A good website is powerful– it can attract students, 24/7.
Working with design clients, this question always catches me off-guard:
How did you learn all this… design?
“I learned it myself,” I say.
But I didn’t describe the thousands of hours sketching and nudging graphics and training my eye for design.
Since many Artiden readers are music teachers, here are 3 non-sketchy ways to gain students using your website.
There are many ways to do it, and this is about turning visitors into music students without being desperate or sketchy. It’s not a magical, but it’s part of a recipe.
Be laser specific to appeal to your ideal students
This is one of the hardest things to nail.
Let’s say a website is selling cardigans; it shows a 2 year old baby wearing this:
Then this guy wearing the same thing, plus a gold chain:
I wouldn’t wear that cardigan– I’m not a baby nor a guy who wears gold chains. Even if I were a guy who likes gold chains, I wouldn’t buy the same cardigan as a baby.
Having both of these photos to sell the same thing is like swinging a bat with your eyes closed– if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll probably get no one.
Instead of trying to appeal to everyone above, only showing this photo will appeal to a certain type of person, but it’s perfect (as opposed to being ‘alright’ for everyone):
She looks clean yet artistic. I’d be happy to pay for MORE for this cardigan and I’d go out of my way to look for it. It’s for a SPECIFIC type of person. H&M (specific) versus Walmart (general).
People love things that are perfect for them, so identify the student you’d be perfect to teach. You can only appeal to them if you know who they are.
Do not say “I teach all ages” and leave it at that. You cannot possibly be the expert at teaching every type of musician and people know it. You are either the jack-of-all-trades who knows a bit about everything, or the expert on one topic that everyone turns to.
It takes the same amount of effort to establish yourself as either; so why not be the expert?
An expert only needs to know one more thing than everyone else. If you know how to teach music to babies, then you are the expert when I talk to you, because I can’t do it. Similarly, you can be the expert at teaching piano to teens or kids; parents come to you because they can’t do it themselves. Adults come to you for lessons because they can’t learn it themselves either. You want to become the expert at teaching your ideal student.
Design your website as if you were talking to your ideal student– use their language by understanding what they care about.
Let’s say your ideal students are intermediate high school students who want to learn mainstream pop music. They’re not interested in exams nor competitions.
Then you’re likely talking to this type of musician:
And not this type of musician:
They’re interested in different goals and mindsets. So you’ll communicate differently. You won’t talk about competition and exam results to someone who wants to learn to play the Frozen soundtrack, so don’t do it on your website.
You might be thinking, “But Grace, is this stereotyping? I don’t want to leave anyone out.”
By identifying people who love taking lessons from you, you’ll create a better career path for yourself and a happier learning experience for the student. You’re not taking blind swings anymore.
When you’re crafting your website, imagine you’re talking to one ideal student– if you can write like you’re talking to one person, everyone else will feel close to you as well.
Here are a few things to think about when identifying your ideal students:
How old are your ideal students? What kind of music are they interested in? What are their goals for music? How does music fit into their lives, and how can you work with that?
You’ve got your game when you can identify who you love to teach, then genuinely communicate with them through your website.
Clean up your sidebar so people focus on your main content
Our eyes stray to the sidebar if the content doesn’t hold our attention.
Do not have anything competing with your main content on your sidebar. You’d be surprised how much better websites perform after they’re cleaned up.
Distraction means that people who might’ve been interested in you will leave; anything that hogs attention away from the main content is a distraction– it can be a colour, banner, or even a photo.
If someone is new on your site, they want to know what’s going on right away. A good rule of thumb is that a first-time visitor has to be able to figure out what the site is about in 6 seconds.
If your website’s goal is to attract music students for your studio, don’t have banners flashing on the sidebar about the songbook you wrote– that’s distracting. It’s okay to let people know about other work, to position you as a published musician, but don’t take attention away from the main content.
In fact, websites without sidebars can be effective. The risk is that the viewer is lost if the content doesn’t captivate them immediately. But if you are confident in your content, then feel free to get rid of your sidebar.
Diane Hidy is one of my favourite pianist-writers. Her website is non-distracting for the most part, and she can hold a person’s attention with words.
Diane Hidy’s About page doesn’t have a sidebar, but it’s well-crafted.
She cuts the line-length in half using a photo on the right. Do you know why this is clever? Because people think they read faster when the lines are shorter, so they’ll be more likely to read. And, if they read your first 3 sentences, they’ll probably read the whole thing.
When Diane Hidy does use a sidebar, the entire thing consists of the date:
Is the date important enough to deserve an entire sidebar?
If not, it would serve her better to get rid of the sidebar. Precious seconds would be lost on something that has less meaning than the content itself.
You have an average of 6 seconds to catch someone’s attention before they leave.
Ideally, you want to direct people to a few pillar pages on your site. You can’t do that if there are a million distractions on your sidebar. A good rule of thumb is that your sidebar should never be longer than your main content, especially on your homepage. If you have a list of links on your sidebar (archives, blogroll, etc.) it shouldn’t be longer than 10 links.
Get rid of distractions and clean up your sidebar, so people focus on the important content. If they like what you’re saying, they’ll want to hear from you.
Craft a great About page so people stay interested
Your About page is probably the second most visited page on your site– if people like what you’re saying, they want to know where to get more. So it makes sense to craft a great one.
This might seem counter-intuitive, but the trick to writing a successful About page is to not be self-centred.
When people visit your About page, they really want to know what’s in it for them– why should they stay and talk to you?
My About page only mentions what my ideal audience would be interested in. (Trying to appeal to everyone is like swinging with my eyes closed.)
You’re thinking about your ideal music student even when you’re talking about yourself. What can you do for them? What would they want to know about you?
9 times out of 10, a list of credentials loses people’s interest. You are better off genuinely connecting with someone than trying to push your degrees. Don’t get me wrong– educational background matters in some cases, but when you’re meeting someone new, a list of degrees has zero meaning if you’re not genuine.
When people are looking for a teacher or coach, they want someone they can trust. Elizabeth Silence’s study found that 94% of the time someone distrusted a website, it was a design issue.
Diane states her ideal students right off the bat.
“My real love is teaching quirky, bright kids who won’t make their living as musicians.”
I bet she has a laser-specific idea of the type of student she loves to teach. She’s just not saying it. And here’s the thing: you don’t have to say who you want to teach– you can just write the page as if you were talking to your ideal music student; people who fit in will keep reading.
I don’t recommend that you widen the ballpark again, unless you’ve had a long and decorated career like Diane Hidy AND you cannot live without teaching some other type of student. Otherwise, you’ll risk becoming the equivalent of selling clothes at Walmart (vs Holt Renfrew).
“My adult students include total beginners, avocational pianists who play at an advanced level, and piano teachers who want to improve their own playing… The adults have opportunities to perform for each other… in a low-key, friendly atmosphere.”
Still, she has a ballpark– she’s not describing the adult pianist who wants to win the Van Cliburn.
At the end of your About page, tell people to do something. They were interested enough to read your entire page, so don’t lose them now.
Diane has social media buttons at the bottom of the page, but many people are probably leaving without buying her music nor clicking the social media links because the next step isn’t obvious enough.
Also, we have no control over social media platforms; Facebook can update its API tomorrow and reinvent the game for you. There are other activities that give higher return in less time (although social media can and will make a difference in the long run).
I tell my design students to create a system where you are in control of your audience. That way, if Facebook goes down like Myspace, you’ll still have a loyal audience and a reliable way to attract music students online.
Here are a few simple ways to end an effective About page:
- Gain music students. Tell people how to book an interview with you, or share practice resources that you share for free (which contain ways to contact you for lessons). Because, if people see how good your free stuff is, they can only imagine what one-hour lesson with you will be like. Try saying something along the lines of, “If you’re interested in taking lessons with me, click here to book an interview– I’d love to see if we’re the right fit.”
- Sell your music. The trick is to selling music is to share one specific piece. If you write about an entire album, you’re making people choose twice– between staying/leaving, and which piece to listen to– that’s stressful, so they’ll likely leave. Who chooses to be stressed? So do the hard work for them. “Check out my favourite piece, Sand, which started taking shape while I was walking along the ocean.”
- Build an email list. This is the best alternative to relying on social media. You’ll get full control over where your students are, plus email is a personal form of communication– people often check their inbox first thing in the morning, so if they trust you enough to give you access, you’re golden. The group of people on your email list can stay with you for years and years. “If you want to get my free music tips, sign up for my weekly email newsletter here.”
- Share free resources. Whatever you want to be paid for, do it for free first. If the quality of your free work is good, then people will be jumping to pay you for premium work. Gain people’s trust by being generous. “I believe in supporting beginner musicians. Click here to see some of my music resources, including my free lesson on how to read notes.”
The objective of your About page is to establish a connection with the viewer and convince them to stay with you. When you think of it that way, crafting an appealing About page for your ideal music student will be easier.
When I first started designing, I created over 1,000 graphics for free and hacked together my own design education by entering two design competitions every week. The pro graphic designers turned their noses up against design competitions, but what they saw as throwing work at plagiarizing piranhas, I saw as opportunities to get valuable design feedback. I didn’t care where my work went, as long as I kept learning and improving.
If you think your skill is valuable, chances are, someone out there thinks it’s valuable as well. You have a unique style that no one else has, and the world deserves to know about it, through your website or otherwise.