1. Start with the basics: Practice!
Mozart once said, “It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has come easy to me.” and so it is with any skill. One needs to practice until one can play effortlessly, and then practice some more. To practice until one dreams of it.
The better you are at playing, the more people will come to you, asking you how you play in that magic way you do. When you play well, people will want to buy CDs you make, lessons you teach, read articles you write, read books you write and play your compositions.
The more your reputation grows, the more people will want to learn from you, the more students you will have, and the more you will be able to charge for your services. The more success you have in practice, the more you will have as a teacher.
Remember, even teaching is a skill, and this skill takes practice, effort and time to master, just like the skill of playing. So. All of this mastery and success begins with practice.
This really is the most obvious one. The better your skill at teaching and playing, the more your reputation will grow and the more people will be willing to become a student of yours, to attend your concerts, read articles you write, buy your recordings, books or compositions. Get a mentor, read as many books as you can, find out from people you respect what made them awesome and practice, practice, practice!
2. Tune up your image
Numerous studies have shown that people judge things by how good they look. The old saying “Never judge a book by its cover” is advice against this, but it’s human nature to still do it anyway.
James Galway has made a career out of marketing his own brand, even outside the flute world, all based around his image: “The man with the golden flute!”, and Marlene Dietrich was known to have said: “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.”
So, it’s never too early to begin to create an image and a style for yourself. It’ll help your career in ways you can’t imagine. You can change it over time, but if you have a professionally crafted look, it’ll be easier for people to remember you, and for you to build all your hard work of practicing, teaching and performing into a good reputation.
You can build that personal brand in a lot of different ways: playing certain music, the quality of your sound, picking certain clothes, by what you do day to day, or by the types of communication you make. When you get business cards, concert fliers, teaching ads, a website, and you promote yourself with them, get a professional design to make your personal image easily recognisable and of high quality so that people are judging you positively, and remember you.
When you have a personal brand, if you release a CD, book, composition, start writing a blog or anything else that your audience might be interested in, your image can really work for you: people will resonate with it more, and pay attention. They will like it, and spread the world.
3. Inspire your students, and everyone else, too!
There’s an old chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” When you connect with your students and audience by educating them, you’re planting the seeds for tomorrow’s trees.
Here’s a great way to really connect with your fans, students and audience: write a small article sharing interesting tips for learning the flute on your web site, or newsletter.
This support material helps so that between lessons, students and others can have more opportunity to be engaged with their learning from you, and you can give them inspiration to practice and explore the flute. The more you work at encouraging others in the community, even those who aren’t necessarily your students, the more your business will flourish. More interested people will come back to your website, and in turn to your teaching studio, to buy your published works or to see you perform.
4. Showcase your thoughts
Having a blog of your thoughts or news online can let others in the community know your opinions on how to best learn and teach, which adds to the larger community. By inviting comment, you can connect with the fluting community in a very real way.
The more flutists who do this, the better for us all in the community. By creating content for the flute community, you will build your authority, which in turn will mean you will be more in demand as a teacher. This will give the people who love to hear your thoughts the opportunity to get a feel for what’s important to you, which in turn helps your business by gaining more interest from those who resonate with what you have to say. Your fans will share your page, and more people will look at your work.
Having your own website really does help here, rather than relying on a social network. The main reason is that it’s within your control and ownership. What you put up or take down is up to you, and you have more direct control over how it’s organised and how it looks.
5. Display your talents
Engage other people in your teaching by sharing snippets of your music, photography, video and website links. This is a great way to showcase the full range of your talents which have obvious continuous beneficial effects for your business.
If you have a website, you can put these things there, or send out a newsletter to interested people from time to time. To properly get a feel for what your students or audience are interested in, you need to make sure you listen very carefully to what they are telling you and respond.
6. Keep connected to your audience & students
It’s important when in business to keep in contact with your customers, to find out what they need. For teachers, this is a lot easier because your students will often tell you when they’re having trouble or difficulty. That gives you a way of making sure you’re tailoring their lessons specifically to them.
Nevertheless, listening to your customers, and that includes your students, is very important. All music starts with listening, and really paying attention to what is required, moment by moment.
When you’re really connected to your customers, you know what they need, and this will give you ideas for the next point about the sorts of products you could make or source for them so they can improve their learning or enjoyment.
7. Publish and Sell
If you’re not already doing so, create unique products for your audience and students: you could sell prepared lessons as video, e-books, print books, compositions if you compose, or recordings of your performances, works or teaching.
Publishing and selling is yet another way to build authority in the community, and provides all people (even others who may not live near you) with an opportunity to enjoy your music and learn from you.
8. Be a Mentor
Lastly, they say to really learn you have to teach. So to really learn how to be an excellent teacher, you must teach other teachers! Remember what Joseph Joubert said: “You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you”.
Encourage your advanced students to get students of their own, and help them through the learning process of learning how to become an excellent teacher. While they will make all of the mistakes you made, you will be there to support them, listen to them and understand them, which helps so much.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning” – Albert Einstein.