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How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. – Steve Martin

Too often, I hear music teachers say they are struggling to pay bills and can’t seem to attract enough students.

And I get it.  Most of us teachers starting teaching out of a love of sharing our gifts.  We studied music, theory, composition, pedagogy, and history – but not business.

It’s similar to dentists.  They go to dental school and learn all about taking care of us, their patients.  It’s incredibly difficult and specialized. But as soon as they graduate, they are thrust into building a practice.  Or they go and try to work for someone else. No one ever told them about how to start a business.

I think entrepreneurship should be taught beginning in grade school.

Some kids get it.  They start lemonade stands and then move onto other products or services.  One of my neighbor’s kids knocked on the door one Sunday morning and asked if we would like to buy breakfast services for the next month.  She was only 8 years old! That’s cool.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. –Benjamin Franklin

In this article, I want to share with you a roadmap to a successful teaching business that anyone can do, whether you are just starting out or have been teaching for years.  Along the way, we’ll discuss some limiting beliefs that can block your way to success as well as some empowering mental models that will accelerate your progress.

Why?

Over the last decade or so, I’ve built a successful teaching business.  It wasn’t always easy and not everything worked. I’ve also taught this process to other teachers as a one-on-one coach and also in online training programs.  

Here’s a visual overview of a successful teaching business.  

Think of it as the map of the territory. The thousand foot view.  This first part is what you need to set up.

 

How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss p1
The Setup Phase and Key Decisions

 

And once you have it started and running, here’s the next phase – operations.

How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss p2

 

To be really useful, you should know where you are in the journey of your business.  

Are you just starting up?  

Have you already found a core ideal audience and now need to tweak the operations?  Are you looking to scale your success outside your geographic or client base area? This is a great article about stages of business.

Each one of these areas can be fully explored in a book, course, or months (years?) of coaching.  The problem arises when one goes to find help on starting a successful small business, and they are inundated with very specific help in a very specific area.  Usually, it’s one small part of this big picture. I wish I had a vision of this when I was just starting out. It’s my hope that this roadmap can be a guide for helping to know what you know and don’t know so you can  then seek further information.

I have helped many music teachers and school owners around the world with problems on this map.  Some needed help with the whole thing. Others just needed to tweak a small strategy within a small section.

Save Yourself Time, Energy and Frustration

Below are some recommended books that I think can eliminate much of the clutter.  It’s the 20% that will give you the 80% effectiveness. The signal from the noise. Mindset is a big part of it and shifting from a habitual state of lack to abundance is key.  But even as a self-directed learner, I believe if you are serious about your success, you need to invest in coaching.

By working with a coach you can greatly accelerate your progress and avoid the many pitfalls and dead-ends on your journey.  If you would like to discuss private or group coaching, please contact me here.

Some Recommended Books and Resources

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Carol’s Students Learn Faster and Have More Fun With Color

Though she had already been working with young music students, Carol found that it was often difficult to transition them from early childhood classes to learning to read and play instruments. That’s when she came across the idea of using color as learning scaffolding and The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

Carol has since adapted the Musicolor Method to work with her youngest preschool students, as well as some of the elementary school kids. She loves how they take to color and can learn to play faster and with more fun.

Carol Koczo
Manassas, VA

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 8
Other instruments: Voice
Number of years teaching: 35+
Number of current students: 15 

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

All kinds of music: pop, Broadway, classical.

I’ve taught music as a side job for years

Many times, I was also involved in choral groups. I have always been involved in music in some capacity. For a long time, I might have just one music student while I was working outside the home.

I got really interested in History Preservation, and I got a degree in it, but it didn’t really help me get into the workforce. I kind of fell back into music again and started focusing on it more.

Right now, I teach all levels

I know one of Andrew’s philosophies is to focus your attention on one set of students.

For a while, I has a school like that. I had been focusing mostly on the 8-12 year olds.

When I started as a private contractor with Take Lessons, it opened the door to any age from as young as 5 to 60. That kind of changes with teaching also. In some ways, it makes it more challenging and a little harder to keep track of who is where and when.

I wanted to focus more on younger students.

I started searching for something to make it easier for me to teach younger students, because they were so challenging. I hadn’t really taught that age before. So, that is what led me to The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

I spent a lot of time looking at and reading some of his articles about his philosophy and his approach.

I was searching for something that would help me, and I think it was during those articles I began thinking this may be something I am interested in.

I just knew it. It was a gut feeling that this was something that I thought I could work with, I liked the overall approach, the structuring of the program. I think it was, you know, I think I just thought this is pretty neat. So I am going to jump out of my box and try it.

I started using the color for different ages

I started using it with 8 year olds and even one of my 12 year old students. I adapted The Musicolor Method to different ages. Most everyone of them really took to the color really quickly. It was like “Oh, that’s easy. I can identify that the red is C and I can look at it and match colors.”

It was so easy for the kids, and I kind of thought they would take to it easily.

Prior to finding The Musicolor Method, a lot of what I had seen with the color was connected to rhythm—like with Boomwhacker sticks. They’re long tubes, and what you can do is use them for counting and for music.

That is another reason why I decided to take The Musicolor Method Masterclass. I realized that Andrew had actually put color into a piano format and he had evolved it so that we could use both hands.

The business lessons helped me think differently about my teaching

I am an analytical person. I think reading some of his thoughts, how he wanted to approach and structure the program and the philosophy behind it was beneficial. It helped me organize and look at my teaching in a different way.

I noticed right away that the program was very organized. Very thoughtful in the way in which he put together his program. I did like the approach overall.

It’s been well worth the investment

I know he has added things since I took the Masterclass, for example, when to buy your first piano and a few other things. All of this is helpful.

He created the whole package. He is always making changes too, and he is always presenting information differently. I couldn’t quite believe how much information and work he had put into his program. It’s been worth the investment.

Overall, I am a big fan.

Another thing that I liked that I haven’t done, is I like that he included some of the other string instruments in the program. It’s something that’s just a little different for younger students to be exposed to. I like that the information is available if I do want to use it.

I know this is a complicated process, but I am very pleased with everything he has done and continues to do. I am glad I did it.

Why I’d recommend The Musicolor Method Masterclass

I never realized when I was taking piano that it was that hard to teach. There have been a few times that I have looked at students and said, “Hmm. How did I learn this?” I think it is harder to teach than one would think.

I think Andrew’s approach has made it easier. You don’t have to use so many words, you rely more on the visuals.

There are a lot of layers to the Musicolor Method. Andrew has put a lot of thinking into, how and when you want to bring a certain idea into the lessons.

I think putting all this together into this format has been really good. I don’t think I could have done it.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

Read Carol’s product review of The Musicolor Method Masterclass on Tim Topham’s website 

Click here to see Carol’s profile

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My interview about the Musicolor Method on Tim Topham’s podcast

I was recently interviewed on the influential Creative Piano Teacher podcast with Tim Topham. Tim’s a wonderful educator who has a very active blog, podcast, and a membership site. If you’re a teacher and never heard of him, you’re in for a treat.

In the interview, I discuss

  • How and why I decided to create a method book
  • How color is used in the method
  • Why the Musicolor Method starts with vertical notation
  • How it avoids position or finger number based thinking
  • My 7 core principles of music teaching
  • Which type of student this method is particularly suited to

I also talk about a special offer on our newly updated Musicolor Masterclass

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About The Method Announcements Blog Mindset Professional Development Successful Teaching Business

Anne Reinvented Her Career With The Perfect Part-Time Piano School

After a long recovery from surgery, Anne was wondering if she would ever be able to have the stamina and drive to teach music again. She reconnected to her love of early childhood education, and her passion for playing, when she came across the Musicolor Method.

Now, Anne has reinvented herself as a private music teacher to preschool and elementary age children. She’s got a thriving, part-time business with a waiting list of eager students.

 

Anne Vardanega
Sydney, Australia

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 7
Number of years teaching: 38
Number of students before The Musicolor Method: 3-4
Number of current students: 14, plus waiting list

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

Bohemian Rhapsody movie soundtrack.

I’ve loved music since childhood

I started learning piano at 7 years old. I studied for 5 years, and I took exams for it in high school for what we call here in Australia, the HSC. In the U.S., I suppose you would call it your high school graduation.

I didn’t actually think I was clever enough to study music to graduate from high school. But I was encouraged by an inspiring and dedicated teacher who told me that I could do it.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher

At University, I studied early childhood education, and I included music in my teaching studies.

I was actually a musicology major. I didn’t have to actually do a performance, but I had to do musicology arranging and composing. I absolutely loved it.

Professionally, I focused on classroom music. I played the piano, the guitar and sang with my students.

I had my son when I was 30. I taught early childhood music classes with him. He was able to come along when he was 2-5 years old.

My son’s early music lessons were a disaster

He started at age 4 with the piano, and it really didn’t work. At that time, there didn’t seem to be childhood classes that bridged early music and formal lessons. If he had the Musicolor Method back then, he would have loved it.

My son started studying guitar in school. Now, he and his wife are professional musicians living in New York.

I started performing later in life—teaching was always first

My son inspired me to learn bass guitar and voice and start performing in my 40’s. I was the bass player, backup singer, and music director of the church.

When my son was older, I got a job at his school teaching High School music and as the performing arts convenor. It was a role that I loved.

I was helping students perform for their exams, their performances and prepare for their graduation. At the end of the year they were doing performances.

My son and his fiancee (now wife) said, “Why don’t you start off because you have your early childhood background, your general education background. Why don’t you start teaching piano?” So I taught Kinder Music and Music Theory after the school year was over.

The Musicolor Method created the next phase of my career

I was recovering from hip replacement surgery, and I was actually feeling quite down and out. I was thinking that I might not be able to teach any more.

Andrew contacted me through LinkedIn, and he sent me information about his program.

As a parent and a teacher, I already knew there was a gap for young musicians. That’s what I had experienced with taking my son to piano lessons at age 4 – they were way too hard and really turned him off learning piano.

I could see the value in the Musicolor Method right away.

Plus, I have always loved color. If I showed you around my house see you got  bright color paintings. The creative use of color in the Musicolor Method really appealed to me too. And  it has been fantastic.

The kids are engaged and excited by the colors

I just loved the colors, and the children took to it straight away. My students started singing a lot more, which appealed to me as an early childhood teacher.

We love singing songs and they loved collecting the ribbons. I made a fun folder for them. We could go slowly through it, it didn’t matter how long a child had to stay. I could slowly go with the child depending on how they were developing.

It bridges beautifully with the early childhood years of music with 3-4 year olds. It’s the perfect solution until they’re a little older and can go on to reading music.

I believe there are still not a whole lot of good resources that bridge that Kinder music phase in young children. A lot of books have young students playing on the black keys. I do utilize that as one tool for visualizing different positions on the piano, but it gets boring, and it is not as creative as the colors.

The colors inspire creativity and compositions

I do integrate composition a lot in my lessons as well because the colors make it so easy for the children to write something. I am putting together a book actually, to show Andrew what our studio here has composed.

The kids get inspired by something that happened at school, or being on a holiday, or even by the stuffed toys I have in my studio. They use all of them to write song.

Even if they are struggling with playing with five fingers, they can still be creative. I love that. If they were learning traditionally they wouldn’t  feel so good about themselves as musicians.

My part-time roster is full

I have students from age 4-9 on the Musicolor Method, and I have some older students who have gone on to other instruments but they come back to practice with me. But they actually started with the Musicolor Method.

I use it to build that transition solidly so that my students don’t lose that love for music or say it’s too hard.

The Musicolor Method helps connect with older students too

One student is turning 11 this year. I have actually said to him, “I think you need a better piano teacher now because I just focus on early childhood.”

But he’s still with me, learning harder songs like Star Wars and Harry Potter. We’re also learning chords, Beatles songs, and having fun singing together. I think that is quite interesting that he could really go to a different teacher, but for him, it is about the connection and the fun and creative process. He can play without the colors, but he still enjoys that creative side.

There are two older girls, and they are playing clarinet and saxophone. They are in grade 6. They are both in bands and they come back to me to practice. I don’t play clarinet or saxophone, but they feel confident enough with me to come back for me to help them practice. Their moms pay me to help them, I feel that connection is there to support them in their music journey.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

  Visit Anne’s studio website here. 

 

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Brett is Teaching Full Time After Doubling His Roster

While he started teaching music to make some extra cash, Brett quickly realized that he had a knack for connecting with students. The only problem? Getting enough students to pay him for regular lessons to quit his extra part-time jobs.

Within three months of going through The Musicolor Method Masterclass and being coached by Andrew, Brett doubled his student roster and became a full-time music teacher.

Brett Crudgington
Brooklyn, New York

First instrument: Saxophone
Age I started playing music: 9
Number of years teaching: 10
Number of students before The Musicolor Method: 12
Number of current students: 33 and counting, plus waiting list

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Current listening to:

Glenn Gould to calm myself down. I have also been listening to and playing a lot of Brazilian music, classical dances and samba.

I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember

I have been playing instruments since I was 9 years old, I started on the saxophone. I was at the piano one day when I was really young, and I just started playing melodies. I was copying what I knew from playing the saxophone.

My parents thought that was a little brainy to be doing. So they asked me, “Do you want piano lessons?”. I started with 30 minute piano lessons with a teacher down the road, and I took them for 3 years.

Early lessons were somewhat disorganized

My teacher would give me books to work through, but she presented the lessons in the

method books, in a haphazard way. They were a little confusing, It was very disconnected.

There wasn’t a ton of structure early on, but I did survive with my sort of natural playing talent. I still learned a lot, but it could’ve been better. I also didn’t practice a whole lot.

When I started high school, I realized I needed to practice and needed structure. I went to college in New York, and I started playing classical music. I had four years of classical training after a bunch of Jazz training.

I went pro in Brooms

In my early to mid-twenties, I worked with a project called Brooms. It was a singer/songwriter duo, me and another guy. We were composing and producing albums.

We did a lot on Spotify. We produced four albums, and we got some traction. I got a couple songs featured in commercials, which was really cool.

These days, I’m focusing on running a business and keeping my skills up.  

I didn’t take my music business seriously at first

I saw music lessons as a way to make a living, but I didn’t like the business side of it. I loved playing.

I was juggling another job, and I had 12 private music students. I kept getting calls for students, and I thought “Okay, I gotta figure this out. I can’t do both.”

I had no business background, no corporate experience, no marketing or formal training. I didn’t take any classes. I was drowning in hours of teaching, and trying to manage it all. I needed to tighten up my communication and what I was offering.

The Musicolor Method came along at the right time. Andrew offered me coaching sessions along with the Masterclass, and I was like “Great! Sign me up.”

The Musicolor Method doubled my student roster

Since we started working together, I’ve been teaching full time. No more juggling another job. That’s it!

Before I started using the Musicolor Method Masterclass, I had 12 students. Within about 6-9 months, I doubled my student roster. I used his excellent product to help a lot of young kids who can’t read, to help them play these songs.

Andrew’s course gives teachers a way to translate the value of what his method gives, to the parents themselves.

It shows you exactly how to structure a lesson plan, writing lesson notes to families and communicating in a consistent way. It helps you run a professional business and show the value of what you’re providing.

He simplifies the process of running a music lesson business.

It saved me years of frustration and struggle

There are many resources out there, and they are all pretty great. But it’s different to work with somebody and get the right structure at the right time.

You could have 100 things to do as a business owner, and a consultant will come in and say “don’t do that, don’t do that and just focus on these 10 things”. It saves you like years.

It’s a genius way of approaching a 4-year-old mind in a very intuitive way.

The Musicolor Method lets young students go home and rehearse these songs on their own, without needing a parent there to help them out. They can figure it out on their own.

I didn’t know what to do with very young students before Andrew came along. Quite frankly I didn’t have the time.

Andrew spent some time in the library reading up on this, and he has tried a lot of the stuff out. So what he has done is created a great, intuitive way to reach these kids but do it in a structured way too.

It’s just unique because he has information design background too. So he was able to kind of go, immediately see the problems and address those problems.

Parents love seeing their kids succeed

I think the parents appreciate the approach. It’s intuitive and their kids have fun playing right away. They really love seeing their kids succeed. The kids are enjoying it, and the parents don’t feel lost either.

Parents are not worried about, “Are my kids retaining any of this?” As long as the teacher kind of addresses that consistently and says “Look, this is how we’re moving and what we expect over the next 3-6 months.”

It helps you, as the teacher, to be very clear about the pace and structure.

What I’d tell you about taking The Musicolor Method Masterclass

The Musicolor Method Masterclass will give you the structure you need to make your lessons.

Especially, if you’ve been teaching for a few years, but you still need help structuring your lessons. This can transform your business.

If you have a little success from teaching and you enjoy it, this can be the game changer.

It will give you the marketing skills you need to treat it like a business. You won’t feel like you’re getting swallowed up by your business. Instead, you’ll learn how to manage it in a way that suits you.

And because this method opens up a whole new market to me (4-6 year olds) I can suddenly take on all of them and it works amazingly for them. It’s saved me a lot of time figuring out what works.

Now I have a different class of problems. I am managing 33 students, and now I have to figure out how to scale and manage a full roster of students.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

Visit Brett’s studio website here.