Teaching private lessons is a great way to create some income as a musician. There are several way to build your roster of students, like talking to your friends or looking for after school music programs that organize private lessons at public schools. But at some point you’ll probably need to take out an ad or make a post on a website like Craigslist. Creating ads can be tough because you have to sell yourself. Here are several keys that have worked well for me:
- Be honest about your experience, credentials and expertise. Highlight what you do best. This paves the way for honest students.
- Include some kind of expectation in your ad. I always say something like “Serious students only. Beginners are expected to practice 15 minutes a day.” All of my students have told me that this is the thing that made them contact me over anyone else. There’s no short cut to learning music, and students that understand this show the most improvement and stick with lessons the longest.
- Offer a free trial lesson. Sometimes sitting down with somebody for half an hour, playing your guitar and giving them a few immediate corrections and tips will make them feel more comfortable hiring you as a teacher.
- Pricing. I don’t include pricing in my ads. Where the student lives, whether or not they’re willing to come to my place for the lessons, and when they’d like to have the lessons all factor into my quote. Everything starts at a basic price of $60/hour and works down, so I’m simply less likely to negotiate with somebody that lives further away and needs to do their lessons at 9am on Saturday, while my neighbor could probably get a great deal on lessons at 11am on Mondays.
- Be professional. Stay organized with everyone you’re emailing with and respond in a timely manner. Use punctuation and grammar, even if they don’t. These are small details that can make a big difference in making a positive impression on potential students.
And remember, your time and expertise is valuable. Don’t sell yourself short. When possible, I ask for advance payment of 4 lessons, and make this handshake agreement with my student:
“As your teacher, I promise to be prepared to give your lesson at our agreed scheduled time each week, and barring emergencies will give you at least 24 hours notice if I need to reschedule. My failure to otherwise show up for a lesson earns you a free lesson. As my student, you promise to be prepared and on time for your lesson at our agreed scheduled time each week, and barring emergencies will give me at least 24 hours notice if you need to reschedule. Failure to give me fair notice will forfeit your payment for that lesson. All pre-paid lessons are refundable at any time.”
Like any handshake agreement, this is flexible, but it creates some formality so we both take the lessons more seriously. It sets the tone for productive lessons that are fun for the student and engaging for you as a teacher. Good luck!