Conferences, Studio Business

MTNA 2012 Conference | Prof. Studio Institute: Financial Success

1:30pm – Financial Success: Taking Control of the Present and the Future

Led by Lee Galloway, Beth Gigante Klingenstein, and Scott McBride Smith.

Why are independent music teachers (IMT) so underpaid?  Beth had quite a list of contributing reasons!   Here’s a few:

  • Most IMTs are women.
  • We do not raise rates often or by enough.
  • We think per-hour instead of annual income.
  • We do not make parents aware of our many services.
  • Our rates do not reflect our educational level or years of experience.
  • We are unaware of how our rates match other professions in our area.

It’s a huge problem.  Fortunately, Beth Klingenstein had some great suggestions for getting on the right track:

  • First of all, attitude is important.  Some teachers feel that they are just doing it on the side.  Beth suggests that even “hobbies” can and should be “professional.”  It’s better to be able to support yourself teaching a few students really well than to have to be stretched teaching a ton of students to be able to support yourself.
  • Raise rates every year for the cost of living and more.  Consider: we get no build-in benefits, vacation, or retirement plan.
  • Know your annual income, and know how it compares to the plumbers, maids, lawyers, etc. in your area.  (Did you know that the national average annual rates for IMT’s is higher only than maids and housekeepers?  And we start our education at age 7!)
  • Call it “tuition.”  It’s not just 30-minutes of contact time.  We do much more than that, and have many expenses to be able to do what we do!   Calculate yearly tuition and divide it into monthly or semesterly payments (NEVER charge by the week!).

Beth also took time to discuss what she calls “dangerous thinking”:

  • Dangerous Thought #1: “I teach for the love of it, not for the money.”  —  The problem with this kind of thinking is that it assumes that making money doing what we love is a bad thing!
  • Dangerous Thought #2: “This is just secondary income for me – we live on my husband’s income.” —  The problem is that your spouse could become unable to work or could die.  In addition, it’s important to think of piano teachers of the next generation, because they need to be able to make a living.  This kind of thinking is no reason not to charge professional rates.
  • Dangerous Thought #3: “I don’t want to exclude anybody because they can’t afford lessons.”  — Beth suggests that teachers should set professional rates and then offer a discount or “scholarship” for students.  Don’t give everyone a scholarship!  One simple way to determine whether the need for a discount is valid is to ask families for proof that they are getting food stamps.   Beth also recommends to always set a time limit to the scholarship.

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