Now that so many people are facing the need to move their teaching and activities online, I am spotting the following trend:
Teachers are offering their online lessons at (much) lower rates than their “usual”, in-person lessons.
I feel compelled to speak up about this.
When I see online lessons offered at a lower rate than in-person lessons, my initial question is always: “Why?”.
Dear teachers, artists, freelancers:
Offering your online lessons at a lower rate than in-person lessons communicates the following things and thoughts:
1. “Online lessons aren’t as valuable / effective / good as in-person lessons”.
I feel especially compelled to speak up about this point, because not only have I seen independent teachers offering their online lessons at (much) lower rates last week, I have seen entire music schools communicate to their teachers that online lessons are seen as a “nice gesture towards their students” in this period of social distancing, but the teachers would probably have to teach these lessons AGAIN in person, when things get “back to normal”.
See the message that’s being communicated here? “Online lessons are not “real” lessons.”
This both breaks my heart, and makes me want to get on the barricades.
The place / platform of the lesson might have changed. However: your expertise, experience and knowledge hasn’t!
If you are new to online teaching, YES, there are things to learn. Both for you and your students.
You can not expect that your first (or second) online lesson will be exactly like your regular in-person appointments. There’s a learning curve happening, for both of you.
You’re learning things, like figuring out how to work with the technology that you’re using.
Teaching online also requires different didactics than in-person lessons. You being physically in a different location than your student will require some adjustments in the way you teach. Things sound different.
But there’s many upsides too. Online lessons teach your students many wonderful things besides the actual thing that you’re teaching them (voice, choir, piano, guitar, cello….).
Such as: Becoming independent learners. Taking responsibility of their part of the lesson preparation, and of their own learning process. Learning to tap in to their kinaesthetic / sensory mode of learning. And much more.
Working online also presents you with a multitude of possibilities to give and add value to your students, to offer feedback and guidance. Meeting up many times a week, or even daily, would be close to impossible in most local, in-person lessons due to travel time, not to mention the costs.
I have taught online lessons, group classes and programs for the past 7+ years, conducted interactive live streams, worked with e-learning companies, and studied with the best teachers and coaches in the world who are working exclusively online. I’ll repeat that: exclusively online.
There is no need to question “if online lessons really work”. They do. You (and your students) may need to adapt to a new way of working together. And of course being online is different than being in the same room with someone. But it works. It even adds more possibilities than you’d have when sticking to only “in person options”. (And just to make one thing clear: I am not writing this to say that nobody should teach in person any more, “when things get back to normal”. Of course we want to see our choirs etc in real life again. But hey, we might have also figured out new ways and added new possibilities to the way we work and conduct our businesses)
Rather than lowering your prices (which is communicating the wrong thing, and may also backfire at you in ways that I will get to later on in this post), think about the value of your work and services. And how working online can even add value to your services. Don’t lower your rates and thereby de-value what you do and the results your students get from working with you.
2. “What if nobody buys my online lessons?”
When I see teachers offer their online lessons at a lower rate than their regular lessons, I can’t help but spotting this fear-based thought: “What if my students won’t go on this online train with me?”
Yes, there might and will be students who are feeling scared or suspicious about online lessons. It’s natural. If something is new and different to how you usually do things, you will perhaps not jump on that train without questioning some things. Perhaps you’re feeling scared and suspicious about it too. “Yes but this online thing cannot work for me and what / who / how I teach!”
A couple of thoughts:
Like I said, it’s natural to feel scared and suspicious. But also know this: If you are scared and suspicious, your students will be scared and suspicious too.
If you have these fear-based thoughts about nobody wanting to do online lessons, first try to examine your own thoughts. What is it that makes you scared? And what can you do about it?
For example: if you’re afraid you can’t teach your stuff in the way you usually do, seek help and guidance from teachers and coaches who have been doing this for many years. I can help you. And I can also point you towards other people who can help you. You don’t have to feel like you’re “thrown into the sea of online teaching and have to figure out how to swim by yourself”. There’s help out there.
If you’re afraid you won’t be able to use technical platforms, do two things: 1) educate yourself about the technical / practical things, 2) accept that you are learning something new, and that every baby step counts. You don’t have to be “perfect” right away! You’re not expecting “perfection” from your students either. So please, please be kind on yourself too.
Allow your students to go through this learning process of adapting to a new situation, and find ways to introduce your students to this new medium of teaching. Some will love it right away. Some will need to get used to it. Some will try it out for a while and say they prefer the “in real life” experience after all. It’s all okay.
If students tell you “I don’t feel for this online thing”, don’t freak out.
Take baby steps together. Know that you create the online experience together with your students.
The way things are looking right now, we might be hanging out online for quite a while.
3. “Everybody is now teaching online. I have to make a cheaper offer than that person, so that I too can make some sales. Especially in these times when so much work is being cancelled and the future looks so uncertain.”
This thought is also based in fear and scarcity-thinking. I call that kind of thinking “Starving Artist”-thinking. (Even people who are not artists can have Starving Artist thoughts, by the way).
It can be challenging not to think “Starving Artist” thoughts, because many of these thoughts and fears are collective thoughts. Meaning: very many artists, freelancers, individuals etc. think these thoughts, and these thoughts then end up dictating our actions in many ways that are beyond the scope of this post.
Times like these trigger many fears. Collective fears and individual fears. We have a choice here: we can get dragged into these fears, and allow them to guide our actions, OR we can use this as an opportunity to examine those fears and transform them.
Transforming “Starving Artist” thinking is a topic that I am deeply passionate about, because I used to be a “Starving Artist” myself. Starving Artist thoughts were dictating my actions without me being even aware of it, for very many years. The consequences of that were disastrous. I don’t want other artists to have to suffer the same kind of consequences, which is why I have dedicated myself to start spreading awareness about this. We all need to start changing our thoughts, collectively.
Transforming Starving Artist thoughts is beyond the scope of this post. However, linking this back to the topic of lowering your rates, here’s one thing to consider:
Offering your services or products at a lower rate, will in many cases backfire against you.
By attracting the “wrong” people.
See, every teacher has an “ideal student” and every student has an “ideal teacher”.
Some time ago, I read a comment here on Facebook by a teacher protesting against this “ideal student” thing. “Everybody is welcome in my lessons!!! Every person is the right person!!!”
I’m sorry to break this, but this is not true.
There are “right” people and there are “wrong” people. And this has got nothing to do with if we like those people or not. It’s not about discrimination at all.
It’s all about finding the people who you love to work with, who you can work with the best, who you deliver best results to. And that all has not just got to do with what you do as a teacher. It’s also got to do with whether you and your student are a “good match” or not.
Yesterday I had a talk with a world-class trumpet player about his business, and during that talk I told him to take the “sale” sticker off of his website. Why? His lessons were priced at €25 a lesson*. I was deeply confused. Why would I pay €25 to get a lesson from one of the best trumpet players in the world?!?
I asked him what kind of students he loves to work with: people who love music and are motivated, committed to growth, and so on.
Ok, that’s cool!!
But what’s the problem with the €25 then? Well, for starters, some people might get suspicious and think “This person is maybe a world-class trumpet player, but his lessons are so cheap, he must probably not know how to teach.” Yes: pricing yourself too low might result in people not buying from you at all!
Others again might think: “Oh cool! I only have to pay €25 to get to spend some time with this amazing trumpet player!!!! He can show me all his cool licks and tricks!!! It’s a BARGAIN!!!”
Problem here? That person might not be committed to growth at all. (Remember the teacher’s wishes, about what kind of students he loves to work with?) So the bargain price might attract the “wrong” people and the teacher might find himself “entertaining” the student rather than being in a situation of exchanging value. See, there’s more than monetary value going on in the value exchange of a lesson or class. Money is just one aspect in this value-exchange. And that exchange that is taking place has to be valuable for both parties.
This value / rates conversation does not have got anything to do with “excluding people who don’t have a lot of money” either. And the fact that €25 was potentially both “underpricing” and attracting the wrong type of clients in this case, doesn’t mean that a €25 lesson tag is “bad”. These are just some pointers and just the tip of the iceberg of value and pricing. There’s many things to consider. If you want to dive deeper into pricing, this is one of the things we cover in my business coaching programs for artists and teachers.
If you need help with any of the above: figuring out things related to online teaching, helping your students get through this transition together with you, getting clear about what kind of Starving Artist thoughts are perhaps sabotaging you (and what to do about them), getting clear about who the people are that YOU can get the best results with, how you can give your students added value by adapting new ways of working together, and perhaps even add some of these new things you’re learning now into your exciting future vision…. get in touch!
I have helped independent musicians and teachers to introduce online aspects into (part of) their businesses, and due to the amount of questions I have received about this topic over the past couple of weeks, I have now decided to:
Offer a “crash course” in online teaching to help you work out some of the didactic and practical aspects of it all.
I am also currently creating a new coaching program for visionary artists and teachers (based among others in the work that I do with my private coaching clients). So if any of the above resonated in you, get in touch and we can find out if we’re a match! If we’re not a match, I can point you towards other wonderful people who are doing things like these, so you can find your perfect match.