Showing posts with label studio business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label studio business. Show all posts

7.05.2023

πŸ‘©πŸΌ‍πŸ’» Creating a Studio Website for $6 a month

July 05, 2023 0 Comments

Do you remember Geocities, the free Yahoo! websites? In the early 2000s, people would make "What You See Is What You Get" pages featuring dancing GIFs, tacky font, and tie-dye inspired backgrounds. Ah, those were the days. 

I loved making GeoCities websites.  One day, I decided to use the HTML editor with the help of the HTML help page for kids, Lissa Explains It All (referencing the Nickelodeon TV show, Clarissa Explains It All). Believe it or not, that website still exists in all it's vintage glory and the HTML help still works. 

Armed with my basic HTML and CSS knowledge, I made all sorts of websites and uploaded my original art. I collected cool MIDI files of my favorite music and linked them to drop-down menus so you could listen to music while you looked at my page. Building websites was a great hobby and served me well when I applied for jobs that needed website support. 

When I decided to open my own business in 2020, I needed minimal start-up costs. Covid was not easy for anyone and my husband was on furlough for the foreseeable future. 

Enter Neocities

Neocities' goal is 

"to enable you to harness the creativity, beauty, and power of creating your own web site. To rebuild the web we lost to automation and monotony, and make it fun again."

The basic account is free with no ads. That's even a step up from Geocities which would have a sidebar ad. You do need to code it yourself and you can't use a domain name until you become a supporter. But, if you don't mind it looking like an early 2000s website, you may get away with basic HTML from Lisa Explains It All. I built my website with the help of a free Bootstrap tutorial I found using a Google search which brought my page into the 2020s!

A supporter account from Neocities costs $5 per month. The next step was to make a domain name. I bought a Google Domain name for $12/year. 

Now I have a website that I built myself that is online for only $6/month. I am pretty proud of this accomplishment if I do say so myself! If you are good at teaching yourself new skills, I highly recommend this route as an option to save money. 

Click here to see my website

If you have a website, how did you create it and host it? 

-Jenny

11.15.2022

πŸ“‹ How to Get a Chicago Home-Based Business License

November 15, 2022 0 Comments
πŸ“‹ How an Independent Piano Teacher Got a Chicago Business License

When I applied for my Chicago business license, I had no idea what I was doing. Zoning laws differ in every locale and vary in restrictiveness, and Chicago is very strict. The city says that everyone conducting business in the city must have a business license, so that means independent music teachers teaching out of their homes. 


I wanted to start my home-based piano studio in my apartment legally and with as little cost as possible. I couldn't imagine the heartbreak of being closed down and unable to serve the students that I love encouraging. My purpose for this post is to help guide Chicago-based piano teachers pursue a business license in Chicago. 


Important Note: This blog post is not legal advice. After writing this, I found this excellent checklist from a local accounting firm. Please use this! It's very straightforward and detailed. 


You will work through the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).

 

Step 1: Check your zoning designation. 

  1. Check this website: Chicago Zoning Website. RS followed by a number is residential. Mine was RS-3.
  2. Apply for a Home-Based Business License and select the Musician category. 

Step 2: Determine your organization.

I decided to be a sole proprietorship with a DBA. Other possible ways to organize include partnership, LLC, Corporation, or S-Corp.


Pick either 3a or 3b:

Step 3a: Apply for a DBA.

If you are operating solely under your legal name as a sole proprietor, you do not need an Assumed Business Name from Cook County. But if you have named your piano studio like I did you need to apply for an assumed business name (aka DBA - "Doing Business As..."). LLCs register their names with the state, so they do not need a DBA from Cook County. 


Here is the example on the website:

"For example, a business called "John Jones, P.C." (i.e. owner's full name and title) does not have to file an assumed name, but "Jones Wrecking" does." 

 

If you decide this applies to you, apply here: Assumed Business Name Registration.


Here are the steps:

  1. Apply online and print a paper application. 
  2. Take this application to a Notary Public at a bank and sign it in front of them. 
  3. Send this application to the Clerk's office with a $50 application fee. 
  4. Receive a Copy of Legal Notice that you must publish in a local newspaper within 15 calendar days. It must be published for three consecutive weeks. I ran my legal notice with the Chicago Sun-Times and it cost $165. 
  5. The newspaper will send you a Certificate of Publication with the clipping to you as proof and you must return that the the Clerk's office. 
  6. The certificate will be sent to you in the mail.
Total cost for a Cook County DBA: $215 one time 


Step 3b: Apply for an LLC. 

If you decide to apply for an LLC with the Illinois Secretary of State, you will need to make an Articles of Organization. The name of your company must end with LLC. You also must appoint a Registered Agent (that can be you, but most advice suggests you appoint someone else) to submit Annual Reports. The fee is $150 when you submit your Articles of Organization one time and then $75 each year when you file your required Annual Reports. You must file the Annual Reports or else your LLC will be dissolved. 

Total cost for an Illinois LLC: $150 + ($75 x the number of years you operate your business)


Step 4: Apply for tax numbers.

Next is tax registration with Illinois. I attempted the IDOR ID application online multiple times and I determined that because I do not sell goods, I do not need an IDOR because I do not collect sales tax and I will not be hiring employees. (Source: New Business Checklist | Smith & Cull, Ltd.) If you are selling merchandise, you will need to get a tax number from IDOR and collect sales tax. 


Finally, apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Please read this Starting a Business (IRS) for information about the different ways to organize your business and how to handle accounting. 


You will need to create a system of keeping track of income and expenses. I simply keep spreadsheets called Income (Year) and Expenses (Year). Make sure you understand if you need to file quarterly Estimated Taxes and how to calculate that amount based on your accounting. When you file, you will use your EIN. Do not lose the paper document sent in the mail with the EIN number. The bottom of the letter says they will only correspond with you if you use the tear off at the bottom of the page.


Total Cost for EIN: Free


Step 5: Apply for a Chicago Business License.

I applied online before the following was posted on the online portal. 

Home Based Businesses

Posted May 25, 2022

Applications for home occupation licenses (home based businesses) must be made in person at the Small Business Center. Such applications will not be accepted online. The Center is located at 121 N LaSalle Street, Suite 800 and is open from 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM daily Monday through Friday.

I'm sorry to say you have to go in-person now. 


Fill out this Chicago Business Information Sheet. This is a pre-application that you will use at the Small Business Center


If you are a Sole Proprietor, you will still put your full name as the Legal Name of Business. Then your DBA will go on the second line. Fill out the rest of the form to the best of your ability and take it to the Small Business Center at 121 N LaSalle St


Total Cost of a City of Chicago Home-Based Business License: $250 biannually


Total Licensing Startup Cost: $215 + $250 = $465 (+$250 every other year)


I wish you well in your endeavor to become a licensed piano teaching business in Chicago. Please leave a comment and let me know if this helped you obtain a business license. Once again, this is not legal advice; this is simply how I, an Independent Piano Teacher, got a Chicago business license.


-Jenny

1.21.2022

πŸ“‡ How to Present a Professional Image as a Piano Teacher

January 21, 2022 0 Comments

Starting Out

Studio Documents

You are a pianist with years of experience in taking lessons, practicing, and performing various songs and pieces.  It is a passion of yours and you feel it has been elevated above a hobby for you; however, you are looking for a profession in which to use your skills.  If you find that you enjoy imparting your knowledge to other people, perhaps a profession in piano teaching is for you!  If so, welcome to the community! 

While perusing job listings, you may find many schools are hiring.  Working for a school is a great way to start because the administrative tasks are taken care of for you.  Your responsibilities will typically be to teach lessons, submit the the titles of student recital pieces, and take attendance. Meanwhile, an administrator will take care of advertising, billing, communicating and enforcing policies, displaying a professional environment, scheduling, preparing recital programs, and tax withholding*.  This gives you freedom to spend your time planning your lessons and focusing on your craft.  However, the rate that is charged to your students is split between you and your company.  The company also will determine your rate for you.  If you don't consider what your education and skill level is worth, you may be accepting a rate that is too low.  
*As an independent contractor, you will receive a 1099 from the school and file your own self-employment taxes.  There are other important things for you to know as a contractor that I hope to talk about in a future post. 

If you are able to open your own private studio in your home or by renting a local community location, such as a church, you are responsible for not only teaching, but all of the administrative tasks listed above!  

When I decided to open a private studio in my apartment last year, the pandemic had started a few months prior and my husband was home while we waited for his work to reopen.  He would be available to watch our small children while I taught. My model was to use Skype for online lessons and I began working on structuring my studio. This post is about how to present a professional image as a piano teacher.

Becoming an Independent Teacher

There are so many facets to starting up a business.  Today's topic is how to present a professional image for your piano studio with studio documents.  The resource that I use to guide me in this endeavor is a book by Dr. Beth Klingenstein called "The Independent Piano Teacher's Studio Handbook: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Teaching Studio."  I took classes with her and her handbook is about 2-inches thick and contains everything that was included in her college piano pedagogy course.  It is an invaluable resource and will give you a step-by-step guide to starting your studio.  I highly recommend purchasing this book. 

Presenting a Professional Image with Branding

I hired a graphic designer and her price for an extended branding package was $300 that included a logo, business card, stationery, ads, product design, social media posts, and a website.  I opted out of the website since I had already coded my own, so she reduced the price. She interviewed me for insight into my business goals and aesthetic preferences.  

Then I received multiple logo possibilities and she included 2 revisions once I chose the one I liked.  

Examples of Logo Designs and Color Schemes
Logo Design Options and Color Scheme Options

I chose logo 1 and color scheme b. Then we revised the logo together. She drew the piano herself. I love the finished product! 
Final drafts of Logos: Black and White, Ombre, Light Purple, Dark Purple
Final Draft of Logos and Color Schemes

The final drafts of the logo included black-and-white, ombre, light purple, dark purple, and white with a transparent background for the navigation bar on my website (see below). 

Next, she designed my business cards, stationery, and ads using this logo, the color scheme, and various public domain pictures. I sent these designs to Smartpress.com, which is one of my favorite printers. They have many options for paper weight, color, and gloss. They give feedback about the clarity of the images provided and give a digital proof to review before they print. Communication is very good and the turn around time and shipping cost is reasonable. 

Here are pictures of the finished printed products. 

How to Present a Professional Image as a Piano Teacher
Welcome Card and Business Card

I created the welcome cards specifically for my online students because I give sticker rewards. I ordered the welcome cards to be the size of a typical character sticker sheet and included that in the mail.  Since I resumed in-person lessons with masks in the fall, I still send the cards with the sticker sheets after the student enrolls, and I'm also able to give more stickers and prizes as well! 

My letterhead stationery is used on studio documents, such as my studio policy, calendar, and registration form.  

Letterhead with logo, watermark, and information in footer
Letterhead

Below are examples of the social media and newspaper ads. 

Ignite a love for music. Facebook Ad    
Facebook Sidebar Ad and Newspaper Ad

Sadly, my neighborhood newspaper closed the week before I was going to submit my ad. I'm considering buying an ad in a newspaper with a larger audience.  I did pay for a few Facebook Ad campaigns, but I didn't receive any inquiries. 

I also received a product design and mockup, however I don't currently want to order 300 t-shirts or tote bags, since all the product printing sites want bulk orders, so I haven't used this design yet. 

Product Design Mock-up. Tote bag with logo.
Product Design Mock-up

A style guide including the fonts used in the design products, hexadecimal colors, and explanations of how to use the social media posts was included in the final package as well. She mailed me a thumb drive with all of the designs in various formats such as JPEG, PDF, and Adobe Illustrator and she shared a folder on Google Drive as she completed each individual project. 

I am very happy with my choice to order this package and I highly recommend at least having a logo designed for your private studio. If you are interested in hiring this graphic designer, please email me at jennifermeltonpiano[at]gmail.com for a referral. (I am using brackets around at to protect my email address from spam bots.)

Designing My Website

After I received my logo, I added it to the left corner of my website on the navigation bar.  Coding has been a hobby of mine since I was in high school, so I coded my own home page using a Bootstrap tutorial.  I am a supporter on Neocities (modeled after the mid-2000s GeoCities hosting site!) and I purchased my domain name from Google Domains. I pay Neocities $5 a month to host my site and I pay Google $1 a month for my domain.  

Website Home Page
Website Home Page
jennifermeltonpiano.com

I did try Google Ads to promote my website. I received 3 leads from that campaign.  I am now applying SEO to my website to try to promote its listing on search engines for free.  I may update about how to use SEO in the future. 

Finally, my email signature contains my photo and my information, including links to my Facebook and SoundCloud. I used WiseStamp to generate the logo and Gmail is my email host. 

Email Signature


If you have any questions about presenting a professional image for your piano studio or if you would like to share your ideas, please post in the comments below!

-Jenny