After a long hiatus, I am happy to announce the release of our first eBook! Building Your Private Music Studio offers insight and suggestions in establishing, growing, and enhancing, your studio to increase impact and income. Numerous suggestions are strategies are offered for organization, scheduling, technology use, and avoiding the numerous financial pitfalls that can occur in this profession. For just $6.99, less than half the cost of one lesson, the eBook can be downloaded from amazon.com . Please click here to get your copy!
By Cindy Hallo
I was going to title this post “Time Management”…..and then I remembered I don’t know ANYTHING about that subject. Like at all.
I’m the girl that works two jobs, runs 40-50 miles a week, travels around the country for marathons, and sleeps no more than 5 hours a night. Free time is something I had back in 2005.
I think a better word for what I want to talk about is “Boundaries”. It’s very easy for people whose job doesn’t require them to be parked in a cubicle from 9 to 5 every day to extend the work day. This is especially true for lesson teachers – it’s like a game of Tetris sometimes to fit all your students in the allotted amount of time on the right days at the right school, during the right class period. Obviously the administration wasn’t thinking about our needs when they created the school day…rude!
Maybe other people learned this a little more quickly than I did, but I can’t tell you how many times my schedule come September would resemble a 12 hour shift on an assembly line. Student willing to start lessons at 7am? Sign me up. Stacking them four deep after school? Hellz yeah. Going to students houses in the evenings/on the weekends if I couldn’t fit them in during normal school hours? Of course! Before I knew it, I was working 10-12 hour days 6 days a week. An 8 hour day was like a vacation. When the drive-thru girl at Taco Bell knew my order by the sound of my voice, that’s when I realized how bad it had gotten.
This year, I’ve taken a step back and realized something.
I don’t have to take every student that crosses my door.
I know. I’m a freaking genius.
Turning down students does not make you a bad teacher, much like saying “No” doesn’t make you a bad person. This took me several years to understand. The first part anyway…I’m still trying to figure out the second part. It actually makes you a BETTER teacher when you realize how many students you can comfortably handle in your studio. Each student gets a little more of your brain power, a little more of your time. And you get to eat something besides Taco Bell for dinner during the week.
I’ve found myself spending more time thinking about the best plan of action for each student, following up on emails, making sure I bring the right music to school with me, etc. And I’m definitely taking better care of myself. I eat better, find more time to run, have more time to relax with friends and family, and sleep better. And I don’t think I need to tell any of you that a well rested teacher is a much better teacher.
Now I’m not saying drop all your kids and only accept a few each year. We’ve all gotta pay the rent. But I am suggesting instead of just blindly accepting any student that sends you an email, you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is there a lot of driving? Am I going out of my way at rush hour? Am I giving up something I enjoy to teach this lesson? How serious is this student? This might sound a little selfish, but teaching is a lot like being a parent (says the girl with no kids, so take it with a grain of salt)….taking care of yourself first makes you a better teacher.
And quit eating Taco Bell. That stuff will kill you.
So, what’s your real job?
This is a question I am asked all too often by both my parents, students, and sometimes fellow school staff/administration.
The financial elements of being a freelance music teacher and performer often present a unique lifestyle that most non musicians really have no concept of. Frequently I am even asked (as a saxophonist) when I am planning on joining an orchestra full time…
My response (much to the shock of the onlooker) : Never.
This is just one of many examples when the career path of a freelance musician can not be confined to a neatly wrapped package.
Being freelance is hard to explain. Are you a school teacher? Well Kind of: I teach just saxophone though, to one person at a a time, without an assigned classroom…… Also I am not on the payroll, and I receive no benefits…… But I do have a parking pass and a badge!
We private teachers straddle the line where we may be issued a badge by a school district, yet must identify ourselves at the front desk each time we enter the building!!! (This is one of life’s greatest mysteries!)
Your students are your employer and Its best for you if they know that.
Music is a noble art; we are trying to reach an abstract goal that really has no mountain top or concrete ending point. Often times in our creative ways, I think its easy to assume that everyone we associate with knows about our quest for great art!
Unfortunately students and or parents sometimes do not understand the years of schooling at a university or conservatory, the thousands of hours of practice, the hundreds of performances, hours of our own private study, immeasurable costs of instruments, music, supplies, music, other miscellaneous musician costs, and the continual development of our craft just to reach the point where we can have financial security in our chosen field of employment. They more likely assume you are someone who played in high school band and now teach a few kids as a hobby. Sigh,….
So, at the start of this year when I sent out my billing policy I simply informed my employers (parents) that this is what I do. I nicely and professionally explained that this is my sole form of employment and my daily job.
Since then I have been paid on time by my students much more frequently than before! Perhaps parents now simply feel bad for me assuming their child is my sole source of income, or perhaps they have gained a deep appreciation for my life long quest of art. But either way, I’ve been sending a lot less emails asking for money! Anyone else out there have any tricks for explaining your occupation?
This school year may not quite yet be over, but I am already considering my teaching schedule for the coming school year. I am extremely obsessed with creating the most efficient schedule possible to both maximize income, and reduce travel. Here are my top three considerations when coming up with my teaching schedule
- Directional planning: I like to go as far south as possible first, and then continually work my way back north to my house through as many stops at schools as necessary. Obviously, you will need to tailor this to your location. The idea being if you are leaving early for before school lessons you can get there with minimal traffic, and then end your day as close to your home as possible-to cut down on afternoon rush hour delays. I avoid doing the following at all costs: Driving south to School A, diving North to school B, then driving back south again to School C. This creates a longer commute home at the end of the day, wasted time that could be allocated to teaching more lessons during these drives back and forth, and increased consumption of gas
- Prioritize with Rate: Not all my schools have the same set rate per lesson. Also, some charge a monthly fee for facility use. I put the schools with the highest rates on Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday. School is rarely closed on these days. The most common day school is closed is Monday. There is one Monday each month in the school year where the building is closed. Friday comes in second place with at least one Friday closure or early release every other month. If my school charges a facility use fee, or has a lower rate I put these students on Mondays and Fridays. This way if I am going to be losing potential earnings due to school holiday, I minimize my losses
- Scheduling of Fridays after school: It is difficult to maximize the number of students when Friday after school Is consumed by marching band performances. To counteract this I either teach at a middle school or a private school, which has no marching band, on Fridays. It is difficult to maximize your studio potential when Fridays after school hours are being lost to football games. This strategy has given me the best result for weekly Friday after school teaching.