Make more money!
Who doesn't want to make more money? Nobody I know, that's for sure. Do we live in a culture of always wanting more? Yes. That's capitalism. But even more simply: money buys the freedom to do things and spend time however you want. So...let's look at some ways you can increase your teaching revenue by 20% for next year!
First thing's first, and this requires some deep thinking. You have to know (and lean into) what you're naturally and already good at. These can be things like communication, organization, discipline, ability to connect with others, etc...then, ask yourself and others who you might strategically survey and see if those strengths that you have identified are in fact what you are known for by colleagues and clients. If you find others know or label you as having strengths you didn't know you had, and you think you're naturally good at other things, how can you better align these strengths and "capitalize" (sorry, poor word choice) on them? As an example, I'm really good at getting things done. Per the Gallup Strengths Finder test, i'm an achiever (my #1) and I crave significance (my #5) in my life, I also naturally connect and relate to people (#2 and 4). So...naturally, I'm a teacher. But to be the best version of myself as a teacher means I have a feel like I am achieving with each student and also feel like I am adding significant value to their lives, along with being able to connect and relate to them. I value the relationship of the people I work with as much or more so than I value the theory, for example. (For those that can't take the suspense, my #3 is Harmony, which means I don't like conflict. Interested in taking this test too? Check out the Clifton Strengths Finder in our good friend, Google.)
Once you've identified your strengths, get really good at those, lean into them, and figure out what makes you unique. "My students having fun playing piano" is not unique. "My students play pop music" does not make you unique. "My students play in three recitals a year" is also nothing new or anything different. These are expected norms from a piano teacher! Your students SHOULD enjoy the journey of learning, and in this case, at the piano. Your students SHOULD have a good time playing some of their favorite music. Your students SHOULD have multiple opportunities to perform. In a sea of a saturated market, I have had the luxury of being forced to show how I/we are different. As an example. I promote our 5 Pillars of Learning Piano:
Once you've identified your strengths and are actively getting better at those, make a list of your differentiators and start developing a plan to tell the whole world what you're good at and how you're unique.
- Use consistent language on your website and any blogs/moms resources you're part of
- Develop a flyer to circulate to your current clients, on social media and maybe even in an advertising campaign you set up
- Highlight your differentiators EVERYWHERE you see the opportunity
- Email your friends and family this new flyer along with a personal note that you are accepting 5 new students this year
- Stock your waiting area with a rack card that highlights these differences and as a resource to give prospective clients
You're going to use these to your advantage (leverage) in the marketplace, so that you can pick up a couple students, charge more and have a wait list.
Where is the 20% increase in revenue coming from?
I'm so glad you asked! We're getting there...there is a lot of foundational work that needs to take place BEFORE you can jump in. Now, in order to be on a level playing field, these are the assumptions and figures I will be using to show how to increase revenue by 20% for next year:
- You make $50,000 annually from teaching 30 students per week, which is approximately $4,166 per month
- I am including all 12 months to show revenue because we're basing this on 40 weeks of lessons and equal monthly tuition installments (NOT monthly payments based on # of lessons in a month)
- That's the equivalent of 11 monthly tuition installments of $138 plus an annual music/enrollment fee of $138
- The Annual Enrollment Fee INCLUDES music, any technology, organizational tools, teacher time on administrative tasks, recitals and subscriptions.
Now that you now my assumptions, you can see how I'm recommending and giving ideas for tuition increases below:
- VALUE: Show the value YOU are providing to all of your clients! This can happen through monthly newsletters, listing student accomplishments (musical and otherwise), adding a certification to your list of achievements, re-listing your achievements for your clients to see, etc...
- NO MAKEUP LESSONS: The future is video, so use this as an opportunity to keep your revenue and your sanity. Consider adding video-exchange lessons to your policy where if they know they'll be gone, you simply have them record their previous week's assignment and upload to a private link where you can then (during their lesson time) view the video and provide feedback. Consider Facetime, Skype or a Google Hangout for lessons that aren't able to take place in person. Another (wild) idea is to create a video library of songs, skills, etc...that you record and can then send in place of an in-person lesson. Create some videos like ballad style, how to play and sing, scale videos, etc...use video to your advantage. If time is our most precious resource, then we need to utilize technology to help us protect what we have.
- PAYMENT POLICY: For the 15 years I have been teaching full-time, I have always collected payment by the semester and I have always collected it in advance. If you aren't doing these two things, those are the easiest and simplest recommendations I have to streamline and get a handle on money in. Invoicing by the semester does NOT mean the client needs to pay for the whole semester at once (though that is an option!) but it does mean they get an invoice for each semester. Right now tuition in Frisco for 30 minute lessons is $691 for the semester, and they can pay all at once or in monthly installments of $172.75 over 4 months, and includes 16 weekly lessons to be given from August 19th through December 14th. I recommend creating a digital agreement that has sections and for each section, the parent or guardian needs to initial so that they understand the agreement and payment policy.
- ADD-ONS: Consider adding a monthly class, or even once-a-semester that is more outside of the box. What about a Beats 101 class? Composing or arranging class for beginners? Bring in an expert if you need to and split the money in 50/50. Let's say you have a monthly add-on enrichment class that has 10 students, at $30/student. That's $300 for you to keep, or if split, $150. Multiple that times even 4 per year and you have some extra cash.
- INCREASE BY 5 STUDENTS: Even at 35 students, that is still less than 20 hours of teaching per week, which is a pretty sweet gig if you ask me! By being intentional in your marketing, showing your value and the value you bring to others, you make it easy to add these new students. You may also want to include a referral fee to those that recommend you and have their friends/family sign up with you.
- RAISE TUITION: I know I know. It seems like an obvious move, and one that a lot of piano teachers fear. In order to raise tuition you NEED to communicate value, you NEED to add value and you NEED to provide exceptional service and products. That said, what if you raised tuition 5%? At $138/month, the new price is $145/month, x 35 students = $5,075/month, with a gross increase of $909/month, and over 11 months of tuition is a $10,000 increase. That alone gets you to the 20%!
- BULK: You know the saying to never buy clothes on sale? Well I happen to think the same for music. There is ALWAYS a sale, or a discount that you can get. Most conference and workshop sales prices are 20%. Let's say you average $70/student, for 35 students. That total is $2,450. If you are only buying at a 20% discount, then you are saving almost $500 per year! ($490 to be exact.)
- ANNUAL ENROLLMENT FEE: I am not sure why this makes so many teachers uncomfortable, but it seems to. I charge an AE fee that is non-refundable, and I don't keep track of music costs. You know the part about knowing your strengths? I'm not disciplined nor am I super detailed with things like this. I would rather go to the dentist than work on tedious spreadsheets. (I loathe going to the dentist.) So...to solve my problem, I just charge a flat fee, and include a bunch of stuff. This year those things include a music bag, binder, BINGO card, repertoire list, 24-hour access to their account using Studio Helper, a practice app that includes digital assignments and AI to measure their practice time called Tonara, learning apps I use in the lesson, all recital fees and no additional costs to them throughout the year. The ONLY additional cost they might choose to have is the annual Achievement Auditions we have where the kids have the opportunity to earn a trophy by playing 3 memorized pieces. I am comfortable with $150 because some students use more than the average music allotment, and some are a bit under. And I don't have to keep track! If you aren't charging an AE fee and you implement it this year, you are doing yourself AND your clients a favor by making their life much easier.