Teach Music Online: Carly Walton
On community + courses, the power of pricing, and identifying cheerleaders in your community
Community Name: Teach Music Online
Community Leader: Carly Walton
What is Teach Music Online? A community and course for music teachers who want to move their studios online.
On starting Teach Music Online
I've been teaching piano online for seven or eight years and I saw from the beginning what a huge opportunity that it was to teach online. A lot of music teachers struggle to fill their teaching hours with people in their neighborhood or their city. Teaching online offered so much flexibility and so many opportunities for growth beyond your immediate community.
When I transitioned my studio fully to being online, it got a lot of attention from other music teachers I knew and in communities that I was in on Facebook. I started getting all kinds of questions from setup to teaching methods to marketing.
A music company reached out to me wanting me to build a course for them, so I actually built my first course for this company. We were going to split the profit 50/50, but it turned out that they never marketed it - they didn't realize that people don't just buy from you - you have to show them your personality, they have to trust you.
Six months later, I decided to do my own course. I saw so many questions in these Facebook groups. People were longing for this connection and training around online teaching and I wasn't allowed to promote the course I had built. It started as a membership - I had heard Stu McLaren talk about Tribe on a podcast talk - he gave the example of someone who had a membership for people who liked creating doorknob and she had 100 people paying $30 a month. So I realized that people want community and training, no matter how small the niche.
On the community product
I started the first membership at a pretty low price point, kind of like a beta. I had a Facebook group attached to it and it was really, really successful from the start. I went back and forth a lot, but I landed at a combination of both the course and the community. It's a pretty comprehensive course - 60+ videos, workshops, training for everything a teacher could ever need to be successful online. Plus, the community to support those teachers going through this program - they've never done anything like it before and a lot of them have felt isolated and overwhelmed because of the pandemic and having to teach online.
We eventually starting the community in Mighty Networks, which I love. I think the platform itself allows for a lot of community naturally. Every Monday we have a discussion of the week, and we get a few dozen comments on that - it's always centered around building a studio or some other topic. Then on Friday, we do a round-up where everyone shares something from that week. And on Sunday, we do a goal-setting post, which helps with engagement. We get 5-10 other questions every day asking for help or wanting to vent a little bit - it's just amazing because they are there to support each other.
On cheerleaders in the community
There are people in the community who have designated themselves as the cheerleaders. Whenever a new teacher comes in and introduces themselves, those people will come on and say "Welcome, you're going to love this community and we're here for you." It's so much fun to see that. They really feed off of community. There are people that really thrive off of helping others and they want to share their expertise with other members.
In the future, as we grow and as I need more help, I'll have a community manager- somebody who's there to help with coaching and marketing.
On her community as a business
I had to shift the business model a few times. When I shifted to the community membership, I found that some people didn't even know the course was there. In my opinion the course is first, because that's what's offering them transformation as an online teacher.
Ultimately, the goal is to help people double their income as a teacher, to give them flexibility, to give them the power to market globally, and to fill their lesson times. They can't do that with the community alone, but they can do that with the course plus the added benefits of the community.
On member commitment and pricing
With this kind of course membership, there needs to be more commitment, a little more skin in the game, for people to work. If you paid $10 a month for a fitness coach on an app, you might look at it once or twice. But if you paid $100 a month for a different app, you'd use it every day because you're committed.
We've tripled the price point since I first started. It used to be a month-to-month membership, where they could cancel anytime and I saw that teachers would come in they might learn a little bit, but mentally they're not committed. They're just committed to 30 days and you can't transform in 30 days. You just can't. So now it's an annual membership and the difference is night and day when they come in. They dive into the content from day one, they're actually coming to our coaching calls (we have two coaching calls a month).
On the other hand, we probably have fewer sales. $97 a month now versus my first launch when it was $35. If you told me that I would eventually charge $1,000 a year, I would have laughed - there's no way people are gonna pay for that! But it's just not true - people invest in education, especially when they trust someone.
Currently it's mostly word-of-mouth. I have a podcast that is going really well where I provide a lot to teachers for free and then will say, if you want to take this to the next level we have the course and the community. I have a few 100 teachers that listen to that every week which is awesome.
I'm building in some incentives for community members to refer their friends, which is going well. That's really powerful, because if your community members are sharing for you, you know it's because the community made a difference for them. I also run webinars and we're going to start running Facebook ads in a couple of months to get in front of people.
On her vision for the future of Teach Music Online
I really want it to be an international network. We have a lot of teachers in the US and Canada, but we also have some in Australia, New Zealand, London, Singapore, South America. I think these teachers have so much to give each other. The time they spend in the community will be transformative - it will shift how they think about themselves as business owners. I have teachers who come in and go through the first module and send me messages saying, "Carly, I've never thought of myself as a business owner in this way." It's so rewarding because you're helping people.
At the same time, I feel so much urgency to get it out in front of more teachers, because most teachers don't know this exists yet. I'm a really small part of the internet for now, but there are millions of teachers out there and there's always a need for more.