Fast Forward: Reimagining Your Studio post-COVID


reprinted from The VASTA Voice, September 2020

When we're free again...


For the rest of our lives we’ll remember this year of the pandemic.


We’ll remember it as a year of seismic social shifts, deep loss, and cultural change. Over just a few days in March of 2020, everything we had assumed about “how things are” was up for grabs. We implemented radical changes to our work not because we wanted to, but because we were forced to.

By this time most of us have adjusted to the new normal and have found a way to move our teaching and coaching online. Some voice teachers report doing even better now than when their studios were doing in-person sessions. Want to be one of those teachers? Read on!

Specialize

If your pre-pandemic studio provided only in-person lessons, you were limited. Both mentally and geographically, you were limited to those people who were within a certain distance from your studio.

Those limitations – your geography and your beliefs – probably held you in a scarcity mentality. That belief caused you to charge what you thought of as “the going rate” and to have a very generalized clientele. (Your web page may have boasted that you taught people of every age, skill level, and musical interest).

Now that you’re teaching online, you have global access to over three billion people. Since you only need a few of those people, you can now afford to specialize.

Teach your ideal client

If you’ve been teaching for a while, you know what types of students are your favorite. You may love teaching a certain age group. Or you’re at your best with singers of a certain genre. Or both. One of my clients turned her online voice studio into one that specializes in helping high school juniors and seniors prep for music theater auditions for college.

Since you’re no longer limited by geography, you can now make yourself available to the type of client who will benefit most from your expertise. You love teaching little kids? Hang that virtual shingle outside your cyber-door. Are you a rocker who can really help band singers? Those singers really need you, and now they can find you!

Become a specialist

With your radically expanded potential client base, you can be that specialist. Every one of your clients be your ideal client.

It’s a fact that specialists in any field charge more than generalists; the cardiologist charges more than the family doctor. It’s also a fact that people expect to pay more for individualized attention; a personal trainer costs more than an exercise class.

Put these two ideas together and your work becomes more satisfying and more lucrative. Look at it from your potential client’s point of view. If you’re a particular type of person with a particular goal or interest, are you willing to pay more for someone who really understands you and can help you in a meaningful way? Most people are. As a voice expert, you have every right to recognize, and own, that you are most effective with certain types of clients in certain genres of music.

If you’re concerned that your fees will put you out of reach of certain clients, you can plan for that. Set aside a certain percentage of your studio for sliding scale students, or offer scholarships to certain students. You can be sensitive to your client’s financial situations while still charging what you’re worth.


Outsource scheduling

One of the fastest and easiest way to reclaim big chunks of time is to use a scheduling app. (Here's a good article from Medium about which to pick.)

Since we’re all online now, you probably have a website. Installing a scheduling app to your site will be a slight monetary investment, but it will save you a lot of time. It’s also nice for your clients, who can schedule at their own convenience.

Additionally, scheduling apps they require that the client have a credit card on file. Voilà! No more invoicing or collection headaches!


Take control of your calendar

Here I’m taking my pitch for the scheduling app a bit further. When we schedule via phone or email, some of us will alter our planned schedule to accommodate your clients’ requests. We feel compelled to put our clients’ needs before our own priorities.

You may want to clear an hour when your kids come home from school, or block out time for your administrative work, or create a firm cut-off for the end of your teaching day.

When you install a scheduling app, you can honor these commitments. Your clients’ time challenges become their problem to solve, not yours. No more playing tag by phone or email. You’ll be able to set the schedule that works best for you.

Travel during school

In deference to the school calendar, most of us have historically scheduled our travel for the most crowded and expensive times of the year. Having acclimated your students to online lessons, though, you can travel during October or April, for instance, and still teach. Now, I’m not suggesting that you take your work with you on your one-week anniversary trip to Hawai’i, but I am suggesting you consider that one-month live/work experience in Costa Rica that you’ve been thinking about.

Stop charging for your time

Most of us base our rate on our jobs and our time. We charge based on this model:

I’m a voice teacher. I give 45-minute lessons. This is what voice teachers charge in my area on a per-minute basis. Therefore, this is what I will charge my students.

That’s a normal way of thinking for independent voice teachers and multi-teacher studios who give in-person lessons. But you don’t have to think that way. You can use this time of radical change to radically change the clients you work with, and the way you charge them. It will require you to shift the way you think about how you set your rates. Consider using something like this model:

I’m an experienced and unique professional who helps people reach goals and solve problems. In order for me to be this person for my clients, I must make $X. I can realistically support X number of clients per week. Therefore, each client’s rate must be X.

If you consider all the ways in which you support your clients, you’d probably see that you are much more to them than simply a purveyor of voice lessons. Your fear of losing clients, along with your fear that their opinion of you will change if you raise your rates are just that: fears. They’re grounded in the stories you tell yourself. They’re not grounded in fact.

I hope you’ll put one or more of these ideas in the hopper and think about them. This pandemic forced extraordinary change in almost no time. Professionally, it threw us in the deep end with no life preserver. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find ourselves doing water ballet?


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The article by #MeredithColby is reprinted from the September 2020 issue of the #VASTAVoice. The article suggests a few ways for #independentteachers to #ridethewave of the changes that were needed to #copewithapandemic. We can use this time to #uplevelourstudios so our #teachingcareers are more #fulfilling and #prosperous.

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