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Promoting your teaching, building your business

6 years ago

As a private music teacher you’re actually running a small business where promotion is essential to success. David Smith, from the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), offers some advice. Whether you’re an instrumental or vocal teacher of some experience with more private teaching than you know what to do with, or new to the business and looking to find more pupils to increase your income, it’s always worth reviewing how you promote your teaching business, because you can be certain that other teachers in your area will be doing just that! Here are some starting points to consider.

What are you selling?

Start by defining the basics about your teaching and be clear with your messages. What instruments or voice types or particular age groups do you work with, do you use the exam system to motivate and measure progress (and at what levels), do you use any specialist teaching methods (such as Dalcroze) and where and when do you teach?

How much do you charge?

Setting prices is as much an art as a science and is definitely part of your marketing. If the price is too high you’re unlikely to attract lots of pupils, no matter how great your website or leaflets are. It’s advisable to research prices. To provide teachers with the latest information the ISM conducts the only UK survey of music tuition fees, with the results published on our website. Have a look at the range of fees charged and how much prices have increased from the previous year. Gather as much information as you can, but then make a judgement on what you think you should charge based on your income needs and the local ‘going rate’.

Going solo or joining a group

A huge amount of private teaching is delivered by teachers working alone; this is just one reason why belonging to a body such as the ISM is important as it gives you access to a network of fellow professionals, as well as other benefits. There may also be local agencies looking for new private teachers to add to their lists, so search online to see what you find in your area, but bear in mind that you won’t have control over fees, and they’ll probably take a cut.

Credibility and visibility

The next steps are to establish credibility and raise visibility. How can you convince people that you’re a credible teacher? If you have qualifications then tell people about them. Testimonials are also critical – ask your current or former students to write about your work, and use these alongside your own biography.

Getting out there

Now you’ve got the content you need, use it everywhere you can. If you don’t have a website then start one – it’s how people expect to find you now, and it must be kept up-to-date. Search online to see what other teachers are doing to get ideas. There are very simple (and free) set up packages online and more come along all the time – try Moonfruit or Weebly to get you going. Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more), when used in a safe and professional way, is another essential. Connect with local groups, music fans or parents’ collectives – have conversations about music with them. Promote content from your website and link people back to it. Generate content – write a blog or make a film offering practice tips or other materials, almost like a small free sample to entice people to come to you for lessons. Add yourself to some online directories of teachers – ISM members are part of the widely-used ISM Music Directory. Printed directories, such as the UK’s Yellow Pages, are useful too.

Networking and word of mouth

Personal networking is hugely important to generate referrals, so make yourself known in local music shops, with other musicians and in the music departments in local schools. Give them leaflets or business cards and keep in touch to remind them that you’re around. Leave your leaflets or cards in local shops and libraries. One of the best forms of promotion is, of course, word of mouth from your existing pupils and their parents. Do all you can to encourage them – they are your best advocates, so use them!


The ISM is the UK’s professional body for musicians, with 6,500 members who receive legal support and essential insurance cover, as well as access to our unpaid fee chasing service, professional advice, a listing in the ISM Music Directory, discounts on Yellow Pages advertising, access to DBS enhanced disclosures and much more.

This article was originally featured in the March 2014 edition of Libretto, ABRSM's magazine.

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