YOU'RE WORTH IT: How to Set Your Fees as a Freelance Teacher
Updated: Jan 13
This article is featured in the May, 2017 edition of the VASTA Voice, a publication of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association
Voice teachers are singers, and it’s the rare singer who is business-minded by nature. We’re artists who have eschewed the straight and narrow to dance with our muse.
Most of us started teaching voice because we knew how to sing, and teaching seemed like a better idea than waiting tables. Soon we found that there’s a lot about teaching that we liked.
We like the relationships, and helping others, and sharing in the process of growth and learning.
All the other stuff, though? Not so much.
Being a freelance voice teacher means you have your own studio. You have to market yourself, manage your schedule, keep track of each student’s progress and payments, and set up recitals.
You also have to set your price and policies; two elements of teaching that can be hard to decide and even harder to enforce.
If you teach through an institution the price for your lessons is set by someone else. You may get a little less than you’d like on a per-student basis, but you never have to be the bad guy. Someone else sets and enforces the policies, collects the tuition fees, and pays you.
If you’re teaching on your own, it’s all up to you.
So how do you set your price?
You’ll need to weigh a number of factors, such as:
The type of client you’re targeting
Where you live
How much teaching experience you have
Whether you have expertise in a certain genre
Your bragging rights; both in performing and in teaching.
With those things in mind…
Go shopping on the internet as though you’re the student you want to attract. See who’s out there and what they’re charging. (Check the local high school. If they offer private lessons, that will be the lowest price. Unfortunately.)
If you have to contact them in order to ask the questions that will fill in the blanks for you, do it.
You’ve now determined what the low and high prices are for teachers of your level of experience in your area. Time to set your prices. Before you do, remember this:
Students will come and go, you have to live with you.
You may love your students, and have a lot of empathy for their financial plights, but in the end, it’s you who has to pay the rent. Put your needs ahead of your students when setting your fees.
Your policies should figure into your pricing.
The more your policies favor your client the more you can charge.
For instance, if you sell an 8-week lesson package that must be used in 8 weeks and allows for no cancellations and one rescheduled lesson per 8 weeks, you’ll charge a bit less on a per-lesson basis.
Alternatively, if you charge on a per-lesson basis and allow any and all cancellations as long as you have a reasonable (24 hours, 48 hours) cancellation time, you’ll charge at the top of the pricing scale.
You can charge more than you think
Figure out what you’re comfortable charging, and charge more than that.
You are notorious for undervaluing your work. All y’all.
Regular people get raises every year; you’ll give yourself a raise once every five years. Maybe.
You can always offer a sliding scale to a certain percentage of your students who both need and deserve it.
You DO NOT want bargain-hunters for students.
No, really. You do not want the student who’s looking for the least expensive teacher.
You’ll be a little uncomfortable with your price at first, but as you see that other people don’t freak out about it, you’ll get used to it.
Setting a price for your work can be really uncomfortable. But as you do so, please remember how important your voice teachers have been to you. You deserve to charge what you’re worth.
Remember, if you want shoes, there are stores for bargain hunters, value-conscious consumers, and top-of-the-line shoppers. You want to appeal to that last group.
Below is a chart that suggests how you might think about this.
The chart is a suggestion based on a middle-sized midwestern city. Well, a suggestion except for the “Add $10-15” part. Seriously. Make sure your price is at least $10 per lesson more than you think you should get. Trust me. Hold your nose and do it. If you’re the kind of voice teacher who might be reading this, then you’re the kind of voice teacher who should be charging more than you think.