Fees for music tuition: our tips for setting your rates

Here we set out our tips about what you should bear in mind when setting your rates for freelance music tuition. This advice in no way constitutes fee recommendations. Competition law prevents us – and other trade associations and organisations - from recommending rates for musicians’ freelance work.

Know your market value

Do be aware of what other music teachers are charging in your area. You will not want to charge either significantly more or much less than your competitors, that is other music teachers in your area. Charging more would put you at risk of losing work to other teachers prepared to charge a lower rate (although you should remember that more experienced teachers tend to charge higher rates). Charging less than other teachers would mean that you are earning less than you are able (and devalue music tuition in general).

Using our survey data

Use the information revealed by our annual surveys of teachers’ fees. These give historical data about the range of rates paid to both private teachers and self-employed visiting music teachers in schools. You will want to take into account factors such as:

  • general price inflation since the survey date
  • the general economic situation and its impact upon demand for music tuition
  • where your particular locality sits within the overall fee ranges and
  • where are you placed within the overall range of fees (see below) and
  • how much you need additional new pupils (see below).

Where do you fit?

You should allow for:

  • your skills and qualifications
  • your teaching experience: our surveys have consistently shown that more experienced teachers tend to charge more than those with less experience and
  • how much you want/need to attract new pupils: (in other words, if you already have a waiting list you may consider a rather higher rate than someone who is wanting to expand their teaching practice).

Negotiating with pupils and their parents

It is never easy to ask parents or adult pupils for a high fee or fee increase, especially as you will probably have built up a good personal relationship with them. You should:

  • keep things on a business-like footing, starting with a signed teaching contract, which sets out (amongst other items) the initial teaching rate and provisions for future increases in fees: ISM members can download a pro forma private tuition contract, which can be easily adapted for school teaching work where your contract is with your pupils’ parents
  • give plenty of notice if you intend increasing your rate: ISM members can download a pro forma written notice of fee increase
  • explain that you charge more than some other teachers in your area because you are more qualified/experienced than they are (and they are probably not ISM members or listed on the ISM Music Directory)
  • point, if it helps, to our survey results as an indicator of what qualified music teachers such as yourself have been charging in the recent past
  • remember that you do not have to increase your rates every year: our surveys suggest that most teachers raise their fees only once every two or three years and
  • be prepared, if necessary, to point out that music teaching is your business and your livelihood depends on it.

Negotiating school rates

In practice, of course, many schools specify a uniform rate to be charged by all their visiting music teachers (VMTs). Equally you will probably not want to charge more (or less) than other music teachers in the school for fear of losing pupils to them or of being seen as undercutting them.

None of this should stop you from being proactive in seeking a higher fee if you feel that the school is paying a below-par fee. Review your rates annually, taking into account our survey results, to check you are not falling behind the pack. If you think your school rates are too low, don’t be afraid to raise this with the school authorities. You could do this as a group representing the VMTs as a whole. Alternatively, your Head of Music might be prepared to negotiate a fairer rate for you.

Allowance for holidays, sickness and pensions

You may want to build into your fees:

  • allowance for holiday periods when you are not teaching
  • contingency provision for losses of earnings if you are ill or injured and
  • the cost of pension contributions which are part of your retirement planning.

Remember that employed VMTs have the benefits of entitlement to paid holiday and sick pay and usually have pension contributions paid on their behalf by their employer.

Self-employed VMTs who are paid by the school may (as “workers” under the relevant legislation) be entitled to statutory holiday pay. Like other self-employed VMTs, however, they should still make allowance for their pension contributions and lack of sick pay entitlement.

Time spent

You should take into account not only the time you spend actually teaching but also the time you spend on:

  • lesson preparation
  • pupils' concerts and workshops
  • updating pupils' records and marking and writing reports
  • interviewing prospective pupils
  • the general management, administration and development of your business and travelling.

If you teach in a school, you may want to negotiate additional payments if your attendance is required for non-teaching events such as

  • rehearsals
  • concerts
  • staff meetings
  • training sessions, including INSET days
  • parents’ meetings
  • accompanying and
  • instrument maintenance and purchase.

Overheads

In addition, you will want to allow for all your overheads. These may include:

  • instrument maintenance and repairs
  • insurance for instruments, property, car, health and public and employers’ liability*
  • your travel costs
  • income tax and National Insurance contributions
  • accounting and audit fees
  • debt interest
  • studio hire charges
  • business rates
  • music, books, stationery, recordings, advertising
  • subscriptions to professional associations and periodicals
  • telephone costs and
  • studio hire, lighting, heating and maintenance.

* ISM members are covered by public and employers’ liability insurance.

Charges for group tuition

Because of the greater time required for preparation and administration of lessons given to a group, most teachers charge more for group than for individual lessons.

You might consider using the following ‘formula’ for charging for group lessons:

  • two pupils sharing a lesson would each pay two-thirds of the fee for individual tuition
  • for three to four pupils, the total fee would be one and a half times the individual tuition fee
  • for five to six pupils, the total fee would be twice the individual tuition fee.

Some other issues

Teachers may choose not to charge for a trial lesson or for auditioning potential pupils or interviewing them and their parents before deciding whether or not to accept them.

If you are going to charge for a consultation lesson, you should tell pupils and parents at the time the lesson is booked that there will be a fee payable on the day and how much this will be. An appropriate level of fee for consultation lessons might be one-and-a-half times your usual lesson rate.

If you teach in an area where there is particular financial hardship or if an individual client is experiencing financial difficulties, you might consider reducing the length of lessons and adjusting your fees accordingly. Another way of helping clients who are having difficulty paying your normal fee is to award a bursary for a specified period. The terms of the bursary should be put in writing, as it is a variation to the previously agreed terms of tuition. It is a good idea to make clear that the bursary is made at your discretion, that it lasts for the stated period only and that it is not necessarily renewable. Bursary amounts should be shown on invoices.

The ISM provides the information in these advice pages as guidance on the topics covered. This information should not be regarded as an authoritative statement of the law or a substitute for legal advice. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first obtaining advice from the ISM legal team. The ISM will not be liable to you if you rely on the information in these advice pages without first obtaining advice from the ISM legal team.