For many people, setting up a small business as a full-time music teacher is truly a dream job. Being able to make a living out of music and encouraging the talents of others is highly rewarding, and the flexible working hours and control over your own time are inviting prospects, too.
While there are only a limited number of jobs for music teachers in schools and institutes of further education, there is huge demand for private instrumental and vocal teachers. Here is our guide to finding success in this area.
There is no legal requirement for music teachers in the private sector to have any formal qualifications and, indeed, some very good teachers have none whatsoever. However, you do need to be able to convince potential clients that they can benefit from your services. Basically, your clients need to be happy that you can not only play an instrument well, but that you can also teach it well, since playing and teaching are two distinct skills.
One way to do this is to build a website, showcasing your talents in both areas. As a performer, you may wish to highlight particular performances, recordings, songwriting, and compositions. You could record videos of yourself playing — even teaching — and link to them. As a teacher, if you have any qualifications, be sure to mention them, and if you have taught before, include a brief history of past experience, and ask your previous clients for testimonials.
If, however, you are just starting out and don’t have the experience to showcase, there are a couple of ways to reassure your clients. One is to create content which shows you are able to give clear explanations, for example you could write a blog on what to look for when buying an instrument, or create a YouTube video showing how to put your instrument together, or how to tune it. The other is to offer a taster lesson at a discounted price as an incentive so people can ‘try before they buy’.
Complete the legalities
If you are already working as a professional musician, you may well be registered as self-employed. If not, you will need to do so within three months of starting your business. You should also think seriously about getting Disclosure and Barring Certificate (DBS) clearance, particularly if you will be teaching music lessons to children.
It is also advisable to have public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance, to cover yourself should any issues arise or accidents occur. If you are planning to use your own mains-powered electronic equipment of any sort, then it is strongly recommended to have a certificate of Portable Appliance Testing — known as a PAT certificate. You may also benefit from other types of insurance, depending on your particular situation, for example your main instrument may already be insured, but it’s worth double-checking that your insurance covers you for teaching. Likewise, if you plan to use your car to travel to clients, then your car insurance company may need to be informed and, if you plan to teach students at your home, then your home insurer may want to know about it too.
As a final point, private music teachers do not usually need a trading licence, but it is always worth taking time to check your own local authority’s policy on this.
Decide on your teaching locations
When it comes to where to teach, most people have, essentially, three basic options: teach at your own house, teach at your client’s house, or teach at a third-party space. It is perfectly feasible to use more than one of these options, but you need to be aware of the legalities and practicalities of each.
Teaching in your own home
While this has obvious attractions, it does have potential drawbacks too. First of all, your home — or at least part of it — will become a place of work. This means that not only will you need to inform your insurer, but you will quite possibly need to inform your local council as well, and you have to be aware of the possibility that your council will instruct you to stop using your home as a place of business.
Whether or not this happens depends on a number of factors, most of which boil down to how much disturbance you are causing to other people. Noise is the obvious issue here, but there are others, such as the availability of parking for residents. You will also need to ensure that your home meets health and safety standards and that your students can access a bathroom.
Teaching at your client’s house
This can be a good option as it puts the onus on the client to provide appropriate facilities, however it is important for you to outline in advance what these necessary facilities are. It may be, for example, that you require your student to have their own piano, or drum kit, available. You will also need to factor in the time and costs of travel when setting your prices.
Teaching in a music studio
If you can find a quality venue, then you can essentially delegate all the practicalities of creating the right conditions for teaching. You will, however, need to be clear about the exact nature of the rental. This includes the number of hours per week for which you can book it. As well as how much notice you require for booking and cancellation. You will also need to factor in rental fees when you are setting your prices.
Starting the marketing process
Put yourself in a customer’s shoes: if you knew nothing about the local music scene yourself, where would you go to find a teacher? These days, there’s a good chance that your first port of call would be to go online, either for a general search, or through social media. The importance of a good website, then, is paramount, as this is likely where potential clients will first interact with you and your company. It may also be worth considering paid advertising to really get the ball rolling. Although word-of-mouth marketing may be a natural place to start if you already have contacts within the space. Gumtree and other local listing sites, and free papers, are also great places to advertise as this is another source people are likely to search for music lessons.