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Starting Private Teaching Practice

Up to two thirds of musicians are working as music teachers at any one time. Here are the some points to consider when setting up your own private teaching practice.

Last updated: 12 July 2021

Some music teachers have devoted their lives to music education, some teach as one part of a portfolio career. Some have always been self-employed, and some are new to the challenges facing freelance music teachers.

Here are the main points to consider when setting up your own private teaching practice.

Ask yourself the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’

Music lessons are important and your love and enthusiasm have to show through. Knowing why you want to teach music will help you work out your own personal mission statement and articulat your vision.

Make a business plan

You know your vision, now it’s time to know your customers. Start with research – look at where local schools are, where parents meet, who else is teaching in the area, what they teach, and what services are available in the local community. Find out as much as you can about your area. Knowing the opportunities open to you and the challenges you might face will help you write a plan.

Know your product

What are you selling? ‘Music lessons’ is the obvious answer. But think about where you are, where your music lessons will be, how much they will cost, who you will be teaching and who will be making the decisions about lessons. You need to understand what you are doing and for whom. This tells you what message you need to communicate, and how.

Know your numbers

You need to have an understanding of some numbers, starting with cashflow. The basic things you need to know are your operational costs and what you want to pay yourself. Knowing when the money comes in enabled you to plan for those periods you are likely to have less money, for example in the summer when students may be on holiday. A little planning can give you financial control.

Make your teaching space work

Teaching spaces need to be suitable. Think about your waiting room, especially if you teach in your own house. Make sure visitors have access to appropriate facilities, and that you inform students / parents about details like what parking is available and how long for. Be sure to check in with neighbours so they know what is going on and when noisy periods may be. And if you are working from, be sure to check with your local authority as you may need to register your home as a place of business.

Marketing yourself

Market yourself successfully by focussing on what is distinctive about your teaching. Remember, most parents find music teachers by word of mouth. Consider rewarding your students if they bring a new pupil to you.

Think about your curriculum

Especially your students’ personalised learning programmes and where you can add value. You could bring students together for occasional group lessons or concerts with appropriate parts for each player. Consider putting together a masterclass. Perhaps you could host a short course in the holidays, for example in composing for video games. You can then bring that back into the classroom and build on it in your regular lessons.

Get insured

Public Liability Insurance (PLI) is essential. You will also need music instrument and equipment insurance. You should also consider professional indemnity insurance, which protects your professional judgement and reputation (for example, if you recommend an instrument or workshop and things go wrong­). If you employ someone, you may also need employer’s liability insurance. It’s important to know what you need, and what you’ve already got with MU membership or other policies you may have.

Self-employment and maternity rights 

If you are self-employed and pay National Insurance contributions, then you are eligible for Maternity Allowance (MA). You can also claim MA if you are the spouse or civil partner of a self-employed person and you help in their business. 

For more information on eligibility read our page on Maternity Allowance

MU members can apply for adoption, maternity and paternity grants

Keep up-to-date

Keep yourself refreshed by attending MU teaching events and look out for Continuing Professional Development opportunities. Take time out to reflect on your work. Find peers to discuss your work with. Watch examples of good teaching practice.

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