don’t put too much (potentially embarrassing) information, such as years of playing or level. Structure the program so that levels are varied and you don’t have too many students in the same level playing back to back. Also, consider adding groups, duets and other types of performances to break up the flow.
- Play with Them - Add duets where you play with younger students to jazz up simple pieces. Play advanced duets with higher levels to really show what can be done.
- Finish Strong - Finish the show with one of your strongest performers. Or, finish the show with some of your own work to really inspire the students.
- Never Criticize - Never interrupt a performance to correct a student or criticize them for a mistake. Performance is scary and takes practice. Simply celebrate all effort made and keep the environment positive.
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- Send Text Reminders - A great tip is to text clients a few days before the lesson when tuition is due. A simple text works wonders: “Please remember that tuition is due this week. There will be 4 lessons this month, so tuition will be [$]. Thank you!” You’ll be amazed how much this reduces the number of late payments. Genius Tip: If you’re organizing with SignUpGenius, you can schedule text reminders to go out to people who have scheduled lessons.
- Track Details - Use a program to track all the details of your business — sign ups, lesson times, cancellations, recitals, payments and more, to stay on top of everything and present a truly professional experience.
Teaching music lessons is such a wonderful experience. You’ll have incredible moments with truly talented students. Performances are a wonderful way to celebrate the art of learning and enjoy the beauty of music. These tips will help you feel confident about designing a music lesson business you are proud of.
Erica Jabali is a freelance writer and blogs over at ispyfabulous.com.