My question is about prices/tuition. I moved to the east coast three years ago and have had a hard time figuring out what the going rates are for piano lessons. I am an MTNA member, have played the piano for 30+ years, and taught for about 20 years, but I’m just not sure what to charge. Do you have any suggestions?
Eve though I’m not located on the east coast, I think there are several guiding principles you can use to help determine what to charge. Perhaps the best approach is to ask yourself these three questions:
- How much do I want/need to make? – I do most of my budgeting on a monthly basis, so I know how much I need to make per month in order to meet my expenses and other budget line items. Everyone’s needs are different and that’s the beauty of setting prices in a free market society. You can set up your business structure and cash flow according to what works best for you.
- What type of clientele do I want to attract? – And, consequently, how much will they pay for lessons? One could have a very successful business offering private lessons in-home to wealthy retired, but active, people who would love to play that gorgeous grand piano sitting in their living room (my financial adviser is always trying to talk me into doing this!). That teacher could charge a premium for their services. Conversely, you could have a successful business offering in-studio lessons to predominantly one income families with multiple children who value a well-rounded music education (which happens to be my current model). Therefore, I charge a lower rate than the above scenario would allow, thus keeping lessons affordable for these families.
- How do I provide excellent value for my clients in a way that promotes the professional nature of my business? – You do not want to sacrifice your business image in the name of cheaper prices. You have to charge enough and in a way that helps the families value what is being offered and make it a priority. For this reason, I charge a flat monthly rate (never a per lesson rate – I don’t even have a clue what one lesson would cost) and do not offer make-up lessons. When I switched to this payment structure quite a few years ago, I saw a huge improvement in lesson attendance, practice consistency, and the level of importance that lessons took in my studio families. I think charging per month or semester is one of the best decisions a studio teacher can make finance-wise.
I know there are lots of other factors involved in determining what to charge, but these three fundamental considerations have probably been the most helpful to me in establishing and running my studio. If you have other suggestions, though, please feel free to share! How do you determine what to charge for lessons?
Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!