Matt Kass was born with music in his blood. His great grandfather was a piano teacher, and his grandmother was a performer and music professor. In his early twenties, Matt joined the family business as the founding member of a band that toured with big name artists like Dave Matthews and Willie Nelson. But between tours, Matt had a lot of time on his hands — so like his great grandfather and grandmother before him, he decided to teach. “These lessons are a part of something greater for me,” says Matt. “I have a lot of knowledge about music. Sometimes I show people that knowledge through producing. Sometimes I show that knowledge through artist development. And sometimes I show that knowledge through teaching.”
Read on to learn more about Matt’s story, including how Instant Match gives him a direct line to students and what it takes to be a Top Pro.
How did you first find out about Thumbtack?
When I moved to Nashville in 2015 I didn’t have a way to make money. Before I moved, the band I was in had seen a lot of success, so people knew who I was and I had more students than I knew what to do with. Moving put me back at square one — not to mention the music teacher market in Nashville is flooded.
There are so many musicians here and so many people who think they can teach because they play, but being able to facilitate and being an educator is not necessarily the same thing. I was talking to a friend in New York City who runs a digital advertising agency and he recommended I check out Thumbtack. Today about 60 to 75 percent of my teaching work comes from Thumbtack.
What do you think it takes to be a Top Pro?
I think good communication and responsiveness are really important. I also think that being malleable and reactive to the situation you’re in matters a lot. Teaching is as much about the information as it is the way you present that information. It’s about knowing how to read each student, understanding what they’re capable of and working at a pace that’s comfortable for them.
It’s also important to know what you want to get out of teaching. Is this your sole source of income or supplemental? Understand your limitations to avoid spreading yourself too thin — because then you’re not giving people the quality of lessons you want to give them.
What makes for a winning Thumbtack profile?
I think that your pedigree should be on there. If you have a lot of experience teaching, say what you’re experience is, but that should be couched in the message that you’re an approachable person. You want to get across that you care about your students — and while they’re investing in you, you’re also investing in them.
Have a great picture or video that shows you doing your thing and allows them to feel a little more comfortable coming over to your house or having you come over to their house without ever having met them before.
You’re on Instant Match now. What was it like when you first turned it on?
I’ll admit I was a little skeptical, but I was psyched if for nothing else than the fact that I didn’t have to be glued to my phone to answer requests as soon as they came in. Before, I’d get notifications on my phone and have to stop what I was doing to try to quote and it was really invasive.
Instant Match allows me to be more present. In my personal life I feel less encumbered by having to stop everything to answer requests, and in my professional life I feel more focused on the things I’m doing.
How do you set your job settings on Instant Match?
I’m looking for adult clients who want to take popular music or music theory piano lessons (not classical) and will travel to me at the recording studio where I write, record and teach in East Nashville. I want people who are serious about hiring someone. I turned off the “not sure yet” setting because I want people who are ready to hire.
Any tips for following up with customers?
I get a lot of questions about what’s included in my lessons — and I’m spending $7 to answer that question. So when people ask me about small stuff like that, I answer them, but also try to steer it towards meeting up or doing a preliminary lesson.
If a customer is serious and has looked at my profile or website and they’re ready to hire me, I respond with a clear next step. I send a message that says: “Let’s find a time to chat on the phone or set up a preliminary lesson.”
What factors do you consider when setting your price?
The price of music lessons in Nashville is about half what I was charging in Philadelphia because the market is so crowded, but if you can establish yourself as someone with a lot of experience you can get back up there.
I’ve been using my Thumbtack Insights report to see what the bell curve is for lessons and I try to place myself on the high or middle end of that curve. Last summer I didn’t have a lot of lessons lined up and I did an experiment — I kept changing my prices to see how low I needed to go before responses started getting really consistent. As I’ve gotten busier, I’ve raised my rates.
Any tips for asking for reviews?
I think it takes about four to six months for the student to understand what you’re really about and know that you’re serious, so I usually wait that long to ask for a review. Admittedly, sometimes I forget to ask and then when they tell me they’re moving or stopping their lessons for whatever reason, I say, “Would you mind reviewing me? I’ll send you a link.”
Most people are really good about it. I think if they’re still taking lessons from you after four to six months, then you’re doing something right. It might take a couple times of reminding them, but most people are happy to do it, especially if you make it easy and send them the link.
What would you advise other pros in your category do to win more business?
Having a lot of reviews is good. Having a strong profile with pictures and video is good. But I also think that knowing what you’re good at is really important. Some people adopt the fake it ‘til you make it attitude, but you can’t really do that with teaching. If you don’t know the material or you can’t teach that certain type of music, it’s going to be pretty evident within the first couple of lessons.
I know what I’m good at and know what I’m comfortable teaching, so I stick with that. So far, it works.