Tip #1: Set your price to take into account travel time.
Like I mentioned in my last post, you most likely won’t be able to see as many students in a day of travel teaching as you would at a studio. I plan on 10-15 minutes of travel time between houses so that I have a buffer in case of traffic. This also gives me time to pack up my materials and chat briefly with parents about what we covered in the lesson on my way out the door.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to take a pay cut in order to travel teach! My advice is to decide how much income you would like to bring in for a typical day of teaching, and divide by the number of students you would reasonably be able to travel to in one day. For example, if you charge $25 for a 30-minute lesson at your home studio, and you can see 10 students in one afternoon of teaching at your home, your target income would be $250 per day. In an afternoon of travel teaching, you may only be able to fit in 7 or 8 students, taking into account travel time between lessons. That means you would need to charge $30-35 per lesson to make an equivalent amount for a day of travel teaching.
Don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth! Parents appreciate the convenience of having a teacher come to their home for lessons, and you are saving them time and gas money by travelling to them. Many years ago, when I was new to travel teaching, I apologized to a parent for having to increase my fee to cover travel expenses. She replied, “Don’t be silly! I would spend more than that in the drive-thru at McDonald’s if we had to drive somewhere else for piano lessons after school!” For this mom, the convenience of being able to come home and cook dinner while her kids had piano lessons in the next room outweighed the difference in cost.
Tip #2: Group your students according to location.
This is the best way to maximize your income and make travel teaching the most efficient. In my case, I travel to two specific areas--one on Wednesdays and one on Thursdays. I tell parents that I will only travel to a neighborhood if I have at least 3 interested students (4 or more is even better!). I have found parents are more than willing to spread the word by advertising on their neighborhood Facebook page or on the Nextdoor app so that I have enough students in one area to make it worth my while to travel there.
Tip #3: Keep track of your mileage when you travel teach.
In my case, business travel to my clients is tax deductible, and those miles really add up! I have found that by keeping records and deducting my mileage as a business expense it completely offsets what I am spending on gas for the days I travel teach. (Disclaimer: I am not an accountant--so check with a CPA where you live to see what rules would apply in your situation!)
Tip #4: Use a dedicated travel bag to organize your teaching materials.
I use a large tote bag with lots of pockets, and I keep it stocked with pencils, highlighters, extra assignment sheets, a binder with extra worksheets, stickers, tissues--anything that I think I might need on the days I travel teach. I keep a second set of these items in my home studio so that I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything essential on the days I travel to lessons. I also have an iPad with lots of apps and digital sheet music--which saves me from needing to carry extra books or games to my lessons. (I blogged about how I use my iPad in lessons HERE.)
Tip #5: Have a firm policy regarding make-up lessons and no-shows.
While you might have a generous make-up policy for your home studio, make-ups become a trickier issue when you travel to teach. It usually isn’t practical or efficient to drive out to do a make-up lesson for one student. Come up with a clear policy that details how you will handle cancellations and what you will do if you arrive at a home and the student isn’t there (which happens!). In my studio, I offer group make-up classes at my home that are regularly scheduled throughout the year, so both my travel students and my home studio students have a chance to attend whichever classes fit their schedule. If a student isn’t home when I arrive for a travel lesson, I text the parent to confirm the lesson time, and I wait a maximum of 15 minutes for the student to show. There are no refunds or rescheduled lessons if a student isn’t home at their lesson time.
Tip #6: Communicate your expectations regarding potential distractions and parental involvement during lessons.
One of the pros of teaching from your home studio is that you have control over the environment and can set up your studio in a way to minimize distractions. Unfortunately, when you travel to teach this isn’t always possible. The piano may be in the same room as the TV, or there may be pets or siblings in the home that want to be part of the lesson--even when they aren’t particularly welcome! Make parents aware that students need to be ready for their lesson at the appropriate time, with no distractions from electronics. Siblings should ideally wait in another room during the lesson.
At the conclusion of the lesson, I like to communicate with the parent to let them know what we covered in our lesson--and to make them aware that I am leaving their home so that young students aren’t left unattended. You might also want to address in your policy whether or not you are comfortable teaching a child in their home without a parent or other adult present.
What do you think? Do you currently travel to students’ homes for lessons? Any tips you would like to share on travel teaching? I would love to hear from you in the comments!