[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Gfire Mayo. Gfire is an Austin, TX-based music teacher with TakeLessons.com, offering lessons in guitar, singing, piano and more to students of all ages. She has been teaching and performing music full-time for more than 17 years.]
I have been singing, writing songs, playing the piano and guitar, and recording music since I was three years old. Being a singer/songwriter is my life’s work, but it can be helpful to have additional streams of income to make sure the bills get paid! For many professional musicians, teaching music is an ideal side job to have while still pursuing your creative goals.
At a bare minimum, you should be able to get an entry level position at $20/hour or more at a local music studio. If you’re teaching private lessons, you can set your own rates. With enough experience, you can command $40-$70 an hour or more, depending on the norm in your current market.
Beyond making money, teaching may also expand your fan base! Many of my students and their families come to my shows. And they’ll respect your advice even more when you show them that you, too, have to practice just like they do.
The best part, though? Teaching private music lessons allows you to create your own schedule. But it is a balancing act you’ll need to master.
Here are some tips that have helped me balance a busy performance schedule with teaching on the side:
#1. Align yourself with a reputable service to help you market yourself.
I work with TakeLessons.com. They handle the marketing side of my business, to help me find new singing, piano, guitar, and songwriting students. I keep my availability updated so that they know when I can and can’t teach music students. I can also arrange in advance to have no students when I am touring out of town.
With music services like these, you can also offer online lessons, which I recommend. By doing so, you can expand your roster beyond your hometown. I have worked with students in Washington, California, Colorado, Maine, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, and Iowa, and have even taught folks in Switzerland and New Zealand! You may have skills to offer as a teacher that your students cannot get locally.
There are also local music schools and after-hours programs at schools and universities where you can teach classes. You can sometimes find students by posting on Craigslist or on your local neighborhood online bulletin board, like Nextdoor. Encourage happy clients to post reviews on Yelp, since people use that site to help them make purchasing decisions.
#2. Make sure to schedule your own practice time and touring time from the beginning.
I like to get at least an hour of singing and piano playing in before I start teaching, so I schedule students from noon to 9 pm. Usually I have breaks during the day for lunch and dinner and some further practicing.
If I have gigs out of town, I ask my students if they would like a make-up lesson either before or afterwards if their lessons fall during my tour dates. Just remember, you’ll need to stay super organized! Write down all of your gigs and lessons so you don’t forget anything, and keep everything up-to-date.
#3. Similarly, make sure to schedule one or two days completely off from teaching, practicing, and performing.
Your creative self and your physical self will fare much better when you schedule in some down time. I call it “the lazy girl’s way to practice” – while you are off watching a movie or playing sports or whatever you like to do in your free time, your subconscious is working on all of your musical skills!
#4. Offer performance opportunities to earn more.
I put on a spring recital and a fall recital at my studio, and at Christmas we go to a local nursing home and perform for the residents. I charge $15 per student for my expenses and I usually make at least $100 for myself. It’s a win-win for both me and my students, who learn how to prepare for a performance.
And by the way, it’s just as important for the adult students to perform, if they are able to, as it is for the children. Performing is a valuable musical skill for all students to learn!
#5. Think about teaching as an investment in your own skills, too.
You may find, like me, that teaching music not only helps your students, but it helps your own music practice. For example, you might end up describing ways of practicing that are even more creative and worthwhile than you used before! If you’re trying to decide if it’s worth putting in the extra time to teach on the side, consider it an investment in your own skills.
Teaching music has been a great way for me to earn income while still performing and doing what I love. You, too, probably have a ton to offer aspiring musicians! Keep these tips in mind, and you can build a successful studio and make a difference in the lives of many students.
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