Like it or not, if you teach the piano you are running your own piano teaching business.
In the last blog post I asked whether piano teachers are, like other arts based subjects, open to exploitation. Just because we have a passion for what we do. This week let’s put the passion to one side and firmly pull on our business hats.
In this post, I am going to be looking at some do’s and don’ts regarding setting lesson fees, why it’s important to do some calculations and how keeping up to date with your expenses can help you to make a profit. (And we’ve even created a free downloadable Budgeting Tracker Sheet for you).
Now I have to admit that, like many others I suspect, my business hat is not one that I wear particularly comfortably. So I’ve called upon Rebecca Shackelford Langley, our Community Manager and a maths whizz to share her thoughts and experiences about running her own piano teaching business.
SETTING LESSON FEES
Rebecca, what did you do regarding setting lesson fees when you started to teach?
When I decided to set up as a piano teacher I already had a feel for the ‘going rate’ as I had been taking lessons myself for some time. I also talked to local teachers and was doing some maths tutoring. I decided to charge what seemed to be the local standard rate which at the time was £30.
One mistake I made was to charge less for my first student and this wasn’t a good move. I should have charged everyone the same. Despite being a maths teacher at the time I didn’t work it out sensibly.
- Wherever you are in the world have a look at what your professional association recommends. Here in the UK check the ISM and MU recommendations as they are objective and broken down by area.
- Be brave about charging a high-enough fee to start with – it’s harder to put it up later, no matter how many qualifications you have added.
- Avoid comparing lesson fees on the internet as sites are often not up-to-date.
- Don’t undercut locally. You are undervaluing yourself and the profession.
- Do the calculations and work out what your expenses are and what you want your salary to be before you start
DOING THE CALCULATIONS
Why’s it important to do the right calculations when all we do is teach the piano?
Many of us think of ourselves as ‘just’ piano teachers but of course we run our own business. Once I realised that I began to do things differently. Being a maths teacher I like a good spreadsheet so I created one that listed all possible expenses. I also made a calulator where I was able to see how many students I needed to earn my desired income. Now I have a reliable overview of my piano teaching income and expenses.
- Download and use our Budgeting Tracker Sheet or set up your own to help you calculate your expenses and income
- Put aside a chunk of time in the last quarter of your teaching year to go through everything
KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR EXPENSES
What did you learn about your piano teaching business from using the Budgeting Tracker Sheet?
What was a bit of a shock was how little profit I was making! A lot of my potential profit was being spent on books, music and equipment.
Once I saw that laid out in front of me clearly I was able to take some action. Putting up my lesson fees and adjusting my spending on my expenses redressed the balance. I’m also considering running a summer music course in my local area at some point in the future.
- Once you have filled in the Budgeting Tracker Sheet think carefully about whether you are happy with the profit you are making.
- If the balance isn’t right then you’ll need to adjust either your lesson fees or spending. Alternatively you could think about sources of income, running a holiday music course for example.
The ideal time to do this is in the last quarter of your academic year. Block out a couple of hours in your weekly schedule and why not plan a reward for yourself when you’ve finished!
Complete the form below to download our free Budgeting Tracker Sheet
Here’s Rebecca guiding you through how to use it.
This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers and Rebecca Shackelford Langley, Community Manager of The Curious Piano Teachers