Wanna run your business like a boss? Here are 7 business tips for independent music teachers that are tried-and-true. These tips are designed to help you stay on track, have fun while you’re teaching (and while you’re NOT teaching), and get paid like the amazing professional that you are.
With these 7 business tips, you will be able to…
- Feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready when it’s time to teach (and when it isn’t!)
- Increase your focus and manage your administrative time more efficiently
- Understand the actual value that you bring to the table as an independent music teacher
I hope you find these tips useful, because you deserve to run a business that you love.
Tip #1: Have Actual Office Hours
“Regular” businesses have office hours, and when their employees clock out, they actually stop working. That’s a hard thing to do when you run your own business, especially if you have a home-based studio! That’s why it’s extra important to set office hours for ourselves. Otherwise we can feel like we’re “on” 24/7, 7 days a week.
Set regular office hours to do forward-facing administrative work, such as returning phone calls, emails, or text messages. Communicate these hours to your clients and prospectives so that they know when they can expect an answer from you. For example:
The studio admin office is open Monday – Thursday from 1pm-3pm. After that time, the studio will be in “teaching mode.” If you contact the studio outside of those hours, please expect a reply the following day.
Setting office hours allows us to free up mental energy. It also creates clearer boundaries between work and life. Best of all: it allows us to enjoy our non-working time without having to worry about business decisions.
And when you DO have those office and teaching hours, you’ll be able to show up refreshed and give clients your full attention.
Tip #2: Set Studio Routines
During my late teens and twenties I was a server at a fabulous country club restaurant. Everything ran like clockwork! The key to their success: great routines. Every shift began and ended with “sidework” — non-serving chores / responsibilities assigned to each server.
As independent music teachers, we can set ourselves up for success by creating “sidework” routines in our studios. These standard operating procedures will help you stay on-top of things, even (and especially) if your studio is in your home.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Opening sidework: Set routines when you walk into your studio. Turning on the lights, checking the heat / AC, making sure your teaching supplies are within reach, and that you’re stocked with hand sanitizer and other things students might need, etc. The goal is to be able to walk into the studio and be up and running with ease.
- Closing sidework: What has to happen in order for the room to be reset? This is your time to put away things and to prep for tomorrow. These end-of-day routines should set you up for success when you walk into the studio the next day.
It might sound overly structured, but having routines like this can free up a lot of mental space, which means that you can be more present while you teach! (And psst… if you’d like more info about how to create routine habits, check out Atomic Habits.)
Tip #3: Make Personal and Family Priorities
Wait… wasn’t this supposed to be about business? Yup. One of the biggest complaints I hear from independent music teachers is that they don’t have enough time to do non-work things they love. That’s why the first thing we do together is identify what they want to do when they aren’t working.
… Spending time with family.
… Time with friends.
… Going on trips.
… Having hobbies.
These things are important. When we get clear on our priorities, THEN we get a better picture of how we can build our business around them.
Unfortunately, most independent music teachers build their businesses the other way around: they prioritize filling their schedules and try to cram the “life stuff” in the few empty spots that are left. (No judgement here — that’s how I got started. Heck, that’s how I functioned for years until someone told me I could do it differently. Then I chose to be different.)
And YOU, my friend… can be different too. Because YOU know how important it is to flip the model. Set your personal and family priorities first, and then build your business model to support your well-lived life.
Tip #4: Make Time to File Your Receipts
Filling receipts regularly is one of the most important business tips for independent music teachers. I cannot stress this point strongly enough. Well, actually… I can. Let me tell you a little story.
For YEARS, I had a system that worked. Every week I filed receipts through My Music Staff, a system that I really love. This routine helped me track expenses and kept everything organized so that I didn’t have to scramble at the end of the year.
As business grew and income streams diversified, I got this brilliant idea of switching up my system. (Well, it felt brilliant at the time.) Then the pandemic hit, and I kept pushing off this system switch because… well, pandemic.
MONTHS later, I found myself knee-deep in hundreds of receipts and had to spend 8 hours filing receipts during Christmas vacation. I tell you this cautionary tale because I want you to know:
- I’m not perfect, and
- You’re not alone if you feel like filing receipts is literally the most boring part of your job.
The moral of the story: Make sure that you are taking time to file receipts regularly. Trust me on this one.
Tip #5: Celebrate All Wins
This sounds simple, but let’s break it down.
Successful business owners take the time to acknowledge when something has gone right.
Here’s the problem: it’s REALLY easy to forget to celebrate. Once we succeed at a task, we immediately focus on “what’s next?” This isn’t just with business-related tasks. It’s ALSO an issue in our teaching. Here’s what I mean:
Let’s imagine that one of our students succeeds at mastering something that was tricky for them. Then we (the teacher, in our infinite wisdoms) get excited to move onto the next thing. We say “good job!” and quickly start teaching a new concept. Onwards and upwards!
STAHP. Stop right there!
Whether it’s a win in business or teaching… do yourself (and your students) a favor by taking the time to actually celebrate.
When we celebrate successes, we reinforce the motivation that will help us make future achievements. Celebrating gives us the opportunity to REALLY recognize the effort that went into achieving that small or big win. And hey… don’t forget that celebrating gives you a literal dopamine boost that reinforces the reward connections in our brain: when I work through the tough stuff, something GOOD happens!
The next time something goes right in your business or your teaching… pause and celebrate: say it out loud, do a little dance, take a “yay you did it!” selfie, and share the importance of that win with someone you care about.
Tip #6: Curate and Batch Content
If you’ve ever struggled to write social media posts, email newsletters, or blogs… content curation and batching wil be your new best friend. Here’s a short-ish explanation of how it works:
- Choose a place for content ideas to live. This could be a physical notebook, a Google doc, or whatever system you use to gather ideas.
- Come up with categories that your audience is interested in. For example: practice tips, student shout outs, tech tips for your instrument niche(s), etc.
- Curate visuals on the regular. Have your phone handy during lesson time so that you can document the moments that matter. If you’re teaching online, take screenshots!
- Batch your content. Examples of batching: focusing on content ideas in one single category or scheduling posts using FB Creator Studio or FB Business Suite. By the way, you can post to both IG and FB at the same time using those. (We talk about that extensively in the social media course.)
Curating and batching content is a great way to save time and energy. Because while making a social media post or writing an email might seem like a micro-task, when you add those up throughout your day… that’s a lot of work!
Or, as I often say: it’s easier to make a batch of cookies than a single cookie. You still have to get out all the ingredients if you’re only gonna bake one! Might as well bake a dozen and save some for later.
Tip #7: Communicate Your Value
You are more than just a teacher of music lessons.
The value that you provide in your studio is immense. And it’s important to be able to communicate your full value to existing and prospective clients. Having a unique value proposition that sets your studio apart from the business down the street is just the beginning.
Bigger than that? You need to understand “what’s in your hour,” as my friend, mentor, and colleague Michelle Markwart Deveaux would say. Your full value is NOT the time that a student gets to spend with you in the studio or on Zoom. It’s lesson preparation, administrative time, investments you’ve made in your studio space and your business systems, education you’ve received, materials that you’ve created, and countless other things that go into making your business actually run like a business.
If you’re feeling lost here, the first step would be to gain clarity around the value you provide. Here’s a question to get you started:
What impact have you had in the lives of your students?
I bet your answers will be a lot more than “I just teach them how to sing / play.”
One final thought on business tips for independent music teachers…
Stay savvy and stay you. Because there’s no music teacher in the world quite like you.
And I think you’re pretty dang awesome.
If you enjoyed this post, lemme know below. I’d love to have a conversation with you.