In 2003 I started my teaching business as a means to just make a few extra dollars part-time doing what I enjoyed most, drums. I had no prior knowledge of how to get started, and I had no mentor to help me along the way. I had to learn everything the hard way by making mistakes, spending money on advertisement that sometimes didn’t work, and things I didn’t need. There was no blueprint or a specified way to start a teaching business in a small town for drums. I just had to go for it!
Now looking back it’s been 13 years and I’m doing it full-time. I have never been without a student since and I couldn’t have made it without making mistakes and learning from them. That’s what fueled me to write this post to help give a few pieces of advise to help those of you looking to start your own teaching business regardless if you live in a big city, or a small town. I might not cover every little detail, but I hope to cover a few things that could save you a few dollars and help you get started.
Before reading any further I would hope that you are somewhat proficient in your craft before deciding to teach. The worst thing we could do would be to lead the student down a path of uncertainty with misguided information. This could hinder the student and maybe even cause injury due to improper technique.
Loading The Cannon
Have a place to teach, or make house calls
For starters we have to have a location in which we can teach from. This could be your home, a rented space, school, etc… You can also do house calls where you would visit the students home to teach him or her. The only downfall to that option is the time, and gas that it takes to drive to the specified location.
Look within your close group of friends, relatives, and acquaintances.
The first place I looked for students was within my close group of friends, relatives, and acquaintances. You would be surprised at how many people you already know want to take lessons, or they might know someone who does.
Create a website
Make a free website to have a landing page with information on you as an individual and your lessons. You can do this through wordpress.com and choose from many different templates to make it look the way you like.
I use social media to generate awareness of my business, Facebook works best for people who live in your area, mostly parents. Look for your city, or county classifieds groups to post ads for your teaching business. That has helped me tremendously just posting once a week about drum lessons.
The Big Bang!
Business Cards & Flyers
Get your name out there and your service! Try starting out with business cards and flyers. I use http://www.vistaprint.com for my cards and just make my own flyers from my iPad or computer. Make sure you design your cards to stand out so that they won’t get lost in the paper forest of lawn care cards, and lawyer firms :p Check out my post on Marketing Your Drum Lesson Business With Business Cards to find out more.
You should be on the big 3! Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Create content each day that showcase your playing, teaching skills, and something to give back while sneaking in an ad from time to time. You want to build relationships, not just numbers.
News Paper Ads
I’ve had some success with News Paper ads but not much. I think a small ad can run from $75 and up, so if you can get at least one student from that it has paid for itself.
Find a local restaurant and see when or if they do ads for their menus. Sometimes they update them every few months, or every year. I have ads on 2 or 3 menus here in my hometown and it’s generated traffic to my site as well as new students, the occasional “drum” related question, and prank calls. These ads can run from $75 and up.
Now that you have covered advertisement it’s time to start getting calls, texts, and emails about lessons. This can be nerve-racking for some because it’s hard for some of us to make a sales pitch and even harder for some of us just to talk with someone we aren’t familiar with. You have to own what it is that you are selling and be confident in the service you are providing. If you are teaching drums like I am I always talk about the few topics I have listed below.
- Talk about the benefits of the service you are proving. In my case it’s the fact that the student will learn to read rhythms which all instruments are based on. This lets them know that they are going to build a solid foundation that could help them in learning even more instruments as they go farther in their journey.
- Give them some cost-effective ideas to getting started. This could be the fact that all they need to get started is a pair of sticks and a practice pad, maybe an idea on purchasing a drum set on a budget, etc…
- Let them know you have a desire to teach. Explain how the instrument has helped you over the years and what it means to you to be able to share that with others. People want to learn from enthusiastic instructors!
- Last, provide your rate and what times you are available for lessons. I save this for last because sometimes people get scared away by money. You have to build this cushion of trust in a short amount of time so that when you give your rate the individual will feel that they are going to get their money’s worth.
Now that you have everything laid out you need a lesson plan! For starters you should create a few lesson plans based on skill level such as Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. Here are a few ideas.
Beginner: Look back on when you first got your start in learning drums. What did you first learn? Here are a few topics you could cover…
- How to properly hold the sticks, grip.
- The rhythm tree (whole notes up to 16th notes)
- Standard Grooves for different styles. Rock being the easiest to start with.
Intermediate: These students have a decent grasp on playing but need direction.
- Technique (Moeller, Gladstone, etc…)
- Rudiments/Hybrid Rudiments
- Sight reading
Advanced: These students have a background with the instrument and have probably already had previous lessons that are looking to take their playing to the next level. This could be advanced versions of intermediate lessons that are more in-depth.
- Advanced Sight Reading Studies
- Quality Of Sound
- Permutations Of Advanced Stickings
What do I need to teach my students? You don’t have to have the most expensive gear to get the ball rolling. Here are just a few important pieces that you should have depending on what your teaching focus is.
- Calendar: You always need a calendar around to know your schedule, when students are arriving, rescheduling, etc… This can be a paper calendar, or an app. I use Google Calendar app.
- Drum Set: Try to tune it so that it has a cool sound that makes the student excited about coming to lessons. You can also use an electronic kit.
- Practice Pad: Have 2 if possible.
- Sticks: You will need more than one pair in case they break, or if a student forgets theirs you have a pair they can borrow.
- Metronome: This can be a battery operated device, or an app on your phone or tablet. I use Tempo app.
- Drum Books, PDF Files: Find a great book for the skill level to work out of with your students, or PDF files. You can also write your own if you have a program like musescore. (it’s free for PC and Mac)
- Music Stand: It’s a great idea to have some sort of stand so that your student can see the material he or she is learning while being able to keep appropriate posture behind the kit or snare.
- Pencil: It’s hard to erase ink if you make a mistake when writing notes, or notation for your students.
- Staff Paper/Blank Printer Paper: There are moments you might need to write out parts to a song for a student, or if you write your own exercises and don’t have a prepared PDF file.
I hope this post can help shed some light on a few things for you to give you an idea as to what you need to get started. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or email me so that we can talk further.
Great tips for someone starting out! Thanks for sharing!
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Great article about creating value for the students. This year I’ve been foucusing on the materials the student needs, for what they want to learn, as you’ve mentioned.
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I’m glad you talked about working with your pupils, finding a wonderful book for their ability level, or some PDF downloads. This will be helpful for my sister who wants to start teaching private drum lessons to students who want to learn. Thanks for helping me understand your article, I’ll make sure that she follows these tips, thanks!
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