Summer…ugh. It should be a wonderful time for music teachers to be able to take a break and chill out, but you can’t do that if you’re struggling to pay the bills. In this show, I’ll talk you through your options to solve the summer music studio income issue.
Click on any word to jump to that point in the audio. 🙂
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You’re listening to episode 43 of the vibrant music teaching podcast. I’m Nicola Cantan and today we’re going to figure out what to do with your studio in the summer.
Hey beautiful teachers do you struggle with Summer. I know a lot of teachers do struggle with this. They find it difficult to think of a good solution that works for them and keeps their income up during the summer months. And if you’re in the part of the world where this isn’t a problem where students just stay put during the summer and they’re expected to continue their normal activities perhaps you only have a short school break then. Great for you. You could skip this episode if summer is not an issue for you although you might still want to consider doing something differently in the summer so you might want to listen in but for the majority of US summer is a tricky time of year because when we get to summer most students are off school. Most of us teach young children right. So the kids are off school. Their routines break down for a month or two months or in the case of Irish high school summers three months three four months off every summer. So the routines are broken down. People are traveling. People are doing other things. There’s all sorts of different routines going on and they may not expect music lessons to continue. That’s certainly not expected over here. In fact I’m actually an outlier by continuing until the end of June. Believe it or not most music teachers in Ireland from my experience actually finish up at the end of May which basically means they follow the high school summer versus the primary school summer which I follow which is only two months.
I say only two months is still an enormous break for kids in their school year right. So some parts of the world will be absolutely shocked that they even get two months but older kids get three months and many music teachers will follow that so they’ll finish at the end of May take June July and August. Ah and that can sound lovely and people you’d chat to at parties can say oh my gosh you get the whole summer off and you groan and internally shake your fist at them because you don’t get paid. Why do you don’t work so it can be a major major frustration that you don’t know what to do with. So I want to talk you through some different options for the summer. In today’s episode so you can sort of pick and choose what fits you in your situation. But first of all I just want to do a quick reframing with you that is kind of a little bit of tough love. Okay. And that’s that you have to accept the fact that you are not getting paid a salary every month. A lot of these posts I see from frustrated teachers trying to deal with this summer are because basically they’re treating their income from teaching as a salary as if they had a real job right.
I’m kidding but as if they had a normal job where they had a boss and they don’t have a boss. I’m not talking about teachers who do most of you out there are working for yourself. If you’re working for yourself then you’re running a business. You’re not getting a salary and if you consider it to be a salary you’re always going to be frustrated with the summer because your income is never going to be identical. Well there are some tricks to make it identical but in general if that’s your philosophy you’re going to run into all sorts of other problems as well. So you have to accept the fact that you are running a business or whether you like it or not and if you don’t like it if you hate it then you can maybe work for a bigger music school where you won’t have to actually run the business side of things. But if you are running your own studio however small it is a business and you have to treat it as such. So you’re making money every month from those students but that’s your business. Making money and you need to consider paying yourself from that rather than that being your pay because it isn’t OK. So that’s just a quick reframing exercise for you. If you don’t think about it that way you need to consider it that way because otherwise the fluctuation during the summer months if it happens especially badly in your area.
This depends largely on the culture and the community you live in but if it does happen badly where you are and you continue seeing your income as being your salary then you’re going to be eternally frustrated and I don’t want that for you. So you need to consider the whole picture. I will come back to this at the end but I just wanted to set it up at the start. You need to consider the whole picture as you look at your summer months and there is a challenge I’m running here on the podcast and on the blog at the end of August which if you don’t treat your business as a business and if you struggle with this side of things is going to be super help for you. I run it in a different format last year and it’s coming back again this year due to popular demand. It’s the studio business plans that I’m gonna do it here on the podcast in August so stay tuned for the I know it’s a little while away but it’s something to look forward to if you feel like you’re going to need a reset with your business in August to get ready for the brand new year coming up in September or end of August depending on where you are. Okay so that’s enough of the business mindset I’ll get on to the suggestions. I have a few different ideas for you that are the common options that teachers use in the summer.
I will say before I start this that every community is different. So I’m here to show you what the options are and what you might like to consider. I’m not here to say you can choose from all of these because you can’t. It depends where you are. I certainly can’t choose from all of these. Some of them will not work and some of them won’t work where you are and some will. So you have to find what fits with your community and the culture around you. The first option and the most obvious and often the one teachers kind of wish was reality and maybe isn’t is to just continue your regular lessons. Some teachers want that. They just want the stability they just wanted to continue as normal during the summer and in some areas this work in some areas. This is the norm and the exception are the parents who don’t want to do that. And in that case you can just make it your policies or you can make special allowances for parents who do go away during the summer. But if most don’t and if most stay in the same routine and there’s not a problem then don’t make one. If you don’t want to you don’t have to do something differently during the summer. You can just run regularly scheduled lessons if it fits with the culture in your area.
But I will say that this is one of the ones that would not lie here. There is no way in the area I live in in Dublin in Ireland if you’re not aware but in the area I live in and anywhere I can think of in Dublin at least or in Ireland in general. Parents would not accept this. I can imagine my mom when I was a kid. Do you know if my teacher had tried to insist that we continued lessons during the summer. She would have just quit and my mom was not particularly uppity right but she would have just quit because that’s not the done thing. It would seem like an imposition basically on the summer because it’s different here. We travel. Everyone travels at least somewhere right. Even if it’s somewhere else in Ireland to see family or most people take a holiday abroad. So at least a few weeks are going to be gone. You’ll need to allow for that but then there’s all sorts of other things going on. Kids will be travelling to see family and kids will be doing camps that finish at different times to their regular school. They might be staying away at camps going to Gael talks which is the old Irish speaking areas to improve their Irish or going to French camps or doing grinds or going abroad to improve their Spanish skills for a whole month to be anything but basically they will just not do regular lessons at least from my experience so that wouldn’t work here.
And if the situation I’m describing is the same where you are. Don’t try to force it. That’s my honest opinion is don’t try to insist on regular lessons where nobody wants it. You have to serve your community. You get to decide how your business runs and you set the rules. But it has to serve your clients. Otherwise it’s not viable it’s not going to work. So if you’re just pushing against the grain and it feels like you’re constantly swimming upstream with trying to set up regular lessons during the summer don’t do it. OK but if it is an option for you and you’ve just been considering something different because you should then sit back and say Why would I prefer if you would prefer standard lessons do that don’t feel under any pressure to do something different or special or amazing. The next option suits a lot of different areas and that ad hoc lessons or lessons that students arrange themselves. There are different ways to handle this. I suggest if they’re going to be scheduled differently every week that you will I strongly suggest that you don’t schedule them yourself. It’s so easy these days to just set up an online scheduling tool and have parents log in and schedule them themselves. No matter what way you’re going to run them business wise I recommend that you set up that online scheduling system so you can use my music staff I believe for this I use my music staff and I really recommend it.
I haven’t used it for online for summer lessons simply because I already had this setup in currently and I use currently for other things I already need my calendar. So yeah I’m not going to transfer that over because it’s just a waste of time to do that. Helen Lee is another system that works great I think you can do it in a mess in my music star. And there’s also another one that’s popular called Do You can book me anything where parents can log in and without your input schedule things and set it up the way you want it. So if you know that you’re not going to have a ton of lessons every week that it is going to less frequent for every family or less families opting for it then only open up one day or two days choose it. That’s what I do. I send out a link to my parents and say listen if you want any lessons during the summer here’s my calendar page just book a time. And that’s fine I’ll be here but I only open up Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s it. And during the year I teach Monday to Saturday. OK. So I’m getting sick days down to two. And if those don’t suit them sure they can get in touch with them.
If they really want the lesson. But you know chances are they’ll just do something else instead and that’s fine with me having only two days open means that you can use the rest of your time and it means that you won’t end up feeling resentful over that one lesson scheduled on a Saturday that you could have been going to the beach. Right. So don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re going to be annoyed at that one lesson because there will likely be less. And how many there are will depend again on the community you’re in and what they like to do during the summer. But just open up the days that you want to leave open and make sure you limit it and you can open up another one. If they get full rights you’re not stuck to that forever and ever. But it makes it simpler and it means that you’re more likely to have multiple lessons on one day back to back or close together rather than having them spread throughout different weeks and not allowing you to get any time to go somewhere do something or just you know not get dressed that day if that’s what you want to do in terms of the business setup for ad hoc lessons. There’s again a few ways to handle that. You can have your students buy blocks of lessons so that they can use straight the summer. If you really want to encourage this option as a way to keep lesson amounts fairly steady but just give families a flexible scheduling that they need then I recommend doing blocks of lessons so that they actually commit to 10 lessons or eight lessons or whatever is appropriate but that they can book them at their ease and they can book more than one in a week if they need to but they actually book them and block.
You can also just to pay at the lesson only for the summer. And that’s actually what I do because I have very minimal lessons during the summer is really just for those students who need that check in during the summer and their parents know that. Or adult students who know they’ll want a lesson or two. That’s the only reason I’m opening them up for I’m doing other things basically during the summer which I’ll get to a bit later. But if you want to have more lessons and more steadiness do blocks of lessons if you want it to be really flexible and you just want to encourage the possibility of some lessons and not rely on that income then you can do pay at the lesson or invoice them in advance for certain scheduled lessons that kind of thing. Another option for your summer is of course to break away completely from standard lessons and do camps. And I would really recommend giving this some thought even if camps are not really the norm where you are.
Camps are very normal here. Day camps for other industries but not so much for small music schools. They would be big music schools would tend to do them art camps and all those sort of things sports camps. But we don’t have as much of a culture I think as maybe in the US of having small at your local music studio at your teacher’s home kind of camps but there’s no reason why you can’t do it. So consider incorporating camps if you really want to find a way to keep your income up during the summer and have it maybe the same as during the year maybe even make more during the summer. But you know that normal lessons will not apply. And maybe you’d also like some time off yourself and camps can be a great way to do that. They will obviously take a lot more planning and then it’s a very intense week or two weeks or however many you run them for but then you’re done. So it’s a more condensed way of making your income during the summer and then you have the rest of the time off hopefully or with the odd lesson here or there whatever way you want to run it. So camps can be a great way to explore different things during the summer. You can do it with just your regular students and perhaps pick a particular themes such as blues or rock or pop or something enticing don’t make it just a music camp. Okay. Pick out something that is going to be exciting for students and parents and they’re going to be really enthusiastic to sign up for as you need them.
You have to sell them all over again on this right. You can also do camps that are open to other people. Just keep in mind that you are going to have to do more marketing if it’s to what we call a cold audience meaning they’re not you already your customers they’re not already your students. So you are going to have to do more marketing. But if you really want to make camps your thing it could be a fantastic avenue for you to explore doing maybe intro to piano camps or camps to get ready for a killer thing that comes up during the year. I can’t say what that would be for you but maybe it’s a blast through. I know we have juniors or music or livings at music school exams. We had a blast through that. Maybe you were completely academic route or maybe you do an introduction to jazz ensemble or maybe you do a pre-school music camp but pick an angle no matter what you’re going to do and choose whether it’s gonna be your students which is probably lower investment for you but also probably lower income or if you’re going to open it up to more students from outside and whether it’s going to be beginners or whatever pick your theme. You could do a couple of different ones during the summer if you really want to make this your thing right.
So those are your book four basic standard options for a music studio or a stomach summer. You’ve got your regular lessons ad hoc lessons camps and workshops. Those are the basics and you can very much pick and mix between those to make a summer that suits you and fits with what you want to do in your studio in your business. You can also use the summer to explore a completely different avenue and I think it’s one of the fun things a better profession actually. You will bear with me while I take my sunny approach to everything. I think that it’s wonderful that I have these two months during the summer that I can do other things. I do see that as having freedom.
Yes it means I don’t make money and it can make us internally shake that face that people who make that comment. But it’s also a great opportunity. We have this built in possibility for flexibility in the summer every summer. If you have kids that means you can actually see them in the summer. If you structure it right. If you’re like me and you are addicted to traveling it means you can travel for extended periods you’re not stuck with short little income short little standard holidays that you would get in an office job you know four weeks a year felt pretty restrictive to really what I worked in an office. I love having two months and then other weeks during the year. Yes my job is intense when it’s done but then I get to do what I want for the rest of the time. So try to see it as an opportunity and if you want to explore another avenue if you’ve been excited about the idea of maybe creating your own teaching resources and selling them on teachers pay teachers or a site like that or during a completely different industry maybe you are interested in getting into working as a virtual assistant so that you can have some money coming in during the day rather than all evening hours and you want to cut back your teaching.
Well the summer is a great time to explore that avenue and and start things up and get things running and get systems in place. Or maybe you use the summer to work at a camp not a music one but like a stay away camp where you work as a teacher there or anything else that you want to explore. There are actually quite a few jobs that only open up during the summer anyway so that could be a great thing to do. Maybe you take this opportunity to audition for a theater musical you want to be in or acting or anything else that you could do during the summer. So try to see it as an opportunity and the only way you can do that see it as an opportunity. You will be blocked from doing that if you haven’t reframed your mindset going back to the start of the episode. If you still think of your money as a salary each month and you spend it as such you are going to be stuck. You can’t see it any other way and I understand that you’re cursing me right now going is not an opportunity how dare you say that. It’s so painful because I can’t make money and it’s such a struggle.
OK if you decided you can’t make money maybe you don’t like any of these options maybe they don’t work in your area then you need to rejig how you see your money during the year because otherwise it’s always going to be painful to go through those summer months. So if you want to just take the time off or if you have to just take the time off during the summer then you’ll need to either come up with a system where you set aside money all year treat your business even more as a business set up a separate bank account as a business money and only pay yourself out of that as an actual salary if you need that kind of structure and if you can’t see yourself doing that. If you’re thinking I don’t make enough money I need all of the money each month that I make from my teaching. Then please please consider raising your rates because if you need to work yourself to the bone all year and you still don’t have anything left in the summer and you can’t possibly take any time off ever. Then your business is just going to burn you out. It’s not good enough. You need to raise your rates. You need to come up with a new way to structure things.
If there’s no way to raise your rates and you’re convinced you’re absolutely at the max for your market and you can’t teach more students during the format you have now then maybe you consider some kind of group lessons overlapping lessons but lessons like I do or adding other income streams during the year because you don’t want to be in a position where you can’t take any holidays. You wouldn’t take on a job contract where there were literally no days off. So don’t do that to yourself. Find a way to make it work and if makeup lessons are the thing that are holding you back from having freedom during the year if they’re taking over your entire time and causing you to be less profitable because they are you’re doing loads of them then go back to Episode 19 and just consider resetting your mindset around makeup lessons and how you could remove them from your studio so that’ll be it. Vibrantmusicteaching.com/19 1 9. I hope that this episode hasn’t been too much of tough love but that it’s given you some ideas for what to do during the summer and a new way to think about your summer income and how you run your studio in general as I mentioned.
If you feel like this business stuff is just going over your head and you don’t understand how you can see it this way or you find it intimidating the fact that you have to run a business but you know that you do then stick around until August when we’re going to be doing the studio business cleanse again. And if you’re a VMT member and you’ve questions about these summer income ideas and other stuff that I mentioned today then you can come along to the Q and A Kohl’s this week they’re on this week. You’ll find the details at vibrant music teaching dot com slash calendar and if you’re listening to this after the fact you can still find the details on that same page for the next upcoming q and a call. There’s two every month at two different time zones to come along to one of those to get your questions answered and of course if you’re not a member and you fancy the idea of being able to get a listening ear and get your questions answered. Face to face as it were online then you can sign up at VMT.ninja and come along to our question and answer call this week.
That’s it for this week guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed these summer suggestions and I’ll see you next week.
Bye for now.
If you’re looking for creative ideas for your summer lessons then the vibrant music teaching library is a great place to get them. You can sign up and get instant access to hundreds of resources by going to VMT dot ninja today.
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