One of the best promotional tools the private teacher can have is a teaching website. Websites have become the new business card. Today’s fast-paced society finds most of the information it is looking for online. If you’re not there, someone else will be.
Where to begin?
Find a quality webhosting company with exceptional customer service. In my case, I asked friends that specialize in web design for recommendations. Once I had a few candidates, I checked them out made an informed choice. Most companies (1 and 1 internet, Go Daddy, FatCow) will provide you with free templates, so even a computer novice can make changes and publish themselves on the web.
Alright, now that you’re “online,” what do you put on your website?
Most importantly, your contact information! Too often websites require you to dig through the site to get to a phone number or e-mail address. Make these prominent on your site, in a large, clear font on the main (landing) page. Potential students and their parents are typically busy and may want to contact you even WITHOUT assessing your website, experience, or availability.
Next in importance, a short “about me” section. On my main page, I have only two sentences explaining what I do, not what I did. Parents in my experience don’t care how many local bands I have been in or how many gigs I play a year. They want to know what I am going to teach their children. At the end of my blurb, I have a link to a more detailed biography, which allows visitors to read more or get on with signing up for lessons.
Also important is a “roadmap” to the various sections of the site, pre-empting unnecessary scrolling and navigation. On my website, this overview includes what is in my online “student center,” the location of my teaching studio, and FAQ’s like “What are your rates?” or “How do I reschedule a lesson?”.
What makes you stand out as a teacher?
If you are the only drum teacher in town, count your blessings. You have cornered the market and should have an abundance of students. The rest of us must acknowledge the many great teachers nearby, so what makes you different?
Most of my students are at the beginning of their drumming career and simply want to play. Their parents want convenience. Hosting an online student “center” is a great way to engage both time-strapped parents and attention-short students. My online center allows me to list studio events, oversee flexible scheduling, and give potential students/parents a taste of the instruction awaiting them. Each event (recitals, clinics, concerts), cancelled lesson, lesson make-up dates, and my public performances are color coded and posted once the info is definite.
Online scheduling is a website feature that is indispensable. There are several free or low-cost scheduling services online (Acuity Scheduling and Appointment Quest) that will facilitate student sign-ups, cancellations, and rescheduling--and accommodate “flex” students who cannot attend regular lessons. No more double booking or administrative chores during your prime teaching times! And by enabling students to book make-up sessions 24 hours a day, you’re removed from the equation and are spared potential grievances and gripes.
Your website can also enhance your students’ education by exposing them to accomplished drummers. Many beginner students don’t really know any drummers, who are often faceless even in bands they might adore. Feature a “drummer of the month” on your site. What have they accomplished and how have they elevated drumming? Mix it up--post a classic drummer one month and a contemporary drummer the next. Introduce the occasional percussionist or mallet player. Include a video or sound clip of the drummer to accompany the write up. (Don’t forget to archive past video clips so your students can play their favorite drummer over and over.)
Include a glossary and other learning tools on your site. In doing so, you pre-empt excuses as to why your student doesn’t play with a metronome or know what Allegro means. Don’t forget to add links to any company that has supported your studio, even if it is not drum related. You might include a list your studio equipment so that a new student knows what instruments they will be working on. Photos, online newsletters, blogs, audio and video of your playing, polls and surveys… the possibilities are endless!
Communication is the key! If you fail to let parents and students know about cancellations, events, policy changes, or whatever else is going on with your studio, they will go elsewhere. I know this, because I’ve gained students because parents have felt left out of the mix under other teachers’ regimens. Time is most important in any business… but doubly so when you’re drumming.
Mike Otto graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a BFA in music and education certification. In addition to 6 years public school teaching, Mike has developed a successful private teaching practice in Baltimore city and the surrounding area and is co-director of the Drum Instructors Guild. Mike can be contacted through his website - www.MikeOttoDrums.com