Are you an independent teacher? Do you have a small studio? Do you wonder how and when to change you hourly rate? Here are a few thoughts on determining a rate and scheduling increases that I use in my courses for teachers.
- Find out the going rate in your community. Do this at least every other year to stay current and competitive. Call each local music program and make a list of their rates along with the features of their program. Do they charge a registration fee, music supplies fee, or any additional fees to the hourly rate. What is the experience of the teacher(s)? Do they have additional training? Call independent teachers as well to find the range of lowest and highest in your community.
- Take into account your own training and experience. Do you offer something outside of the norm, Suzuki lessons, jazz or improvisation, theory or singing classes. Does your program have both private lessons and group classes? Will you charge a rate for private lessons with the group classes as an additional fee or will it be one lump sum. For example, I am a Suzuki teacher that requires weekly private lesson with an additional 2 group classes per month. I do not charge the group and private lessons separately, it is one combined monthly fee.
- Decide whether you will charge a monthly fee or semester fee. Will you add any additional fees at the beginning of the year? Registration, studio fee, music fee, accompanist fees?
- Take into account the last time you raised your rates. In my experience, regular scheduled rate increases is the most effective strategy. I begin every September with a new hourly rate. My students expect the change. I am able to stay current with the larger programs in my community.
I often hear from teachers complaining that they can’t make ends meet. But when asked they usually have been teaching at the same rate for years. They feel guilty making even small increases and haven’t called around to even find out what the “going rate” for music lessons is in their community.
A final thought. If you are a young teacher this applies specifically to you. Do not charge less than the other teachers in your area. Many young teachers feel that they should charge less to get a studio up and running. Unfortunately, under charging for lessons undermines the other teachers in your area. It also continues the undervaluing of music in our culture. And, most importantly, sets the young teacher up to fail. If you cannot earn a living wage then you cannot continue as a professional musician. We are highly trained professionals with years of study and often, specialized advanced degrees. The value of music lessons for children has been studied and written about for decades. The literature supports what we already know. Music is vital.
As you prepare for the coming school ask yourself these questions. Have I researched the other music offerings in my community? Am I charging fairly for lessons? Can I earn a living wage with my fees at this rate? When was the last time I raised my rates?
I’d love to hear how you decide your pricing and fees.