Alexa Terry shares time-saving, stress-busting tips to help self-employed singing teachers enjoy a better work/life balance.
There’s a lot more to running a vocal coaching studio than simply working with students. As sole traders, we often undertake multiple roles, including business manager, head of marketing, researcher, office administrator, educator, mentor, advisor, content creator, artist and tea maker.
In the corporate world, several employees with separate salaries would manage these different tasks. So it’s unsurprising that those who run their own studio may experience a sense of ‘overwhelm’ from time to time.
But until we receive a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, we have to accept that we’re human. So, if we can’t cast spells, what can we do to achieve a better work/life balance?
Responding to lesson enquiries, confirming session bookings, issuing invoices, note-taking and formulating lesson plans are time-consuming administrative tasks. Thankfully, in the 21st Century, we can take advantage of scheduling software (such as 10to8 and Acuity Scheduling) and studio management programmes (like MyMusicStaff) to help us operate more efficiently and reduce the manual load.
2. Bullet points and templates
As much as I enjoy an essay (yep, I’m a geek!), it might not be the most effective method for lesson planning and note keeping. Use bullet points to keep things short and to the point, thus reducing the overwhelm of lengthy spiel.
And while vocal coaching doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach, over time, we may be able to create lesson plan templates to use when we observe similarities between clients.
3. Adhere to operating hours
Replying to emails or answering calls and requests at an unreasonable time can be a slippery slope. It tells our clients that this is a service which they may grow to expect. Outlining operating hours and sticking to them helps to maintain professional boundaries and a better work/life balance.
4. Plan ahead or delegate
Creating content for online platforms is an integral part of any digital marketing strategy – but can be a time-muncher. To maintain an online presence and engage followers (and thus potential clients), set aside a day each month to plan content such as posts, blogs, and podcasts.
Alternatively, you could, for a cost, delegate to freelancers through services such as fiverr.
5. Know your demographic
Receiving enquiries and bookings from an undesired demographic can unnecessarily add to our workload.
Expanding your knowledge in different directions is hardly a bad thing but, ideally, you want to engage with your preferred audience through your marketing plan.
If, for example, you receive lots of inquiries from middle-aged amateur singers when your preferred student is a young MT professional, perhaps your website is sending out mixed messages (or the wrong message).
Stay tuned as, in an upcoming podcast, we’ll be chatting to digital marketing guru and vocal coach Candi Louise about this very subject.
6. Keep learning with focused CPD
It can often feel like the more we learn, the more we realise we don’t know – and that can be overwhelming. But, as the saying goes: ‘Knowledge is power.’
Continued Professional Development (CPD) is an integral part of our growth as a professional and individual.
If there is a specific area where you feel your knowledge is a little lacking, make this a CPD objective. You could approach like-minded vocal coaches and arrange a study session, increasing your knowledge and building a reliable network of peers in the process.
Enjoy the journey of ‘learning’ rather than focusing on the destination of ‘knowing’.
7. Rubber duck debugging
In their book The Pragmatic Programmer (1999), Andrew Hunt and David Thomas discuss ‘rubber duck debugging’. Software engineers use this method to formulate solutions for debugging code by explaining a problem to an inanimate object (in this case, a rubber duck).
Essentially, ‘rubber duck debugging’ is the process of ‘thinking out loud’ and explaining a problem in a clear, methodical way (hopefully leading to a lightbulb moment).
This problem-solving approach doesn’t have to remain exclusive to software engineers; vocal coaches could find it helpful too.
For example, suppose we’re engaging in CPD, and we come across a confusing concept. In that case, we can turn to a rubber duck, cuddly companion or miniature to help us dissect the information and find a more thorough understanding.
8. Permit mistakes
If we allow our clients to make mistakes in the studio, shouldn’t the same rule apply to us as vocal coaches?
While we need to be accountable and informed, mistakes are inevitable. Instead of berating ourselves when something doesn’t go according to plan, we can maintain our growth mindset by accepting the situation, learning from it, and making adjustments to approach a similar scenario differently in the future.
As BAST trainer Ian Davidson wrote: “Nobody wakes up in the morning and sets out to be a ‘bad singing teacher,’ and whilst we certainly shouldn’t be doing nothing to progress our understanding of the voice, if you’ve completed the BAST course you know A LOT and, yes, you are helping.”
9. Jack of all trades, master of none
Understanding our unique experiences, recognising our passions, and outlining our niche, might reduce feelings of needing to be a little bit of everything.
After all, we can’t be all things to all people. Once we’ve highlighted our USP, we may even discover areas that have the potential to earn us passive income in the form of an online course or e-book, for example.
10. Learn to say no
The self-employed vocal coach isn’t a 24/7 occupation, so don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to things that don’t satisfy your goals and/or schedule. Clock off and indulge in something restful, be it walking, soap carving or bug collecting.
Share your views and comments on the BAST Trainers Facebook group.
Further reading: David Valks started his own studio to achieve a better work/life balance. Find out how this former BAST student makes being self-employed work for him.