In 2007, I took on my first piano student as a way to supplement the income I earned at my full-time school job as a music therapist. By 2008, I was traveling to students’ homes 5 days a week and had almost 20 students (while still working full-time at the school). In 2009, I opened a dedicated studio at my home and was able to teach 25 students in the evenings…all while still working long days.
After four years of juggling a crazy schedule, I resigned from my full-time school position and was officially 100% self-employed as a studio owner. Today marks one year since doing so, and I haven’t looked back once!
It’s been an eye-opening year, and I’ve learned countless lessons about business, teaching, and finding balance. I’ve talked with many fellow music educators and music therapists who are anxious to follow this same path in the future, so in case you are one of them, here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Last summer, in preparation for my first year on my own, I doubled the number of students in my studio. Two weeks in, I found myself overworked, completely stressed, and out of touch with my friends and family. I was making way more money than I needed to be financially comfortable, and in all other areas of my life, I was extremely uncomfortable. So after the summer session, I reduced that ridiculous workload and was much, much happier.
- Don’t change who you are as a teacher for the sake of your business. I had this idea that since my studio was now full-time and therefore, more “official”, I had to change my (formerly lax and casual) manner of teaching and relating with my students and their families. But it didn’t take long to realize that there was a reason my studio was successful in the first place, and changing my personality by becoming more formal and business-like was only hurting that.
- Keep things exciting. Once I got into the groove, I found myself becoming a bit complacent with my business. I had already cleared so many hurdles that I wasn’t setting new goals for myself, which left me a bit bored. Now I always make sure to have a fun goal to work towards — something challenging but enjoyable.
- Ask for help. I’ve always been a pretty independent person, especially where my work is concerned. But running a full-time business was new territory for me, and I had to learn to ask others for help when I was out of my comfort zone. Why reinvent the wheel when I had friends who had already crossed bridges that I was just now approaching? I understand now that people like being looked to as a mentor, and that most often, they are completely willing to provide guidance.
- Enjoy the freedom. Another misconception I had was that I needed to spend every waking hour of the day doing something work-related, whether that meant lesson planning, marketing, organizing repertoire, or paperwork. Now I’ve learned to not only accept the responsibilities of being a business owner, but also to savor the perks!
The hardest year may be over, but I’m looking forward to the challenges and possibilities that this next year will bring. What important lessons have you learned when it comes to running a studio?