Here in Calgary we are heading into the season where my clients are VERY happy they have in-home lessons & I dream of one day having an in-home studio. (The background image was the windshield of my car earlier this week when my clients were glad to stay inside.) And, when it gets really cold … well, I try to list off all the reasons it’s great to teach at my client’s homes.
So, for all the teachers out there who are dreaming of the day you can have your clients come to you (instead of the other way around), here are my top reasons for going to your students. (Though these aren’t in any particular order.)
- You can charge more. Period. In-home lessons means clients pay a premium. (Depending on where you live, up to 50% more … though sadly that isn’t the case here. Research first for your area.) If a client lives outside your designated area, you can add a travel fee. Mine is a very modest at this point & in the future will be increased. But if you live more than a 15 minute drive from my home, you are paying a travel fee.
- Your home does not need to be show home worthy. The idea of our home being quiet with all toys put away … sorry, I couldn’t stop laughing. Our twin boys defy stereotypes & do not stop talking. EVER. As for putting things away. Well, that is a continual work in progress. Needless to say, keeping our home quiet, organized & tidy for students coming here just isn’t worth the hassle. BUT, it is important to have an office. It doesn’t have to be big, but I would recommend a door. The boys have the man cave. I have my office where I can go to focus & be surrounded by all things musical. A nice to have … cleaning service that comes every couple of weeks so you can have a bit more family time!
- Uninterrupted time to yourself. If it wasn’t for my travel time, I have NO clue when I would get time to listen to podcasts for professional development & listen to new music. The only other times I am in the car … well, imagine trying to hold (at least) 2 separate conversations while focusing on the road. My time with my kids is time for family. Travel time for work is time for me.
- Get a marketing edge over teachers with a similar style or offerings. My homeschooling parents have told me how much they appreciate having lessons first thing in the morning. Usually they have to drive all over the city for programming so having someone come to their home really helps. This is NOT to say that you should steal clients from another teacher. There are enough students to go around & I always check to make sure that transfer students aren’t leaving another teacher in a lurch. If I am unable to take on a new student, I offer my wait-list or recommendations of other teachers that may suite their needs & goals. Market wisely, but spread the love!
- Pets without the responsibility. This may not be a plus in everyone’s books. I LOVE animals & so do many of my students. I’ve sang “Happy Birthday” to gerbils (& seen pictures of the birthday party later), had cats who believe the weekly lesson is their spa treatment (boy are they upset after the holidays), & dogs who lean on my leg while I’m teaching in the hopes they will get petted. Bullfrogs, birds, rabbits, & other assorted pets also make the list.
- Tax write-offs. In Canada, you can write off many expenses as a self-employed individual. At the time of this post, when you travel to your student’s homes, vehicle expenses such as fuel, maintenance & even lease payments can be used to bring down your taxable income. This is based on the percentage of business vehicle use. My first tax season, I spent a lot of time on the phone with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) asking question after question until I felt confident in what I could write-off … & what I couldn’t. I am NOT an accountant, so I highly recommend becoming familiar with the tax code in your country.
- Beautiful scenery. Depending on the time of year, I get to see a gorgeous sunset or sunrise. One of my favourite times of the year is when we get the Harvest Moon. Coming home & seeing that huge, orange moon makes me relax every time. Plus, watching the seasons change can be quite amazing! The mist hanging in the valley with snow-covered mountains in the background. The riot of fall colours on the trees. Spring’s incredibly blue prairie skies that stretch out forever. The downside … it just isn’t safe to take a picture while driving.
- Seeing the practice environment. There is no guess work. If the piano is out of tune, in an out-of-the-way, dark corner or smack dab in the middle of everything, I know. If something isn’t working, I can address it right away … including asking siblings to play elsewhere when my student is not able to focus.
- Being a part of the family. Every week, I spend time with not just my student, but their parent(s), sibling(s), pets & anyone else who is living or staying in their home. Siblings want to be part of lessons because they see what their older sibling is doing. I’ve invited grandparents personally to recitals & raved about my students to visiting relatives. Parents LOVE the bragging rights & my students know grandma & grandpa are looking forward to hearing how much their song has improved.
What about when the roads get too rough to safely travel? Having a clause for FaceTime or Skype lessons are a lifesaver. You stay home, safe & sound, while teaching through your phone, tablet, or computer. And, the majority of parents are highly understanding when you occasionally need to use the clause.
Use technology to your advantage to make the most of your time. What you lose in time for teaching should be put to other aspects of your business (i.e. call back clients, brainstorm ideas, etc.) or professional development (i.e. podcasts). My travel time is key to keeping on top of podcasts & brainstorming solutions to problems.
So this winter as we travel through the cold & snow, let’s remember there ARE positives to traveling to our student’s homes. Maybe you might even get tea when you arrive on those really cold nights! And, when all else fails, remember that scrapping the ice off your windshield counts as a workout. At least that my rational & I’m sticking to it!
[I still dream of having my students come to me some day, but for now I’ll enjoy planning a studio with an unlimited budget & dream-worthy space.]
What are you top reasons for teaching outside of your home? I would love to read your comments below!