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Piano Teacher Wars


Here's a recipe for ticking off all of the other piano teachers in your area:

Undercut them.

Yep, charge significantly less than the other teachers in your area and you are dead meat. (Ooh, I really like that -- it sounded very mafia-ish, didn't it?)

Years ago, I knew of a piano teacher who did just that in a pretty ugly way. All of the area piano teachers were charging roughly $15 - $22 per lesson. In fact, the best teacher in the area (mine!) charged $18 a lesson. And she was worth every penny.

But, this other teacher, let's call her "Tricky Tess", decided to build her business by offering cut rate piano lessons. She charged $8 per half hour lesson. A full $10 less than the best one in the area!

And, yes, it worked, kind of. She did get loads of piano students. She had a full studio. She had lots of clients.

But those clients came and didn't stay very long. You see, it turns out that the same inner character that morally allowed her do that, also was reflected in her skill at teaching the piano. Politely said, she was NOT a good teacher.

So, students came to her for a few months, and then they left. And went to another teacher who charged a bit more but whose instruction was worth more. And they wept bitterly over their wasted time and tragically lost instructional days (ok, that might be an exaggeration, but they did regret going to Tricky Tess!).

In fact, over time, Tricky Tess started to gain a community reputation for being a piano teacher you wanted to avoid. It was sad because the very thing she was trying to do (build her studio) backfired and more people avoided her.

And the other teachers in town? Well, when their studio was full and someone asked for a recommendation, do you think they handed students to Tricky Tess? Um, no. And when a teacher retired, and wanted to hand off all of his clients, do you think he passed them along to Tricky Tess? Um, again, no.

So, here is the BIG question: how much SHOULD you charge? Well, don't just guess. Find out. Ask around. Go on other teacher's websites if they have them. Make actual phone calls and ask. It's not being sneaky or hiding information to just call up a piano teacher and ask, "what is your half hour rate for lessons?"

Then, think about what YOU want to make. A reasonable rate but worth your talent and experience. Ideally, it should land in the middle to the high end of the average of what other teachers are charging. Obviously we are not going to undercut the other teachers, but we also don't want to be astronomically higher. Be savvy and honest.

And, also consider not even charging by the lesson. Of course, you will mathematically figure that out, but charging by the month instead of the lesson is way simpler and more streamlined for your bookkeeping and for your clients. When I switched to monthly billing, it was so much better for everyone involved.

When potential clients ask me what I charge per lesson or per month, I tell them, clearly and with confidence. I don't say it apologetically and I don't act like its nothing. Occasionally, I will get a "wow, that's kind of a lot" but I just smile and they can tell by my studio documents, by my methodology, by my excellence, that I am worth it.

So, piano teacher, don't be a Tricky Tess. It will hurt you in the long run. Piano students and potential clients soon realize that indeed, they get what they pay for.

Help them be glad they are paying you well.

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