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How to build a career teaching music online

Everyone is teaching music online now.

If you teach music online, you can get a lot more students. You can, in theory, teach at all hours of the day because your students can be from any time zone.

Here are 8 tips to build a career teaching music online.

1. This means your pricing can be a lot more flexible. You are operating on the world market now, not just your local rate. You can charge however much someone with your level of experience charges. It’s probably more than what you charge now. You could see what Juilliard professors charge for private lessons. Not the lessons at the conservatory. Lessons at their house. Then you could adjust for your experience and equipment. If you charge too low, then it looks like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you charge too high, you look ridiculous.

Your competition is not Dr. Fitzgerald who teaches music down the street. Your competition is every single music teacher who teaches online.

2. Some students are fine with only taking lessons online. If you are also comfortable with teaching online, then you probably have a steady student for a long time if they have enough to pay you. Students who only take music lessons online don’t care for social interaction. And there’s not a lot you can do to piss off a student through the laptop. If you piss them off then they shut off the laptop. Then they get over it. But it’s not like they came to your house and you piss them off and they ask themselves why they made the trip and never make it again.

3. If you are tired of the tech stuff, then pay a piano teacher who already teaches online, to show you their setup. It’s really easy. Just pay them for an hour of their time that they would teach with. Then they’ll show you the ropes. You can pretend they’re your student for that hour and they can tell you what’s unacceptable. It’s the same as offering a free trial lesson to a student transitioning from in-person to online lessons, except you just pay once. Because you’re probably fumbling the first few times.

4. If you look bad on camera then adjust your lighting. Half the time it’s lighting and angle. If you still look bad then get a new camera. You can get a high quality webcam for your laptop. A ring light will even out the shadows on your face if you care about looking a certain age.

5. People are more sensitive to poor audio quality than video quality. It’s the same reason we tolerate a video with poor picture quality but not poor audio quality. I’ve like, waited for years for this research paper to be useful somewhere. Get earbuds, headphones, or a mic. I’ve tried all of them and earbuds are my favourite. My mic setup was, like, $500, and I don’t touch it anymore.

6. Lots of teachers think you need to position the camera to see your hands and have two cameras, one for your face. That’s not the case. Students don’t want to be on a webcam talking to hands. They want to be talking to your face. You need to point the camera to your face and move to your hands when necessary. Trying to get an angle that shows your hands and your face doesn’t work. It’s an awkward angle. It’ll be like a security camera feed. I know, I’ve tried a million times.

7. Ironically, teaching online means making a connection with the student. Because there is so little to go off of. They are looking at a screen. It’s so easy to dismiss. You really need to create that connection with them for this to work. Ask about their day. Or something, I don’t know. I’m always curious about someone’s day.

8. There’s policy stuff to get out of the way. Like, your students can’t call you off-hours, who calls whom, how old a student needs to be to do online lessons by themselves, stuff like that.

There are students who are unwilling to take lessons online at all because they think it’s a waste of money. Those students are probably neurotypical because they want to see and touch you and play with your cat. That’s fine.

There are students who are too young to be by themselves taking music online. Their parents need to sit beside them so they don’t run away from the laptop.

Get new students, then. Tell your existing students who are willing to switch to online lessons to tell their friends that you’re giving one free online lesson. It could be a waste of time for you but you didn’t have that hour of income anyways.

Teaching online is abstract. You only see what the student wants you to see. For someone like me, I wonder if my students really exist outside of the screen and what kind of lives they live and what kind of a person they are. I think about them once in a while.

Teaching online isn’t for everyone. But it’s the way to go for now. I’m happy I get to talk about it now because for years, very few people could see how teaching music online would work. And now everyone will see that it works, it’s just not suited for everyone.

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Adam Hunter
Adam Hunter
4 years ago

Awesome article Grace! :)