185: From Gig-less to Online Educator with Dr. Kathryn Parsley (August Teacher Series Episode 4)

August Teacher Series – Episode 4 with Dr. Kathryn Parsley.


The idea behind the teacher series is to showcase teachers who have already expanded online, what they’re doing, why they chose to make those decisions and all that fun stuff. This episode is with Dr. Kathryn Parsley. She came into online teaching when vocal performance opportunities dried up at the start of the pandemic.

I would love your feedback on this episode, so connect with me on Instagram @jaimeslutzky and book a call with me http://callwithjaime.com

Let’s start off with Kathryn’s eloquent “elevator pitch”:

I am Dr. Kathryn Parsley, the practice coach and I helped classical and opera singers rewrite their inner critic beat “stupid singer syndrome” and learn to practice today for their amazing future career. 

Kathryn’s zone of genius is helping singers learn to practice in a way that suits them best and she rattles off her “elevator pitch” with so much conviction and so much authority that people are just going to listen. They’re going to say I believe you! I know that you are going to help me in the practice room.

Before we got into how Kathryn works, she shared a bit about her program itself to give context. It’s a hybrid program where there are one on one coaching as well as a set of videos to watch. She uses the videos to share the three pillars of practice room success through her Daily Singer Inner Circle program.

We wouldn’t expect young baseball/softball/t-ball players to be running their own practices, usually a parent or team of parents is stepping in and coaching. Kathryn set out to provide the coach support for singers in much the same way. 

Because Kathryn’s program combines one on one coaching sessions, emergency coaching calls and the built out curriculum, she’s created a very attractive offer. Most of the time, online coaches will have each of those offers as separate offers!

Kathryn wasn’t setting out to create an online program. But when she and other singers all lost their gigs and weren’t sure what they were going to be able to do from home, she got resourceful. She was safe at home but was scared and didn’t have an income. So like many others, she turned to the internet to figure out how to make money online. While there are many scams and such online, she found the ClickFunnels “One Funnel Away” challenge and went all in on it.

The challenge provided her with many ideas of what she could do online as a singer, as a voice teacher, as a voice coach. But the challenge doesn’t include the “How Tos” only the “Whats” and the “Whys”. This led to another search, and she came across Ben Nguyen (he was a speaker at the Expand Online Summit this year.) His program teaches musicians how to bring their voice lessons or music lessons or instrumental lessons online. And it was close enough to the ideas that she had planted through the challenge that she knew she could take his insight and adjust it to match her aspirations.

Key takeaway: Kathryn fully admitted that she didn’t know everything but that she took pieces of knowledge from several sources to create her dream online studio. It was not a passive action, it was deliberate and hard and required follow through.

And beyond that, she realized that that one program wasn’t everything. Kathryn could have gone and hired a coach, an implementer, or a number of different people to accomplish this. She took the strategy of what do I need most right now, and found someone to help her fill in that blank and then continued forward.

Kathryn’s approach was anything but piecemeal. A piecemeal approach would have been more like, okay, I need to make money so I’m going to try teaching online. Okay, great, now I need to make more money and I’m going to make group program. Okay, great, now I’m burnt out, so I’m going to take away my group or I’m going to take away my one on one or things like that. There is no long term strategy for growth, impact and business. Instead, she set herself up so that she could be the authority from the get go! She made a splash onto the scene rather than just, dropping breadcrumbs. While neither method means failure or success, I would always recommend thinking 6 – 12 months into the future as you create that next thing.

The truth is, Kathryn already knew she wanted to create something that wouldn’t cause her to be burnt out on because that’s something she’s already experienced. You probably have too… so when expanding online, trying to stay ahead of the overwork and exhaustion is highly advisable.

Kathryn opened up about perception of singers versus the perception of instrumentalists. And it hurt. She has a doctorate for goodness sake! Speaking of which, her doctorate had a ton of work around sound memory and how that decays a different rate than tactile memory or visual memory. As a vocalist, there is no tactile or visual cues to compensate for the deterioration of sound memory… this lead to her ‘a-ha’ moment and realization that the practice room was the space to focus on.

Instrumentalists have the opportunity to see their teacher’s instrument as well as their own where vocalists cannot. Nobody can see their own vocal chords, right? Instrumentalists are required to touch their own instrument and often see their teacher touching their instrument as well. When instrumentalists walk into the practice room, they’re pulling from tactile memory, visual memory as well as oral memory where singers are mostly only relying on oral memory. This means that they’re having to be more creative instead of pulling from memory when practicing; and creativity is a brain energy “expensive” task!

By doing the hard work and identifying her place in the online landscape, as well as working with Ben, she has been able to line up what she offers with her students’ end goals. Kathryn is not talking to anybody who isn’t already speaking her language. How incredible!

When you put out a good quality program that has a very targeted audience, you are going to attract the people that need this now and you’re also going to build a network of peers of other teachers who are able to become your referral network. This is what it means to be part of a professional community. We are not always the right teacher for the people who come our way but when they see that we aren’t just in it for their money, but rather for their success, we both win.

How did people find out about your program, Kathryn?

While she was building a program (working with Ben — who by the way has a great Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachprivatelessons/) she was also watching what he was doing to grow his own business. So he coached her and also provided a path for her to follow. Ben focused on Facebook for marketing while the ClickFunnels One Funnel Away Challenge, she had identified that her ideal students were actually on Instagram… so she builup an audience on that platform. And so as to not fly blind, she worked with a brand coach that helped her with not only the visuals, but the non visuals behind the brand sge was building and whata she wanted to stand for. A one-two punch for cleaner and prettier to go along with engaging and persuasive.

Kathryn also built an online course as she was building the larger program and used online ads that she drove to a freebie (email opt-in) and then started a correspondence. It was really three different fronts the whole time. 

  • Build a program
  • Be visible
  • Pay for marketing

Kathryn admits that her first freebie was actually quite terrible — it was a pdf on helping singers survive social isolation. Nobody wanted it… that means it was terrible even though she thought it was great (lesson: follow the clues from the market, don’t get so invested in your content that you can’t see the signs!) If something you create goes gangbusters perfect; if it fals flat, oh well you iterate and you do something else.

Kathryn spun her wheels with a few other things before she got serious and started working with people who personally had success and were able to help others find success as well.

Another thing I want to highlight from this conversation is that Kathryn worked hard to get her messaging right. Not only for the audience but for herself. This allowed her to know who to talk to and identify those people easily. Messaging is part of niching down. It’s brutally hard to niche down. And online we need to niche ourselves to be able to stand out and attract our best fit students.

You can run a music school that taps into your talents and that taps into how you can make the biggest change for the person who is your student. 

Kathryn’s parting words are: 

I want to tell everybody that you do have the ability to niche down based on your preferences and that your audience exists. It’s not just about serving them. True, it is, but it’s about serving yourself. Making sure that the people that you are around are the people that you’re able to help the most and truly leading into whatever it is, is your unfair advantage and your unique position. Your special way of thinking is more valuable than you think. 

Connect with Kathryn

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