Determining Tuition Rates for Piano Teaching

Every once in a while, I receive emails from readers wondering if their tuition rates are appropriate.  Setting rates is a difficult topic to talk about, because for one thing, rate depend largely on the area where you live.  For that reason, I can’t advise exact numbers — but with this article I hope to offer some guidelines and suggestions regarding this topic nevertheless.

The Problem

I’m sure we’ve all experienced parents/students who are shopping for piano lessons by price.  Let’s face it: many parents today (especially in America) shop for piano teachers based on price, even though they really should be “shopping” based on the teacher’s experience, education, professionalism, dedication, etc..  Parents shop by price because in their logic, little 6-year-old Suzie doesn’t need an expensive teacher unless they discover that she has a talent for piano and long-term interest.  And they don’t know any better. 

How do we Combat this Problem?

Our studio websites need to communicate to viewers the value of our teaching.   And not just of anybody’s teaching, but the value of YOUR teaching (versus somebody else’s).  David Cutler, author of “The Savvy Musician,” recently suggested putting a list of top ten reasons why a student should study with you (click here to view the rest of his recommendations for studio websites — and go read his book.).  If you don’t tell potential students what is great about your teaching, they won’t know.  If you don’t tell them what they will get for their money, they won’t know that either!!

Charging Your Worth

In my experience when it comes to music lessons, you get what you pay for in most cases — as it should be!  It’s important for teachers to charge what they are worth.  When a teacher in an area charges far lower than anyone else, it can potentially hurts the rest of the teachers in the area (…unless they are doing a good job creating and communicating their value on their websites).  Setting low rates doesn’t do anyone any favors.  It communicates to parents/students that lessons are cheap, so they may be less likely to value music education and take it seriously.  Worst of all, it potentially jeopardizes piano teaching as a profession.

I don’t mean to say that we should charge ridiculous prices for piano lessons.  Charging a lot doesn’t create value.  It’s the quality and the unique benefits of our teaching that creates value.  While we should certainly strive to be affordable, I think we should at the same time be able to support ourselves with our profession without struggling.

Every teacher needs to determine for themselves a rate that is fair for everyone — the student, other teachers, and themselves.

Here are some considerations for setting rates:

  • Education: Do you have any college-level music training/degrees?  I think that if you have some college-level music training and are an effective teacher, you should be charging at least as much as the experienced but non-college-education piano teachers in your area – and maybe even a bit more.
  • Experience: How many years of teaching experience do you have?  And in what kinds of settings?
  • Professional Development: What professional association memberships do you have?  Do you regularly attend conferences?  What else do you do to stay up-to-date and to improve your teaching?
  • Additional Qualifications: What additional qualifications do you have?  Any certifications?  Do you have training in any specialty areas such as early childhood music?  How do you utilize technology in your studio?

Now go do some sleuthing!  See if you can find out what other teachers in your area are charging (and what their qualifications are), consider your own qualifications, and set your rates accordingly.  If you are a member of a local teaching association, you can ask other local teachers outright.  Otherwise, try finding their studio websites online.

A Note for Those Who Have Recently Moved

If you are moving to a new area, the problem always is that it takes time to build your studio from scratch.  If you think it might be hard to find students in your new area, you may consider temporarily putting your rates slightly lower for a year or two — and slowly bump them back up where they should be once you have your name out and a reputation established.

It’s not easy to figure out where to set your rates in a new area.  It is better to err on the side of “slightly too low” than “too high.”  And having a lot of students paying a medium tuition rate is better than having only a few students paying a high tuition rate.  Just be careful not to undercut other teachers too much.

Raising Rates

Every teacher should be raising their prices a little each year.  Yes, you!  If you don’t, you are actually losing money because the cost of living is always rising — not to mention you are probably paying for your education, professional memberships, conference attendance, etc..  In addition, as each year of teaching passes, you are gaining valuable teaching experience.

It is better to raise your rates a little each year than to raise them sporadically by a large increase.  Parents should expect rate increases, since it happens with everything else in the world!  To help keep things smooth, though, I advise giving parents advanced notice regarding each academic year’s new rates.  For example, if you plan to raise your rates at the beginning of September, announce what those rates will be in your May or June studio newsletter.

Other Tips

  • Charge a flat fee for each month — do not charge by session.  This is a MUST.  For one thing, customers like knowing exactly what the cost will be.  For another, it will make your bookkeeping much easier.  Thirdly, it will help discourage students from missing lessons, regardless of your make-up policy.
  • Offer a free consultation/trial lesson to potential students.  This gives them a chance to see your studio and experience what your teaching is like — and to experience the value of your teaching firsthand.  Hopefully, this will get them hooked and convince them that you are the teacher they need to study with.

Have questions?  Or do you have further suggestions to offer pertaining to determining tuition rates?  Leave them in the comments below!

Other Resources To Check Out:

Photo Credit: Public Domain Photos | CC 2.0

PG
Joy Morin is a piano teacher in Perrysburg, Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. ColorInMyPiano.com serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 926 posts here.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in improving as a teacher, professional development, studio business and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

17 Comments

  1. Posted 5 July 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I lowered my rate slightly this past term since we moved onto a street where another piano teacher lives, and also travels to his students’ houses instead of making them come to his. We advertised on the same Kijiji page, and I felt that for the sake of competition, I should lower my rate just a bit. And it worked- I got some business out of it.
    I also offer the first lesson free, as well as the first lesson in January after Christmas break.
    I’ve never done the monthly thing, but I am seriously considering it for the fall. Joy, could you email me with some details on how to make that work smoothly?

  2. Posted 5 July 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Joy! I totally agree with everything you said. Having moved to a new state a year ago, I had to lower my rates a LITTLE from what I hoped to charge, but like you said will be raising them a bit at a time from here on out. One really helpful resource that can help give teachers an idea of what they should charge is the Rate Finder on mubus.com – you answer some questions about your background, experience, location, etc., and it tells you about what you should be charging.

    • Posted 6 July 2011 at 12:09 am | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing the mubus.com site. That really helps out! And Thanks Joy for posting this! I needed it!

    • Posted 7 July 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      What a great link! Thanks Jenny!!

  3. Posted 5 July 2011 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    This is definitely a tough issue. No matter how much you charge, someone will complain it’s too expensive. In my opinion, though, those are the people who don’t value the lessons and won’t be good students, anyway.
    I moved to my current city from out of state, and had to make a name for myself. I, literally, called every piano teacher in the phone book and pretended to be a potential student. Asked how much they charge, as well as their credentials. Then, I set my rate very slightly lower than the least expensive one who also had similar credentials as mine. I put one ad in the paper for two weeks, and had 14 students by the end of the month. Then, gradually increased my tuition each year.

    Now, I own/operate a music studio that has 14 teachers and over 125 students. We do not charge a flat tuition rate for every teacher/instrument. While one teacher is qualified to charge $40/hr, the next may not be. The teachers and I decide together a reasonable tuition rate. We take into consideration their background and training, the demand for their instruction , average rates in our area, the fact that it’s a somewhat rural area, etc. Those who teach wind instruments and voice are able to charge more than the piano and guitar teachers simply because there are already a LOT of piano and guitar teachers in our area. The others are hard to come by.

    I do charge a fixed monthly rate. That definitely makes budget management and bookkeeping a lot easier. And it greatly reduced the number of missed lessons. All of my students seem to prefer that arrangement.

    To meet the needs of the student who just want to “try piano” without a huge financial commitment, I offer group lessons. The savings isn’t huge, but it’s enough to make it appealing to those who are shopping for the cheapest option. And, in the summer, I offer a 3-week class where they come for 2 1/2 hours a day, Mon-Fri, to get a crash introductory course in piano. All practice is done in class, so they don’t even have to buy a piano, unless they decide to continue with private lessons after the class.

    A lot of things like this are learned by trial and error. It’s hard to know what works until you try it. Having other teachers who’ve been teaching for a while to bounce ideas around with is a huge help, though. Even though I’ve taught 15+ years, I still benefit from discussions like these.

    • Posted 7 July 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Wow, Rebecca, 14 students in just one month?! That’s great! What kind of paper did you advertise in? Was it the city paper or a more local one?

  4. Posted 7 July 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, Joy!
    A must read for all my piano teacher friends.

  5. Posted 3 October 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Great post, Joy! So sorry I didn’t read it when you wrote it back in July.

    I’m in the middle of reading The Savvy Musician. Very good resource! If you order from the site, the author will sign the book for you.

    Regarding raising fees. This is tough for me. I am guilty of sporadic fee raising, and have come to find out I may be low for my area based on my experience, education, and quality. So now that it is October, what to do? I need to make an adjustment in the 10% area. One of my families is encouraging me to raise rates effective December 1st. It is tempting. I turn away new students a few times a month (I’m booked full — average length of study is about 4 or 5 years, so not much turnover).

    Good problem to have? What should I do? I took my rates off the policy page of my web site for the time being, while I decide what to do.

    Can I put in my two cents about 3rd-party billing like MuBuS.com? Their rate-finder is a nice tool, but their billing service is wonderful. I’ve been using them since August of 2003. I only lost one student at that time, and this student was already on the fence about piano in general. So, if any of your readers are contemplating using MuBuS.com or another 3rd-party billing company, I highly recommend it. The benefits have been numerous! The rate is fixed, no one is late paying, and attendance is stellar among my students. Mostly, though, it is so nice to get paid by the 15th, by direct deposit, every month, and to have someone else contact a parent if the credit card expired, or the payment was marked NSF… it takes me out of the equation as far as being the “bad guy” bill collector so I can focus on teaching. Not making monthly invoices saves me at least a small amount of time and paper/ink as well. Okay, that’s my 2 cents!

  6. Posted 18 January 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve tried charging per lesson as well as per month, and I have to say I prefer the former! I feel less guilty taking time off when I need it, if I know that I won’t have to charge the students or arrange make-ups when I miss a lesson.

  7. Concerned mom
    Posted 8 August 2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    My daughters teacher is asking for $115 per hour. She is definitely a good teacher and my daughter is talented as well. But I am wondering, if I am being naive here.

    • Posted 24 February 2014 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      Rates vary widely by area. But I can say that, IMO, a good teacher is worth every penny!

  8. David
    Posted 11 March 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been teaching for 13 years in the UK and over that time have an an awful lot of different payment methods etc.(monthly flat-rate, pay in advance, pay by term, pay weekly) and I’ve never really been able to settle on one which works for everyone (or me!). One of the problems I have is that I teach a lot of adults – they don’t always have fixed slots so can end up missing weeks because of holidays, too much work etc. I love teaching adults, but they’re not necessarily, in that respect, a good business proposition! I wish I could find a way to balance both income and flexibility.

    • Posted 12 March 2014 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      I have heard of teachers who sell 6-lesson packages for adult students who can’t commit to weekly lessons. The “a la carte” lessons are sold at a slightly higher rate than the weekly commitment lessons and must be used within a certain amount of time (for example, within three months). I haven’t tried doing this, but just thought I’d pass on the idea.

  9. Terence
    Posted 10 June 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Hi from Richards Bay – South Africa.
    As a breadwinner in the family, I needed a fixed income. I have also been burnt with people not paying so I had to decide what suited me and the prospective students.
    I chose to set a fixed monthly/quarterly fee at the beginning of the year.
    I also work on a fixed timetable as I teach 35 plus students a week.
    Thus all prospective students get no financial surprises.
    Because of a fixed timetable, adults juggle their lunch breaks to accomodate the lesson as opposed to me being at the beck and call of every student.
    I also did not lower my fees when I moved into the area – I’m actually the most expensive. I am also highly trained and skilled. This being said, my students show progress and enthusiasm and parents are happy to make the financial sacrifice.
    I also recommend other (renown) teachers in the area if people cannot afford my fees or cannot slot into my timetable (shift workers etc).
    I increase my fees yearly by 10 in July. This too is clearly marked in my studio policy and have not yet had a parent question it.
    I have had a situation where people could not afford (they had been with me for three years) and I chose to reduce their rate as a thank you to them. I would rather lower my rate slightly than lose a (good) student.
    My yearly financial loss has been less than 1% since I put all details in a studio policy with my expectations.

    My perspective and experience.

    Great site and blogs. Greetings

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

css.php
%d bloggers like this: