I recently helped a friend come to the difficult decision of leaving her full-time teaching job and choosing a profile musician’s career (read about it in this post). After you make that sort of decision, you live in this weird, floaty dream period when all you think about is time. How much control you’ll have over it, how much more of it you’ll be able to enjoy, to spend exercising, with friends and family, or collecting pet rocks.
Then a little gnarly Reality demon rudely interrupts that perfect bubble and you’re left quasi-frantically crunching numbers, sort of sweating, and legitimately solving systems of equations to figure out how many sets of students at x-rates you need NOT to fall down the Ramen Hole, Land of Broken Dreams.
I have maintained (and always will) that the universe works in weird ways. Every time I’ve needed a student, I’ve had one. I’ve never had trouble filling slots. Every time a student has left, I’ve easily been able to replace them. Every time I’ve thought “man, one more student this semester would pay for my plane ticket to Cancun,” someone has (literally) shown up at my door. I attribute 80% of that to old-fashioned toiling: marketing, making myself visible, networking, all that stuff I generally hate, but that I do because it’s necessary and funds my expensive cheese habit. There’s the usual suspects – a lot of my business comes from word of mouth, referrals, other teachers, my various networks. The other 20% happens mysteriously.
Here are some straight-up wacky ways students have fallen into my lap:
I Donated My Hair
I almost never cut my hair because it grows like redwoods on steroids. About every two years, I chop it all off and donate it, and since hairdressers have PhDs in guerrilla conversations, I ended up walking out of a salon once with a new student (and some rocking bangs, which promptly disappeared after two weeks).
I Trolled Craigslist
Judge all you want, but some of my best, most consistent students have come from craigslist. One CL candidate took lessons from me for over two years. I don’t really use the website anymore, but with the right balance of caution mixed with negligent decision-making, you too can make the List work for you without ending up on America’s Most Wanted.
I Sold my Stereo (on Craigslist)
I had an older stereo set that wouldn’t sell, but that I couldn’t bring myself to give to Goodwill, so I put it up on craigslist. I’m pretty sure I was wearing paint-stained shorts and no shoes when the guy showed up at my door to buy it. I ran inside to get change, he saw my piano and ended up putting his two kids in lessons.
I Wrote a Blog
In recent years, I’ve aimed to be in a more sharing place. Building people up is essential. It’s how we get by. So I’ve written a few blogs reviewing local musicals (like this one or this one) and I try to name individuals that catch my eye. One such person was so flattered he contacted me for lessons (he also goes to school with one of my current students). Score one for sharing the love.
I wanted to take drum lessons. He wanted to learn how to sing. It worked out for both of us but mostly me because I like to hit things. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Yes, you may not always get what you want, but you’ll always what you need….