Recently an email arrived in my inbox from a British flute teacher:
Hi Jessica, after many years in the profession I have decided to focus on setting up my own studio. I have recently shared some pop covers which have been well received on social media. I would be very grateful to hear any tips about building a flute studio, especially trying to attract adult learners who can come during the day. I am pretty full during the evenings & after school & don’t really want to do much –more in evenings as I have 2 young boys so any advice from you would be gratefully received! –Mary
Logistically, it would seem that setting up a flute studio is not that much different than setting up a small business of any kind. The sharp minds of her, her, him and them will have a lot of information for you about that in a general sense. This info might include useful ideas about how to write successful web copy, get clear about your business plan, networking in the music business and creative marketing inspiration. Though in my 20 years of teaching 1:1 flute lessons, below are 10 specific things that have helped me set up a successful teaching studio (meaning earning enough income to pay my bills). I have used this formula wherever I have lived by attracting clients that are absolutely right for me to teach.
First, come to terms with the fact that setting up a flute studio where you have regular attending clients taking lessons takes time. When I have relocated to a new location (I have lived in 6 different countries in the last decade, mind you) it has taken me around 2 years to build a consistent student base with my ‘in person’ students (teaching Skype students are a different story, however and more on that potentially in a future blog). So in other words, this isn’t an overnight ‘build it quick’ set-up. Once you are on board with this idea you can start the long term planning process of how you are going to build your studio (see points no. 2-10 below).
2) Advertise Locally. Wanting to attract students that might not have heard of your playing or teaching before? Beyond posting notices that you offer lessons on your own website and social media accounts (platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+), you could advertise exclusively in your local area. Design fantastic looking fliers/ads free of charge on my favourite design website here.
Some places that might be useful to post your ad:
- A print ad in your local neighbourhood circulars/bulletins (sometimes either free, or very inexpensive)
- Post in notice boards that are in community spaces libraries, art centres, village hall listings, newsagent windows, university music departments, etc…
- Get in touch with local conductors/leaders of community musical groups to see if you can leave a flier for flute players to find at rehearsals–or better yet go hand them out yourself.
Ideas for listing yourself online:
- Make sure you sign up on numerous teaching / flute sites that list local music teachers, like this one, this one or this one— there are quite a few out there.
- You could join the BFS, NFA, ISM or the UK Musicians’ Union and list yourself as a teacher on their online listings (this would also serve to be an excellent peer-support network for you, too).
- Post Facebook, Google, or Instagram pay-per-click (PPC) ads to attract flute players in your area that you can refine by age, interests location, etc. See what that all means here.
- Sign up free to a Google business listing. That way when people search locally for lessons, your flute studio business will appear to people looking for a teacher in a general search radius. Please note: you will need to be comfortable listing your teaching street address for a business page (here’s what mine looks like, for example).
- The most rewarding form of advertising for me? Above all, word of mouth recommendations from current students is always been my favourite way to meet new ones – but of course, this comes after you have been established for a while (and that’s when you know that people are starting to love what you offer!).
3) Don’t get stuck with the idea that you only have to only offer 1:1 flute lessons. There are many ways to work with your ideal adult flautists. For, example, would you be able to put on various ‘one off’ music events outside of studio lessons that are aimed at adults-only? I currently do this in my own teaching with my Boho Flute Retreats and regular flute workshops both in my area and across the UK. This always has helped me to meet all kinds of flute players from a wide variety of backgrounds that I normally would not have met otherwise (and sometimes I then go on to work with these people for years afterwards as a result of these events).
4) You absolutely must keep sharing what you do consistently, and what you believe as a teacher, including how you teach. You might want to think about posting your teaching philosophies on your teaching pages so people know more about what to expect if they were to work with you (see mine, here, for an example). By sharing what and how you teach the more you will be able to attract the right students to your space but also weed out people that might not be in align with your values and teaching beliefs.
You said that you are making pop covers and posting them on your YouTube channel, which is fantastic as it would put you in a different niche than someone that is purely a ‘classical’ player. This is important because I can imagine that would draw a certain type of flautist that is interested in music and techniques that go beyond just the classic repertoire. In other words? You must focus on what sets you apart from other flute teachers! As the saying goes, to find your pack you have to put out your howl so the right folk will find you.
6) This leads me to the next point that isn’t always spoken about: you don’t have to teach everyone that walks through your studio doors, nor will you be the ideal flute teacher for everyone, either. Although it’s tempting to try to be everyone’s flute teaching ‘knight in shining armor’, you just can’t. Sometimes you might get flute clients that are energetically so draining on your time outside of lessons (i.e. not paying for their lessons on time, numerous dramas in their personal life, not showing up to scheduled lessons etc.) that any financial gain received from our lessons will simply not worth be your time. You have to be ok with this concept or you will build a teaching practice that could lead you to experience the not-so-uncommon musical burn out (yes, this did happen to me. It was not pretty).
6) Network in order to support and give to your colleagues. Not only do I try to frequently connect with other musicians in my area either in person or via social media, I support other flute teachers as much as possible, too –whether that is locally or nationally or globally. I help promote their events via my own social media channels, I recommend students to them when I can, and try to attend their performances, too. This is important because the notion that an artist works in isolation is a myth (at least for me), and nor should your flute teaching be in isolation, either. Reach (and support!) out to your fellow colleagues if you haven’t already– there is room for everyone.
7) Treat your studio as a business, not a hobby or a side-line (even if it might well be at the moment). From a wider perspective, your flute studio is no different than any other small business owner out there who runs a service-based industry. This means paying your taxes, national insurance contributions, issuing receipts, sending out invoices, making sure that you have the correct teaching insurance, and of course, doing your accounts– whether you hire an accountant or do them yourself (I love the free software waveapps for my studio finances). Why? Music teachers who don’t take their business seriously often get students who also don’t take their business seriously, either.
8) Make sure that you understand the value of what you are offering someone in your studio. Are charging what you need to charge in order for this to make this a viable business for you? I know that for me the time I give each of my students is not about just the lesson time. I spend time outside the lesson doing lesson planning, emailing them afterwards about the lesson content , and sourcing the appropriate resources for each of them each week, etc.
So many teachers I meet are afraid to charge rates that reflect their experience and thus end up resentful, grumpy about their students and are struggle to pay the bills. For the average teaching rates, the ISM has general regional guidelines here. But ultimately to decide your rates, you need to ultimately keep asking yourself: How much do I need to charge for this so that I feel appropriately compensated and not resentful? (a clear indicator that your pricing is too low or you aren’t respecting your own precious time).
9) Lay it all out at the get-go. Not only do I offer a no-commitment consultation lesson, I have clear studio policies that I send all my students when we start work together. This includes the boring bits like how payments work, what my cancellation policy is, what happens in case of illness or if a student is late for their lessons, etc. I aim to be transparent about my lesson policies. I rarely have any issues with the boring bits because I lay it all out in the beginning. And the important bit? I stick to these policies and yet allow myself to make adjustments over time, if needed.
10) Practice what you preach in lessons—that is, walk the walk. By this I mean in order for you to offer the highest quality of teaching, you will need to commit to keeping your own flute practice up regularly (yes, even when you’d rather be cleaning out your shower drain and here is how I motivate myself when this happens). In order to keep myself as sharp as possible, I am regularly researching new pedagogical tips and reading up on the latest flute news and techniques. I also make sure that I can play what I assign my students! The quality of your teaching will only be as refined as your own playing. Go to flute courses, hire a teacher to work on your own playing if need be, attend masterclasses and professionally played concerts. In other words, fill your ‘artistic well’ often and make seeking of pleasure a top priority.
11) Ok, well, I know I said 10 tips but…. one more…. As you are trying to attract adult students. don’t forget that the aesthetics of your music studio are important when you are working with those that are spending their hard-earned money with you. Not only do I try to keep lessons running on time, I go to great lengths to make my flute studio environment as comfy, beautiful and as inviting as possible (see some shots of my Cornwall, UK studio here). Overall, I want my clients coming to their lesson to feel as if it’s a wonderful, calm and peaceful experience that aligns with the artistic aesthetics I also teach.
For me, it means that I hire a cleaner (and a window cleaner, too, for that matter) to make my studio sparkle and keep fresh flowers in the studio. The lighting is as ambient as possible, I light these clean-burning candles, and make people a proper organic coffee or a snazzy herbal tea if they feel like a drink. I make sure the studio bathroom is always clean, has lush hand soaps. I offer these iconic mints when people leave their lesson to refresh their mouth. Is it extreme? Not if you think about what you might expect if you were paying someone to work at an expert level with you, whether that was a hair salon, a chiropractor’s office or a therapy session of some sort.
Wishing you the best, Mary, as you build your dream studio—hoping that some of these ideas might resonate with you! Keep me updated on it all–
Not a music teacher but a flute student? You might enjoy this blog post instead: So, you want to (re)start taking flute lessons? (Congrats!) Here’s 9 essential questions to ask yourself first
With special thanks to MysticMama for the use of the gorgeous, soulful pics above.