What if I told you you could make more money without taking on more students, freeing up time for social activities or family time?
I’ve been a classroom and instrumental teacher for over 20 years in multiple countries, teaching a whole variety of subjects from maths to PE to music and with just about every age group.
I can say, without a doubt, that 1-on-1 private instrumental teaching is one of the most gruelling and exhausting forms of teaching I’ve ever done.
Give me a classroom of 30 students any day!
You see, when it’s just you and your student, you don’t get a break.
You have to be engaged, passionate, excited and on-task with your student 100% of the time.
You have to be enthusiastic even when you’re exhausted. You have to be patient even when you’re stressed. You have to tread carefully when children are upset.
And because you tailor your curriculum to each child individually, you have to plan, prepare, review and plan again each and every week.
On the other hand, when I was a classroom teacher, I could introduce a topic or activity, set the class to work and get at least get 10 minutes of peace and quiet before the first hand went up to ask a question!
Not so in music lessons.
And we also have to deal with unsupportive parents, rowdy siblings and families that forget to pay.
We have to do the accounts, make sure our marketing is working, keep our website and social media presence up to date, organise recitals and exams and hopefully end up with more money on the table than we started with.
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So I get it. It’s tough.
Not only are we often working unsociable hours that we’d rather spend with our family and friends, but we’re often not respected by the wider community and parents who think our job is just a hobby.
We have students who never practice, difficult parents and students who don’t want to be there, but we’re too afraid to ask them to leave because we’re not sure if we’ll fill the vacancy if they quit.
Many of us struggle earning more money. We have to sustain a living and have to rely on our spouse or partner to support what society believes is our “hobby” job. We know we should probably charge more but are afraid to take action.
And that means that we lose confidence and fall into the trap of believing people when they ask us when we’ll be starting our “real” job.
Even worse, some of us feel guilty about the time we’re not able to spend with our children because of the hours we teach:
Michelle talked about the guilt of mostly teaching outside school hours and having to tell her own kids that she has to work. She said…
My own kids want my attention and it’s hard to tell them I have to work..
Similarly, Josie regrets not being able to spend time with her son and not eating family dinners during the week.
And perhaps saddest of all was Sandra who realised that because she was teaching so many students after school, her own children never had a chance to practice the piano when they got home and eventually quit too soon.
Teaching after school and on weekends has an opportunity cost which is time spent with our own children, families and friends, and which we can never get back.
It’s a sacrifice that most of us make everyday and that can easily lead to feelings of guilt and even shame for music teachers – particularly those with their own children.
That cost can weigh heavily on our conscience, even if it’s not always immediately apparent.
Ultimately, there’s only one way to avoid these feelings and that’s to be able to generate income that provides flexibility so that you don’t always have to work during afternoons and weekends.
In Part 2 of this 2-part series, you’re going to find out how that’s possible!
All will be revealed next week with a brand new resource called Music Teacher Startup, something I’ve been working on for six months.
See you then.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at dev.topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.