Last summer my local public school district decided to lengthen the school day and have fewer days of school to save money and balance their budget. This could have had a disastrous effect on my studio’s income. I went through stages; denial, grief, depression and was really unhappy about the situation. Once the board had voted and the decision was final I was ANGRY. Then I decided to do something about it. The introvert me wanted to tell people that I would be fine and had wanted to cut back anyway, but the bold businesswoman me took steps that not only strengthened by studio, but actually helped my studio grow.
I decided to do basic consulting with myself. I have an outline that I go through with each of my teacher clients and I asked myself the same set of questions. one of my goals? I want to leave a legacy of a community who loves and can participate in music making, and having 50% less students just didn’t fit in my outlook.
My situation is unique; I have a separate job as a Violinist in the Wichita Symphony. This commitment takes me away from my studio 4 weeknights every other week as well as Saturday night and Sunday afternoon every other week. To maintain my own sanity I’ve had the same schedule each week regardless . I have to leave my house on Symphony rehearsal nights at 6:20 and am done teaching those four nights by 6:15, leaving the house with dinner/coffee/water/violin/music in tow.
my stand partner and I having a good time at a rehearsal in 2015
The new school schedule wouldn’t have a majority of kids out of school until 4:40, so the earliest they would be able to come to a lesson would be 5 p.m. If I had to finish lessons by 6:15 that would leave only 1 hour 15 minutes that I would be able to teach 4 days a week.
I gave myself a pep talk. I’m an awesome and hard working teacher! I expect a lot from my students but i’m also fun (which doesn’t come easily sometimes!)
I was so mad, I decided to contact the local news to do a story on me and they DID! Here is a link if you’d like to view it (boy was I nervous and they squeezed me in without much notice, so my studio was a hot mess!)
The next thing I did was write an honest email to parents of suburb and private school kids who get out of school much earlier. I told them I knew it was asking a lot for them to forgo a trip home to relax a bit before their lesson, but I really needed to teach them ALL as early as possible to save those later times for those who were dismissed later. To my surprise, when I started scheduling lessons, everyone was on board! I had a much easier time than i expected planning my schedule in the fall. Perhaps it helped to see my news story which explained the reasons behind the longer school day and how it would affect me personally.
I also changed my marketing strategy. Knowing that i was OUT of times to teach local kids, I started hitting the suburbs hard with Facebook Ads and placing ads in their community facebook groups (for free!) and I believe this helped with recognition of me and my studio. I also personally drove out to many a small library, donut shop and coffee shop with creative and special ads that were made for the type of business they were in
These went in a health food store near me…
And These of course were in the donut shops!
(and i did a blog post about how and why I created those ads here: https://violinjudy.com/2016/09/change-marketing-strategy-today/)
I also put up some of my nice yard signs from vistaprint (get a nice discount here if you want to order your own! https://vistaprint.extole.com/s/zs7yi
Instead of dwindling numbers, my studio flourished. My time commitment and budget was small but I had filled almost every day with private lessons and piano together group piano classes. I had just two afternoons left that I hadn’t filled those earlier afternoon times yet. I decided to do something NEW and offered Violin Clubs to the 3 local public schools who would release earlier than all the rest (due to busing issues.)
I emailed each teacher with a flyer explaining the concept (a weekly gathering at my home studio right after school of Violin students who wanted to do more or have fun with Violin and weren’t ready or couldn’t afford private instruction) and I even visited and volunteered at schools so that kids could see and hear what I had to offer. It took a few months, but I now have filled those afternoons with Violin Clubs and I am having a lot of fun with them! I’m hoping to start one more club in the spring and then I will be at 100 percent capacity (I also teach on the weekends!)
This year I was sure to profusely thank parents for their flexibility in lesson scheduling during my Thankful for Parents week, which i blogged about here:
I hope my ideas have inspired you! We all know the joys of being an IMT vastly outweigh the sorrows!
If you would like to have 60 days of easy to follow and implement ideas to invigorate your studio please check out my 60 Day Makeover: Music Teacher Edition which is now on sale at amazon.com here:
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