How to Grow Your Student Base

  1. Thom
  2. December 28, 2007 6:48 am

“I need more students!”

Are you a beginning teacher? Perhaps you are a high school student just starting, or maybe already an experienced instructor looking for more students. This guide will help you, no matter what you teach! When I was in high school I began working at a local music store. One December evening, the owner and the violin instructor of the store had had a fight over the phone, and the violinist had stated that he wasn’t coming back. I stepped in and began teaching all ‘two’ of the students – One of which only had two lessons that were paid for on a gift certificate with no plans/funds to stay beyond that time.

I understood that teaching vs. working hourly in the store was much more profitable, but I needed more students and I needed them fast! Guitarists are a plenty and that was surely reflected in the store. All of the guitar instructors had full schedules, while I had but one student. Not only that, just as I had begun teaching, a professional violin teacher of many years was opening up shop directly next door. Any prospective students of violin would surely attend the violin school rather than study with a long haired high school student. The owner of the store, however, was impressed at how quickly I had stepped up to the task, filling my schedule!



The most important aspect of any business is marketing. Whether or not you teach at a music store that “rents” out a room to you or you teach out of your own house, you are in business for yourself. So what can you do to market yourself?

  • Professional Voice mail Greeting
  • Business Cards
  • Local School Lists
  • Fliers
  • Incentive Program
  • Cold Approaching

Professional Voice mail Greeting

If your voice mail is something completely random or unfriendly, then first time callers are likely to get a bad impression. A simple format for a voicemail greeting could be

”Hello! You have reached the voice mail box of ______, if you are interested lessons please leave a detailed message including your name and phone number, and I shall return your call as soon as I can! Thanks and have a great day!” Don’t forget to smile while you speak, it will come through in your voice!

Business Cards

Get them as soon as you can! They are cheap and easy to take care of, simple visit for free business cards or go to Officemax and have 1000 cards made for about twenty dollars! Pick up a hard case card carrier to keep your cards on you and in good condition and pass them out at any opportunity you get!

  1. Free lunch drawings at restaurants.
  2. Free Ad billboards at local grocery stores
  3. Carnivals, fairs, lines.
  4. Any time you exchange contact information with some one.
  5. Any conversation relating the topic of “profession,” “music,” or “teaching.”

Extra Tip: Turn your business card into a coupon by making it redeemable for “First Lesson Free,” giving students and parents a chance to ‘test drive’ your product.

Local School Lists

Just about every public school music program keeps a list of local private teachers, often listing them by age/experience. If you teach an instrument that is offered at a local elementary, middle, or high school, be sure to attend all concerts and speak with the director every chance you get! Don’t forget to mention you are a teacher and ask about getting your name on their private teacher list! Make sure that you really devote yourself to these students as not only do they reflect you to the director, but also word spreads through students and their parents and you will soon have more people calling you for lessons!



Have something attractive and colorful to catch the eye of a passerby. This is an example of a flier I used to use while teaching at a particular school. I did not mention the name of the school; instead I used the name of the city as a selling point. Geneva, Illinois is known in the area to be a bit of an upper neighborhood, and is presented as such. My gym had a community board for posting of services. I posted this flier with an attachment that held several of my cards for people to take. I hung up similar fliers all over at grocery stores, coffee shops, music stores, and anywhere else that would let me hang something up!

Incentive Programs

Are you looking to get a boost in word of mouth advertising? Try sending home a memo to your student’s parents letting them know that for any student they refer that stays a month, you’ll give credit them two lessons! Be sure to keep a journal on this so you know who referred who, and how long they stayed! If you teach at a school that handles all billing at the front desk and is unwilling to work with your incentive program, simply offer the parents a check. Though a music school may try and claim ownership of your students, the real relationship is between you and the student, the school is simply a place of meeting.

Cold Approaching

Both schools I taught at happened to be located in the downtown area of their respective cities, which was great during all the summer time festivals! If you have business cards with the, “First Lesson Free,” offer I suggested earlier, this is a great place to hand those out! Make sure what you are wearing is friendly and open- if you are into the metal or goth style of dress, make sure that you wear something that most people would consider to be “normal.” The reason for this is people judge based on appearance, and parents are very protective of their children. If they are uncomfortable with your appearance, they may be uncomfortable with you as well.

There are two ways you can approach, that is direct and indirect. An example of indirect is walking alongside some one, making small talk, and then mentioning you’re a new teacher in the area looking for students.

The direct would be simply walking up to people, saying hello, and going right into your spiel. I usually would approach and smile, and say,
”Hi! I’m a new violin teacher over at XYZ store down the street, I’m just passing out some free lessons,” while handing them my card. Sometimes depending on the people I may qualify or talk with them for a while, asking if they play anything or if they know anyone who was interested in picking up violin. Then I would let them know we also offer guitar, bass, and drums.


Be warm and friendly, and remember you’re just handing these out. Sometimes you may see a return of 4-6 people come in for a lesson, and others you may not see any.



How well do you know your student and their parents? How well do they know you? Keep a file that includes parents/siblings names, as well as your student’s hobbies and interests. Do they tell you about a birthday? Write it down! When have you ever gotten a birthday card from your private teacher? Make any other notes you want, so you can look over this file any time to refresh yourself.

Impress people by remembering their names, interests, and dates!


You don’t have to be all business. In a 30-minute lesson, spend about 60 seconds every now and then just to talk or tell a funny joke or story. This helps keep things fun and can be used to break frustration during a particularly difficult lesson.


Collect Your Bills

If you take care of your own payments, keep a filing system so you can track your payments. Especially when you have a large number of students, and one pays weekly, another monthly, you can easily track who has paid for how much, and depending on your policies, who has a free lesson or credit. Don’t be afraid to ask for late payments, they are paying you for your service. If you aren’t collecting, you’re working for free.

Leave a Reply