Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Knowing your own worth as a musician and teacher is key to converting potential students into clients. Not to mention a key to a happy career and life.
I feel as musicians we are constantly battling being undervalued and consequently underpaid. Despite going through years of schooling, countless of hours spent in the practice room, and dedicated years of lessons and hard study we are told music isn’t a worth while profession and we don’t deserve being paid a great deal.
I remember such an instance when I was looking for a job in the Midwest. My husband and I had just moved to Michigan, my studio was still growing and I needed another part-time job while I built my students. I will never forget one of my first interviews. I came in resume in hand, ready to work hard, looking professional and feeling confident in my intellect and capabilities. The employer looked at my resume, frowned, loudly scoffed, “Music? Why did you major in music? Don’t you want to make money?!”.
At the time I was so shocked I just sat there stunned and managed an uncomfortable chuckle and shrug. But I wish I could have stood up for myself and walked out of that office from that demeaning small minded man.
"But I wish I could have stood up for myself..."
You will meet small minded people everywhere. I have run into them time and time again, but do not let them convince you that you have no value.
These are not the people you want in your studio and unfortunately there’s a lot of them. Don’t be bullied into thinking you aren’t worth the $$. This has happened to me countless of times. It goes something like this:
Parent: “Oh! You teach piano?? Fantastic we need a teacher. How much are your lessons?”
Me: Tells them my pricing.
Parent: “Wow... uh. Yeeeeah. No one is going to pay that for piano lessons”.
At the beginning of my career I was really worried about this reaction. I got it A LOT and it began to make me doubt my own self worth and career choices. Maybe they are right... Maybe I’m not worth this much and piano lessons are a joke of a career.
The invalidation hit me hard. But then I realized I didn’t need validation! I just needed to - as corny as it sounds - BELIEVE in myself and know my own worth. I didn’t need others to tell me what I was worth.
"I didn’t need others to tell me what I was worth"
Even though I had serious doubts from time to time I held my ground and never lowered my prices. In fact, I raised them. And ya know what happened? I didn’t lose my students, I gained more students and I built a professional thriving piano studio.
And a big reason why it’s thriving?
Because I stayed my ground, knew my worth. And because I'm being compensated fairly, I feel passion, value and energy towards my studio, students and career.
There are so many music teachers who are underpaid, overworked and under appreciated. This can only lead to burn out.
The remedy for this is your price point. Your fees reflect what your time is worth. When you underprice yourself you're essentially saying that your time isn’t as valuable. Heed my words: you’ll attract parents/students who reflect that mindset.
When I first began my career in teaching and had a very low price point I noticed right away how parents/students took advantage of my time. They just didn’t take lessons as seriously, and honestly my price point reflected that I wasn't looking for serious students. I struggled to get them to see my vision.
"I struggled to get them to see my vision"
However, when I raised prices over time I noticed an immediate shift in the clientele I was attracting. It was serious parents and students who saw the value of my time and were willing to pay my fees because they could see I had worth through MY confidence.
Many of these parents had yet to see my abilities at the piano and teaching and yet they joined my studio and agreed to my price point. Why? Because at our first initial lesson I made no apologies about my prices, I was organized and professional and I impressed them with my teaching abilities.
"...(they were) willing to pay my fees because they could see I had worth by MY confidence".
That’s the kind of music teacher that any wise parent is willing to pay for. Sure, they could find someone else who is cheaper than me, but I will guarantee you that their child will not get the same quality teaching. And consequently they will very likely lose interest or progress at snails pace.
Above all, the goal is to attract parents and students who understand YOUR worth and YOUR vision.
I love this quote by Simon Sinek (author of "Start With Why"):
When I focus on only accepting parents and students who believe in what I believe - who truly see MY worth and the worth of music in their lives - everyone benefits.
So if you're tired of being undervalued, underpaid and want to know make a change start now! Don't hesitate - you're worth it. Here are some actions points to work on if you do want to raise your prices and/or want to feel more confident in your worth:
What makes you stand out from the rest of the teachers in your area? What are your strengths? What are your credentials/degrees? Take time to reflect on this, and have them written down so you can focus on sharing that message with potential clients and/or whenever you raise your prices. Exemplify these skills in your lesson and especially on that first initial trial lesson.
Read/listen to the The Pumpkin Plan which argues the way to grow your business is not by getting MORE customers but rather focusing on the right kind of customers. Don’t just settle for anyone. Get the right clients.
Listen to this fantastic Ted Talk by Simon Sinek which launched his career and his book "Start With Why". Start with Why shows that the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way - and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with why.
Start thinking about what your "why" is and how you can use this as a way to feel more value in your studio, yourself and attract the right kind of client. Remember, "the goal is not to do business with everybody... the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe". What do you believe? What is your why?
Get your ducks in a row - if you don’t already have one make a thorough studio policy, be organized, stay and look professional. These are some of the value points parents can sense firsthand. Being organized and having a clean professional looking studio and attire speaks volumes to parents/students.
What do you want to make monthly through your studio? Figure the number out and then divide that by how many hours you’ll work each month. This should be your goal price point. Figure out a way to get there - if not this year, raise your prices each year to meet that mark. Dream big! I know teachers who make well over $10,000 a month.