Becoming a music teacher in the UK: a 7 step guide to kick-start your career

If you’re a keen musician and you’re good at imparting your wisdom to others, setting up as a self-employed music teacher could be a good move. But, as it can also be a tough gig, our guide will help you get started.

Could you make it as a self-employed music teacher?

To be successful music teacher, it goes without saying that you need to be a skilled and passionate musician. It’s also important that you’re patient and good at explaining things to others, and that you’re self-motivated and organised enough to make self-employment work. Music teachers tend to get a lot of their work from word-of-mouth recommendations, so having a good network is also bound to help.

Do I need a certificate to be a music teacher?

You don’t need any formal qualifications to get started as a self-employed music teacher or tutor, but any relevant degrees or certificates may help you to get clients. You could consider the Certificate for Music Educators (CME) or even take a PGCE course if you’re interested in becoming a fully qualified teacher and you already have an undergraduate degree in music.

What kind of music teacher will you be?

There are plenty of different ways to run your music teaching business. You could teach in schools on a freelance basis as a visiting tutor, or you could hold private lessons in your home or at the homes of your students. You could take group lessons or one-to-one lessons, and you may choose to teach adults or children.

In reality, it’s likely that you’ll end up doing a combination of different types of teaching. It’s important that you have a good knowledge of the range of things your students may want to learn, including familiarity with the grade examination system.

7 steps to becoming a music teacher

1. Think through the basics of your business

Write a basic business plan and think through the mechanics of your business, like the hourly rates you’ll charge. Most private music teachers charge between £26 and £36 an hour for one-to-one lessons according to a 2015 survey by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM).

2. Join relevant organisations

Becoming a member of the ISM and the Musicians’ Union may be a good idea, as they can provide advice, tools and networking and listing opportunities. The Musicians’ Union has a bank of teaching contract templates, for example.

3. Register as self-employed

The simplest business structure is sole trader. To set up as a sole trader, all you need to do is tell HMRC you’re self-employed. Bear in mind that you need to do this even if you’re only teaching music part-time and you have another source of income.

Alternatively, you may decide to set up a limited company. This involves a bit more paperwork, but our guide to setting up a limited company should help you navigate the process.

4. Get criminal record checks

Clients may expect you to have some sort of criminal record check. If you get work in an organisation like a school, they will usually check your criminal record by requesting a DBS check. In other situations - for example if you’re just teaching at home or at your students’ homes - you can request a basic disclosure yourself that you can show to clients. If you’re a member of the ISM, you may be able to use their DBS service.

5. Sort your insurance

Business insurance is an important consideration for self-employed music teachers. Public liability insurance is the cover that can help you out if someone sues you for injury or damage. For example if a student visited your studio for a music lesson and slipped over on a wet floor, or if you went to a student’s home and accidentally spilt coffee on a computer, you could face a compensation claim, and your public liability insurance could step in to cover the legal fees and compensation costs.

There are other covers to consider too, including professional indemnity insurance and business equipment cover. Visit our music teacher insurance page to get started.

6. Promote your services

Perhaps the most difficult step is actually getting some clients and beginning to build your reputation as a music teacher. For starters, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and consider a Facebook page and maybe a simple website. You could also sign up to online listing sites for music teachers, such as MusicTeacher.co.uk where you can post an online teaching profile for free. If you’re a member of a professional body or a union, they may also have listing services.

Also explore more old-fashioned methods like flyers and leaflets, which you may be able to put in places like music shops and practice venues.

7. Record your income and outgoings

Once you’re up and running, you need to have a system for recording the money that’s coming in and going out of your business, so that you can submit this information at tax return time. You can use a simple spreadsheet, or you can choose a small business accounting program to help you manage your finances. Remember to keep your receipts in case HMRC asks you for evidence.

Are you starting out as a self-employed music teacher? Tell us how it’s going in the comments.

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