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#1711728 - 07/12/11 02:47 AM Is anyone a traveling piano teacher?
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
I recently found out from the two music stores in my part of town that they don't have room for another teacher right now so instead of teaching out of my home (since I think it would be too stressful with a 4 year old and a 2 year old) I am going to teach in my student's homes. I only have one student right now, whose home I travel to, and I am going to target his neighborhood since it is relatively wealthy and already have had a lady call me about lessons for her daughter who is a neighbor of my current student - so that is encouraging. Does anyone have experience with being a "traveling piano teacher" out there? I would appreciate any tips or advice you may have for me. Thanks.


Edited by pianogirl1978 (07/12/11 02:47 AM)
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#1711748 - 07/12/11 03:51 AM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
It depends partly on how much teaching you need & want to do. Travelling puts serious limits on how many students per day you can take.

I certainly see that working at home by yourself while your own small children are there would be pretty difficult - but if you are not there because you're out teaching, then what will they do?
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(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1711807 - 07/12/11 06:55 AM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 757
Loc: South Carolina
I started my private teaching career as a travelling teacher. Just make sure that you can first schedule all the students in one particular neighborhood on one round trip from your home. Be firm with them about this.

Also be firm about a travel surcharge. Not only should gas/tolls be covered, but you need to be paid for your travel time also. I remember rounding off travel to the nearest 15 minute increment, and using a rate that was maybe 65-75% of my teaching rate for each increment. So, the surcharge should cover all of that.

The biggest pain are makeups. Just try to schedule them so that the logistics are easy or as convenient as possible.

Good Luck!
_________________________
Piano performance and instruction (former college music professor).

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#1711810 - 07/12/11 07:01 AM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Meilen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 48
Loc: Switzerland
I much prefer teaching at home now. For the amount of time you travel around and teach a couple of students you could teach more at home and still schedule in small breaks in between if you wanted to. I agree that teaching with a 4 and 2 year old in the background isn't going to work, but you'll have to find a childcare solution either way. Is it possible to have the children at home with a carer while you're teaching? Of course it depends on your possible teaching setup at home.

I often have people ask me to come to their houses but I just say I can't, and I've found that I eventually had more than enough students anyway. I actually have my six-year old daughter at home much of the time while I'm teaching so travelling is just not an option for me.
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Teaching piano in English in Switzerland!

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#1712033 - 07/12/11 02:42 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: Meilen]
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
My husband is always home in the evenings so he is my "childcare", however, I do not want to have a whole bunch of students at my home because even tho our piano is in our basement, the floors are paper thin and I would be distracted as well as the students with the noise. My kids are not terrors, they are just not as well-behaved when they know mom is with someone else in the house and they can't get to her! I only plan to take about 5-8 students right now. I am realistic about how many I could take just being a traveling teacher, but I have to start somewhere. When my kids are both in school then maybe I will be able to open a home studio. Thanks for all the advice.
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Private Piano Teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska

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#1712090 - 07/12/11 05:15 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
If you want to keep student numbers under 10 for now, then travelling to see them is not unreasonable at all. If and when you switch to teaching in your home, you may lose a few students over it - but that's a minor issue and better to cross that bridge when you get to it.
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#1712104 - 07/12/11 05:56 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Scott Coletta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/07/11
Posts: 514
Loc: Chicago
Pianogirl1978, I've been a traveling teacher exclusively since I started teaching in 1998. I've just recently moved and set up a studio at home but I plan to continue offering lessons in the students' homes as well. It's definitely important to charge enough to cover your time/gas/etc. Over the last 4 years while teaching in Maryland/DC suburbs I kept between 40 and 50 students, working 40 to 50 hours per week. So on average you can probably figure on one hour per student. Of course it's possible to schedule students close together who are in the same/nearby neighborhood, which allows for a better student per hour ratio, but often I had to drive for 30 or 45 minutes to get to the next student or area of students so that pulls the average down. I found that being too inflexible resulted in students favoring their other activities. I would suggest charging enough to make an hourly rate in the same ballpark as what you could teaching at home. Then don't forget to keep track of your mileage and vehicle maintenance for tax purposes. If you go to my website (in my signature... local lessons) you can check out how I structure payments and deal with misses and rescheduling. It's on the "scheduling/fees" page. This system has worked very well for me. But again, my strongest advice is don't undercharge. People will pay an extra $20 or so for the convenience of not having to leave home. I started off not charging enough and found that I had to raise my rates significantly each year to improve things. I just didn't expect so much driving time, but it can be hard to avoid. Good luck and feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.

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#1712109 - 07/12/11 06:08 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: Scott Coletta]
Scott Coletta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/07/11
Posts: 514
Loc: Chicago
Oh, and one more thing... not necessarily relevant here but I just think it's worthwhile to mention. Some teachers undercharge just because they don't really need to make that much teaching. Perhaps they have a spouse who "brings in the dough" or are only teaching as a hobby or feel they aren't qualified enough to charge too much. I think it's important for the teaching profession as a whole that teachers charge in line with the going rate for their region... such as what local established studios/schools charge. Teachers who undercharge can devalue the teaching profession, which makes it hard for teachers that are trying to earn a living solely from teaching. Just something I feel is important to consider when determining your rates smile.

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#1712648 - 07/13/11 01:56 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
trillingadventurer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/28/08
Posts: 304
Loc: San Diego
I have been a mobile piano teacher for the past 15 years. For that time I loved the variety in teaching environments and watching my students progress (or not) in their own homes. If their piano needed tuning, I could tell the parent right away because I was there. If I had a cancellation I would take a break in a local cafe and catch up on paper work, looking over sheet music, scheduling, etc. I have a 7 year old daughter so I was able to often able to take her with me or drop her off at my mom's. Or my husband would watch her. I also didn't have to worry about keeping a studio or bathroom clean, or sending my family away. (As I type this I have a student arriving in less than an hour and my bathroom is a mess and piano needs dusting...) I feel like I have learned so much by being a mobile teacher and now I am hanging up that aspect of my work.

We are expecting another baby in August and having to negotiate two children is a whole different ball game (as you know!) I can't just tote around two kids all over town. LOL

But for me, here is the bottom line, by traveling, my income is much lower than teaching at home. A minute spent waiting at the door, and then chit-chatting with parents at the end of the lesson tends to eat up precious work minutes. Also, you need at least 5 students in one area to make it worth your while. It can get very complicated.

Infact I ran into some complications this year because I had been teaching in one area very well for about 4 years. I had 7 wonderful students. Well, 4 of them were about the same age and they all graduated from high-school this last year. They are done with lessons. That left three at it wasn't enough to keep me driving out their. I couldn't drum up any more business in this area so within a few months our income went down hundreds of dollars. And I had to painfully drop the other three who were not interested in making the drive out ot me. (Which really surprised me....)

As word gets out that your a mobile teacher, you start getting calls from ALL OVER the place. I live in San Diego and was tacking on as much as 100 miles a day....which is tax deductible by the way...but gee whiz! That's like 2 hours of driving on certain days.

Now I have a home studio and have limited my in home lessons to only our neighborhood. I am amazed at how much extra time I seem to have...not driving. Since I hadn't raised my mobile rates in awhile, I am charging the same amount as before and I am noticing a huge difference since I am not spending so much on gas...

That being said, I don't regret having done it. I have learned sooo much. And I am still a little bit mobile because I like getting out of the house.

You just have to have a solid policy and stick to it.

I am beginning to realize how much more control I have by being at home...things have a way of shifting out of your control when you go to them. There are many more possibilities for income loss (ie your car breaking down, or heavy traffic causing you to miss lessons... )
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M. Katchur

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#1712729 - 07/13/11 04:55 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: trillingadventurer]
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Scott and Trilling Adventurer, Thanks so much for all the advice and taking the time to share your stories with me. I sometimes feel held back in the teaching profession because of my children. I wish I could teach all my students at home because it would make the most sense financially, but I will admit that it is nice to get out of the house and actually use my talents to teach a child piano. It give me a lot of satisfaction. I may teach one or two out of my home, since one of my latest inquiries says he has no piano, only a keyboard and I don't want to teach him on a keyboard in his home. I think my husband and I could make it work with me teaching most of my students outside the home and then one night a week taking 1 or 2 at home. After all it is only an hour or two and the kids will have no choice but to just get used to it! I do really appreciate hearing others' stories about how you have made it work, especially ones that know what it is like to have kids. smile
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Private Piano Teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska

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#1713170 - 07/14/11 11:05 AM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
Meilen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 48
Loc: Switzerland
I agree with Trillingadventurer. I have so much more time now than when I was travelling all the time, and I love having everything at my fingertips. I can grab a resource if I think of it instead of wishing I'd thought to bring it along with me. I've got my whiteboard, table for theory and games, box of percussion instruments for the little kids etc etc all set up, and I can print something for a student there and then.

I also think there's something about kids having to go out of their comfort zone (i.e home) for a lesson. I often found that kids were harder to pin down when it was on their home territory.

But if that's what you have to do you do it, and I did make it work for me for quite a while. Just saying that the alternative is so much easier!



Edited by Meilen (07/14/11 11:05 AM)
Edit Reason: added something
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Teaching piano in English in Switzerland!

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#1713331 - 07/14/11 03:38 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1017
Loc: NJ
Scott, after reading your post, I had better increase my prices. Thanks for sharing that info with us. I am so underpricing and devaluing my services. I actually charge my families LESS than I charge at the store I work for. Teaching in students' homes was a starting point for me when I resumed teaching and I wanted to draw students by charging what I thought was a reasonable fee. I am going to increase that now.

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#1713336 - 07/14/11 03:45 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1017
Loc: NJ
pianogirl, please make sure that your studio policy includes things such as ensuring that they keep pets, friends, siblings out of the room, that lighting is appropriate, that a cd player, chair for you, hand sanitizer, tissues are in the room (little ones like to stick fingers in nose, eyes, ears). I would be very firm about your make up policy. They are getting a huge benefit by having you drive to their home. If 24 hours' notice isn't provided for student cancellations, I do not give makeups. I can tell you from my experience, that there is a whole different dynamic when you are in their home--they act up more, get up and move around the room, call to their parents/siblings. I find their focus is greatly decreased as opposed to them going to a studio. They are far too comfortable in their own homes.

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#1713734 - 07/15/11 09:06 AM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
pianogirl13669 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/10
Posts: 32
Loc: Ogdensburg, NY
I have been a traveling piano teacher for the past 6 years. I have found it a good experience. It's been nice since I've been able to work with families and teach sibilings. While at home they can be doing homework or other activities and so no one is "waiting" for their lesson. I even have one family who insists on feeding me dinner and when their older children have gone off to college, they have filled the open slots with other relatives who come to their home to take lessons from me. The distance issue really hasn't affected me too much. I have had to turn down opportunities because the travel would eat up way too much time but I have never had a problem having enough students who live close enough together to make this work (and I live in a very rural area)!

I don't have children of my own, but I have enjoyed not having to have people in my space. It sounds awful but I like being able to just decompress and focus on my own music when I am at home.
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Beethoven Op. 126
Mendelssohn - Prelude and Fugue in e minor
Debussy - Les Collines d'Anacapri

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#1713817 - 07/15/11 11:53 AM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl13669]
miaeih Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 267
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: pianogirl13669
I have been a traveling piano teacher for the past 6 years. I have found it a good experience. It's been nice since I've been able to work with families and teach sibilings. While at home they can be doing homework or other activities and so no one is "waiting" for their lesson. I even have one family who insists on feeding me dinner and when their older children have gone off to college, they have filled the open slots with other relatives who come to their home to take lessons from me. The distance issue really hasn't affected me too much. I have had to turn down opportunities because the travel would eat up way too much time but I have never had a problem having enough students who live close enough together to make this work (and I live in a very rural area)!

I don't have children of my own, but I have enjoyed not having to have people in my space. It sounds awful but I like being able to just decompress and focus on my own music when I am at home.


I've been teaching over 10 years traveling to the student's houses and also had similar experiences as you described. Any good teacher will be recommended and usually the referrals will be close by as they go to the same school. I've had 90% of students all living within the same development so there was no driving back and forth. Usually when one student drops or cancels, the families are very understanding and try to fill the slots themselves so I'm not left waiting around till the next lesson.

I've also had several families who thought feeding me dinner was part of the "deal" to have me teach at their house; should have said yes =).

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#1714247 - 07/16/11 12:44 AM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
trillingadventurer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/28/08
Posts: 304
Loc: San Diego
When I visit my student's homes I have benefited many amazing things:

*Full on breakfast with cappuccinos! (My Sunday "brunch" students)
*A nice glass of wine (if they are my last lesson)
*Thoughtful conversation before I dally up to my next student's home.
*Incredible city views depending on where my students live.



As I write this I will have 1 more day next week of driving and then I will be totally local. (I am expecting a baby in 3-4 weeks!) It has taken me 2 years to gradually make this change without sacrificing alot of income...Next month will be slim but I just hope my business will grow locally when the school year starts. My daughter is 7 so she is a great little "business card" for me at her school...Nevertheless I am wondering what it will be like...juggling teaching with family (and especially a newborn...)

Hard to believe I built an entire livelihood on biking around with a bunch of music and puppets and simply sharing music.

I am a little nervous with this new change...keeping things tidy, having peeps in my space, etc. But also...it is so nice to have ALL of my resources here....and baby and daughter will be nearby as well. We recently acquired a nice printer and it's right next to my piano....

I would not have traded these last 15 years of being a mobile piano teacher for anything. It's been really wonderful and it has served me well. Now that I am local again, perhaps I will get back on the bicycle like the good ol' days....

Best of luck to all you teachers: mobile or home based!
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M. Katchur

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#1714581 - 07/16/11 04:27 PM Re: Is anyone a traveling piano teacher? [Re: pianogirl1978]
tdow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 203
Loc: Canada
I started out teaching this way before then moving my studio into a rented-from-a-friend space and then my home before moving into the commercial space it is now. There are definately benefits to it (mainly not having people intrude on your personal home space) but there are drawbacks too. Generally I have found that people take in-home lessons less sesriously (ie. kids taking lessons in their pajamas, kids having playdates who are forced to wait for their friend to finish their lesson, TV in the background etc.) If you are just starting out it is definately a great way to get an edge on the competition....after all as a mom yourself you know that nothing could be easier than having piano lessons come to you instead of packing up all your children and going somewhere. I found that if I was extremely organized with my materials, patient with the circumstances that came with being in someone else's home and definate about scheduling my route then it was generally a good experience. Once you get more than 10 students though I think it would get to be a bit much.

Once I had a baby being at home was both good (easy to schedule quick feeding breaks in when she was very small) but also difficult (I was uber aware of her in the background if she would cry etc. while I was teaching). Balancing teaching with a family can be tricky...I'm expecting my second at the end of October and am already preparing for a huge shift in my teaching life. We miss out on the luxury of maternity leave! smile
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