052: Finding Balance For Music School Teachers Using Online Membership – with Jessica Peresta

Jessica Peresta, founder of The Domestic Musician joins Ward to chat about how she’s trying to bring balance and harmony to elementary music school teachers who are feeling overwhelmed with work and life.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler 0:06
Hey, Jessica, welcome to Member Maker.

Jessica Peresta 0:37
Hi, how are you? Thank you so much for having me.

Ward Sandler 0:40
I’m good. I’m good. So what’s your business and who do you help?

Jessica Peresta 0:43
So my business website is the domestic musician and I help elementary music teachers just beat the overwhelm and their classrooms and find work home life balance and just be you know, better music teachers with resources and all kinds of stuff. at my website, but my membership site is called harmony. And it’s also catered to elementary music teachers as well.

Ward Sandler 1:06
So that’s, let’s say a tough clientele. I would think just from the in terms of the amount of stress and pressure and budget cuts that those people deal with. It must be difficult.

Jessica Peresta 1:15
Oh, completely. Yeah, it is. So a little bit of my story. I started out at a school actually, that hadn’t had music for seven years. This was early 2000s. And they just had to add music. They only had art and I in the process of that met a lot of other teachers who were kind of in the same position I was in where they started at schools that hadn’t had music or their jobs had been cut or they have been asked to teach music from you know, just a general classroom and then hey, we know you play piano Do you want to be a music teacher just kind of thrown in there. But yeah, it is really tough because every day or week or month or whatever, I’m hearing of new cases of positions being cut, or on the cusp of being cut off. Just they’re not feeling appreciated in what they’re doing are bringing to the education world. So it is pretty tough with that. Yeah.

Ward Sandler 2:08
And so since you were a teacher yourself, you said, yes, yes, yes. And so how did you transition from that into actually helping music teachers?

Jessica Peresta 2:18
Yeah. So that I was in the classroom, actually. So I was at a school that didn’t have music for seven years. And then I taught seven years. And so we moved from my husband and I, we have three boys now, but we were moving to a new state. So I didn’t want to start a new position in the middle of the school year and have to quit and so I got my teaching certificate transferred to the new state we’re in and I was gonna go back into teaching Well, we found out our oldest son has autism, and then our middle son had a lot of food allergies, and then I found out I was pregnant again, right, and we moved anyways, I had always had a heart for helping teachers and I knew my story was kind of different in the fact that I didn’t have all the resources available. For me in my classroom, I didn’t have a mentor teacher. I had students, like I said, that didn’t have music for years. So I basically was creating my own way of teaching my own lesson plans from scratch. without any help. It was overwhelming. And I just it’s kind of a funny story. I met a friend who actually moved a couple months after we met, and she has a completely different online business and a totally different niche. But I just mentioned to her one time at dinner, I miss teaching, but I feel like I’m supposed to do more. I feel like I’m supposed to help teach her somehow she looked at me and said, Why don’t you start your own your own online business? And I was like, What do you mean? Like, I mean, anyways, long story short, I did. I just started with a little blog and then eventually decided to start a podcast and eventually started creating resources and then a course and then and then a separate membership site eventually started so it’s kind of a crazy story because people will ask me, did you always dream of having your own online business? I’m like, No, I got an education. Because I thought it would be a teacher for you know, whatever, 30 plus years and then retire. But it’s really neat when like dreams are placed in your heart, and then you just kind of follow them and go with it just to see what happens. So that’s kind of how that happened.

Ward Sandler 4:13
Yeah. And I mean, obviously, you’re still a teacher. It’s just maybe not in the same context you were imagining originally.

Jessica Peresta 4:19
Right? Oh, completely.

Ward Sandler 4:20
Yeah. So that’s interesting that that you were a teacher, music teacher, specifically for elementary students. And then now you’re coaching people on that you have a membership on that. Because there’s a lot of folks out there that are teaching something that they haven’t necessarily done, like, a lot of business coaches kind of come to mind of folks who teach other people how to run a business. But the only business they’ve ever run is actually like a business coach, you know what I mean? So it’s kind of like a circular. Yeah. So I like that you actually did the thing you’re teaching about, you’re not just giving advice without that kind of grounded context. Mm hmm. All right. So you started teaching you transition to creating this membership site with blog? How did it go from there? So there was a blog he started a few blog posts, how to You start to gain any traction in this.

Jessica Peresta 5:02
Yeah, so it’s funny because you just honestly, I can only speak for myself, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew what I was writing about, but the getting it out there part that was so confusing to me, I was like, at first I would just write a blog post and go, Oh, people will read this, people will come to hear, you know, to my website and read it not let it happen. Nobody knew who I was. And so it was kind of like, Alright, I just basically, I mean, I told myself, you know, I basically taught myself how to teach. When I was in my classroom. I had the teaching degree and everything, but I basically had to just kind of get in there and do it. Well, the same thing I told myself, I’m just gonna have to teach myself how to do this. So I just absorbed all the free knowledge I could find online. And I love listening to podcasts just as much as I love podcasting. And I really honestly taught myself about SEO about social media, how to promote myself on there the right way and basically just started consistent. blogging. And I consistently, I told myself, I’m going to do this, even if I don’t see a penny right away. I’m going to do this every week, consistently every week. And then I started learning about figuring out what people really want to hear, like, how to search for what people are asking. And I started writing blog post around that. And then I learned about Pinterest. And that has helped me tremendously. And then I just honestly started creating content around what people needed, not what I thought they needed, but what I saw them actually asking either you know, each other in Facebook groups or whatever, wherever it might be, but I knew and I also started creating content around questions I had as a music teacher, and so I started just creating blog posts around that. Then slowly the traffic started to just inch up a little bit and a little bit in a little bit, but it definitely took time and I would hear people say it’s the long game. It’s the Long You know, and I can totally see why so many people just give up because you want to see instant gratification. But I’m telling you like I, because I’m so passionate about what I do. Yes, of course, you’re in business to make money, but for me was like, I am passionate about this. So I kind of just knew if I just kept going, eventually the money would follow, which was hard to see that. Because if you’re in a job, like I would get a monthly paycheck no matter what. But, I mean, this is a job. You know what I mean? online, it’s totally different. So I had to just play the long game and just get in there and blog and keep going and keep going, keep going. Then eventually, I started seeing some of my articles being shared. I had National Association for music education, asked me if they could publish to my blog post. I had people asking me to guest posts for them. And I started looking for ways to guest posts for people as well. And then eventually, it just started traction just started building. And it was just about, yeah, just staying consistent. I would say it’s the main thing.

Ward Sandler 7:52
Yeah, no, so there’s a lot of things to unpack there. I say number one, the Pinterest focus how that was sort of an untapped gem there. It That from a few folks, I think Pinterest doesn’t get the kind of love that a lot of the other social media platforms out there do. So it’s definitely something folks should check out if they haven’t already. But regarding how you actually created the blog post that people wanted, it’s clever of you to look in the Facebook groups and you know, basically pay attention to what people are asking for. It sounds so like obvious and like, duh, of course, it’s it should do. But until you’ve actually done it, and then start producing content that resonates with people, it never really clicks, because everyone just kind of wants to write whatever they want to write. So it sounds like you did you did a mix of what you wanted to write, and also what you were hearing people wanted to hear, right?

Jessica Peresta 8:36
Yeah. Oh, completely, because that also helps with SEO, because I didn’t know about SEO at all, you know, like you have to the title and then the content in the actual post itself. You know, that’s how Google will find you. I was just typing random titles. And it although it may have been a great blog post, nobody was finding it because Google was probably putting me out well a page 20 30 I don’t know. But it was like when I started making it, where keywords were in there that Google would find that people were searching for, then it started showing up on like page one or two. That helped a lot. So yeah, just knowing what people want to read and knowing what they’re searching for questions they have, that definitely helped. Yeah, tremendously.

Ward Sandler 9:18
And so after you would make these articles that you know, you knew people wanting to listen or read about, did you actually then post them back into the Facebook group? or How did you get the word out? Or to just post the blog and how best and hope your SEO takes over from there?

Jessica Peresta 9:31
Yeah, so I have my own Facebook page, I have started a free Facebook group that I actually eventually closed down because that’s another story. I started a different one. But I used to share in there. And I also know with free groups, it’s annoying when people come in there and just share their stuff. Unless it’s a group for that there’s some groups that are just you know, or they’ll have a certain day of the week where you can share your content. So I did I would share in in those other groups sometimes that were not my own. But yeah, it was about that. posting it to my own blog post and then sharing it to my social media. Like I said, using Pinterest. I’m really also active on Instagram stories and my Instagram started growing a little bit. And then, but like I said, What’s cool about blog posts to me is, once they’re written, they’re out there for unless you delete it forever. So people will always be able to find them just by searching for something, even if it is just sitting on my blog that it’s just on Google. But yeah, I share it to social media I’ll still in it depends on like, you know, for instance, marches music in our schools month. So blog post I wrote like two years ago, I’m still kind of posting I posted in March, and they were still like getting read even though they were two years ago because they were still relevant. So I think it’s okay to recirculate things that are old too. It doesn’t always have to be new content, you can go back to things that you know, would be relevant for people to read and republish them to social media. But like I said, people started sharing For me, whether it was a music teacher, friends of mine, or I had a couple different Facebook pages that have different bloggers come in and share their stuff for teachers, so I got asked to be in there. And it’s really neat just from putting myself out there, how many other people started finding me or I found them, and we would help support each other in that way as well. So those are some things I did.

Ward Sandler 11:24
Yes, I mean, showing up consistently that eventually led to you becoming an authority and then people wanted to collaborate with you, which I think is true across any industry. Um, you know, someone who’s been doing something for X number of years and has created the volume of content that you’ve created, they just naturally become an authority, assuming it’s good quality, which I assume your sis. Yeah. But, yeah, with what you were saying, though, about when you put a blog post out there, and it lives there forever. It’s Yeah, it’s essentially an evergreen asset that you’re creating, right? Mm hmm. And it’s something that I’ve heard people do is if they create like a blog post, that’s like a deep dive or in depth Have a guide, you can always be updated a little bit each year and say, you know, the ultimate guide, 2022, whatever the ultimate guide, 2021, to whatever. So you can kind of keep updating it and keeping it re indexed and Google and keeping it relevant in search results being if you don’t do something like that, just creating the content and putting it out there. Just because it’s been there for a year, or two, or three or five doesn’t mean it’s not relevant anymore, like you said, and people will find it. There’s long tail SEO keywords for folks out there that are aware of that term. And so the more content you’re putting out there, the more you’re going to capture that kind of traffic, even if it’s just a little bit here and there. It adds up over time, which obviously you’ve seen.

Jessica Peresta 12:36
Oh, yeah, completely. So that also helped me when I decided to start a podcast, which I was like, it’s not gonna be too much where I have both, but it’s kind of neat because some of the blog post I had already had published, I recorded a podcast episode to kind of go right along with it. And so they I kind of wanted to give people multiple means to either listen or read it, and that I kind of like having both now so It was just another way for me to provide free value to.

Ward Sandler 13:03
Right. So what’s the actual pricing model? We didn’t go over that What are you actually charging?

Jessica Peresta 13:07
So I launched my membership site in June of 2019. And I started with founding members. I ended up having 13 people take me up on founding members and I probably like the stupidest, lowest crazy price ever, but I 49 I said 49 lifetime value because it is teacher so it’s a different market, you know, where it’s versus if I’m marketing to business people, I know that they cannot afford much. So anyways, 13 people paid $49 they actually helped me build a membership site. What I mean by that is, I had one on one calls with each of them to help me frame exactly what they would need. And then after that, when I did my official launch in June, after I had member calls, I launched it at $12 a month 120 a year the first time, and then I relaunched again that January at 15, a month and then 150 A year and now I have another launch coming up summer of 2020. And it’s going to be 19 a month in 190 a year. And I think I’m gonna sit there for a while. Because like I said, I cater to teachers, and not just teachers, but elementary music teachers. And it’s hard because you see what else is out there. So I’ve done a lot of like price comparison. And it’s not, to me, it’s not about trying to make everything exactly the same, where oh, this person’s only doing 12 a month, so I need to do that, or, oh, they’re doing 25 should I do that? I feel like it’s just being aware of what else is out there. So you’re okay with what you’re charging, but also being confident in what I’m offering, knowing that that value is there, and that it’s worth every penny. So, yeah, so right now it’s 19 a month and then 190 a year is what I’m sitting at.

Ward Sandler 14:50
Yeah, and I think knowing your audience, like you obviously do, it’s that really does affect the price, right, everybody wishes they could charge $100 a month that’d be great. But your customers might not be able to afford that. So it doesn’t make sense in that case. So it’s smart that you kind of started low and then kind of insured up, you know, a little bit each at a time. How did you actually land at 19 though from 12? Like what made you say, you know what, 12 maybe too low, I can go a little higher. How did you come to that decision?

Jessica Peresta 15:16
I kind of just asked I’m in a membership site training program myself and just in there, we I had some conversations with different not just music teachers, but teacher Nisha people who in the teacher niche with any kind of teaching, and they were kind of explaining what they charge and some of them charge a lot more than me and I and I kind of just picked their brains about because I think that’s really good way to learn about doing things is to pick other people’s brains and collaborate. And so anyways asking them what do you charge him why and when they explain to me that what I’m offering because I also do monthly coaching calls, I have a Facebook group where it’s not just post whatever like I am providing so much value in there and going live every month as well and providing done for you lesson plans for the entire school year and so much more. They were like, here’s the thing, you can charge more and just help me with my confidence. And so I knew at first when I was just building it out, it was like, I kind of want to just see if this need is there if the markets there if people are willing to pay at all. And when I saw they were and then my next launch was even bigger, and I was charging 15 and 150 a month. I mean, sorry, 150 annually, I had even a bigger launch. And so I thought, it’s not like I said about the money for me it is obviously I’m not I mean, it’s it’s not a business unless you’re making money, but I knew teachers would, because I had so many teachers in there, even telling me this is worth way more than what you’re charging. And I was like, when you keep hearing that over and over people saying that and saying there’s nothing else out there like that. I went, why am I not charging for that? I think I was just so afraid of turning teachers away because of the price but then in my head, I said but it’s only $4 more a month, honestly. So what is the difference? There’s just about finding confidence in myself and what I’m offering that I’m putting out there knowing that it’s quality that helped me make that decision to charge a little bit more the next time

Ward Sandler 17:10
plus, correct me if I’m wrong, I would assume on a case by case basis, if a teacher comes to you and says, You know what, I’m having a really tough time with whatever, I really can’t afford this, or I really need a discount. Do you make exceptions in those cases?

Jessica Peresta 17:25
I have actually, I’ve given away a couple scholarships. And what’s really cool is I in my membership site, we’ve as the members in there and myself, we’ve given a scholarship to a couple teachers, and actually one who had some instruments damage this year, we’ve given back to her. There was another lady that reached out and asked me if I give a military discount, and I actually, I don’t have that like in my copy on my website, but I said, You know what, actually, my dad’s in the military or is a Vietnam vet. And I said, I have a heart for that. But just it’s not like I’m advertising it, but at the same time, absolutely. I am willing to work with them if they need to. on a case by case basis, and I also offer, you know, schools can order it for their teachers if they can’t pay for another on pocket. And so I’ve also had teachers leave and for a couple months and then rejoin when I launch again. And then sometimes if they leave, I said, You know what, sometimes I’ll say, I’ll honor the price you’re paying now. But some of them I say, here’s the thing, if you leave, that’s going to be a higher price next time, and some of them are like, well, then I’m staying because they don’t want to, you know, and so, yeah, it is just kind of a case by case basis. It’s tricky, because you want to make it equal to everyone. And you want to make sure it’s fair, but at the same time, there are going to be certain cases where, you know, a teacher needs it. And I think there’s a way of making that happen for them, too. Right.

Ward Sandler 18:43
Yeah. And I like the idea that you can just offer that as a gift as needed. And then the other thing is, it’s not like there’s nothing you’re providing for free, right? If somebody really cannot afford $19 a month or 190 a year. There’s all those free resources you’re giving away over you know the Facebook group Pinterest or blogs. etc. So it’s not like you’re not doing anything. But for those folks that can’t afford it, then they can sign up or not. And if they really want to sign up, but they can’t afford it, they’ll reach out to you. And you can make a case by case exception. So I don’t think there’s anything to feel guilty about that. It’s just, you’re running a business, you need to make a certain amount of profit to keep going. Otherwise you won’t be able to help anybody sweat you shouldn’t feel guilty about in my mind.

Jessica Peresta 19:21
Oh, exactly. And on top of that, I tell them, if you come in, and this is not for you, you can leave anytime that’s what’s really great about a membership site is you can just simply not sign up for the next month, and then that’s all there is to it. So and I feel like when I’ve said that, that helps a lot of people with their hesitation to even join and be like, Oh, well, if I don’t like it, I can leave you know, and so it’s just and then plus you still get the whole rest of the month. I really want to make it where I am good work ethic, but also like where they can trust me that I mean what I say. And it’s not just me being like, Oh no, you’re trapped. Sorry. You’re in here forever. You know, it’s like you It is about just being honest and having integrity in what you’re doing. I feel like to

Ward Sandler 20:05
write so quickly. Could you share an example of what hasn’t worked like maybe a marketing thing or a pricing thing or anything like that around your business that you try that just didn’t quite work out? Well,

Jessica Peresta 20:16
so, okay. So three years ago, I had a different membership site. And what’s funny is, that’s when I started my website, I actually started at all three and a half years ago. And when I started my website, I’m like, I’m going to launch a membership site right away. And so the launch of my website, it wasn’t really what I would call a launch. I just created a website. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t like I’m watching this, it’s coming in dah, dah, dah, you know. So I had my website going, and then I decided to start a membership site, right at the same time crickets. Nobody knew I was gonna read a single blog post because I didn’t have any blog posts yet. I didn’t have a podcast yet. And I just had this membership site sitting there for people to join, and then eventually have like, a couple of people trickle in and then they trickle out. It was just That’s just the wrong way to do it is not right. And, to me, I had the mindset of why am I going to keep providing free value when they could pay me to get the value, you know, because this is a business, but then I went, I started, like I said, learning the right way to do it. And it is about providing free value because who’s gonna know who you are, unless you’re providing free value. And so I would say my biggest mistake was trying to launch a program of mine for money before building up an audience before building up a social media presence before building up providing free content like by podcast, blog posts, whatever. And then once I started doing that, then I could email my list about a launch coming, I could post on social media, I could, you know, make myself available to host free challenges which I’ve been doing and that that was a game changer, just realizing you got to put in the work ahead of time to provide free value in to connect with people on like a human human level. Before you try to just say I have a thing In Iraq, you know, why is nobody coming and buying it? It doesn’t work like that. So yeah, that was probably my biggest mistake.

Ward Sandler 22:07
Yeah, no, I think that’s an excellent lesson. So in closing here, what are some of the resources you would recommend for folks out there trying to build a membership business? So books, blogs, podcasts outside of your own that you’d recommend?

Jessica Peresta 22:18
Yeah, so I I love listening to business podcasts. I do listen to yours. And I also I listened to anything by Stu McLaren. And I actually went through the tribe program and that tremendously was a game changer in helping me build my membership site. But I also love listening to the flipped lifestyle podcast is another membership site when I listened to and the membership guys, those all together like just had been tremendously valuable in helping me build a membership site, how to grow an audience, how to speak to your nation, even with what to charge and those kind of things as for books, anything business book, I don’t really have any off the top of my head recommendations. I love Marie Forleo I also am I went through B school as well in I literally just love business books and especially online business books and I feel bad off the top of my head. I can’t remember any. Because honestly, I am more of a listener like I love podcasts more than reading so I don’t know what that says about me. But anyway, so yeah, but I just any business book. It’s kind of like what I’m eating in that moment. And then that’s what I like to read. So the purple cow was a really good one. I really liked that one a lot.

Ward Sandler 23:27
Great audible link to all those in the show notes. So yeah, Jessica, thanks again for being on the podcast. What’s the best way for people to learn more about you and your business?

Jessica Peresta 23:35
So the domestic musician comm on there you can see links to my blog, podcast and free resources. If you’re a music teacher needing help with teaching music, I would love to help you.

Ward Sandler 23:46
Excellent. Thanks for being on Jessica.

Jessica Peresta 23:48
Thank you so much.