How I make Money Teaching Private Music Lessons

Teaching Private music lessons

Teaching music lessons is a great side hustle! You can have as little as one student a week or scale it all the way up to a full-time job.  Since I was in my teens I have had at least one student, and the income from students has fluctuated from extra money to keeping me from living in my car.

Over the years I have learned a lot about teaching and how to find students and I would like to share some of that wisdom with you. I hope you find these tips helpful in your efforts to make some extra money and bring new players into the art.

I will continue to grow this post, if you have a question please drop a comment below and I will be sure to add an answer to your question to the article.

What skill level do you need to be able to teach?

You will need to be able to play an instrument at a semi-proficient level. I’d say if you have been practicing your instrument for 1-2 years you should be more than capable of teaching the basics. You only have to be a little bit better than the people you are teaching.

How much should you charge for music lessons?

Depending on your ability, your teaching experience, and your area, you can expect people to pay anywhere from $10-50 per ½ hour for individual lessons and $10-30 per hour, per person, for group lessons.

Some teachers that I know prefer to just charge by the month. $60-100 per month regardless of the number of weeks in the month.

Finding the sweet spot for the price may take some time. You need a rate that is affordable, but not so low that people don’t take you seriously. The cost needs to sting a little so students are motivated to practice, or at least their parents are motivated to keep them practicing.

Pro-tip: children and beginners are going to be your best market. Focus on the trust factor first (don’t be creepy, and be professional), then work out your method. If you are going to have lots of students you will need a method or at least a loose plan that every student goes through or you will have a hard time keeping lessons focused.

What about missed lessons?

This is up to each teacher to decide but I would suggest you charge for missed lessons and don’t offer makeup lessons unless you are teaching a lot of people and you have time slots you can slide people into. It gets way too complicated to try to move your entire schedule around because someone bailed on a lesson.

From the beginning, explain to your students (or their parents) that you are not charging for lessons, but instead you are charging for the time slot. The cost of the lesson keeps that time slot open for them, and you are available to teach them at the agreed on time.

I don’t charge for planned missed lessons, as long as I am given a month or so advanced notice. I also do not charge if I miss the lesson. In that case, I will roll the payment over to the next month.

Where should you teach music lessons?:

Out of your home

The most common place to give lessons is out of your home. For guitar lessons, you don’t need a whole lot. 2 comfortable chairs without armrests (stools work as well), a music stand, oh and a student to teach. Other things you might want to have handy: paper (staff, tab, and/or blank), a pencil for marking music and writing lessons out, a computer/iPhone/iPad for showing videos, a metronome, and some iced tea, gotta have iced tea. Coffee is ok too.

I also have my students bring a cheap spiral-bound notebook that I can write their lesson in each week and keep track of their progress.

Drum lessons are a bit more difficult as you will need a drum set, and two drum sets if you can swing it.

At a music store – less money, but they get the students

Music stores are a great place to find consistent work. On the plus side, the music store will provide you with a teaching space, a storefront, instant credibility, students, and quick access to materials.

The downside to teaching at a music store is that they are going to take a portion (sometimes a large portion) of your profits. This is part of the trade-off and may be worth it to you if you are not the type who is good at or likes to get your own students. One additional downside is that the store can let you go, and in most cases, you are not allowed to take your students with you.

Dance studio?

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and pitch some lesson ideas to people or business that you might not think would be interested. I taught music lessons at a dance studio for a while, they wanted to branch out a bit and offer something to siblings of dance students who were not interested in dancing.

Like teaching at a music store, teaching for the studio was simple. I did not have to worry about finding students, collecting money, or cancelations. I just showed up, taught whoever showed up, and collected a single check from the studio.

This also lead to another gig: playing drums for a few of the dance performances where I was able to make a little bit more money.

City Hall/community center – group classes

Many cities have some kind of city hall or community center where they put on events. Often they have classes offered by members of the community. These classes are group classes generally offered to kids, teens, or adults.

Competition to grab this location may be high. For your best chances at landing this gig, put together a 6-8 week goal-oriented curriculum. Think about the group you would like to target and what they can realistically do in the given time frame.

Often these types of classes have some kind of performance after the last class. You can team up with other classes going on at the same time, (dance, piano, karate) for the performance.

Private / charter schools – group or individual

Private schools are a great place to offer lessons. A lot of the time these schools tend to be smaller and don’t have the resources to offer music programs. Offering to teach lessons after school is a great way for the school to offer some more diversity and a great way for you to get more students.

At the end of each semester, you can have your students give a recital as an assembly. It’s a great way to keep the school involved and generate some excitement about what the students are learning. Hopefully, this will lead to more students signing up.

Try calling, or going into, local private schools and pitch the idea. The best time to go would be a couple of months before school gets out. You can pitch summer lessons and then set up something for the following school year.

Call the local homeschool office, find out where homeschoolers meet

Homeschoolers make great students. Most of the time they have very flexible schedules, can make practicing a part of their homework (so you know they will progress), and need to find ways to get fine arts into their education.

Most homeschool groups have some sort of central hub, be it an office of education, a co-op, a church, or a public/private school that oversees them. If you can hunt down the person in charge of these oversight groups you can get your foot in the door to a lot of potential students. You may even try offering a group class that meets once a week for a semester, or the whole year.

When targeting educational institutions, be sure to emphasize the academic nature of learning an instrument. Things like reading music, playing scales, and learning rhythm. These things are important if the students will receive credits for taking music lessons.

You can check out my article on the benefits of playing an instrument for more ideas.

Churches

I have had more students come from church than any other place I can think of. Christian churches, in particular, are very pro music. The Bible promotes music and singing as a means of worshiping God (even the drums make it in). See Psalm 150 for a short example.

Church is also a great place for students to use the material you teach them to help others. The number of famous and successful musicians that grew up making music in a church is staggering.

You may be hard-pressed to gain students from a church if you are not a part of it, so as a Pastor I would encourage you to seriously consider Jesus. Not so you can get more students, but so you can find salvation.

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Where and how to advertise:

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is by far your greatest resource when it comes to getting students. There is nothing better to boost someone’s trust in you than one of their friends telling them how great you are. Word of mouth can take a long time to get going but, If you are good at what you do you will eventually build up a reputation, and people will start to talk. Below you will find a variety of ideas to try while you are building your credibility.

Bulletin boards at local shops

You can find bulletin boards at most coffee shops, mom and pop shops, bowling alleys, college campuses, and public buildings. They are a great place to advertise your services. Create an eye catching flyer, with a brief bio, description of what you offer, phone number, email, and a web address to some examples of your playing (more on that below).

Also, try:

Many public and private schools have bulletin boards that you can get your flyer on if you go through the office or the district.

Facebook – Your page, local page, Sales page

Facebook is a great place to advertise. Reaching out to the people that know you will help get that word of mouth going strong. Create a short post about your lessons and have your freinds share it.

Most towns have a what’s happening page. You can drop an add there too

You can also try a post in the marketplace

Craigslist – Make your ad stand out:

Craigslist is often overlooked because it is pretty old, but Craigslist is a great place to advertise. It’s free, you can target your area, and you can link to your facebook or youtube channel directly.

Some tips for standing out in the line up:

Try to make your title stand out from the crowd.

Make your lessons sound exciting…and then deliver the goods

Don’t be afraid to sell yourself – Talk about why lessons with you will be better than lessons with all the other music teachers out there.

Something like this:

***Become a Rock legend – GREATEST GUITAR LESSONS EVER!!!***

Get a business card

Business cards are relatively inexpensive and are a quick way to get someone your information. You can get one printed up here. Make sure to include: Your Name, Phone Number, Email, Website, instagram, or youtube channel, What you do (musician for hire, or guitar and drum lessons, or drummer extraordinaire).

Hand this card to anyone who might be interested in lessons, put it on the counter at music stores, at the least, you can drop it in the bucket at your favorite restaurant and win a free meal.

Make a flyer

Flyers are old school but still can work. Like the business card, be sure to include all your relevant information. You can also include a photo of yourself looking professional. I don’t recommend showing pictures or things that may make parents think twice about sending their kid to you for lessons.

You can find bulletin boards around town to hang your flyer on. Try to get it in the rack at city hall, or the bowling alley, day care centers, any place you can think of that parents might frequent.

Start a youtube channel so you have somewhere for people to see you play

Starting a Youtube channel is incredibly simple. All you need is a smartphone and you are set. You can check out my youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/mikelevitsky, I shoot all my videos with my iPhone and it works just fine.

You are not starting a youtube channel to become famous, you are simply trying to have a resource you can point people to so they can see you play. It may also be a good idea to throw up a couple of lessons so they can see your teaching style.

Do some open mic nights, mention that you give lessons

Gigs and open mic nights are a great place to get students. Often times if you give a great performance, you will have people come up to you after the show and ask if you give lessons.

Even if this does not happen, playing gigs and doing open mic nights is a great way to get yourself a bit of presence in your town. Not to mention it’s a great way to keep your chops up.

Call local public school band directors and let them know you are teaching

Band directors are always looking for teachers. A band directors job is to direct the band, not to teach everyone how to play their instrument. This is where you come in. Call all the local elementary, middle, and high schools in the area and ask for the information of their band director. Call him/her up and let them know you are offering lessons and how lessons with you can benefit the band.

Put up some adverts at Local community colleges, maybe stop by the music department, or join the community jazz band

College students are not a great market for students unless you are really good. Colleges normally have their own professional teachers, but it’s worth a shot. You may even be able to become the college teacher of choice for your instrument.

Do a free clinic

Offering a free clinic at a local music store or school is a great way to give something back to the community and to acquire new students. Putting on a clinic might be a little intimidating, but it is not as scary as it sounds. Somethings to keep in mind that will make it seem less scary. The people who will show up are interested in learning. They are not going to drive to a clinic just to boo you. Be specific in your advertising so the attendees know what to expect, and so you can deliver what you promised. Shoot for 20-40 mins of education, and then 10-30 mins of question and answer.

Once your free clinic is over, offer everyone who attends a card for one free private lesson with you. When they show up for a lesson do a great job and you will have yourself a shiny new student.

This is a great method because the people who call for lessons will have already seen you teach and will feel like they are getting an amazing value. You can also invite them to future clinics.

Final thoughts

Well, there you have it. Everything I can think of that I have done over the years to make a decent side hustle teaching music lessons.

This advice is based on my own experience and your results may be different than those I experienced, but keep at it.

Did I miss something, do you have further questions, drop a comment and let’s help spread the joy of music to the world.

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