Tuition Fees – “How much should I be charging for lessons?”

 

This article has been independently supplied by the author and expresses the author’s own views and opinions; the article does not purport to represent RGT’s views or policies.

 

Guitar Tuition Fees by Chaz Hart

Tuition Fees

Chaz Hart answers the perennial thorny question: “How much should I be charging for lessons?”

Judging by the number of queries we get at RGT from teachers on this subject, working out how much to charge for lessons is one of the trickiest things guitar teachers have to decide. Yet for your teaching business to provide you with a sustainable and worthwhile income, it’s essential to get your fee structure right: charge too much and you may put potential students off; charge too little and you’ll be under-pricing your services and (perversely) this may also put potential students and parents off.

Variables

How much you should charge really depends on a wide variety of factors. Let’s consider two extreme examples. ‘Teacher 1’ is a skilled musician, but is new to teaching – in fact he’s just advertising for his first few pupils. He plans to teach from home pushing aside the dining table and chairs in his back room to make a bit of teaching space. He’s got a music stand and an amp with two inputs in the room, but equipment wise that’s about it. Because of limited space, students who arrive early will be asked to wait on a chair in the hallway and parents will need to sit in the car until the lesson finishes.

“Teacher 2” is a similarly skilled musician, but he’s been teaching guitar for ten years. He passed his LLCM(TD) with flying colours a couple of years back. He doesn’t need to advertise for pupils anymore as he’s got a full roster, and anyway new students always come from personal recommendation of existing ones. He’s set aside a room in his house specifically for guitar teaching and he’s decorated it with musical posters and memorabilia so it looks like a purpose made music room. In addition, he’s converted an old conservatory on the side of the house into a comfortable waiting room for parents and students, and in there he’s supplied a ‘warm-up’ practice amp, a stock of guitar magazines to read and a coffee machine. ‘Teacher 2’ isn’t short of equipment either: he’s got a couple of good amps, a range of effects units for students to try, a spare guitar which any student travelling by public transport can use, and a handy 8-track digital portastudio to make recordings of the lessons and backing tracks for students.

As you can guess from these scenarios, Teacher 2 will be able to command
a much higher fee than Teacher 1.

How Much?

The most important thing is to avoid undervaluing your services. Students and parents are normally very wary of ‘budget priced’ education – so beware of partaking in a pointless fee cutting competition with other local teachers. Remember, it’s taken you many years of study and endless hours of daily practice to acquire your skills and knowledge – you deserve to receive a proper level of remuneration for passing these on. Let’s face it, a local solicitor or accountant has probably put in far less work than you have in acquiring his skills – yet they rarely charge less than £100 an hour. Call out a plumber, gas fitter or electrician and see how much you get charged for the privilege! So why shouldn’t you charge a professional fee for the professional personal service you’re providing. The absolute minimum any teacher (such as ‘Teacher 1’) should be charging is £18p.h. – no teacher should be charging less than this! For an experienced teacher with a reasonable home teaching set-up, £20 to £25p.h. should be considered the minimum. If you also have an exceptional reputation as musician or educator then £30 to £40p.h. would seem appropriate. Use my ‘ready reckoner’ on the next page to get an idea of how much YOU should be charging.

Tuition Fee Ready Reckoner: Start with the base of £18p.h. then add any of the ‘additions’ below which apply:

  • £1 for each 3 years teaching experience (to a maximum of £3);
  • £2 for a professional qualification (e.g. LLCM, B.Mus) –
    add £1 for each additional qualification.
  • £1 for providing a full range of equipment (including spare
    guitars, amps, effects, recording facilities).
  • £1 for setting aside a room specifically for teaching (if you
    hire premises add 75 % of these costs).
  • £0.50 for providing a separate waiting room.
  • These rates are for one-to-one tuition. If you offer group lessons
    then you should charge an extra 50% of the total for each additional
    pupil.

N.B. These rates are designed to apply to self-employed guitar teachers working from their own premises. If you’re engaged to teach at a school, music shop or elsewhere then you shouldn’t really expect to receive these rates. After all, in those situations you’ll have very little set-up costs, and no venue and advertising expenses. £17 to £25p.h. seems to be the average going rate for ‘employed’ guitar teachers, although you might receive more in some specialist higher education establishments. Salaries at fee paying public schools vary enormously – it seems to depend upon your negotiating skills!

Other Factors

My ‘ready reckoner’ can only give you a rough guide to suitable fees. Location is also a very important point to consider: if you teach in a well-to-do London suburb or the stockbroker belt you can probably charge a lot more than if you relocated to a run down inner-city area. If you live in a remote rural area you will need to balance your fees against the scarcity of students and the cost of reclaiming your petrol if you ‘travel out’ to teach.

If you’ve used the ‘ready reckoner’ and discovered that you’re charging a lot less than you could be then now’s the time to re-scale your fees. You may be worried that by increasing fees you’ll lose students. This is rarely the case, and even if a few do drop out (and they’re likely to be the less committed ones anyway) you’ll probably find that you’re getting the same weekly income but for less hours work. This allows you to devote more time to lesson preparation so that you can give the remaining students an even higher level of service – that way your reputation as a quality teacher will spread and you’ll attract even more students. If there are some students who simply can’t afford the new fees you can always offer them a special price concession or shorter lessons (40 minutes instead of an hour will reduce their lesson costs by 33%), alternatively (for pupils you know well) you can even offer interest free credit (i.e. they pay you back when they can afford to). Don’t be scared to offer different rates to new students, or to different age groups. You could even offer ‘off-peak’ and ‘peak’ rates depending upon the times of the lessons – most teachers are booked up on Saturday mornings, but I bet most Monday mornings are pretty slack. Whichever way you decide to structure your fees just remember – never under value your services; there’s nothing to be gained from undercharging.

If you’re still worried that putting up your rates might lose you students just think about this equation: 20 students x £10ph = £200pw; 10 students x £20p.h. = £200pw; – which would you prefer? If you’re in doubt, you could always try introducing your new fees in stages,or to a selection of students, or even just to new students. In this changing world, where people put increasing value on their leisure pursuits, as a professional highly skilled and knowledgeable teacher you should literally be worth your weight in gold!

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6 thoughts on “Tuition Fees – “How much should I be charging for lessons?”

  1. Nice article. I provide a studio enviroment, decent equipment and a waiting room etc. I average about 6 students a day 6 days a week on a ‘pay as you play’ system and charge £10.00 for 30 minutes. I would like to increase the price but obviously by not too much. If I increase the price say to £12.00 I will be given £15.00 or a £20.00 note and the student will want change so I would need about £50.00 worth of £1.00 coins as float, think I’ll stay as I am. Its the little matters that are some times the biggest problem!!

  2. I am an instrumental teacher, who hasn’t forgotten his roots. I learnt to play for free, in school, a local brass band and then as a musician in the army, youngest person ever to attend the Royal Military School of Music Kneller Hall in 1969. I was also principal player of my instrument at 16. I then travelled and studied in the USA after 14 years military service as a soloist and principle player. I learnt to play all brass and woodwind along the way. I became a head of music in the UK in various schools. Experience I have a plenty. I charge £7.00 for a half hour and 14 for the hour. I teach in 5 primary schools where each student pays £4.00 because lessons are shared. Of course if I travel to pupils I add some fuel money £1.00 -£3.00. I take exception to your remark (Students and parents are normally very wary of ‘budget priced’ education) I am very busy and have a waiting list. I find it immoral to charge more. I am not digging holes in back breaking weather sodden conditions, or anything of the like. I enjoy doing what I do. Just because something is cheap it doesn’t make it unworthy. high prices are elitist, And out of reach for most, something we should not be promoting. Music is for all persons and so it should be made so. Everyone charges too much today and it, in turn highers prices everywhere else. It’s a no brainer. I live very well and have no need to contemplate how to make more money. Because I am cheap it doesn’t mean I am no good. You need to think about that.

    • I think the idea is to price structure to your own goals and not undervalue what your doing, in your case Stephen there is the thought or idea that not only are you teaching guitar but you are also wanting to help people and that is a great thing I do wish the whole World was not set up around money as the chief medium and if/when people find themselves in a position where they can be generous with their time and or resources that is great. However many people find that they are struggling with everyday life bills and if they are to continue to provide a teaching service they need an honest income that reflects the time, commitment and cost of being an music instructor & I don’t see this as wrong either. I personally sway to your way and would like to offer lessons for FREE for those who can’t afford it however nowadays with the internet there is an option for those people and if someone wants hands on one to one tuition then £20 per hour or there about’s seems a fair price for that service.

      Blessings CP

  3. I think it is also very important to consider to treating teaching guitar as a business. Price needs to depend upon location too. In central London charging anything under £50 an hour is simply too low. So I think expertise, quality of the premises, location is all a factor!

    Very good article thanks!

  4. I think this is an excellent guide. I average out my price between £15 to £20 per hr pro rata dependent on student rates and travel as I offer a peripatetic service. The rate in my area seems to have dropped over the last 15 years
    Clearly people pay £50 an hour to a mechanic but we need cars. Solicitors are a sore point
    I think student rates are an idea. A discount for a month block of lessons:this allows a necessary price increase and stops the two lessons then ” my mate is teaching me syndrome
    Also in salubrious areas you insult with too low a price. Gauge your price with your client. Free intros help too

  5. I starting teaching guitar in 2005 charging £20 per hour and things were going well. There was plenty of demand. At peak around 2009 I was charging £30 per hour and had a full timetable. Since then demand has dropped. I have been lowering my prices in an attempt to attract more students. My rates are now £18 per hour and I still have spaces. I will continue to lower my prices until either numbers start increasing or I’d be better of finding work elsewhere. Ultimately supply and demand determine prices and I think a combination of reasons has lead to supply exceeding demand. Some reasons I can think of are:
    Free lessons on youtube,
    A decline in the popularity of guitar music,
    Technological distractions, games etc
    Rising house prices and debt (the current generation of parents have less spare cash),
    Falling consumer confidence after Brexit, etc
    I know of several teachers that have quit teaching and as a result the market may rebalance, but I expect with lower prices than teachers have become accustomed to.
    A trend I’ve noticed recently is more people coming for just one or two lessons asking for pointers rather than seeing it as an ongoing commitment. Several have asked me if I could recommend any youtube lessons for them at which point I’d like to say ‘f*$k off’, but am generally more polite and say ‘no’ instead.

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