Guest Article: Guide to Building a Teaching Studio
This RMS guest article is written by Atlanta-based clarinetist, Miranda Dohrman.
When I started freelancing, I wasn’t ready to start teaching. I didn’t feel I had the connections or credentials to set up a studio. Over time, however, the idea of teaching stayed fixed in my mind. Now, I maintain both home and school studios. It takes a lot of organization, but teaching has been so rewarding, and I feel it makes me a better player. Here are a few suggestions for building a teaching studio.
Where and When
The first thing to consider is where you want to teach. Keep in mind that whatever you choose, you may be responsible for different aspects of the process. Ask questions. Who recruits the students? Who manages the schedule? Who collects payments? Do you need teacher insurance?
For me, teaching at a school was the perfect start. If you are teaching at a school or studio, make sure to ask about:
- Studio quotas or required number of students
- Other teaching activities (instrument trials, sectionals, etc.)
- Teaching hours and their flexibility
Over time, I found that I wanted a bit more control of my student list and my schedule, so I added a home studio. If you choose to start a home studio, always check your lease/mortgage documents first, and always be respectful of your neighbors. Also consider:
- local noise restrictions and ordinances
- restrictions on running a business
- limiting your teaching to normal business hours
Another teaching option is traveling to the student’s homes. Things to consider there:
- your business responsibilities, i.e. recruiting, collecting payments, scheduling, etc.
- mileage or gas reimbursement
- types of insurance required (may be covered if you are using an established company)
Get Comfortable with Technology
If you haven’t done so already, set up a basic website with a manageable domain name. It helps to have a contact form so you aren’t sharing your personal email address with the world. Respond to all inquiries within 24 hours. If you are managing payments, consider sending invoices (there are a number of template options online). As your studio grows, you might explore lesson management software. I use My Music Staff (www.mymusicstaff.com) to track payments, process credit cards, send lesson reminders, and more. These programs usually have a monthly cost, so make sure you check your budget to see if the cost makes sense. Forscore (www.forscore.com) is another great app that keeps sheet music on your tablet, so no more excuses when students ‘forget’ their music!
Spread the Word
Once you are ready to start teaching, tell your colleagues. Word of mouth is a great way to get new students. Consider setting up a social media page to expand your presence. Look for free advertising opportunities, including local unions, neighborhood social media groups, flyers on community bulletin boards. Send a letter and your resume to nearby schools and offer a free clinic, sectional, or All-State workshop. But do your research first – some schools have dedicated teachers already, and you don’t want to appear as if you are pushing your way in.
Would you be comfortable teaching beginner piano students? Can you double on violin and viola? The more options you offer, the more students you are likely to attract. When it comes to student levels, keep an open mind. If a college teaching opportunity comes up, go for it! If a school needs help with their beginning band students, jump in! Being open to new challenges will push you as a teacher and a musician, and will really help to build that resume.
Keep Detailed Records
Unfortunately, we live in a litigious age, and it is always a good idea to keep detailed records. Try to limit all parent correspondence to email. It is easier to track and verify than phone calls, texts, or social media messages. Use email folders to organize teaching-related work. Keep a digital or paper lesson log for each student so you can track both attendance and assignments. It provides fast and easy confirmation of any issues that arise.
Building a studio can take some time, especially if you are new to an area, but with a bit of diligence, organization, and courage, you’ll be teaching in no time!