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Hey everyone,
I have recently been offered some online work with a music school. I'm really wary of working with any music schools, as previous schools I've worked with have been disorganised and difficult to work with. What I like about this school is that they seem extremely organised, and in my meeting with the head of school I felt they had good values. Although I teach a lot of online students privately, I do worry sometimes that I won't have enough work in a few months time when things return to normal (will they ever return to normal? Maybe I'm being too optimistic here..). The school teaches both in-person and online lessons, however I live far away so would only be doing online lessons with them. The school have taught online for several years, so it may be a great place to work with in future if I struggle to get online students. They also do other types of music classes other than just piano, which would be a nice change.

I would really like to work for this school, however they pay £25/hr. They have said this will go up the longer I work with them. This is more than I was earning with the other music schools, however my private rate is currently more than £30 per hour. A few of my initial online students pay a rate of £25/hr, as I offered a discount when I had very few students- I plan to raise this in the future to get everyone up to a minimum of £30/hr.

I checked the school's website, and they charge £40 per hour. If I was working in the school it would make sense that they'd need to take a fair bit of the cut due to rent/heating/water etc. But as I'm only planning to work for them online, £25/hr seems like quite little. I would love to hear some others opinions on this, specifically anyone out there who runs a school or works at a school?

So here are my options:
1. Accept the £25 and start working for them.
2. Ask that I get a minimum of £30 per hour as this is what I work for normally.
3. Accept the £25/hr, but ask when they would raise this to higher rate.

I'm interested in getting a second opinion on this, and see what everyone out there thinks.
Right now I would like to work for them, so I am leaning towards option 3.
I guess another factor at the heart of this, is that it can feel a bit uncertain working for yourself and can make it more difficult to get a job in the future working for an organisation. Any thoughts and opinions appreciated.
Thanks.

Last edited by PianoPlayer1685; 02/28/21 06:31 AM.
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If you can keep your online students and consider the music school teaching is an extra income, so why not...
Otherwise if it is a full time music school position, why don't you ask to teach for partial time and keep as many as possible your current students for the beginning?

Last edited by zonzi; 02/28/21 10:11 AM.

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This is very interesting! On one hand, if you don't ask, the answer is no. On the other, is there a risk that by asking, you will irritate the decision-makers, resulting in your offer being rescinded? (i.e., unless they are looking for YOU and what YOU personally bring to the table, they could move on to the next candidate who won't question the pay)

I never negotiated when I was one of many teachers on a staff. If I were an owner, I would probably find it onerous to track different rates of pay* for the "same type of work". Also, there could be discontent among teachers once they found out that some people made more or less than others. However, I did negotiate when I was bringing a program to a school and being the only one doing that sort of thing in the school.

*I do know of a place that has "artist" and "master" teachers. The former is considered less skilled? less experienced? less capable? less degreed? and the latter is considered more all of whatever are their criteria. Students pay more to study with the "master" staff, who I assume are also paid more.

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
Although I teach a lot of online students privately, I do worry sometimes that I won't have enough work in a few months time when things return to normal

Food for thought: are you content/satisfied/calm about the school's ability to provide you with work? If not, why not, and why do you not think you could do better for yourself? If you do trust the school to provide the work, then that is part of the value they bring, not only the rent and other physical costs of business. Also, how much work are they giving you? Is it worth the opportunity cost of not pursuing something else?

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
They have said this will go up the longer I work with them. This is more than I was earning with the other music schools, however my private rate is currently more than £30 per hour.

In any type of work, you want the rate increase stipulations/guidelines in writing so that everyone is on the same page. Is it automatic after 1 year, 2 years, more? Any requirements on the number of students you see? Positive feedback given by clients, evaluation by the director? etc.

It's expected that private rates are higher than paid-by-a-school rates because you are responsible for all your own marketing, scheduling, accounting, supplies, equipment, physical space, you name it.

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
I checked the school's website, and they charge £40 per hour. If I was working in the school it would make sense that they'd need to take a fair bit of the cut due to rent/heating/water etc. But as I'm only planning to work for them online, £25/hr seems like quite little.

Long economic explanation ahead:

First, I'm going to assume that the school charges the same for physical studio as for online lessons, meaning they value the product (they want the clients to value the product) the same despite difference in delivery. If the school pays you, online teacher, more than in-person teacher, that would suggest that they value online teaching more than they value in-person teaching or that they value in-person teaching less than online. Is that true? If so, why is that not reflected in the client rate?

I get that you are not on site using their physical space but if they maintain a building at all, rent still has to be paid, lights are still on (maybe not in the room you would have used, which hardly moves the needle), they are still running all administration and logistics. If you did not want to sacrifice something (part of what the client pays) in exchange for them doing all that, then you might go into business for yourself and take all the risk (and the rewards). If you can command 30, or even 40, on your own, would you do it?

If they value in-person and online as the same for both the provider and the consumer, they might not be interested in paying you more. Markets may be different but for example, instructor pay at schools I've taught at in U.S. was in the range of 40-60% of tuition. In many businesses, labor is the biggest expense and I would assume especially so where a music school is literally selling the labor of teachers. If I had said "I work for $__", they might have said "we pay $__" (presumably they have done the market research on what makes them competitive on both student tuition and instructor pay) and laughed me out the door. Think about why you, if you were a business owner, would give someone a raise. You like them and want them to stick around and not be enticed away by other potentially higher-paying work. The person brings value to your business by serving more clients, serving them better, elevating the reputation of your business, so that more clients will come, etc. and therefore you like them and want them to stick around. I'm talking about strictly economic terms because despite your intrinsic value *as a person* or lofty ideals such as "do it for the love of it!", the reality is that numbers still matter.

On the flip side, why would a student go to the school charging 40 instead of the private teacher charging 30? Maybe they don't know that the private teacher exists. Maybe they perceive that dealing with an "organization" is "safer" than dealing with an individual (the school has presumably vetted the experience and qualifications of teachers so that students don't have to). Maybe the school provides access to desirable opportunities that an individual doesn't, and these are all valuable to prospective students.

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
it can feel a bit uncertain working for yourself and can make it more difficult to get a job in the future working for an organisation.

Do you mean that future organizations might look down on self-employed people and think they are unable to work well with a larger team? This is an individual decision and depends on individual circumstances. I taught at a particular school for 3 years and eventually left for the exactly the reasons that my colleague prefers the school over operating on his own. I personally have no desire and no need to work for an organization. If I found myself in a position of having to apply to an organization in the future, I would carefully consider how to re-package/market myself as a suitable candidate. That is not an imminent concern though, so I put more attention on current decisions and operations of my private studio.

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Originally Posted by zonzi
If you can keep your online students and consider the music school teaching is an extra income, so why not...
Otherwise if it is a full time music school position, why don't you ask to teach for partial time and keep as many as possible your current students for the beginning?
Hey so yes it's part-time, and my main issue with working there is that I'll be earning less than I would working for myself. However if they give me a lot of work this may even out- my issue with this is that I've been pretty successful with finding students myself so far. If they were charging the students £30 per hour, then I wouldn't expect the full £30- but as they're charging £40 I feel that I should ask for more. Yes I do plan to keep all of my current students alongside this.

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Hey thanks for your reply mostlystrings. Sorry if my reply is a bit scattered- I'm not sure how to quote specific parts of the text.
So the school actually contacted me after seeing my ad online, so they know exactly how much I charge, and they did say that they liked me personally. If I were applying to work at the school, then I wouldn't ask for more money, but this way it seems ok as it's not like I applied to work for them. They could still easily move on to the next person, as I'm sure there's plenty of people willing to accept what they're offering.

I guess the reason I think they may be able to give me more work in the future than I could find myself is that I think people may be less interested in online lessons once music schools open up again. It can sometimes be easier for music schools to attract new people as I think a lot of people do find a certain 'security' in knowing they're part of a school.

It was interesting to read your 'economic explanation'. It does make sense when you put it like that as to why they would pay both online and in-person teachers the same rate of pay. But my problem with that is the fact it doesn't make a difference to me whether or not the whole school burns down tomorrow- I'm teaching from my own home, using my own internet, paying my own rent. If I were to work in their school then they would have to provide me with this- so in this respect I'm actually saving them money by working online. Administration and advertising doesn't warrant them taking £15 from each lesson. I worked for a school in-person last year where they charged the student £25/hr and gave me £21. In terms of why they would consider paying me more when I've never worked for them before, I'd say that it's still very likely they may tell me no if I ask. On the flip side they may realise that I'm clearly doing quite well on my own, and if I'm successful on my own then maybe I'd be worth the extra few pounds over someone who has not had much success yet with online teaching.

To answer your question about why students would pay more for a school rather than for a private teacher- as I said above I think people just like the idea of being part of a music school. I also think that another part of this reason may be that the school is based in an area where everything is more expensive than it is where I'm based, and my guess is that they get a lot of students from that area signing up for lessons.

So I currently have 20 private students, and I once taught up to 40 students myself when I was living in a different city. I basically had my own successful piano studio when I was aged 19-23 yrs, and gave it all up to move to a different city and start studying again. I guess I'm still not sure if private teaching is want to do career-wise, which is why I'm considering working for a school combined with working for myself. You're making me think that maybe I should just go for it myself. I'm on the fence about wanting to work for an organisation in the future. I've gone from 10-20 students since around January and it's been a stressful few weeks getting everything sorted, and I guess it can feel a bit isolating doing things on your own all of the time. I've made some bad career decisions the last 2 years, and worked for some people I really shouldn't have. I guess it feels like maybe I'm making a bad career decision not to accept the work with this school- but really it might be the other way round.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I'm going to decide what to do tomorrow, but I think I should ask for more money if I do decide to work for them.

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I work freelance in a different professional field, but this kind of thing crops up. I see they contacted you. It also appears that you are not in a great need, since you're getting students on your own / there's a demand. Why not tell them what your usual fee is, and see what they say? Right now the demand for teachers who can teach online, are equipped to do it, and can do it well, is probably relatively high.
Working on your own has risk and "nerves" built into it.

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Hey keystring, yeah you make a good point. I guess I just worry about regretting this further down the line, rather than it impacting me greatly right now. I think I will tell them what my usual fee is and see what they say, the more I think about it, the less it makes sense not to.
I think a part of my wanting to work for 'someone' rather than myself is that society expects that. You either work for an organisation/company, or start up your own if you want to be successful. People don't really acknowledge the in-between, where you work for yourself but don't employ other people. For instance my extended family don't seem to understand what I do and I think some are under the impression that my work isn't as valid as it would be if I were working for 'someone else'. I need to not let that bother me and make decisions with a clear mind. I can sometimes be hard to separate what you want to do vs what other people think you should do.

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Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
Hey keystring, yeah you make a good point. I guess I just worry about regretting this further down the line, rather than it impacting me greatly right now. I think I will tell them what my usual fee is and see what they say, the more I think about it, the less it makes sense not to.
I think a part of my wanting to work for 'someone' rather than myself is that society expects that. You either work for an organisation/company, or start up your own if you want to be successful. People don't really acknowledge the in-between, where you work for yourself but don't employ other people. For instance my extended family don't seem to understand what I do and I think some are under the impression that my work isn't as valid as it would be if I were working for 'someone else'. I need to not let that bother me and make decisions with a clear mind. I can sometimes be hard to separate what you want to do vs what other people think you should do.

At least in my profession, there are many independent freelancers who do not join a company nor start their own business; they just serve as independent contractors. I don’t think your assumption is correct about piano teachers, either.


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Oh! They approached you - that's different, so I revert to "if you don't ask, the answer is no". I have been approached by schools too (day/academic schools though) and in at least one case, they paid me what I asked for. You do sound like you have entrepreneurial drive as well as "the power to walk away". You can walk away if they bid low, they could walk if you bid high, and as long as you're willing to accept either, you can feel freer to push more.

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
it doesn't make a difference to me whether or not the whole school burns down tomorrow- I'm teaching from my own home, using my own internet, paying my own rent. If I were to work in their school then they would have to provide me with this- so in this respect I'm actually saving them money by working online.

My point is that rent and utilities are sunk costs for the school that they are spending whether you specifically are using their facilities or not. If they are getting rid of their building or downsizing to a less costly space because their business model is moving to online, that would be different. Most likely, you're a variable cost (their expense to pay you largely depends on the volume of student bookings for you) and you don't really save them much if any on the fixed costs. Of course, they had better make sure that they are taking in enough overall revenue to support all their costs, fixed and variable, or they'll be going out of business. Once they have a critical mass, all the rest is icing on the cake, so to speak, or it could nudge them down the path of expansion. As for how much administration and all that is worth, that's subjective. You also have to figure that a benefit to the owner is profit.

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
I think people may be less interested in online lessons once music schools open up again. It can sometimes be easier for music schools to attract new people as I think a lot of people do find a certain 'security' in knowing they're part of a school.

You said you would teach online for this school but not in person? By your logic, they could attract more students when things open up, but if people are less interested in online lessons, they would be attracting people who want in-person, which wouldn't benefit you. On the other hand, you could benefit from people who want in-person lessons in your area.

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
the school is based in an area where everything is more expensive

An example of markets and marketing: two places that I taught at were geographically close, less than 10km. One collected from students only somewhat more than what the other paid to teachers. They each served the market that they did, and I brought the same professional expertise to both. From a teaching point of view, it was the same product, so how did the pricier school manage to charge double? That's in the demographics/marketing/perception/package of one school vs. another. (By the way, my private rate was and still is in between.)

Originally Posted by PianoPlayer1685
You're making me think that maybe I should just go for it myself.

What says you can't do both, unless it's common in your area for music school-affiliated teachers to sign exclusive agreements? I started with 2 days per week private students (I did not have 20) and sought out schools and stores to work at on other days. I didn't do that to "get into private teaching as a career" but to get away from another career. Through this, I learned what I liked or disliked about teaching in an organization and realized that private teaching was for me. One benefit of working for organizations was that they provided access to a market or schedule that I could not get on my own. However, I gave up the school/store teaching days one by one, converting them to private teaching. I was working for 6 days most weeks for two semesters, then finally dropped the last school to get that day off.

This is an unfair overgeneralization but society secretly resents you for being brave and resourceful and savvy enough to blaze your own trail. I too went through a period of friends and family viewing my teaching as a cute little side hobby. As I treated it seriously, so did they. Honest work is respectable work! You sound like you're young, if you have a sound plan (no pun intended) and surround yourself with sense and go for it, if you need to take a different direction later, then you just handle it then.

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Because it's COVID time, and the future is uncertain, I'd say ask for a firm $27 with another look at your wage in one year. I've never seen a music school pay more than 67% of the price charged. It's more important to get your foot in the door.

I think you might be the right person to start your own music school and perhaps this will give you experience that will help in this regard. Take careful note of how they advertise.

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Not sure if I can add much new info here, so just some real-life storytime, I guess.

I loved working for a music school when I started out. Back in c.1999, the students paid $33 for a half hour lesson with me, but I only got paid $11 of that, but it was a lot for me, new, starting out! It came out to $22 an hour, and I felt rich at the time! (Young, single, no kids, no obligations, whoo!)

But then the music school went under because it was run by a trumpet teacher, not actual business-people. I think the owner wanted to raise lessons from $33 a half hour to $42 a half hour...back in 1999. We teachers could charge a lot more in 1999 than we can in 2021, it seems, but even that was too high of a jump.

So, all the teachers took their students and opened their own home studios. I actually moved out of state. But when I returned, I started my home studio, which I preferred a lot more, but I was older, married, had two kids, more "business" experience as I freelanced when I was out of state, and a house with a dedicated studio space. I charged $28 a half hour some 8 years later from when I started, but that was the rate in my area and I got to keep all of it, so it felt like a huge raise (except taxes, of course). Now I charge $26 a half hour, but I teach advanced adult hobbyists who take hour-long lessons (so $52 an hour) once or twice a month. Rates are going backwards! smile

ETA: When I taught at a music school, I had 54 half-hour lessons per week. It was horrible, but I was young. No idea how I did it. I also accompanied for most of the other studios, so I was playing for kids' recitals twice every Saturday most of the year. Wow! When I had my home studio, I capped at 16 students per week. (But I also had a fulltime day job and two babies!) Man, I was nuts pre-40yo.


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There was a comedian who had this joke:

One guy goes to an office where they are hiring people. The boss explains to him the job, and the salary, wich is very low, "but in the future it will be much higher", adds the boss.

"Ok, so i will come back in the future", replies the guy.

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Now the joke seems to be "Do it for free for the 'experience'!" Wait, that actually isn't a joke...


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Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Now the joke seems to be "Do it for free for the 'experience'!" Wait, that actually isn't a joke...
Absolutely true. Today even music should match to some standards, it means there is no more human value.


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There is still a fixed cost on their end whether you teach there or online. There is a reduced cost to you in transportation if you teach online. There is some safety in having students fed to you. I would try it anyway. If your students love you and they keep adding students, then I would push for more. There is no harm in trying to get more though. I wouldn't push too hard. If it doesn't work out you can always stop.


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"Music is not a add hot water and stir kind of thing. You have to practice." Mr. Katz my junior HS music director (He was a cool guy)

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