Business coach Jennifer Rosenfeld shares her top recommendations for ensuring that your online instrumental teaching business is best poised for success - both financially and in terms of student impact
Prior to the pandemic of 2020, most classical musicians would probably not have decided to teach online, if given the choice. Now, that giving online instrumental lessons is the new normal, business coach Jennifer Rosenfeld shares her top recommendations for creating online educational programmes that she says can replace (or even surpass) the significant amount of performance income that has been lost
1. Get clear on your financial needs and goals
If growing your income is a top priority (as it is for most musicians now) and you are looking at creating an online business to do that, figure out your monthly financial goal right away. Next, determine how much time you are able to spend teaching or delivering your services on a weekly basis. This will give you an indication of what your effective hourly rate will need to be in order to reach your financial goal.
2. Work on your money mindset
It is common for musicians to have a strained relationship with money - after all, money is rarely the motivator when it comes to choosing a career in classical music.
When musicians think about putting themselves ’out there’ (especially online) as business owners, they often feel unsure about how to determine a fee.
As someone who has helped classical musicians enroll students in online educational programs ranging in price from $297 to $15,000, I can say with confidence that there are significant financial opportunities in the field of music education.
But if you desire to raise your rates but feel uncomfortable about doing it, one of the best things you can do is work on your relationship with money. There are many great books on the topic - one of my favorites is Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny.
3. Packages instead of hours
The most game-changing strategy I teach is the concept of selling packages instead of hours. Through this strategy, you can more than double your current hourly rate. The first step is to get clear on a meaningful result that your student would want to achieve. Think about how much time (usually in months) it would take to reach that result, or a significant milestone along the way.
Additionally, consider how to add more value to your students in the package - without requiring more of your time. This could look like including supplemental resources (videos, books), accountability structures, or group interactions.
Rather than charging by the hour, set your fee for the full experience. Use your budget guidelines to help you figure out what rate would enable you to reach your financial goals with your desired number of students.
4. Learn how to have enrollment conversations with your potential students
One of the most direct ways to increase your rates is by having meaningful enrollment conversations with your potential students (and their families). Rather than simply communicating your rate via email, schedule phone or Zoom calls with potential students to discuss their goals in a deep way and explore whether they are a fit for your new way of working. Help them see why your way of working will help them achieve their goals.
5. Hone in on your ideal student
It is easier to move into a pricing structure if you are clear on the profile of your ideal student. Think about all the students you’ve taught and identify the qualities that correlate with your most positive teaching experiences. Conversely, what qualities (in your student or their family) make it harder for you to enjoy teaching them? Brainstorm ideas of how you could recruit more students who match your ideal profile.
6. Share high-quality free educational content online
Giving people a taste of what you have to offer - for free - helps draw in potential students. If students have already benefited from your expertise, they are more likely to want to pay you.
For example, my client Nathan Cole has spent years sharing highly valuable violin tutorial videos on YouTube. Having a significant audience online that appreciated his teaching enabled him to enroll students in paid programs like the Virtuoso Master Course and the Violympics.
7. Invite collaboration
One of the best ways to grow your reach online is by creating collaborations - either through free online conversations or workshops, or through paid experiences.
Earlier this year, cellist Kate Kayaian launched the Virtual Cello Summer Festival. She invited top cellists from around the world to serve as faculty, which helped attract advanced high-school and college-age players. The success of the festival enabled Kate to transition her private online teaching studio into a significantly more profitable and impactful format.
8. Hone in on your unique expertise
Many musicians fear there is too much competition online or that they don’t have something special enough to offer. I promise you, it is not too late - and every effective educator has special gifts to share.
If you’re not sure about what makes you unique, start asking your students about what they most appreciate about working with you. Or, look at your interests - in and outside of music - to get ideas of your unique expertise.
Dr. Renée-Paule Gauthier (creator of the Mind Over Finger Podcast) wrote her DMA dissertation on mindfulness and practice - a particular passion of hers. She was able to launch her online group coaching program, the Music Mastery Experience, based on the methods she developed while writing her dissertation.
9. Visualise success
Claiming your identity as a business owner can feel uncomfortable when you’ve only ever thought of yourself as a musician. The fear of judgment from others can hold you back from taking the action that is necessary to succeed.
If you’ve ever used visualisation to prepare for a performance, you can apply those tools to your business. Imagine a Zoom meeting room full of dedicated students who are eager to learn from you, feel gratitude for a schedule filled with lessons with students you adore, or picture your bank account growing month to month.
10. Find a mentor
Even if you have the drive and motivation to create a thriving online business, the steep learning curve can slow you down and make you feel demoralised if this is all new for you.
One of the best ways to ensure your success along this path is to have the mentorship from someone who has done it before. It will make your journey more efficient and enjoyable.
I hope these 10 tips will enhance your chances of making your online teaching business profitable and impactful. It is time to end the myth that musicians aren’t savvy when it comes to business or finances so that we can be better role models for the next generation. I know you can do this!
Business coach Jennifer Rosenfeld collaborates with top musicians to create highly profitable and impactful online education businesses that enable her clients to win back their time and pursue their dream creative projects. Learn more at www.jenniferrosenfeld.com