by Kristin Yost (PianoTeacherSchool.com and CentreforMusicalMinds.org)

Let’s face it, your planning abilities make you more than capable of creating an elaborate family budget, time for volunteering, planning recitals, judging, social events, spending time with family, etc… but you just might not know where to begin when it comes to your teaching business outside of the usual scheduling. You’re a piano teacher who has a successful home studio and you know you could be making more money, and would certainly like to, but you’re doing everything in your power and your business still isn’t doing what you want it to financially. Here are 5 essentials that need to be a part of your business strategy in order to be financially satisfied in your piano teaching career:

  1.  Plan your year, one year in advance; from private lessons, vacations, to master classes and summer camps. The planning process is best done after the first of the year, so you can hammer out all of the details of summer by March…when people start planning their summer vacations and other activities. Be sure to plan through May of the following year and include potential performance dates.
  2. Plan your budget; additional insurance, taxes, music expenses (you know some months are greater than others), fees, piano tunings, etc…You know when taxes are due, the months you need to make large music purchases, months you need to purchase office supplies, photocopying expenses for recitals, etc…streamline any process you can think of to make your life easier. How much money do you need to be bringing in each month to live how you want?
  3. Evaluate the previous year. What was your best new idea last year? What was your best old idea that has stood the test of time? What was your worst new idea? Was it the idea or your implementation of the idea? It’s important to evaluate and learn from our previous experiences. This evaluation needs to be from a financial perspective as well as an operational perspective.
  4. Plan your salary. Yes, YOU can change how much you make with a very simple step: raise your rates. If you haven’t raised your rates in a few years, imagine me waiving my finger at you…and then begin writing your new tuition policy. I gave myself a 7% raise last year so this year decided not to raise my tuition, though I did raise the annual enrollment fee that goes to cover the cost of music and recitals. As a point of reference, in 2011 the national average for raises in the United States was 3%.
  5. Compare/evaluate your budgets and income from the past two years and develop a two-year projection of where you think you will be (based on previous numbers) and where you would like to be. Are they close? If not, do you know how to get it up to where you would like it?

The operative words you see here are “plan” and “evaluate.” When you run a business (which you are,) the worst thing you can possibly do is the “sit and wait” philosophy or the “I will build it and they will come” mentality and find out that you have no money to pay the electric bill come next month.

We plan ahead for our student lessons, we plan ahead for recitals, we plan ahead for so many things but yet we financially (as piano teachers) seem to still be lagging in our collective financial successes. For those of us in single-income homes/families, it’s imperative we plan and budget. It’s just as important however, if the income from your piano teaching business is secondary – it’s important because the rest of us need you to make it a priority. If there is an “industry standard”, everyone wins!

When you planned this year, did you:

  • Consult last year’s numbers?
  • Address the challenging months and try to develop a plan to make those leaner months, less lean?
  • Ask what works about your tuition collection?
  • Ask what could be improved?

Ask those tough questions and share your feedback and questions here.


If you have questions for Kristin or Wendy about business matters, please email your question and we’ll get you an answer!

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