In the previous tutorial I outlined the qualities required of a guitar tutor. In this tutorial I'll explain why you should become a tutor and explain how to go about it.
Consider the Benefits
Believe it or not, as you endeavour to improve your students, it’ll make you a better player.
Justifying what you’re teaching makes you question why you choose a particular method. You’ll end up examining every aspect of your playing, which’ll highlight your own flaws. You won't be able to justify something to a student if you can’t justify something to yourself.
Another aspect is having to learn material, styles or techniques you’ve neglected, avoided or simply not come across before. It’ll make you examine everything to a finer level of detail. All of these things will push you to develop.
Whether it’s helping students get to university, to employment or igniting a passion for music, a great tutor has the power to alter lives. In its way it’s an awesome responsibility, as well as an amazing by-product of the job.
In an ideal world we’d be doing this for free but, alas, the subject of money always comes up.
Much as I described in my tutorial regarding remote session work, you can earn a decent amount of money from tutoring.
It’s a rare tutor, however, that earns the entirety of their income this way. Tutoring can be a seasonal thing, in that there’s an obvious lull during the summer, thanks to holidays and closed schools.
In such a period you’ll need to supplement your income accordingly. It’s therefore better to view this as one of a number of revenue streams.
Starting a Tutoring Career
It may seem obvious, but you need to be just as good at playing as you are at being a tutor.
If a student needs to pass their Grade Eight exam, you’ve got to be good enough to do that as well. In addition to demonstrating ideas and techniques, there’ll be times when you’ll also need to inspire students.
The more experience you have, the more you have to offer.
Perhaps you've played in a band. Perhaps you have experience of studio work, tours and repair work. This is exactly like applying for any job, in that the more you can truthfully put on your CV, the better.
Develop a body of work to which you can refer potential students, parents and employers.
I’d strongly recommend having either a YouTube or Soundcloud channel—preferably both.
If you have audio or video recordings of you playing or teaching, these are invaluable and you should use these platforms accordingly.
Whilst paper qualifications always help, a lack of them won’t necessarily exclude you, although it can narrow the available opportunities.
As long as you can demonstrate your abilities, however, whether via a portfolio or an interview, you can still obtain work.
Legal requirements vary from place to place, but if you intend working in schools, you may need to submit to a certificated background check.
In the UK, for example, this is known as a DBS check, or Disclosure and Barring Service, and checks for any previous criminal convictions. You can obtain one yourself but some organisations interested in hiring you will pay for it.
It’s an interesting time to be a tutor, in that the internet and social media has made advertising simultaneously easier and more difficult.
All the obvious platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, can get you online in minutes, but as everyone’s doing it, it can be difficult to stand out in the crowd.
Whilst social media sites are expected points of contact, ensure you consider more targeted places dedicated to tutors. Such sites allow you to describe your services, set out typical costs for lessons and display the necessary contact details.
An internet search of the phrase ‘music tutors (and then your country of origin)’ will give you places to look at. In the UK, some examples are:
Some sites are free listings, whereas others operate on a paid or subscription basis. You need to look at what they offer and decide whether or not it’s worth doing. From my own experience, they do bring in a few more students.
Of course, the greater the number of sites you’re part of, the more likely a search engine’ll list you when a potential student’s looking for a tutor.
With that in mind, ensure all listings either name your general location, or list the locations in which you're happy to work.
If someone searches ‘guitar tutor in Birmingham’, you won’t be in the results if you’ve not listed you’re a Birmingham-based tutor.
Whilst not an absolute necessity, it’s still a strong way of presenting yourself. The main attraction’s one of controlling how you’re advertised—something other sites won’t offer.
You may still use this in conjunction with all the usual social media outlets. Again, the more places your name appears alongside the phrase ‘guitar tutor’, the easier it’ll be for students to find you.
Some tutor websites offer free webpages, or website hosting.
If you want your web address to be your name, then there are any number of web hosting companies with packages to suit all budgets. First, conduct an internet search to see if anyone else has beaten you to your dot com name.
Whilst the days of cards in shop windows is largely over, there are still some places that are local hubs for the community, such as ad boards in supermarkets.
Similarly, some rural areas have parish magazines that advertise local services, which may be worthwhile.
Becoming a tutor’s a lot of work, but it’ll:
- Improve your abilities
- Change the lives of others
- Earn you an additional income
- Ensure your playing skills are good
- Offer skill sets as appropriate
- Establish a portfolio
- Obtain certification
- Check legal requirements for child work
- Research tutor websites, as well as your own
- Think local as part of your advertising
In the next tutorial I’ll look at what happens when work starts coming in.