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How to set up and build your own private teaching practice – part 1

Part 1 of our seminar highlights from Music Education Expo, focusing on making a business plan for your private teaching practice.

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Up to two thirds of MU members are working as music teachers at any one time. Some have devoted their lives to music education, some teach as one part of a portfolio career. Some have always been self-employed, and some are new to the challenges facing freelance music teachers. At this year’s Music Education Expo, we held a seminar for all music educators looking at how to set up and build your own private teaching practice, hosted by the MU’s own David Barnard. Here are some of the highlights…

Ask yourself the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It’s important to know this from the outset. “Music lessons are important,” says David, “and your love and enthusiasm have to show through”. Knowing why you want to teach music will help you work out your own personal mission statement. Once you’ve articulated your vision, you can get on to step 2 – making a business plan. 

Make a business plan. You know your vision, now it’s time to know your customers. Start with research – David suggests looking at where local schools are, where parents meet, who else is teaching in the area, what they teach, and what services are available in the local community. Find out as much as you can about your area. Knowing the opportunities open to you and the challenges you might face will help you write a plan.

Know your product. What are you selling? ‘Music lessons’ is the obvious answer. But think about where you are, where your music lessons will be, how much they will cost, who you will be teaching and who will be making the decisions about lessons. You need to understand what you are doing and for whom. This tells you what message you need to communicate, and how. 

Know your numbers. You need to have an understanding of some numbers, starting with cashflow. The basic things you need to know are your operational costs and what you want to pay yourself. Knowing when the money comes in enabled you to plan for those periods you are likely to have less money, for example in the summer when students may be on holiday. A little planning can give you financial control. 

Get an accountant (or learn how to do it yourself). You will need to know how to prepare invoices and basic bookkeeping, as well as how to fill in your tax return and any tax deductibles. An accountant can do all of that for you but, if you would like to have a go yourself, take a look at our Tax Savings Guide, upcoming events, and free online courses from FEU Training which cover many of the basics. 

Use contracts. Use contracts with everybody, and make it part of your practice. It’s important that your terms and conditions are clear, so that you, your student and any parents involved know what the expectations are. Set out how lessons can be booked, your fee structure, how to pay, cancellation procedures and so on. Being open and transparent now can save you and your students from problems in the future. 

Check yourself. Have targets in your business plan. How many pupils do you need to keep going? How many do you need by the end of the year? How many in five years? What kind of salary do you want to be earning? It’s important to monitor your progress against your plan, so that if it’s not working, you can change it. 

Get in touch. We can advise on all of the above, and have plenty of resources available to help you set up your teaching practice - from teaching resources to contracts, insurance, networking, training and access to DBS checks. Get in touch with our specialist officials for expert advice

Haven’t joined yet? Find out how the MU can help you and your career as a music teacher.​


Published: 03/03/2016

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