Startup Checklist for Music Teachers

As the school year winds down, it’s a natural time to think about “what’s next?” for our studios.

Maybe you’re graduating and preparing to start your career as a full-time, independent music teacher. Or maybe you’ve been teaching for a while, but you’re getting ready to make a big investment in your studio by moving to a commercial space or by hiring another teacher. Or maybe you’ve just relocated to a new city and are re-launching your studio.

Whatever the case may be, congrats! Exciting times lie ahead!

Fresh Starts

I started my teaching career, like so many do, with a home studio (a.k.a. my parents’ living room). After college I founded a music school that was *just* far enough away from that location that students wouldn’t want to make the drive every week. This meant starting from scratch again. A few years later I moved 900 miles away and started yet another home studio.

I’ve learned a few things about “starting” along the way, and no matter how many times I start over, I always come back to this checklist:

1. Create a personal budget

Getting clear on all your expenses will help you set a personal budget and figure out how much you need to earn from teaching to make a living. Need help? Check out this post for a printable budget worksheet!

2. Write a business plan

If you’re not borrowing money or renting a commercial space, it’s likely no one will ever ask to see your business plan, but writing one is still a really valuable exercise.

a. Choose a niche

Do market research to see where there are gaps in the market. Excelling in these gaps will set your studio apart from the competition!

This competitive analysis exercise (and printable worksheet!) will help.

b. Crunch the Numbers

Don’t just base your rates on what “everyone else” is charging. They may be bankrupting themselves. Consider all the startup and ongoing expenses (like purchasing instruments, business insurance, rent, credit card processing, marketing, etc.) so you don’t undercharge.

3. Register your business

Investigate the requirements for running a business in your locality and register your business. A phone call to your local Small Business Administration office is a good place to start!

4. Write a studio policy

Having and enforcing a solid studio policy is one the most effective ways to build a studio that brings in consistent income. This dependability is critical for self-employed musicians!

Wondering what you should include in a studio policy? Check out this post.

5. Set up systems

When you have a full studio (which you will at some point, even if it seems far off now!), the administrative tasks can really pile up. Set up routines and systems to automate these aspects of your studio as you grow.

Some of my favorite tools and resources can be found here.

6. Promote, Promote, Promote

Setting up a website and telling friends and family that you are open for business should be your first step, but don’t stop there. Relying on word-of-mouth referrals is usually a slow path to growth. Musicians who grow their studios quickly are promoting early and often!

Put together a marketing plan. Get started by exploring some of these marketing ideas and don’t be afraid to invest some cash to accelerate growth.

Get more details in this post: More Effective Studio Promotion.

Don’t want to go it alone?

Check out Business Building 101, where you can join me and a cohort of motivated music teachers as we work together to build financially sustainable studios and careers.

Join Business Building 101 today!

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