find students

Congratulations!  You’ve decided that you want to teach private lessons.  Now…where do you find students to teach?

Unfortunately, colleges do not provide any marketing classes for music majors.  However, in order to teach, you need to find students, and that requires marketing to them.  Most people shy away from this area, because they see marketing as spamming the people around them.  No one ever reads the flyers stuck on windshields, and people always see through “gimmicks.”

So…how do you market yourself without being annoying?

You need to understand what marketing actually is.  Marketing is about creating relationships with people, known as leads, or with an organization that provides a “pipeline.”  Leads are just defined as people that are already interested in the type of service that you offer.  A “pipeline” is a term used for a source that creates new leads.

Effective marketing to find students involves promoting your service to those two areas:  leads and pipelines.

Where do you find leads or pipelines?

Most school music programs need teachers for every instrument in their ensemble.  The reality is that no music director is an expert in every instrument, and that is why these directors bring in professionals to teach their kids.  School programs are a great starting place to find students, because they are constantly adding kids to the program.  Also, competition is fairly low, because there is high turnover for private teachers.

Music stores give an alternative for instruments that are not included in public school programs (like guitar, banjo, harmonica, etc).  Music stores are also great for areas that have less established music programs in the schools.

My first teaching job was through one of these outreach departments.  Every school is different, but most have a program that offers lessons to the general public.  They typically hire local pros and college students to teach.  This type of program is excellent for college students that want to “get their feet wet” in teaching.

This type of job is the king of all lead sources.  These jobs include teaching at a major university or playing in a big time professional group, because both provide a great deal of notoriety to you.  In our area of Texas, the members of the Dallas Symphony or the faculty at the University of North Texas (for example) constantly have people seeking them out for lessons.

The first tip in promoting yourself is to be “predictably present” to your lead sources.  All this means is that you are “seen” consistently by both parents and students.  By giving “face time” to people, you actually build trust, and trust is the key to getting consistent business.

Next, find opportunities to help or serve anyone that you can.  You can coach groups, provide classes, play concerts, or anything that provides value to others.

Lastly, the most effective way to promote yourself is through third party endorsements.  Whenever you can get another person to “sing your praises” to another, you win.  If you are working with a local school program, have the director promote you, and you will get a lot farther than doing it yourself.

Question:  What methods have you found to be effective to find students for your private lesson studio?




Photo by Ano Lobb. Used under Creative Commons License. 

  • Baz Myers

    Thank you very interesting, i am from the UK, and have a wealth of drumming experience [30yrs] But don’t have the usual qualifications recognised here in Texas.
    I was wondering the best way to approach this, and any more tips/connections would be highly appreciated.

    • Michael Attaway

      Hi Baz! Thanks for leaving a comment!

      I’m assuming that by “usual qualifications,” you’re referring to having degrees in music? If you’re lacking in a music degree, your credibility will come from having experience in the field. If you play gigs often, then that’s just as good to other people.

      My teacher from grad school, Michael Sachs, does not have a degree in music, but he still teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music. His bachelors degree was in history, and then, he left Juilliard before finishing a masters degree. The reason why he is able to teach at a world class school is because he’s a member of the Cleveland Orchestra (meaning he has credibility from his performing career).

      Does this help, or were you asking about something different?

      • Baz Myers

        Fascinating, unfortunately i am in the middle of moving house, so would love to catch up at a later date, for more info on this subject.
        All i can say is, i played with a lot of famous bands from the 60’s/’70’s and 80’s.
        Is there another way i can speak to you at a later date, perhaps email or phone.
        Mob: 972 201 5185

        • Michael Attaway

          I sent a friend request to you on Facebook, and my contact info is on there. Feel free to connect with me any time.

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