Tips on Relocating a Piano Studio - reflecting on this time last year

This one's for the other studio owners & private music teachers! Most of you who've followed the studio for any length of time will know that around this time last year I relocated from Southern California to Central Kansas, and rebuilt my studio in our new town. Going in, I knew that one of the things that would be vital when relocating was building awareness in the community and to get that crucial word-of-mouth going, so I did several things to get the word out locally with pretty good success. It definitely didn't hurt that the town I moved into really supports the arts, and there was more demand than current piano teachers in the area already. Within 3 months the studio had hit a good running capacity, and 6 months in enrollment was capped out with a waitlist. 

Since then, I've often seen posts in the online music teaching groups from other studio owners asking for tips or advice on how to successfully rebuild their studios after a move, so today I'm sharing some of what worked for me when relocating. And even if you're not moving to a community with the same emphasis & demand for arts education, I believe these will still be effective ways to build a studio.
  • Robust online presence - An online space is incredibly important in our current market, especially considering that the internet is the way that people look for information. If website building & maintenance isn't in your wheelhouse, it's definitely OK to outsource it.
    • Website - This is where interested clients can learn about your studio. Make it welcoming, easy to navigate and searchable with SEO. Try for concise, clear information with lots of images & videos.
    • Social Media - Facebook & Instagram are particularly effective. These have both been incredibly helpful in curating a studio brand, and helping others be able to share info about the studio with friends easily. It also builds a sense of community among current students as they can see & celebrate each other's successes, which then fosters perceived value & longer term investment on the part of both students & parents.
  • Online Lessons  - a rapidly growing segment of the music teaching industry. This course is amazing if you're nervous about taking the plunge. Taking advantage of online lessons offers you two huge benefits:
    • Transition existing students - You don't have to start from square one if you can keep some students through your move & transition. With a sequence of parent education on what online lessons look like, and a few trial lessons, you may be able to carry some of your current studio with you as you relocate.
    • Missed Lesson & Inclement weather option - online lessons are also a terrific option for when a student is contagious, or the weather makes travel to the studio unsafe. Having it as a regular part of your studio offerings can provide a solid back-up plan for sick days & snow days
  • Join local MTNA chapter - The supportive network I found in the McPherson Area Piano Teachers' League was a huge help in finding local professional peers & immediately getting involved in the kinds of programs I wanted to be able to offer new students. They are also great for referrals.
  • Article in the local paper 
    • This one happened to me by chance, a local reporter saw one of the Facebook promos & reached out. But if you are moving to a smaller town, or there's a local, community paper, it won't hurt to reach out & see if they'd run an article about your new studio. I had lots of people recognize me around town after the McPherson Sentinel gave me a front page feature (much to my surprise!) and it was a huge help in creating buzz about the studio, and getting word out about the Open House dates.
  • Studio Open House
    • These are an opportunity for interested students to come meet you, see the studio, have some refreshments, and enroll - potentially with a discount should you decide to offer that. My first open house was just a couple weeks after the piano was moved in, and I had 6 students enrolled after an afternoon of simply hanging out in the studio and talking to interested parties who stopped by.
  • Find a niche & market it. 
    • I looked around my area and realized that no one was really offering preschool piano lessons, AND I had a curriculum for it that I believed in & was excited about teaching. So I started marketing that. Your niche may be different, but look for openings in your new market that you can fill, and market with that in mind. The majority of my students are not actually preschool, so it didn't limit me to that by any means, it just helped set this studio apart. 
  • Flyers - to daycares, coffee shops, local music store, library, etc. 
    • Consider adding a coupon for a free trial lesson or discount off the first month when the sign up.
    •  This is also a good opportunity to introduce yourselves to local business owners, workers & day care professionals.
  • Perform in the community - this increases your visibility, and gets you involved in the local music scene. Be creative, but here are some possibilities:
    • Churches
    • Accompany for schools
    • Background music for events 
    • Band gigs
    • Play at senior centers 
  • Donate lessons to silent auctions or charities 
    • Added bonus, talk to your CPA about writing off these charitable donations. 
  • Advertise in Local Marketplaces or Buy/Sell/Trade pages
    • If you end up with a Facebook post that will run well as an add, try sharing it to a local marketplace (after checking the group's guidelines to make sure its allowed). Doing this periodically during those first few months with the local facebook marketplaces garnered lots of inquiries, and general awareness about the studio.
  • Get to know local small business owners 
    • look for meet ups, check with your chamber of commerce, or just introduce yourself & strike up a conversation.
  • Introduce yourself to local school music teachers
    • School Music Teachers often get asked about lesson opportunities, so they are a great way to get referrals. You can reach out by phone or email, or consider inviting them out for a coffee if you'd like to have a longer conversation.
  • Carry business cards with you, and don't be afraid to introduce yourself as a piano teacher. 
    • I've had a number of conversations in the past year that after an introduction & a 'tell me about yourself' I said, 'well, I'm a piano teacher -', only to have the person I was talking to gasp and say they'd been searching for a piano teacher. Having a business card on hand has given them a quick, tangible way to follow through and enroll for lessons after that conversation.  
  • Try to stay positive. Even with the admitted success I had in building up my new studio, during that first summer there were definitely times of anxiety, and worry that I might have to pursue a different career, or find additional part-time work if it didn't pick up (which really would've been fine if the studio just needed more time to gain momentum, it was just the uncertainty that would get me spinning). If you feel this creeping in:
    • Choose one new way to engage with music. I did a lot of composing that first month, maybe you just sit down and play through some favorites, maybe you find a friend to jam with. But take a second to remember why you love this job.
    • Try one way to get the word out that you haven't pursued yet. Sit down & design that flyer, or head to the local coffee shop to introduce yourself & ask if they'd let you play for an evening.
    • Give yourself a break. Self-employment is a special kind of scary in those moments, and it's ok to turn off the pressure for a bit and restore your energy before going back at it again.  
Thanks for reading this far, and following this studio's progress this past year. And if you are building or relocating your studio, I wish you the best of luck! I know it is a lot of work, so please don't hesitate to reach out to a music teaching community for encouragement.