1. How much do you NEED to charge?
Setting a rate below one that can make your studio financially viable will leave you feeling stressed out, desperate, and ineffective as a teacher. You don’t want to go there, so take time to figure out what level of income you need. I delve DEEP into how to calculate that number in this post and this post and even have a snazzy calculator to help you figure out what you need to earn to cover all your expenses and tax obligations.
2. How much are teachers around you charging?
Look for websites of music teachers in your area that list rates or pick up the phone and start making some calls. Make note of the credentials and experience levels for each teacher so you can get a sense of where you fall in the spectrum of teachers potential students are choosing from.
Tip: If you have trouble getting teachers to share information, try calling teachers of different (but equally common) instruments. For instance, if you’re a piano teacher, try talking to a violin teacher. If you are a harp teacher, perhaps try calling a tuba teacher.
3. How much are your students prepared and expecting to pay?
This is where knowing your niche becomes important. Who are you serving and what they can afford
If you describe yourself as a neighborhood guitar teacher and intend to give give lessons to students from the surrounding middle-class neighborhoods, but then you price yourself above what the community residents can reasonably afford, there’s a contradiction. If you’re the teacher for everyone in a neighborhood, your rates should reflect that.
On the other hand, if you describe yourself as a classical guitarist with a master’s degree who can prepare students for collegiate music programs, and you charge the same rate as the high school student who teaches a few students on weekends, people might wonder if you’re really any good. If you’re the teacher for a select group of advanced musicians, your rates should reflect that.
4. How much is your time worth to you?
What are you giving up to teach? What kind of job (and salary) are you saying “no” to by choosing to be a music teacher?
This is also a consideration for teachers who work full-time in some other job and just give a few lessons on the side for fun. Your free time is already limited and every lesson you give ties it up a bit more. How much do you need to be earning to dedicate your evenings or weekends to teaching when, instead, you could be coming home from work to that glass of wine and Netflix marathon?
After you’ve considered those factors, all you can do is pick a rate and see how people respond to it. If they enthusiastically accept it, you’re either a really great salesperson or it might be too low. If you get a lot of people promising to “call back later” and then never following through, their avoidance might be communicating that your rate is too high. They could be right, or it could be that you are not describing the value you offer clearly enough for them to see why you charge more than the other teachers in town.