Wondering how to become a music tutor?

Well, if that’s the case, then one of the first obstacles you will inevitably encounter as a result of working for yourself as a tutor is running your business and taking care of things such as setting a rate for your lessons.

The last thing you want to do is alienate potential clients by setting too high a rate, but at the same time, you don’t want to undervalue your time and settle for less than your classes are worth.

So if you find yourself in this position, what should you do?

There are a number of factors that should go into your decision on how much you should charge for music lessons.

These range from assessing the rates of the local competition, to evaluating how much your time is worth based on your experience and qualifications, to how much time and effort you spend planning each individual music lesson.

I’m going to do my best to cover each factor in detail, so that you have a much better chance of figuring out how much you should be charging for your classes.

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Assess the rates of the competition

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Learn the rates of your competition to see where you fit in.

One of the first things you can do to get the ball rolling is check out the prices of your local competition, and online competition too.

Local competition

While it may seem like you don’t have to worry about other people taking your classes, and to extent you don’t, it can be very useful to scope out what people in your area are charging for the same services that you offer.

If you teach guitar for example, then try to find ads in the newspaper of other people teaching guitar. Go to the places where ads are posted for music lessons such as a university campus noticeboard, or other popular public spaces, and see what you can find out.

Once you know what other people charge, you’ll be able to develop an idea of what is a reasonable amount of money to ask for an hour of your time.

You could even reach out to someone else who provides classes and ask them a little bit about their musical background and teaching experience, to see how you compare to them in those aspects.

A guitar teacher with 20 years of teaching guitar, and a wealth of experience in the music industry is obviously going to be able to ask for more money as his time is likely to be worth a lot more as a result.

Online competition

If you struggle to find out much information about the local competition, then head online to a tutor platform like Superprof for a general idea of what you should charge.

In fact, Superprof is a great platform to kickstart your career as a music tutor, and if you sign up you will have clients coming to you, rather than having to chase them down. This will help address the issue of how you can find students, and make things more convenient both for you, and the student.

It is also a great place to evaluate the going rates for music tutors of all experience levels, so you can get a feel for what is a good rate to charge.

It might also serve you to find some music-related forums and message boards. This can be especially useful if instead of looking at the competition, you take a look at who you’re aiming the classes at: the prospective students.

People are always asking questions such as how much they should expect to pay for a good guitar lesson, and this can provide a lot of insight for you as the person offering this service.

After all, they say the customer is always right!

Factor in your experience and qualifications

Once you have a general idea of what people charge, you can start to reflect inward, and think about yourself. What experience and qualifications do you have which will cause your value as a music tutor to rise?

While you may have never given a music lesson before, you may have some invaluable experiences or qualifications that will make you stand out from your competition.

Experience is key

Whether or not you need qualifications is one issue, but experience is huge. If you were going to take a science class from someone with a degree in chemistry, or someone who made an important discovery in their scientific discipline, I’d wager that 9 times out of 10 you’d opt for the latter.

We value experience highly when it comes to deciding who we are willing to learn from. Just like a degree or equivalent qualification doesn’t guarantee you a job, it doesn’t guarantee you willing students either.

On the other hand, if you prove to the employer - or in this case the prospective student - that you have an abundance of relevant experience in the field, then you give yourself a great chance of success.

Teaching experience is undeniably important, but if all you have is musical experience, then you can leverage that to your advantage and to ask for more money.

If you have several years playing in a band under your belt, or have played instruments your whole life, then you can play these things up to increase your rate.

A computer showing YouTube open in a tab
YouTube can be a valuable tool for appealing to prospective students.

Show off your Skills

Another thing you can do to boost your rate without getting more experience or qualifications, is put your skills on show.

These days it is increasingly common for tutors to start YouTube channels in the hope that they can get more exposure, and earn money from different sources.

This is a brilliant strategy because it will probably reach a lot more people than advertising locally would.

If you play the piano, then why not post a weekly or daily video of you playing a different popular song to garner interest in your classes?

You never know, one thing could lead to another, and you could end up with more demand than you can handle... or as a YouTuber!

Know your worth

At the end of the day, as a private tutor, you have to know your worth.

What does this mean exactly?

It means understanding what it is that you can offer to the student, and how much monetary value to place on an hour of your time

Consider the value you offer

A really important factor to consider when deciding how much you should charge for music lessons is the value that you provide to the student.

This value can be increased in various ways:

  • Give something for free

The first way of offering value to your students is by giving them something without expecting anything in return.

Offering a free 20 or 30 minute taster class is one example, or a 10 minute consultation on how they can improve their technique.

While it may seem strange to give your time away for free like this, in the long-term this can build good faith, and potentially lead to repeat customers who almost feel like they owe you something due to the free value you have already given them.

  • Go above and beyond

Another way to ramp up the value that you can offer to potential students is to go above and beyond.

There are countless teachers and tutors out there who do everything by the book, and can come across as robotic as a result.

If instead of taking that approach you try to be as charismatic and enthusiastic as possible in your music lessons, then you will leave a lasting impression on your students. These students will then be more likely to recommend you to their friends, as you went a little further to ensure the experience was enjoyable for them.

Another way to prove that your time is worth more is to spend time and effort to plan out the music lessons. Something so simple as dedicating as little as 5 minutes to find a fun activity, or song online before the class depending on the level can make all the difference.

If you try your best to tailor each class to the individual, then they will feel valued and be more willing to part with their hard-earned cash, as in their eyes you will have earnt it.

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Consider the value of your time, bearing in mind your experience and qualifications.

How much is an hour of your time worth?

The last thing to consider is how much an hour of your time is worth.

This ties into what we were just discussing as the more value you can offer to a student, the more in theory an hour of your time is worth.

You shouldn’t devalue your time if you offer an excellent service.

Providing you have some experience behind you to warrant a higher price for your lessons, and are willing to go the extra mile for each individual class, you should be well within your right to ask for more money per hour.

At the same time, you have to balance this against what the competitors are offering, and realise that there is a lot of difference - in the student’s mind - between $20 and $25 classes.

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Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.