Getting the Word Out – How to Gain and Retain More Students

In this article we’ll be discussing some proven strategies for attracting students to your teaching studio.

Why?       Because a teacher without students is like a day without night. Students need teachers and teachers need students.

There’s an interdependency at work that can’t be denied.

Another important reason you’re going to want students is because they are the ones that pay you! So it may be more proper to say:

A teacher without students is a teacher with no income.

So let’s get to work. Let’s get you some more students so you can get some more money and get on with your life. I’ve broken my personal strategy down into three broad categories:

3 Steps to Getting More Students

  • Create a Demand

  • Develop Meaningful Relationships

  • Pitch Your Services

Creating a Demand

In order to create a demand for your teaching services, you’ll need to establish some sort of unique credibility. Chances are you’re not the only one in your community offering lessons in your particular area of study. In order to inspire the populus to choose you, you’ll need to do something to set yourself apart from other folks doing similiar things.  Here are a few suggestions to do just that:

Exploit Your Notoriety

If you’re are known around town as a professional performer, people will be more likely to seek your tutelage. The more that people read or hear your name (on playbills, community radio show announcements, event calendars, airplay on local radio stations, posters, etc.) the more you build your credibility.  Establishing a modicum of local notoriety will create a bigger demand for your services. Notice, I didn’t say you had to be known as the greatest performer of all time. You just have to be known. Period.

You simply have to get your name mentioned enough times within your local sphere so that people will be familiar with the idea of you.

A person need not be a great fan of yours nor do they need to be intimately accquaninted with your work. You only need them to be aware of your status as a local name in the industry. If a person is already a fan of your music, great! All the better. They’ll likely be quite excited for an opportunity to learn from you.

Establishing and capitalizing on local notoriety will set you apart from the multitudes of anonymous teachers advertising on craigslist or on bulletin boards in local music stores.

Create Your Own Niche

Another highly effective way to beat the competition is to eliminate the competition. Not by means of force, but by creating a specialized service that sets you apart from everybody else in some way.

Example:  Your a guitarist with skills in teaching fingerpicking, flatpicking, and music theory. Problem is there are one hundred other guitarists in your area teaching to those same subjects.  So, you sit down and think about other aspects of your music. As it turns out, you’re also a songwriter and a singer. So you develop a teaching method that specializes in relating your guitar knowledge specifically to song writing.

Here’s your result:       “Essential Guitar Techniques for Singer/Songwriters” –  Create better music. Write better songs.  

                                           Explore the ins and outs of flatpicking, fingerpicking, and music theory and learn to how apply these skills directly to your songwriting.

Suddenly you’re offering a service that stands apart from all the others and, as an added bonus, you know exactly who to pitch your service to.

Now all you have to do is get your message out to this specific group of people (singer/songwriters in this case) and let them know that you have a service that fits their exact needs.

Now instead of one teacher out of one hundred, you are at the top of your field. See how we’ve effectively eliminated the competition through specialization? How you can you create a niche for your own instructional offerings?

Develop Meaningful Relationships

After you’ve saturated the local scene with the sound and sight of your name and created a facade of importance, you’ll likely see an increase in demand for your services. This is great, but it’s not the end of the journey.

You’ve lured a bunch of people into your lesson studio…now what? Now you need to offer unparalled service to your students; to develop meaningful relationships with them.


How do you offer this unparalled service to your students?

The answer is simple. Be sincere. That’s it.

You don’t have to be the best teacher in your field. There will always be someone better than you and there will always be someone worse than you, but that’s beside the point. You don’t have to be the best guitarist or banjo player or whatever it is that you’re teaching. Being the absolute best at something does not a good teacher make.

What’s important is that you have a sincere desire to help others through the sharing of your knowledge and experience.

That is what it takes to be an effective and appreciated teacher.  If you honestly care about the progress of your students, then you can and will help them. You won’t always have the perfect answer to every question. You won’t always know the perfect teaching method for every situation but, if you truly wish success for your students, they will sense the sincerity.. and they will appreciate it.

This is how you develop meaningful relationships with your clients. You serve them.

Satisfied students will stick around. You can’t  bolster your student base if they’re leaving as fast as they are showing up. Satisfied students will also refer you to their friends and family, resulting in even more students.

Pitch Your Services

Ask for the Sale

In the retail world there is a lot of talk about the concept of asking for the sale.

During the course of an interaction with a potential buyer it is of utmost importance that the salesperson, in some way, ask for the sale. You, my dear reader, are the salesperson and, in order to successfully sell your services as a teacher, you must ask for the sale.

I first learned of this idea from indie music marketing guru, Bob Baker. After reading his books and listening to his podcasts I changed one simple aspect of my live shows:

Inspired by Bob’s advice, I committed myself to clearly announcing near the beginning and end of each performance that I had a CD for sale. Furthermore, I let everyone know that I was really excited about the new CD and that I thought the people in audience would be quite pleased if they bought one or two for themselves.

The results were eye-opening to say the least. My CD sales at shows doubled!

I now consistently sell more merchandise at live appearances because I learned to do one simple and obvious thing that is so often overlooked by performers. I learned to ask for the sale.

Who Do You Ask?

When looking for students, start by asking the people in your life who are pre-disposed to have an interest in you and your services. If you’ve already read my article, The Secret to a Sucessful Music Career, and have put some of my advice into practice, then you have a substantial and diverse pool of acquaintances to whom you can pitch your teaching services.

Tap into Your Networks and Fan Base

The first people you want to pitch your teaching services to are the people you already know!

Take a good look at all of your contacts. Analyze the names on your email lists. Go through all of your address books (both virtual and physical) and send messages out to specific people or groups of people that might be interested in what you have to offer.

Don’t forget to ask those folks to pass the info on to any friends or family that they know who might be interested, as well.

The majority of people who decide to take lessons from me are people I already know beforehand. This, I think, is a very important factor to consider.

How do they know me?

Some are friends. Some are friends of friends. Some are fans of my music. Some of them attended the weekly open mic night I used to host. Some are regulars at the local square dance for which I occassionally play. Others met me through their interest in The Green Strum Project. The point is that these folks had some sort of knowledge of or relationship with me prior to taking me on as an instructor.

When you have a pre-existing connection with someone, they’re more likely to feel comfortable with the idea of working with you. This familiarity serves to eliminate the uncertainty of wandering into a random music store and putting one’s musical hopes and dreams into the hands of a complete stranger.

Insert yourself and your music into your community in a variety of ways and you will see great increases in the number of folks who know about you and what you do.

For suggestions on how to bolster your visibility in your local scene, check out the afforementioned article, The Secret to a Sucessful Musical Career.



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