About two and a half years ago I left behind my career as a primary school teacher and set out to carve a new business teaching piano and keyboard. Now I have over 40 regular weekly pupils. With teaching, lesson preparation, blog & video posts and the development of an online business (more soon!) I am once again in ‘full-time’ work – and more!

A few years ago my son was in a similar position, starting out as a music teacher. A wealthy businessman friend of ours gave him this advice: “Early to bed, early to rise, practice like hell and ADVERTISE!” Perhaps you’re teaching music privately like me, or perhaps you’re just thinking about it? I’m certainly no business expert or guru, but I’m pleased with my progress so far, so I’m sharing my advertising methods in case they can help you on your way…

1) Get a web site

It doesn’t matter how ‘old-school’ you are with your teaching; you need to embrace the impact of the internet.  If you can, make yourself a website, even if it’s just a free one.  If you can’t, get someone to do it for you.  My website at morecambemusicteacher.co.uk has been responsible for more new pupils than any other form of advertising!

2) Word of mouth

Getting recommendations is certainly the most rewarding form of advertising – and it’s free!  But you’ll need to make sure your pupils are satisfied before they will recommend you.  Make sure you over-deliver whenever you can.  Greet every pupil with a positive, friendly welcome and always make them feel valued by giving lots of praise for their efforts. If you honestly feel they would benefit from extending their lesson (e.g. from 30 to 45 minutes) then tell them, and maybe offer the first week’s extension for free so they can try it out.  Last lesson of the day?  Extend it by 5 minutes and give extra value for no extra cost.  Once you’re confident they are satisfied with your service, remember to ask them if they know of anyone else who might want lessons.  Even better, offer them a handful of leaflets or business cards to give out to their friends.  I am pleased to say I have had lots of new pupils via word of mouth.

3) Business cards

If you don’t have business cards, get some.  Vistaprint is a great place to get low-cost cards.  Whenever you have a music-related conversation with someone new, give them a card.  You never know where it might lead.  Some shops, churches and community centres also have business card boards where you can add yours for free.  I have had a handful of new pupils from this method.

4) Leaflets & posters

I use A5 size for leaflets (on good quality paper) and A4 for posters.  Unless you’re confident doing graphic design, get someone else to do the layout for you.  Fiverr.com is a good place to find someone, or many print companies offer design services alongside your printing.  You can deliver leaflets yourself locally, and also put them in shops, offices, hairdressers etc. if they will let you.  Often this is free, sometimes there’s a small weekly charge (well worth paying).  However: if you’re in the UK, I don’t recommend using Royal Mail to deliver your leaflets.  My son and I paid well over a thousand pounds to have them deliver a large number of leaflets, with extremely poor results, well below those we had delivered ourselves.  Upon checking, most of our local friends on Facebook had not received the leaflet.  We started taking Royal Mail to court for compensation, but the huge weight of their legal department proved too costly to fight.  I suggest you stay away!  But don’t let this put you off distributing leaflets – I have definitely had new pupils from them.

5) Local music shop

If you have a local music shop (in Morecambe we have the superb Promenade Music) make sure you get your name and face known there.  Talk to different members of staff, give them business cards, ask if you can put up a poster, and tell them what you’re doing.  If it sticks in their mind they may mention you to their customers.  You might even be able to do a deal with them, offering a ‘first lesson free’ when people buy a keyboard or piano.  I have had several enquiries and a couple of pupils via this route.

6) Festivals and exhibitions

Our local parish church hosts an annual Christmas tree festival and craft fair.  For the last two years I have arranged to provide background Christmas music in the hall whilst the people (hundreds of them) were browsing the stalls.  I played some recorded music over speakers but I also took an electronic keyboard and played some live music. People love it and it’s a great way to start conversations.  The second year I also ran a free draw, collecting email addresses with the chance to win a vouchers for free music lessons.  I collected loads of contact details and emailed both the winners and losers with offers and deals on music tuition.  The first year landed me two new pupils, the second got me four.  It can be hard work standing around all day – and you’re not teaching so there’s a cost, but it can still be very worthwhile.

If you’re music teacher (or even some other small business) I hope you have found something here to help you.  What advertising methods have you tried?  What works best for you?  Leave a comment below so we can all help each other with new ideas.  I wish you every success in your endeavours – and remember: “Early to bed, early to rise, practise like hell and ADVERTISE!”