How To Find Private Music Students

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:


  1. Be honest about your experience, credentials and expertise. Highlight what you do best. This paves the way for honest students.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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Cameron Mizell

New York guitarist Cameron Mizell is involved in a wide variety of musical projects. He has released many of his own albums independently, including his latest, Tributary. Cameron's experiences as a musician and former record label employee give him a unique perspective on the musician industry, which he enjoys sharing on MusicianWages. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

9 thoughts on “How To Find Private Music Students”

  1. Really impressed by point #2! You reap what you sow… an excellent suggestion to making sure that the process of teaching and learning is mutually beneficial and satisfactory! I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this point put this way before, and I think it should be applied to every client situation – get the clients you WANT to have, that will make YOU as satisfied as you’ll make the client. Great article as always!

  2. Philip, including a link to recordings of your music is absolutely a good idea. But be sure the examples of your playing accurately represents what you can teach, or at least that you are a versatile player. Many beginners might get the idea that because you play one style of music professionally you aren’t able to (or wouldn’t want to) teach them the kind of songs they want to learn.

    Consider creating a sort of “audition reel” that demonstrates you playing various styles. A video of this sort of thing would be extremely clear cut and helpful for somebody looking for a teacher.

  3. I completely agree that it would be advantageous to offer a free first lesson. Especially if you’re just establishing yourself as a private teacher, the free lesson seems like an intelligent way to dispel the doubts of any student who may be on the fence.

    I also like the idea of the handshake agreement and setting the terms on which a lesson can be canceled. Flexibility will be important in real-life situations, but it’s a good idea to verbally communicate the guiding principles. Thanks for the great advice!

  4. First smart article I’ve read on the subject. I was looking for somebody who, while dedicated to teaching, approached things more like an entrepreneur, with things like conversion rates in mind. Game recognize varsity game, and I look forward to reading more posts.

  5. Really like the ad description “Beginners are expected to practice 15 minutes a day”! Some great tips here. It can be hard to get a music teaching business off the ground, but there are so many ways to find more students. Providing you have a good strategy, you can build a successful teaching studio surprisingly quickly. Also, don’t be afraid to invest money into promoting your teaching business. For example, paying for a logo and website and using paid advertising to find students. You’ll make your money back in no time and get results quicker. Martyn =>

  6. Good advise about finding music students, I would add look for good music schools and teaching organizations to work with. I always tell our newer music teachers to remember earning music as a musician means you’re going to have lots of different streams. That’s ok, you just have to turn on as many teaching streams as possible.

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