I noticed an interesting debate / argument develop on the internet the other day about whether or not to offer a free introductory lesson to prospective pupils. Both sides stated their case before becoming rattled at the other, trading a few masked insults. My thoughts on this were not whether it was right or not because of the professionalism of the musician but whether in the process of business it works to do that.
So let us step aside for a moment from the trade aspect of the job and look at the business looking at it from the point of another profession offing a service, say a phone contract or credit card. Do they offer a free introductory period? In many cases yes they do and contained in it is the hook to get you in. How about gym membership do they make offers like this such as a reduced price for new clients? Yes they do.
There is a classic story about the pet shop owner who when a family came in looking for a pet he offers a puppy for the weekend with no obligation to buy, as you can imagine after the weekend they do not want to give the dog back; this in the business is called ‘The puppy dog close’ and is a classic business strategy.
Now does this seem to diminish the professionalism of a teacher that they offer a free lesson maybe it could. Would someone who has a good reputation with lots of referrals need to offer this kind of inducement? No probably not.
So it is horses for courses, if you do not need to then don’t. If it works for you to do that, then do it BUT do not confuse business with the trade. What functions for business does not necessarily have anything to do with your skill, it is like saying that your improvisational skills will benefit from better book keeping.
What I think it does do however is make others feel threatened that the playing field is uneven but hey that is business. The battlefield of trade is all about topography so choose the high ground.
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