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Becoming A Music Teacher: The Art of Sharing Your Talent

Lesson 11 of 13

How to Make a Living as a Private Instructor

Mike Johnston

Becoming A Music Teacher: The Art of Sharing Your Talent

Mike Johnston

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Lesson Info

11. How to Make a Living as a Private Instructor

Lesson Info

How to Make a Living as a Private Instructor

Sometimes we just wish people would take a chance on us you know it's like man practiced so hard at this like can you just take a chance? I'm ok if I don't get the gig I'm ok if I don't become your instructor you know even when I teach privately this will go into the business section but the first lesson is always free just take a chance on me give me thirty minutes to earn your business after that if you don't come back I totally understand it maybe I'm not the right fit for you or your kid but give me thirty minutes to try to learn your business now before we get into that stuff I know that we had a question from the audience and we have a question from our in studio should I think that is a good transition from what we're talking about? The last segment of branding personal branding and professional branding to this making a living drew guns says hey mike I'm a bass player acoustic and electric started playing rock and metal that was exposed to funk now I'm heavily studying jazz in ...

college one of my goals is to make my living playing and teaching all different styles of music on both upright in electric bass so how would you recommend building my reputation up to do this it's a little overwhelming at times because I'm still in college time practicing a ton of ours but that idea of reputation and of making people out there believe that you are the sort of person who I can do this deal, what you think I mean that's a huge issue, and I think people can rush into teaching as a profession two quick because they have no brand, they have no reputation, they haven't accomplished anything in their career to allow people who want to study with them. Now, when I said earlier, how do you know when you should teach? And I said it's really about the distance between you and your student that that holds true, but that doesn't hold true to making teaching a profession you actually need to build a reputation to create a profession as a teacher, because people need toe want to study with you. Why does anyone want to study with someone else it's? Because they wish they could do the things that that person does. Well, how could you wish you could do what I could do on the drums if you've never seen me play the drums? So I'm not going to build much of a reputation for being a teacher until I have a reputation as a player and the thing that the world missed out on when I was coming up because there was no really internet, it wasn't big when I was coming up was it in my local town I was the gigging drummer I was playing all the gigs I was building a reputation as you know, an eighteen year old and nineteen year old a twenty or twenty one I got my first record deal my band was very popular in my hometown so we were always playing shows to fifteen hundred people or more at local shows is when we weren't signed well out of those fifteen hundred people maybe ten of own would come to me after the show and say man, I love the way you play do you teach camps trying to build a reputation? I'm starting to think I don't right now justcause my schedules too hectic let me get your number keep that stuff it's really important don't let those business opportunities passed you by so you start building that and right now you're in college, right? Well, there's got to be some sort I mean, if you're in the music program in college and that means you can create bands out of the band you're in if you're in the jazz band, then that means there's people to create a combo with and then you can start digging in your local area and somebody's going to be at that gig they just went there for dinner that's all they wanted, but they saw you on base and they're like, dude, I wish I could do what you do cool let me get your number, man, I don't teach right now, I just I'm so busy with school, but as soon as I do, I promise I'll give you a call and you start to build that up right now, it's more important that you build yourself up as a player, then it is as an educator, because the education thing that will come later, but you have to have your reputation as a player so that people want to study with you, you have to walk the walk first, and I think that's sometimes when people see my career right now, they think like, did you don't play with anybody it's, like you're right? Because I already did that, and now I make my living as an educator, and so I'm very busy educating I'm traveling, always doing clinics and doing drum festivals and doing things like this and creative live and so that's what I do instead of playing drums, but I don't think I could have done any of this if I didn't go through that process, you know how great it is to be in a room with a student and the students band is getting kind of big, and they're sailing, man, I think we should get a manager well, I've already been through all of that so I can go why do you need a manager and they say, well, I don't know I'm like ok let's talk about what a manager actually does other take fifteen percent of everything you make so do you have anything to manage? And I've been through those things and then they say I think we should sign a merch deal well, I've already had a merge deal and I've had a publishing deal I've had a record deal so I know like ok, well, what is a publishing deal do well it licenses your music to anything visual video tv movies and you get paid for that, okay? Well, should you sign a publishing deal let's talk about that stuff I don't think I could teach those things if I didn't have those actual experiences if I couldn't envision myself back in a meeting room table with lawyers and attorneys or something on, you know, people in suits telling me this is what we're going to do with this deal and this is, you know, we'll take this multi million dollar record deal, we're going to put it here and it goes here it goes there we'll all that experience allows me toe walk through that process again with a student and just say, well, let's talk about so I think it's really important that you go through that stuff and think I need to build myself is a player right now and then people will want to take lessons with me, and it might happen immediately where you just have, like I played this gig and I got three students of it awesome that's three more than you had yesterday meant anything else from you we moving let's, go ready? All right, nicole so my question is back on the four major social media sites on dh finding balance tio post, make your post to it, make them riel, but at the same time, it's business and there seems there's seems to be not necessarily magic number, but making post every day, or how if you if you found any sort of balance and how to keep up with that without it, let without it consuming you at the same time, I think the consuming part is actually the hardest thing for me is, you know, all of a sudden, while I'm trying to promote myself, I'm actually losing productive time because I realized that I fell victim to everybody else's promotion of themselves, and I'm three hours deep into facebook, and I'm going, I don't even know what happened in my day, you know, I was supposed to be the one that was promoting and doing stuff the other thing is, I try really hard to make sure that people run from promotions so you know going in if I say hey here's my new snare drum and I take a picture instantly seven hundred likes if I say hey, I'm thinking about coming out with a signature snare drum probably four likes because people are like you're selling me something I don't want to be part of that you have to be very careful to be like, ok, look, I'm just telling you what this is and this is what it is I'm not selling you anything just kind of like you like look my bands coming to your town I'm just telling you like one one thing that I can't allow to happen is somebody saying tomorrow when do you do that creative life thing it's like, oh, I did it yesterday I didn't know ok, well then that's my fault I can't allow that to happen you have to know now if you chose not to watch any chose not to show up whatever that's on you I did my best, but I can't ever come to fly all the way to indiana do a clinic and then it's like manna we should come to indiana someday it's like, well, I'm on the plane back from there I was just in your backyard, so I think it's really important that your constant reminding people of everything and then the next thing is being very conscious of what's going on in the world because the world is way more important than you and there are just times toe lay off social media and you have to see like what do we all just go through robin williams who just passed away this is not my time to promote my signature right symbol this is my time to back off and either decide do I have a stance or do I not have a stance? I personally have no involvement with robin williams. No one needs to hear everyone's voice this is just my time to lay out. And so and that robin williams thing that happens almost every other day something massive in the world happens and you have to pay attention to that and not step on its toes especially if it's, you know, delicate, delicate stuff when we have conflicts in the world when we have rights issues, any tragedies, you just have to be careful, you know, and then also to sometimes there's just good things for other people. You know, like my friend benny grab is going to be releasing his dvd someday. Well, when that gets released that's a week for me to lay out a social media she's one of my best friends in the world and I don't need to be competing with his his moment so you kind of have to watch out for that stuff to let people have their moment to shine then the other thing that's the last thing I'll say about social media learn time zones there are times to post that are really important when kids get out of school during the middle of the school year that's when you should post why did you post it noon pacific standard time and you were shocked that you got no likes from the california area well, it's like because everyone's in school did when did they check all of their social media stuff like when they can I mean, we all checking on our phones, but when you're sitting down at a computer that's when you devote like a half hour to being completely unproductive that's when you should post stuff, so for me noon thirty let's say noon thirty great time to post because the east coast just got out of school all those kids ran straight to their computers. Then six thirty is a double whammy because that's a bunch of people you know here getting off of work here on the west coast and then that's like the late night time zone, you know it's nine thirty for the east coast and everything in the middle of so you have to kind of pick and choose your times and all those things come into play and I think the one thing that people would find surprising if they spent like a day with me is how purposeful everything is nothing is random like I'll just throw this on instagram it's like what time is it who just posted on instagram? I go through all that stuff and I think like, uh dang it you know, I don't know if this is really evidence says robin williams just passed away I probably shouldn't post a funny picture of myself this isn't the time, you know what I mean? So all those things are very important I don't mean to drag things down with robin williams but you know that just happened that's very real and I and you have to pay attention that stuff so I hope that helps a little bit all right now we're going to get in to the good stuff how to make a living as a private instructor so you have to charge for this content and the content is the information that you're delivering you have to be very, very studied about that information if you're going to charge for it now if a buddy comes to my house there's no money involved and he's just hanging out he's like hey man, I saw you do that thing at the basic you know seminar can you show that to me it's like I will do my best but I think it was this I'm not quite sure I think I did this and maybe that lead into that take it easy, bro I mean, you didn't pay me I didn't take your money I think that's what it was but if somebody calls me and says, hey, I want to take a lesson with you really interested in that that solely did it basic ok, cool you know what let's schedule that from a week from today because I need to research that solo I don't I don't go home and watch my pay sick so I don't know what I played but I'm gonna watch it on dissected and I'm gonna think like, ok, what am I going to give this person to take home so to make a living as a drum instructor or a guitar instructor or a base instructor you have to be ready to overdeliver on content and crush that delivery that is so important and that's what allows you to feel comfortable charging for the content because you feel like man I over delivered you gave me twenty five dollars I gave you one hundred dollars in content I feel good about this and you feel good about this and most importantly with all that stuff is letting them know right off the bat why they have to pay for content it's so important I have to do that on mike's lessons all dot com all the time well did you put up free stuff on youtube? I do but it's not what I put up on my website youtube is tips and tricks mike's lessons dot com is legitimate education I care so much more about the content itself on mike's lessons dot com because I know that you're paying for it and I can't let you down I can't miss speak there's nothing that kills my soul more than when I say something and I'm actually wrong and that's happened you know I'm kind of I'm teaching one massive topic and then there's a little topic inside it and I say yeah, you know and it's just it's got a bunch of flam accents in it and then somebody writes in a letter and says if you look at my hands I'm leading with my right hand every time they go did those weren't climax senses were swiss triplets I'm like oh my god what if there's some kid just running around just like telling people? Yeah it's flab accents explains swiss triplets now if you're not a drummer and that doesn't make sense to just know somebody's running around saying a is b and I can't have that and that stuff will kill me and eat me up all day if that happens on youtube I'm like look I'm sorry it was free what you want to say like I did my best but it happens in paidcontent no way so when it comes to making a living is a private instructor, you need to be very confident in the stuff that you're giving away that you're delivering that content, study it and overdeliver and make sure that you're more stunning than the person that teaching in the room next to you right now the next thing that comes after that is how much should you charge? This is the biggest gray area that I can ever find in teaching because people get scared that no one's signing up for lessons with them. If nobody's signing up for lessons with you, then you just keep making your prices lower because you think that maybe what's scaring them away is the cost and it's not the cost and never was the cost what's scaring them away is one either they don't want to take lessons with you, which you just have to swallow and get better or two they don't know you exist that's probably the case probably the cases the people that do want to take drum lessons don't know you exist so they can't find you but it's not that they found you and thought, oh twenty five dollars a lesson no, but I would have done it for fourteen point nine so one of the biggest things that we have that is kind of messed things up things like groupon um, I think there's more than just groupon. Is there another one? It doesn't matter. Those services are awesome, but not for private instruction and the reason why is when you do it with private instruction. It's awesome, you get a ton of students so let's say that I say, ok, uh, here's my deal of the week you signed up for a month of lessons for ten dollars it's normally a hundred bucks and giving nineteen ninety dollars off, and I get twenty five students there's no way those students will ever go from paying ten dollars a month for lessons straight to one hundred dollars a month. That is a shocking, shocking distance to go, and I'll never do it. So what you gonna do? You do another one of those promotions next month and next month because you're so scared to lose the little ten dollars that you have there, like I'll just keep promoting, keep promoting? Well, while you're doing that, you're training your entire local area that the cost for drum lessons is ten dollars per month, and you are in your in graining that into them that like, don't worry, you never have to pay one hundred dollars, because at some point I'll come up with another deal. And once you stop that deal, those students will leave you and they will not signed up with anyone in your town until you come out with another deal, so they look at the calendar and they think christmas is coming up, I'll just wait. I'm sure he's going to have another promotion for christmas, and I'll get another month of lessons for ten dollars, so you've completely devalued everything in your local area because you were too scared to hang in there long enough to get one student at a time. And if you would've just gotten one student at a time at a full price of a hundred dollars a month, you would have felt good about what you were giving them. They would have learned something because you would've put so much into it. Also, you will teach way less passionate when you are getting ten dollars a month, which is two dollars and fifty cents per lesson. Then you would if you're getting one hundred dollars a month, one hundred dollars a month, you're actually scared of under delivering you so badly. Want overdeliver that you teach your rear end off one hundred dollars a month, so how much should you charge? You have to do your research. Every area has a different price point I would say one hundred dollars a month is kind of a standard price point right now it used to be eighty for a couple years I've taught privately since I was seventeen years old I taught at a place called german guitar city when I was a kid we had a teacher there I was working the counter teacher got fired for pulling a gun on a girl it happens um she was twelve he was twelve hundred and he just got mad he was like, what do I have to do to make you practice and put a gun on the floor town she ran out he got fired, I got his job he had like sixty five students and that's how I started teaching drums and I lost almost half the students within the first week because I was a punk kid in overalls piercings everywhere shaved head and these were adult men taking lessons so I had to grow up very quick. So that was about eighty dollars a month back then and then from then I mean, that was when I was seventeen and even now one hundred dollars a month is kind of the standard so it hasn't gone up that much eventually found a peak where it's like ok, well, this peak is where it's going to stay so I would say anywhere between one hundred dollars a month for twenty five dollars a month but it should be based not on what I tell you it should be based off of what your local areas charging so find out what the stores were charging because the stores are the standard that is an establishment that has teachers there that I thought there for a long time and they have a standard of everything there's no winging it at the store usually a store is very like these are our rules these are prices this is how it goes then find out what the studs in your town or teaching the big studs in your town you know, whoever they are you know whether you have I don't know, you know benny grub or cindy blackman there's going to be studs in your town? What did they charge and generally that's going to be more than a private instructor and find a balance and be like, ok, if I ever got to their level they're charging seventy five per lesson for one hour lesson all right, so instead of fifty per hour seventy five that makes sense and then you find your price and you want to not undercut your town because then the drum teachers in your town will hate you that sucks and no one your business won't grow anymore because it's like you're not getting any referrals and so you just want to find out what's everyone charging that's what I'm in charge so if I lived in sacramento, california which I do I would charge one hundred dollars a month for private drum lessons those would be half hour lessons this is really important for all of you guys out there and wherever you teach I know that you probably think our lessons of the way to go there not that is far too long to teach anyone that is not obsessed with the instrument ok a half an hour is more than enough to say look, I don't need you to learn the whole world of drumming I need you learn this one thing but you got to get an a plus in it I don't want c minuses we learned one thing you're gonna learn it better than anyone in the world and we can do that in a half an hour and I can send you home and you remember everything I said on our is a really, really, really long time so please be sure to like do half our lessons and then offer our lessons as a premium service okay if you are so good and we're just every time that we do a lesson it feels like it runs out of time we're going to graduate youto our lessons if you can afford it awesome now is there a discount for our long lessons? Nope it's just twice a cz much because all you're doing is taking up another spot of a different student I could have put in that slot so you don't get a discount for our long lessons it's just what it is so it's twenty five dollars for half our lesson fifty dollars for our lessons because on the business level of this thing as you're going to look a schedule that has a bunch of slots and whether you took out two of them for an hour lesson or one for two half hour lesson people then it's the same thing it's still fifty dollars for that hour ok so that's that's super important what's up buddy can we clarify just to make sure because you've been using like per our per half hour then per month are you suggesting one lesson a month? Are you suggesting just to clarify so when I say our lessons their weekly lessons and so our once a week or half hour once a week and that leads us into something else how much did you charge when there's five mondays in a month should you charge half hour times five which is one hundred twenty five or do you charge an hour? I mean I started in charge one hundred for that entire month well for me it's always been this because at first I always did hate however many lessons you got that's what I'm charging you those people take so many vacations its own rial and they're like that we were only here one week and I was like, did I have to eat? You can't just give me twenty five dollars that's not jack have you ever experienced that so it's like that happens, you know? And oh and by the way, since we're really wealthy yeah for summer we're taking three months off tea or south america I'm like oh ok now let's cool yeah, I can handle that. No, I can't handle that so what you need to do is set up a standard on day one do not explain the policy on the fourth lesson the policy gets explained before you ever teach the kid in the policy for me has always been this it's one hundred dollars per month that's it nothing else to talk about it is one hundred dollars a month to be on my schedule I will be here in every lesson if I can't be here at the lesson I will hire somebody farce appeared to myself to sub for me and I will pay that person personally but I will never ever miss a lesson so it's a hundred dollars a month to be on that schedule now if something random happens and for some weird reason there is no less and I have to cancel your lesson of course you will get a a refund or we will take it off of next month's stuff, but it's one hundred dollars a month to be on my schedule what happens when we miss let's? See what happens when to me sick? Well, everyone's while you're going to get a fifth week of lessons for free that's, the floating makeup lesson is constantly making sure that timmy gets his lesson. What happens if you know we go on vacation? I'm very, very busy schedule it's one hundred dollars a month to stay on my schedule if you leave my schedule, that is totally fine, but I can't promise that there will be a spot for you when you get back. The reason why this is so important is because I'm forming a bond with this student could be a kid, boy girl, man, woman it doesn't matter in forming a bond where it's like, look, I care about your education, if you care about it, then you're going to pay one hundred dollars a month and that will make you show up to these lessons because you've got to get your money's worth so that one hundred dollars a month is so important if you know is the student that you only pay when you show up, you could miss three lessons in a row and not care about it because it's like I didn't pay for it like when you're paying a hundred bucks a month, you're not going to miss three lessons in a row so it's very important. So find the price point that is what's happening in your local area and then make a standardized contract that just says this is what it is. There is nothing to talk about. No parent should ever. When I was teaching private lessons, hand me a check that was anything less than one hundred dollars, because there's, nothing to talk about. Well, we missed three lessons last week or month. All right, I'm sorry I didn't miss any. I was here. I was here in this room, waiting for your kid so it's a hundred dollars a month, and I know that sounds rude, and I'm being like, really strict about it. Be strict on day one, it's, impossible to go backwards and be strict. You can't be leaning and leaning and leaning in, and by the way, I just became the most hard core person ever be strict on day one, and then you could be fluffy from that moment forward, so

Class Description

For someone who lives and breathes music, teaching it can be an awesome way to earn money doing what you love. In Becoming A Music Teacher: The Art of Sharing Your Talent, award-winning educator and founder of, Mike Johnston, will show you how to get started.

Teaching music is a great way to monetize your musical knowledge, but it takes a lot more than raw information to effectively guide others. In this class, Mike will teach you the art of delivering information in a concise, actionable way that makes complex ideas easily digestible. You’ll learn techniques for engaging students and presenting information in a way that holds their attention while helping them actually retain what you teach them. You’ll also dig into the business end of teaching. Monetizing teaching is more complex than hanging up a sign in your local guitar center – Mike will cover how to find and keep paying students.

If you want to share your passion for music with others and make money while doing it, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to learn how to do it the right way from world's #1 online drum teacher.


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Mike is such a great educator. He is well versed in all aspects of teaching and also branding and making a living with it. He is a passionate and truly dedicated teacher. I also really liked that he made it clear that teaching is not a plan b for him but his true calling and it can be such a rewarding experience. I got a lot out of this session and I truly recommend it to anyone who is interesting in taking this path.

a Creativelive Student

Mike, thank you for your wonderful teaching. I have been a performer and vocal educator for over 20 years and I've learn so much today to add to my own personal instruction. These teachings are so transferrable and your passion is simply awesome. I see you and I see a reflection of myself. I'm going to study you some more by purchasing this session. It's been awesome to watch. Thanks for the inspiration!


This is the most brilliant class. There are so many great points in here, it is an information overload; but explained it such a simple way. I watch one of these videos almost every week, just to top up on what I should be giving my students - it serves as a good reminder and an even better teaching aid. Mike; time and time again, he releases great media that everyone must see. I can't speak highly enough of this.