Should You Freelance or Work at a Music School?

Should you Freelance

One of the biggest decisions you will make as a new music teacher is whether to teach at a music school or go the full freelancing route.  Both options have their pros and cons.  Let’s make this into a quiz to keep things a little more fun!


1.I am a first year music teacher. . .

A. Who is still in university.

B. Who graduated university and is renting a home with roommates

C. Who graduated university and lives in a home with a partner or other musicians.


2. I find the idea of advertising for new students. . .

A. A hassle

B. something I’m unsure about but willing to give it a go.

C. a challenge I’m willing to accept.


3. I can handle money. . .

A. I’m a musician, I only need to count to four.

B. It’s not my favourite thing, but I’ll do it if I have to.

C. Budgeting and accounting?  No problem!


4. I’m willing to devote at least 2 hours a week to managing my business. . .

A. Nope, I like to leave my work at work.

B. I’m busy, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle that every week.

C. Sounds reasonable.


5. I want music teaching to be my only source of income this year (I’m assuming you’re a first year music teacher). . .

A. Yes please!

B. Is that possible?

C. This is a joke. . . right?

(Your answers are after the jump!)

Mostly A’s

You should highly consider teaching at a music school.  You have a lot on your plate and you’ll appreciate the music school handling the students, finances, and business end of things.  You should still read the rest of the article for when your situation changes and you may want to freelance.

Mostly B’s

You are really on the fence about this.  You may be personally ready to freelance, but your circumstances might not be ideal.  Read the rest of the article to help you see if you’re ready or not.

Mostly C’s

You are very likely ready to start freelancing.  Read the rest of the article to make sure you’ve thought of everything.

Obviously this quiz isn’t very scientific, but it should get you thinking.  Let’s go through everything you need to consider.

What’s Your Life Situation?

Here are a couple of factors in your personal situation that you’ll want to consider.

  • Would my partner or roommates be supportive of me using our residence as a studio?
  • If I can’t use my residence as a studio, am I willing to rent out a space at a church or school?
  • How much debt am I carrying?
  • Do I have any money saved up for start up costs? (Advertising, website, piano, books, etc.)
  • Do I have small children?
  • Am I good with organization & planning?
  • Am I a good money manager?
  • Am I willing to take my work home with me?
  • Do I have a second job I can do until I get enough students?
  • Do I like to work by myself?

None of these things are impossible obstacles that can’t be overcome.  If you really want to be a freelancer you will find a way to work around your particular challenges.  Or you may decide that teaching at a music school is just easier.

How Self-Motivated Are You?

Being a musician at this level, I’m going to assume that you’re fairly self motivated.  You could not get to this level without hauling yourself to the practice room for endless hours every week.  If you’re a freelancer, here are some of the responsibilities you’ll be taking on:

  • Advertising
  • Organizing paperwork
  • Communicating with parents
  • Planning recitals
  • Collecting and budgeting money
  • Answering inquiries and parent emails.
  • Recruiting students

The Pros & Cons of Freelancing

Freelancing is a wonderful lifestyle.  You can set your own hours, teaching year, and pricing.  You decide what and how you teach.  You also keep all of the money you collect from students, and are in control of your overhead costs.  I can be very exciting to be an entrepreneur.  There are also huge tax benefits, so make sure you hire a good accountant at tax time!

However, you are responsible for everything.  Like any business, it only works as hard as you do.  You’ll also need some extra funds the first year to cover the cost of a big advertising push, piano, music books, and anything else that comes up.

The Pros & Cons of Teaching at a Music School

Music Schools provide a teacher with convenience.  The students, teaching space, and advertising are all there for you.  There is very little you have to organize and you will often not have to deal with the parents or money.  You also get to work with other adults!

However, you won’t get the full hourly rate the music school charges.  You have to accept every student they give you, even if you are not comfortable teaching a certain age or music style.  (Some schools may let you have a bit of say in this, so ask about it when you are being interviewed.)  If the music school has a rule or policy you don’t like, you have to follow it.  If you leave the music school, you are generally not allowed to take your students will you.  If you do, it creates a lot of hard feelings, and the music community is small.

Decision Time!

In the end, it really comes down to whether you value freedom or convenience.  There is no right or wrong answer, only what will work best for you and your particular situation.  As always, let me know in the comments if there is anything I could add to the discussion.

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