One of the most fascinating things I discovered when I ran
the Music Teaching Studios is that each individual tutor gravitated
towards their own average number of teaching hours completed
each week. It didn’t seem to matter how many new students
they were fed. For some tutors it was 11 hours per week, for
others 15, 22, 25 ; the best performers topped out at around
Over the years I have had guitar teachers email me about
many aspects of running a teaching practice and the question
is frequently asked:
‘Whatever happens I can’t seem to get my teaching
hours above a certain amount – what can I do to change
You rationalise the situation and say: ‘Well I have
managed to carry out the right marketing actions to build
up my client base to 10 lessons per week. Surely if I carry
on with the same actions then there is no reason not to extend
that to 15 hours?’
The truth of the matter though, is that we are driven not
by what we rationalise – we are driven by what we feel.
The number of teaching hours you attain is the resultant
of several different factors. I have tried to isolate them
and shown the effect they have on a graph.
Each coloured area shows the effects of one of seven different
factors that have a bearing on how your business is likely
to grow. The results can be seen to create three distinct
phases which I have labelled A, B and C. Each phase has a
different slope as indicated by the arrows.
In the first phase (A) you start out driven by a high level
of financial necessity. You also have a diary
full of spaces set aside for lessons so you have a strong
sense of willingness to make time available
to teach and to market your lessons. You have a fair amount
of enthusiasm because this is a new and exciting
project, but this is tempered slightly by the fear of the
By the end of phase A early results have helped to remove
the fear and your enthusiasm has grown as
the realisation dawns that this might just work! Other factors
have also begun to influence growth positively. Your range
of musical, teaching and business skills
has begun to broaden as you gain experience. Your salesmanship
has begun to develop. Your overall personal confidence
in what you are doing is also beginning to take off. Little
by little you begin to gain a reputation
as a reliable teacher and this produces customer referrals.
The combined effect of all these factors is to cause quite
a sharp growth rate during the first six months or so.
Then, as we hit phase B, things begin to level out. Your
sense of financial necessity starts to gradually
diminish as your income increases. As you carry out more and
more lessons each week, you begin to feel you have less time
for marketing activities. Also, you spend more time
on lesson preparation and working on the development of your
own musical knowledge (this is borne out of a fear that your
students will overtake you if you don’t keep pushing
back the boundaries of your own musical ability!). All this
begins to produce a feeling that time available
for extra students is scarce.
Your range of skills is increasing however
and this enables you to expand the scope of your teaching.
You can now take on more advanced students, younger, older,
more awkward students. You can teach bass as well as 6-string
and even give theory lessons.
Your confidence continues to grow steadily
as does your salesmanship.
Towards the end of this phase however, a natural waning of
enthusiasm begins to occur brought on by the feeling that
this is beginning to feel a bit like a proper job! You’re
over the honeymoon period and into the grind!
Your reputation, meanwhile, has continued
to grow as you are now doing quite a good job and a considerable
number of people have become aware of this. So new students
continue to show up demanding your lessons because they have
heard you’re rather good!
The third phase (C), which can go on for many years, is characterised
by a levelling off of teaching hours. Financial necessity
all but disappears as you put your prices up and
start to make quite a decent living. Your sense of time
available for lessons zeroes as you begin to value time spent
doing other things that allow you to get away from teaching
Your enthusiasm settles down to a fairly
constant level. Your confidence continues
to grow, but is no longer such a strong factor as you have
more than enough of it. The same goes for your salesmanship.
Your range of skills may continue to grow
but, chances are, you start to pick and chose your students
a little more carefully. You tend to specialize. You favour
those wanting to learn Jazz and Blues and pass the would-be
Rock guitarists on to younger, more energetic teachers!
Of course, this reflects my own feelings and experience of
teaching. Others will be influenced more or less by these
factors at different stages. Some will experience factors
I haven’t thought of. For example, you may be driven
by some sense of having to achieve a level of success expected
of you by your parents, your wife or your peers. However,
all such influences will tend to reinforce the three-phase
phenomenon when you think about it.
So back to where we came in: the question asked is:
Why do my teaching hours always stay roughly the same?
The answer is that you have arrived at phase C.
You may have got there quicker than my example above and the
various influencing factors may differ, but I think if you
analyse your journey as I have done mine above, you will see
what I mean.
The other important question was:
Whatever happens I can’t seem to get my teaching hours
above a certain amount – what can I do to change this?’
Well, first I suggest you create your own spreadsheet (or
rough diagram on a scrap of paper) along the lines I have
done. This forces you to examine your thoughts and feelings
and how each of them influences your efforts to expand your
Then look at what you might be able to change.
You could raise you level of financial necessity
by taking out a bank loan to pay for that new kitchen. Or,
perhaps more sensibly, by focusing on a project like building
your dream recording studio or whatever and dedicating yourself
to saving so much per week towards it.
You could fire up your enthusiasm by re-dedicating
yourself to becoming a truly great teacher.
Extend your reputation by writing books
and articles on music for local publications. Offer to give
talks to PTA meetings or whatever.
The best way to raise the valuation of your
teaching time is to up your prices. But be
sure to also increase the amount you set aside for your dream
project so that you also maintain financial necessity!
Get the idea? Look at each factor and see if there is something
you can do to affect it towards driving up your teaching hours.
Let me know how you get on!