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
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!