So you’ve been learning piano for years and inspired by your own teacher to teach piano. Friends and relatives also approached you to teach them or their kids piano, and you see yourself enjoying the whole teaching process.
Now, you have serious thoughts of becoming a piano teacher, and probably make it a full-time career!
But you’re thinking… should I be a private piano teacher, or should you teach in a school?
The Happy Pianist has the privilege to work with hundreds of piano teachers in Singapore since 2014, many of whom are private piano teachers who have taught in music schools previously.
Let us share with you the pros and cons of being a private piano teacher in Singapore.
So…Why be a private piano teacher?
1. You Earn More Teaching Privately
Private piano teachers earn more because all the lessons fees goes directly to you. Your income is based on the number of students you have.
The more students you have, the higher your income, which is very fair.
If you have 25 students, and average fees is $200, your income is $5000. ($200 is about the fees of beginners and Grade 1 to 2. If your rates are higher, you earn more. More about piano lesson fees here).
And the reason you have that many students, it means you can teach well, and parents and students are happy to do lessons with you. As a private teacher, you’re fairly compensated for your hard work and efforts.
But this is not the same as music schools as you’re paid by the hour, or given only a percentage of the lesson fees.
So even if you teach 25 students (like the private teacher above), but because it is in a music school, your salary will be lower, maybe about 45% to 50% of what a private teacher will earn.
And that’s understandable, because you’re an employee of the school, and the school has to earn as well, as they provide the centre, the facilities, the music room for you to teach, and so on. So you can’t earn the full lesson fees.
So if you want to be fairly compensated for your own efforts, private teaching is for you!
2. Your Income Has No Limit
Private piano teachers earn more, and they can also earn as much as they want based on the number of students they teach. They have no limit on their income, compared to a fixed salary given by the school.
And many teachers prefer this as this is very fair. The more you teach, the more you earn. So why do you want to have a salary limit when you work hard and teach more?
We have teachers who 5 days a week, with 30+ students. We also have teachers who teaches 6 days a week, with 40+ students. We also have teachers who teaches everyday with 50+ students.
Let’s just take an average student fee of $200 a month. With simple math, you can calculate how much private piano teachers earn on average.
And they can also earn more if they teach higher grade students whose lesson fees are higher too.
However, your salary in the school is determined by your qualification and experience. But even if you have high qualifications, like a Bachelor Degree or Masters Degree in Music from prestigious universities, your salary will still be capped.
Piano teachers with Grade 8 or Diploma are getting paid better than their peers who has higher qualifications, simply by teaching privately than teaching in schools.
3. You Can Plan Your Own Schedule.
As a private piano teacher, you plan your own lesson schedule, your own teaching hours, and your own rest days. You decide how you want to work, where you want to work, and how much you want to work!
Because private piano teachers are compensated by the number of students they have. So if you teach more, you earn more. Similarly, if you teach less, you earn less. So it’s all up to you.
At The Happy Pianist, we have teachers with various backgrounds and plan their schedules differently.
We have teaches who only start lessons from afternoon, and happy to reach until 10pm!
We also have teachers who are parents and they only teach in morning and afternoon while their kids are in school.
We also have teachers who only teach 2 weekdays and 2 weekends. The other 3 weekdays are their off-days which they have time for themselves.
However, if you teach in a school, your boss control your time, and they tell you what time to report to work, and what time you end. Because you’re an employee there, so you have to follow their rules.
So if you’re someone who wants control of your time and truly enjoy work-life balance, then private teaching is for you.
4. You Run Your Own Business
If you’re someone who doesn’t like working under a boss, under a corporate structure, or deal with office politics, then private teaching is for you. Because you’ll be working for yourself, you’re your own boss.
You get to make your own decisions, you set your own lesson plan and syllabus, your own working hours and your own holiday breaks. You decide if you want to teach at home, or the locations that are convenient for you.
You can also partner up with other teachers and organize music workshops for kids too. You can decide anything that benefit your students.
You can also decide your own income based on the number of students you teach. Your income is not dependent on the Peer Evaluation or HR review of your annual performance to decide your bonus or salary increment (which we all know these reviews can be unfair)
5. You Get All The Credit
As a private piano teacher, your student results are your results. All the credit goes to you, for your teaching and dedication for the student’s achievement. Your name will be printed on the student’s certificate to recognise your efforts as the teacher too.
And if you teach well and deliver results, more students will join your lessons, your income will also increase. You’re then directly compensated for your good performance.
However, if you’re a teacher under a school, the credit goes to the school. It’s the school’s student results, not exactly your results. Which means if you quit the school, the student result stays with the school.
When you teach well, the school may get you to teach more, but your salary may not increase proportionately. It still depends on the school salary rules.
6. You Own Your Own Students
Private teaching is like running your own business, so your students are your own customers. They belong to you. You can discuss all the lesson plans, goals, schedules directly with the parents and students. You can decide the locations in Singapore you want to teach at.
But if you’re teaching in a school, the students belong to the school. Which mean the school have the right to decide the teacher for the student.
You can be happily teaching a student, but the school can reassign you to teach other kids. Or you can be happily teaching in a branch near your home, but they assign you to other branches on the other side of Singapore.
7. You Can Focus On What You Do Best – Teach!
Teachers love to teach. We love to share our knowledge with our students, we love to play music together with them, we love to see them take on new challenges and progress towards higher grades. We love to see them perform on stage and excel at the highest level.
These gives teachers immense satisfaction, and that’s why many piano teachers can teach for years, simply out of love and passion for teaching.
And this is also the reason why many piano teachers also choose to teach privately, because they can truly focus on teaching!
Private teachers also have the time to plan lessons, explore new pieces with students, check on student’s progress, organise recitals, prepare them for competitions… and anything that helps the student to progress better.
But if you’re teaching in a school, you can be doing many other things other than teaching.
You can be doing front desk duties to handle customer enquiries. You can be asked to do cold calling to parents to join the school lessons.
You can be asked to do roadshows and give out flyers along the street or shopping malls.
You can be asked to sell pianos to your own students. You can be asked to do other administrative stuff outside of your job scope.
Teachers don’t like to do such sales-ly or administrative duties. Otherwise, they can take up a sales job and earn more right?
But if you’re working in the school, you’re an employee of the school. Hence, the school decide your work duties, not you. And if they need manpower in certain department, you have to do it.
As an employee, you’re paid a monthly salary within a certain work hours. So as long you’re available during those hours, you have to do what you’re told, regardless it’s teaching or not.
Above are the benefits of being a private teacher, and also why many experienced teachers choose to teach privately too.
But having said that, private teaching has its downsides too.
1. Irregular Income
Private teaching income is dependent on the number of students you have. Hence your monthly income will fluctuate up and down each month. Your income won’t be the same throughout the year.
In certain month, you have students stop lessons. Your income drops.
In certain month, you have students who want multiple lessons, your income increases.
In certain month, your students completed Grade 8 or Diploma and graduated from your lessons. Your income drops.
In certain month, you have an influx of new students joining you, your income doubles.
Just like running any business, there are ups and downs throughout the year.
So if you want to teach privately, you have to be comfortable with irregular income.
That’s why at The Happy Pianist, we constantly help our teachers by recommending them students to fill up their schedule, to make up for any shortfall in income.
If you’re a teacher in school, then you don’t have to worry about irregular income, because salary will be paid to you each month, regardless of how many students you have.
You can teach more, or teach less, your salary will still be the same. Even if you lose students or when students quit school, you’ll still get paid, your boss will still have to pay you the same salary, because that’s stated in the employment contract.
2. No Promotion, No Bonus, No Incentives.
If you’re an employee in a company, there will be corporate structure, ranks, bonuses and incentives to aim for. You can get promoted from ‘Executive’ to ‘Senior Executive’ or Teacher to ‘Senior Teacher” over the years of working in the school. You can get salary increment of a few % or few hundred dollars more a month.
And if you hit certain goals and targets, you get bonuses and incentives. Maybe a cash gift of a few hundred dollars, or maybe a free 2D1N hotel stay. This is to reward you for your performance, and motivate you to aim for higher KPI.
But as a private piano teacher, you don’t get all these fancy titles, promotions, or bonuses.
Because as mentioned, your income is dependent on the number of students you have, not determined by peer evaluation or how your boss thinks of your performance last year.
You’re working for yourself, and you earn your own keep. But if you like titles, bonuses, incentives, you can reward them yourself.
3. Handle Your Own Administrative Work
If you teach in a school, there may be a front desk that handle administrative duties for teachers, like arranging lesson schedule, collection of fees, or registering for music exams.
This is also the reason why you only earn a percentage of the lesson fees, because the school will hire an admin person to do these tasks for you.
But if you’re a private piano teacher, you have to handle these tasks yourself. But on the positive side, you get to keep the full fees.
If you’ve taught privately before, you’ll also know many of these admin tasks are one-off task that can be done quite easily yourself, and won’t take much of your time too. Hence it doesn’t make sense to pay someone to do it.
4. You May Teach At Odd Hours
Private teachers work for themselves, and decide their own schedule with parents and students. But there’s a downside to this too.
You can be asked to teach multiple lessons, or longer lessons, or lessons at odd hours.
We have teachers teaching students for 2-3 lessons a week. Which means 12 lessons a month.
We have teachers teaching 1.5hr to 2hr a lesson, when lessons are normally 45min or 1 hour long.
We have teachers teaching on odd hours like Saturday 7am, Tuesday 9pm, or weekdays lunch hours.
Private teachers have this problem of waking up very early for class, or waking up in late morning (because they teach late the night before), or having late lunch, or late dinner.
Anyway, you’ll still be compensated for the extra hours you teach. And if the odd hours doesn’t suit your lifestyle, you can discuss other timings with your students too.
So above are the pros and cons of being a private piano teacher, sharing from our experience working with many private piano teachers in Singapore who used to teach in schools.
As you can already see, teaching private piano lessons give you way more benefits than teaching in a school, such as higher income, more time freedom, and work-life balance. But there are some downsides too.
At The Happy Pianist, we are always on the lookout for good piano teachers in Singapore, and help them build their private teaching career by recommending them students.
We are strict in our selection and matching process to ensure we work with good teachers only. If you would like to build up your teaching career with us, you can join us as a piano teacher here.