Teaching music as a self-employed person, in your own or rented premises, can be a rather isolated activity. When people make enquiries but don’t follow it through, you may suspect the fee you quoted was too high — though you may never know. But when word has got about from satisfied customers (free advertising, the best!), you know that subsequent enquiries have already taken cost into account.
Whatever you charge will reflect these things: the cost of adding to your own skills such as attending seminars and master-classes; how your current level of skill compares with well-established teachers; set-up costs such as resource material and paying off a new piano; rent payable, or a portion of civic rates related to the area used in your home; affiliation fees and subscriptions; administrative costs; child-care; attending concerts; and maintaining a supply of tutor books and theory workbooks you hope to on-sell but might get caught with some.
There are the costs which are impossible to foretell or delineate: what other teachers are charging (IF you know — some consider it unprofessional to ask); how much you might feasibly earn at another job (and does it matter?); inconveniences such as ‘bitsy’ days with students here and there determining your timetable; changes to lifestyle such as convenience foods or buying a second television if you are tying up the crucial room; what your spouse feels about the invasion into your time and home; the fact that there will be some lessons and students you will NOT consistently enjoy, or slow learners for whom you will expend a lot of emotional energy.
If you charge too little, permit ‘mate’s rates’ or have some non-paying, you may get caught by the following situations: families not appearing to value the opportunity, and insufficient practice happening; your relationship with the families being tinged with disappointment; your spouse and family not taking your ‘little enterprise’ seriously; nothing to show in the way of extra holidays or purchases which you can attribute to your increased earning capacity.
You might discover that other local teachers are piqued if you undercut their prices — or if you charge the same, they might suggest that your lack of experience makes that an unrealistic fee. That could be a no-win situation best resolved by observing how clientel builds up, and by the product of your teaching.
In deciding what to charge, keep in mind that you will still be buying resources at city rates. Your professional material, heating costs etc. will likely be the same as for teachers charging higher rates.
It is best to have a Tuition Information form available to all new clients, stipulating what services you offer, payable when and how, and how you deal with absences. It is a good idea to charge less for a second child in the family attending, but make sure it is YOU who deducts any rebates.
Perhaps the most important aspect in this too-busy modern world, is that you insist there are 40 lessons per year. It is hard enough on a private teacher trying to make 40 weeks’ income stretch to 52 weeks, without students finding ways to reduce their quota. I always found times I could offer to replace lessons in a holiday period or stretch the next few weeks’ lessons to make up time.
Any parent is likely to say “So-and-so has been learning from Mrs Jones a year,” without admitting how many lessons went by the board (even if they still paid), and onlookers will make judgments that affect your professional reputation. The results of however many lessons will also shape parents’ decisions of the worth of the tutoring and how much talent their child might have — irrespective of whether it was given the chance to develop consistently or not.
The above advice is based on my e-book “1, 2, 3, GO!” piano teaching manual, as are some other of my posts on WordPress. The e-book may be purchased for NZ$25 if you contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.