Are You a Full-Time Piano Teacher?
How do you define a full-time piano teacher? How many students make up a full-time studio? Determining this is important because it can significantly affect your health and how you run your business. Some of the areas that can be affected include:
- Your income
- Your stress level
- Your ability to unwind
- Your schedule
- Your workflow and efficiency
- The pressure you put on yourself
In my experience, I find that piano teachers don’t actually realize how much they are working. This is partly because full-time piano teachers tend to enjoy their job and it never occurs to them that they might be working too much. But the disadvantages of working from home can also contribute to this lack of awareness.
Teachers who work from home tend to work more hours than they think they are working because they never really have distance from their work tasks. For example, going to the living room to read a book might remind you that you actually need to practice since your piano is there. Walking by your studio/extra bedroom might remind you of all the work tasks you have to do. Having access to all your fun game making supplies might mean that you stay up till midnight cutting out snowmen or flashcards for a new theory activity.
In addition to this natural tendency to work too many hours is the pressure some teachers feel to work more when their per-student tuition is not sufficient to make a healthy income. If you find yourself overworking, then you may need to take a look at your tuition prices.
What are the dangers of working too much?
I’m sure you can imagine the dangers of working more than a full-time piano teacher should work. But just to name a few:
- You are more likely to lose your energy and passion for teaching. Both you and your students will suffer from this and eventually you may experience burnout.
- Your stress level rises from the sheer strain of too many tasks to manage.
- You may experience negative health impacts.
[You can read about this here and here. But also check out this study that compared and contrasted a lot of the studies and found that there are conflicting reports about this.]
- Your family relationships may become strained.
- You lose the margin to have time and flexibility to help those closest to you.
These are just some of the risks of working more than full-time hours. You can probably add more.
So what constitutes a “full-time” job?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. However, it is common for businesses to cite between 32-40 hours as full time.
However, the Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act does require that anyone working more than 40 hours per week must receive overtime pay for those hours.
In addition, the IRS defines full-time employees as those who are working an average of 30 hours per week.
How do I calculate how many students is “full time” for me?
The answer to this may be slightly different for every full-time piano teacher. So here’s how to figure it out for yourself.
- Add up your “with student” lesson time hours.
This should be easy because it’s literally the hours you spend with students. If you tend to “go over” on your lesson times, you’ll need to account for that too. Be sure to assume a week in which all of your students attend lessons.
- Add up your “without student” working hours.
Log everything you do in your business and for your business for 3-4 weeks. Include things like tweaking policies, games, printing music, shopping for music for students, planning your recital, typing emails to parents, watching a piano teaching workshop webinar, texting parents, dealing with requests for makeup lessons, updating your website or FB page with helpful links for parents, etc. You should even include “odd” things that might only happen once a year as this will be averaged in the next step.
- Average these weekly “without student” numbers together.
- Add up the hours from #1 and #3.
You now have the number of hours you work per week.
Is this number surprising? Most part-time and full-time piano teachers find the number much higher than they think because we often don’t account for all the extra things we do in preparation for students as well as in running a business.
What did I discover and do?
I talk about this in the “Best Stress-free Business Practices for Your Studio” online workshop, but years ago, I tracked my actual working hours. I discovered that for every hour I spent actually teaching a student, I spent another .5 hours working on my piano studio. This helped put into perspective the income I was actually making. As you already know if you’ve taken the business workshop, the amount of money I was making per hour was far less than it appeared on paper when you just looked at teaching hours.
Realizing this was the turning point for me when I decided to charge an appropriate tuition for the work I was doing.
How are your hours affecting you?
So what should you do with this information?
To start, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does my gut tell me? Am I working more than a full-time piano teacher should work?
- Does my spouse or do my children think I’m working too much?
- Does my income reflect the number of hours I work? Does it look like I am earning a below average income?
- How much free time do I have? Do I have margin to do my hobbies? Do I have time to help other people? Am I always in a rush?
- Am I tired a lot of the time?
- Do I go-go-go and then crash every night? Am I taking a significant amount of time at some point during the day to unwind or do activities that recharge me?
- Do I have time to exercise? Do I have time to eat healthy?
After you have determined what full time is for you, you need to ask yourself:
- Is my tuition commensurate with the hours I am working?
- Do I need to make any changes to tuition?
Changes to other areas besides pricing might be needed!
Of course, not only can knowing your working hours inform you about pricing, but it can also be a trigger to help you mainstream some of your processes and work on a more efficient work flow. So, just because you are working more than you want to work, that doesn’t mean you need to decrease your number of students. Perhaps you can lesson plan more quickly. Perhaps you should bulk task your work instead of working in little chunks of time throughout the day. Perhaps social media interruptions are causing your work to be less efficient.
No one can tell you exactly how many hours you should be working, what your tuition should be, or whether you should change anything about your hours, tuition, or workflow. But having the data (i.e. the actual hours you are working) in front of you should help give you more objective information by which you can make these decisions.
Have you ever done this? What did you discover? Did it prompt you to change anything? Feel free to share in the comments below. Many teachers read these and are helped by your thoughts!