As a private lesson teacher, you will need to fill your studio with students. If you are a smart teacher you will run your studio like it is a business. However, many of you received your degrees in music performance or music education, therefore, you never took any business classes while you were in college. Many times musicians are already fairly business savvy however, this can be a part of the job that can remain a mystery.
What is networking?
Networking can be something that many of you already know how to do pretty well. You have already used this tool while trying to get gigs or setup your student teaching assignments. However, many of us miss important networking opportunities and forget the important steps it takes to network effectively.
Just the other night I went to a concert that one of my students was playing in. It was an allstate jazz concert so there are many band directors there that I could network with. I went there planning on only seeing my student play however I ran into a few band directors that I know very well and decided to talk shop with them. I also had the opportunity to position myself in a way where I was introduced to other band directors I didn’t already know. This proved to be very beneficial. I was able to network effectively because I followed a few very simple steps. And here they are :
I. Be professional! This one point might be another whole blog post by itself. For the sake of this post here are a few short reminders. Always dress professional. Always act professional. Don’t talk in slang. Always shake hands when you meet someone, even if you already know them. Introduce yourself, with both your first and last name. You are not only representing yourself, you are representing your company. You have decided to start your own small business, you have to act like a small business owner. Your business is always on the showroom floor.
2. Work the room. Find the people that you already know and get them to introduce you to people you don’t know. This can be very beneficial as it will build your lead base of contacts. The more people you know and the better first impression you make, the more work you will get. This means you need to be on your best behavior at all times. Make a goal for yourself to meet everyone in the room. This might not happen right away, but be persistent, it will pay off.
3. Be confident in your ability. Have you ever met someone for the first time that gave off the vibe that they were really shy and not personable? Maybe they seemed very wishy washy? What was your first impression of that person? Don’t be that person. Don’t be arrogant or conceited either, just be sure of yourself. Be confident that what you do will make a difference.
4. It’s not just a business transaction. Networking is not just to schedule new students, networking is a tool to meet people and get them to know you…the real you. Taking into account everything that has been said previously, you still need to be you. A successful network is full of people that trust you and know what you are all about. You don’t gain trust by starting with “Hello, my name is Scott Coriell and I want to teach your students.” This will not get you any students. They need to know that you are not psycho and that you will be teaching their students things that are in line with the things they are covering in class. Talk to them like you are a real person. Talk about other things than just shop, find out what gets them excited and talk about that for a while. Ask questions about them and their programs. When you feel that you have enough information about them to carry on a conversation, then start talking about yourself. Tie what you do into what they do, this will help you make connections. However, don’t go too far off track, stay professional. One thing to ask yourself after meeting anyone, “What did they take away from that encounter about me?” Really think about that, and adjust if needed for the next person you meet. This happened to me just recently. I was on a gig where I felt that everything was going well with the other person I was playing with, then things seemed to change. I started getting the cold shoulder and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought back on the gig and started to realize that there were a couple of points where my “non-professional” side came out, and that is where the temperature changed with that individual. Fortunately, this was a multiple day gig with the same people, I made sure on the second day that I straightened up and did not break the professional barrier. It looks like I might have saved some of myself, but I can tell there is still some work that needs to be done with that individual before they hire me again. Lesson learned.
5. Follow up. Before you leave this person you have just met, make sure they have a business card, or a way to contact you. Make sure that you have a way to contact them. Let them know that you will reach out to them by a specific time. Then DO IT!!! Nothing is worse than a broken promise in business. You will be marked as flaky and unreliable. Even if it is a follow up with no news, follow up, let them know that you are still around and that you are still interested. If you are not on their mind the phone won’t ring.
Networking is such a huge topic and something that we could do a whole blog series on. Just remember, when you own your own business, you always have to be on. People are judging your business by the way that you act 24 hours a day. There is no “off” time. The market for teaching lessons is small, don’t mess up your opportunities because you can’t act like a professional.
Good luck out there!
Chime in! Share some good networking stories in the comments.