How to Get Local Violin Students To Find You
Written by Michael Sanchez
Published: March 27, 2015 at 3:45 AM [UTC]
In 2009, I remember my Mom looking over at me and saying "Michael, why don't you start teaching the violin again?" At the time, I had only taught a few students in high school, and never thought that teaching would become a full-time job. I remember wondering how I would even find students without already having a reputation in the area? I couldn't imagine leaving my job as a leasing agent at an apartment complex, and giving up the rights to my 20% discount; actually, that wasn't so hard. Wow, have things changed since then!
Three years later, I was teaching 82 students, many of them on Skype and other online platforms. By 2012 (all from the comfort of my Mom's home), I went from a teaching nobody to one of the busiest in the area, generating an income of $75K/yr. just from teaching lessons. I was also getting additional money from gigs, selling music books, accessories, instruments and more. This is ultimately what led me to start my online store, which is what takes up the majority of my time now.My first teaching area (2012)
So, how did I get into a position where so many people call me and book lessons? I’m not Joshua Bell, so it wasn’t because I had name recognition. It was because I took advantage of the many resources the internet has to offer. Keep in mind, you have to be a decent (preferably good) teacher to keep the students, but it has to start somewhere, and that’s by getting the students to find you.
The Internet is such a great place for people to find music teachers, and it isn't as difficult as you might think to get them to find you. If you’re looking to find more students in your area, focusing on online marketing is the way to accelerate. For anyone interested in this path (which is how I found 95% of my students), here is a progression of the things you can do to give you the best chance of success. This progression is what ultimately led me to quit my job as an apartment leasing agent, and make teaching violin my career and my sole source of income. All the tips I have for you below are related to generating the emails and calls you need to start building your teaching studio. 1. Start an online page
- To get started, you want to establish an area where you can post information about yourself, to ultimately get students to contact you. This could be in the form of a website (Weebly or Web.com are examples of hosting), or even a Facebook page. Make sure that your contact information is easy to find so people can easily reach you. 2. Build a professional profile
- First impressions are everything in getting someone to call you and inquire about your services. Make sure you have a professional picture, preferably one of you with your instrument (smiling doesn't hurt). Write a professional bio, and keep in mind it is all about selling yourself. Even if you don't have your degree, you can still tell people about your passion for teaching, and that you would be a great fit to help them achieve their goals. Maybe you are great with kids or have the ability to connect with adult beginners. Aim for being professional with your writing, and be confident about anything that you say (no sob stories or concerns). Keep it under two paragraphs unless you really think there is more that brings value. Have someone review your profile to make sure it sounds professional, is easy to read, has no grammar errors, and is convincing enough for them to take the next step in contacting you for lessons. 3. Get out of “word-of-mouth mode”
- Even great credentials don’t put you in the best situation to find students. You can try doing things such as hanging flyers on doors (I did this when I first started), or telling everyone to tell their friends about you. The problem is that these sorts of things really don't work for finding a lot of students. I learned pretty quickly that I had to try other options, and the ones that worked were ones that revolved around something Internet related. If it wasn't for the Internet (online marketing), I'm certain I would only have a few students right now and probably still be living with my parents (sorry if this is where some of you are at). So what kind of marketing strategies should you be doing when it comes to finding students? I'll try to highlight some of the important ones below. 4. SEO
- When I first started teaching, I was developing videos in my Mom's basement (for Violin Tutor Pro), and this led me to have interest in how to market DVD's. The most important concept that I stumbled across was "SEO", which is the abbreviation of the phrase "Search Engine Optimization." This is a fancy phrase for how Google ranks you on their search engine, based on many different factors. By really understanding how this works, you can start understanding how different things lead people to your website or landing page which is ultimately how you can develop situations to find new students. When I first started studying about SEO, I learned everything from SEOMoz, which is a great tool to learn about SEO. Take the time to learn about SEO—you won’t regret it.
5. Google listings - Make sure you have your information updated properly on Google, Yahoo, and Bing listings. When you search for a service on a search engine and the provider assumes it is local, they will include those listings ranked first before any of the others. Try searching for a restaurant in your area on Google and you will see what I mean. This is a prime way to get exposure when someone is searching for "violin lessons" or any other service in your area. Make sure to always keep these listings updated.
6. Create a video - The best thing you can do to establish credibility online is by creating a video. You can do this on smart phones these days, and all it needs to be is you talking about your services. It can be as simple as your name, what instruments you are able to teach, your credentials and where you are going to be teaching. You can post this video on your website or landing page to attract even more attention. A good place to post videos is YouTube, and you can also record directly to YouTube from your webcam.
7. Post on free classified websites - The #1 website that I used when I was trying to build a local studio was Craigslist. Most likely, this is a website you are familiar with. I developed a lot of leads just by posting my information about my services and lessons there, and you can also post on other classified sites. Go to Google and type in "Top Classified Websites 2015," click on a link that brings up a nice list, and choose maybe 4-5 of the best ones to post on. I wouldn't recommend paying anything since you can find free ones that are effective.
Like I said earlier, these are only the first steps. Once they find you, you still need to convince them that you are the teacher they want! If you find you are not a good talker on the phone, I would suggest having someone else filter leads for you. This can be done in a way that is still professional, but puts you in the best light. That is a very important part of the process.
I hope this was helpful for you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me through my Violin Tutor Pro
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From Paul Deck
Posted on March 27, 2015 at 3:16 PM
There has seen considerable previous discussion on violinist.com about electronic marketing of violin instruction. One of the best features of violinist.com is the archival of blogs and discussion threads, and these are all fully searchable.
However, even though your post does not really cover much new topical ground, it is organized clearly and compellingly, and I suspect many may find it useful.
One area in which you definitely charted new territory was the broadcast of your annual salary, I have never seen anyone on this site do this in the past. Since you were kind enough to share that detail with us, I wonder if you could break it down. I think that would be very informative for anyone considering starting up a violin-teaching business.
I pay $50 an hour for my violin lessons and for my daughter's lessons (the school takes a small cut and the teacher receives the rest). That would translate into 1500 billable hours to arrive at $75,000, the figure you quoted. That's 30 regular one-hour students for 50 weeks per year. To me, knowing how violin teachers typically operate, that seems like one hell of a lot of teaching.
So, of that $75,000, how much was from teaching and how much from freelance playing (gigs)? Oops, sorry, I just realized you said it was all from teaching. How many regular (e.g., weekly) students do you have, and how many irregulars (a lesson here, a lesson there)? What's your hourly lesson fee? What is the average duration of a lesson (small children often have half-hour lessons, but maybe you mostly teach older kids and adults). And, do you teach all year round (50 weeks)? If so, how do you maintain/populate your studio during the summer months while saving spots for your academic-year students to return? This is something that I believe is one of the biggest difficulties of violin-teaching as an occupation.
Hey Paul, thanks for your questions. That year I would say I was between 70-82 students during the peak parts of the year, and in the summer was down to about 55. What actually kept me going most in the summer time is that I held music camps and group classes which enticed students to have at least minor participation through the summer (I also discouraged bi-weekly). I would hold my recitals in late June, which encourages students to stick to lessons at least one month in the summer to prepare their piece for performance. By keeping as many students as possible through the summer, this really brought a ton of momentum into the fall, where I was back up to 75 students no problem. What I forgot to mention is that I also had 3 teachers during this time that were teaching piano, cello, guitar and voice lessons for me, which counted for some of that $75K. This is how I would estimate it broke down.
Personal Teaching - $60K ($22.50/half hour)
Hired Help - $15K (I would split this with the teacher)
Instruments - $10K
Accessories - $2K
Books - $2K
Gigs - $3K
That year I had 2 recital dates (Christmas and June Recital), with 5 recitals scheduled on each of the dates (15 students per recital). I really was doing nothing but teaching and had no time to do much else. All the sales were through my own studio at the time. I was single and living with my parents so I was able to do everything with no problem (don't recommend this path for those that have a family).
In my opinion, a big part of developing the income from teaching is everything to do with efficiency. Examples of this would be having good schedule management, a follow-up system, discouraging bi-weekly lessons, and being very reliable (I probably only missed 2-3 lessons I scheduled the whole year). In my opinion, giving the student their 30 minutes and no less is very important, and to do this with a large schedule, you have to be very efficient and time sensitive. They have to come in one after another and start and end at the exact times they are scheduled. If they come late, you can only stay with them longer if you have a gap. During this time, I was teaching 7 days a week and would normally teach at least 7-8 hours a day during the week (my evenings were always booked until 9PM), and then at least 4-5 on Saturday and Sunday.
Just saw I didn't answer one of your questions. In 2012, I taught 52 weeks out of the year, although most of my students didn't come the week after Christmas. Since then, I have been taking that week off, but no more than that. I believe that maintaining a studio has a lot to do with building momentum and not allowing it to stop. You certainly are entitled to time off here and there, but since some of your students are probably not 100% motivated/dedicated, those students are likely to loose interest during those times (excuse for them to put priority in something else). If you lose a student, you want it to be the student's fault--not yours. For those out there that want to build your momentum and teach for a living, I would recommend teaching at least 50 weeks out of the year, and be up front with when you take breaks. Don't ever let the break be longer than 2 weeks, and if you have to go away for 2 weeks, I suggest making yourself available to teach on Skype. This is just my belief, and what I would find valuable if I wanted to build my studio back up to 82. Certainly you can make a nice living teaching 50 students and not 82, but the difference between those two is quite significant. At that point you are definitely going to be exploring the possibility of hiring other teachers like I did.
Posted on March 29, 2015 at 4:36 PM
This is an interesting topic! How do you keep track of so many students? Do you write down weekly assignments for them in a lesson book? Do you ask them to pay you monthly, or by the term? Do you allow them to reschedule lessons?
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