By Tom Hess
Chances are, you are not currently earning as much money as you would like to in your guitar teaching business. Fact is, most guitar teachers do ‘not’ make a good living and will never fully understand what they are doing wrong. Here is the unfortunate reality for the vast majority of guitar teachers:
1. The majority of guitar teachers do not make enough money to make ends meet.
2. Most of these same guitar teachers have never helped any students to become GREAT guitar players.
3. Guitar teachers frequently report working excessive hours while making little pay.
On the other hand, there exists a small percentage of highly successful guitar teachers who:
1. Make a minimum of 6 figures each year in their guitar teaching businesses.
2. Quickly turn their guitar students from mediocre players to highly skilled players.
3. Are able to add extra value for their students because they have extra time, energy and resources to put into their guitar instruction.
4. Generally work no more than part time hours every week.
At first, most people are shocked to hear about the above points. As someone who has trained countless people to develop successful guitar teaching businesses (by joining the elite top 1% club), I know all of these things to be true.
Additionally, the majority of guitar teachers out there do not fail because they are necessarily ‘bad’ at teaching guitar. Instead, they fail because they believe in the ‘common knowledge’ they have heard being perpetuated by other unsuccessful guitar teachers. These approaches seem rational at first glance, but in fact are highly damaging for your guitar teaching business in many ways.
Here are the top 7 conventional guitar teaching approaches that lead to failure:
1. Lowering Your Lesson Rates In Order To Compete With Other Guitar Teachers
While giving lessons in a town or city with heavy competition from other guitar teachers, it is natural to think that lowering your lesson rates will give more potential students a chance to work with you. If you are considering this approach, chances are you think that giving cheaper lessons will make you stand out from the more ‘expensive’ guitar teachers in your area. You may have even heard students complain about not wanting to spend a lot of money on guitar lessons and allowed this to affect your judgment. However, in the end this approach will backfire on you. Here’s why:
- The fact that you charge very cheap rates for lessons tells potential students that you are either new to teaching guitar or are not very good at it. In fact, most students assume that teachers with higher priced lessons charge more because they can get better results. So by charging a small amount for your lessons, you are really only driving away serious students (who are ready to spend money). The more serious a student is, the less likely they are to even think about taking lessons with you when you are the cheapest guitar teacher in town.
- When you charge cheap rates for lessons from the beginning, this tells potential students that the only difference from one guitar teacher to the next is the ‘price’ (which is totally untrue, although many students think this). With this in mind, it will be very difficult for you to raise your teaching rates in the future. You will be locked into the false perception you created in the mind of your students and will never be able to make as much money as you want.
- The guitar students you work with will take lessons much less seriously, practice much less and get few results in their guitar playing. Remember, when someone pays very little for something, they value it much less than if they had to pay a lot for it. Charge more for your lessons rather than less and your students will take everything more seriously and get more out of the time they spend with you.
All of these issues will hold you back from ever reaching significant success as a guitar teacher.
So how can you solve this issue and how much SHOULD you charge for guitar lessons? Always make sure that you charge a ‘minimum’ of the average price in your local area (even if you are just getting started). Next, work to make your guitar lessons as valuable as possible in order to transform your students into great guitar players very quickly. Once you can do this, you gain the leverage to raise your rates and have a justified reason for doing so. Learn how to become the most successful guitar instructor in your city or town with the best guitar teacher training.
2. ‘Only’ Focusing On Attracting New Guitar Students
When you first begin teaching guitar, you obviously need to find new students. With this in mind, it is easy for most guitar teachers to ‘only’ think about attracting new students while ignoring all other aspects of their guitar teaching business. This approach will present you with these problems:
- Since you do not have a solid strategy for ‘keeping’ your students, you must invest countless hours into your promotional efforts due to the fact that the new students you gain only replace the ones you lost.
- You will only make slow progress at best to build your guitar teaching business (even if you get more new students than you lose current ones). However, you can achieve much faster growth by working in several different areas simultaneously, such as: student retention, student referrals and converting potential students into actual students.
Following this approach WILL prevent you from making a lot of money through guitar teaching (especially during difficult economic times)
Fortunately, you can avoid these problems by making an effort to consistently improve in ALL areas of your guitar teaching business. By doing this, your business will improve exponentially and the amount of effort needed for major growth with decrease over time.
3. Always Showing Your Guitar Students Anything They Want To Learn
Many guitar teachers are in the habit of asking their students what they want to learn each time they take lessons. They believe that it is the responsibility of the student to tell the teacher what they need to work on. This is TOTALLY untrue. Consider this: if your guitar students actually knew what they needed to work on, wouldn’t they have already done it themselves and reached their guitar playing goals? The truth is that most guitar students are clueless about what they ‘should’ be working on to get better (this is why they came to you in the first place). It is not the student’s responsibility to figure this out, it is yours. You must always learn the student’s ‘long term goals’ up front and design an effective strategy to help them reach these goals. Additionally, you need to help your guitar students understand specifically WHY the things you teach them are both what they ‘need’ and ‘want’ to learn.
Your guitar students will never become great players if you allow them to tell you what to teach them. At most, they will be able to play a few isolated ideas but will never be able to put it all together to become a great musician. In most cases, if you teach guitar using this approach, you will quickly lose your students when they do not start seeing big results.
To make matters worse, you will be damaging your reputation when you do not get the results that your students want. This will make it very hard to sustain a successful guitar teaching business in your local area.
4. Making Changes To Your Guitar Teaching Business Based Only On What Other Local Teachers Are Doing
As a new guitar teacher, you will naturally be inclined to look at what your competitors are doing and try to use this information to build your guitar teaching business. However, as you read earlier in this article, the overwhelming majority of guitar teachers are unsuccessful. With this in mind, it makes no sense for you to try to copy the same things they are doing.
Rather than doing this, you should find a tight group of successful guitar teachers who are willing to share their insights with you. Of course, you will not be able to find such a group in your local area (obviously your competitors are not going to share their ideas with you). To find a network of successful guitar teachers who are willing to discuss their secrets with you, you will need to contact teachers who are ‘not’ living in the same area as you.
Many guitar teachers take part in my guitar teacher coaching program where they gain the advantage of being in a powerful network full of successful, high-earning music instructors who are ready and willing to share their insights.
5. Not Being Able To Say ‘No’ To Your Students
One of the biggest downfalls for most guitar teachers is that they do not enforce their teaching policies because they are afraid that it will cause them to lose students. In reality, failing to create and enforce a strong policy will eventually cause your guitar teaching business to fail. Here’s why:
A. This attracts guitar students who are not serious about learning. This means you will have to deal with students who are consistently late, do not pay on time and do not practice like they are supposed to.
B. Due to the above point, you will use all of your energy on ‘non-serious’ students and have little left to spare for the SERIOUS students who really do want to learn, pay on time and practice every day.
C. You will spend much less time teaching your students to become great musicians and much more time accommodating them with makeup lessons and chasing down late payments. This will lead your students to make very little progress while you make a smaller income and quickly become tired of working as a guitar teacher.
So what is a solution to this problem? Understand that ‘you’ know much more about what your students need to learn (regarding music/guitar) than they do. Develop your teaching policy based around this. Then make sure that your students understand your expectations and why following your policy is in their best interest. If they try to get you to change your policy, refuse to teach them (in other words… ‘fire’ them as students).
6. Becoming A Guitar Teacher At A Music Store
It is a very common belief among new guitar teachers that working at a music store is the best choice for making a good living because:
A. They do not have to find students by themselves. The music store does all the work.
B. They feel it is more professional to work from a music store instead of working out of their own home.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is why teaching guitar from a music store will cause you to fail:
- It is simply not true that music stores will do all of the promotional work for you. In reality, they do not have a strong incentive to get students specifically for ‘you’. The truth is, no matter if you are working from a music store or on your own, you must learn how to effectively attract new guitar students on your own.
- Additionally, you make less money when you work from a music store because you must give a large percentage of your earnings to the owner. This makes it more challenging to earn a good living as a guitar teacher.
- To make things worse, music stores generally are very strict about the teaching formats they allow. In many cases, you are limited to teaching only private 1 on 1 lessons and not allowed to help your guitar students progress faster using other formats. This makes it harder to get big results for your students.
- Since you can’t get great results for your students, it will be very difficult to develop the positive reputation needed to grow your guitar teaching business to the next level.
The most successful and highest earning guitar teachers never teach out of music stores. Instead, they run their own business and hire other guitar teachers to work for them. If you want to make a great living teaching guitar, you must treat it like a business and learn all you can in order to improve every aspect of it.
7. Promoting Yourself As A ‘General’ Guitar Teacher
Another misconception that most guitar teachers have is that you should try to reach as many students as possible through a highly generalized marketing approach. These teachers promote themselves by saying they teach in ‘any’ style.
The truth is, promoting yourself in this manner will mostly attract students who aren’t very serious about guitar lessons and/or don’t know what they want to play on guitar. These types of students are likely to not take practice seriously, only take lessons for a short period of time and will not be very cooperative with your lesson policies.
On the other hand, the greatest guitar students (who you want to work with) are always looking for a teacher who specializes in a specific niche because they know what they want to play and invest the time to look for someone who can help them play it.
When you gain a schedule full of students who aren’t very serious about learning guitar, you WILL become frustrated from endless cancelled lessons, late payments and other issues. Although these problems are only partially related to the topic of becoming a ‘general’ guitar teacher, they are fully caused by it and will hold you back from earning a living as a successful guitar teacher.
That being said, don’t make the mistake of choosing such a narrow niche that there are no guitar students who are interested in the style you teach. The main point is you will be much more successful if you market your guitar lessons as ‘rock’ guitar lessons (or blues, jazz, etc.) than if you simply market yourself as a general guitar teacher.
Overall, understand that making a good living as a guitar teacher is not the same as simply having a lot of students. Not only must you fill up your teaching schedule, but you must fill it up with the ‘right’ students. These are the students who will quickly make progress, stay with you for many years and help you develop a positive reputation as the best teacher in your location.
Although I have not discussed ‘all’ of the things that cause guitar teachers to fail, after reading the points above you have gained a better understanding of why most commonly accepted guitar teaching approaches are actually ineffective and problematic.
The most reliable method for avoiding failure in your guitar teaching business is to find the best guitar teacher training that will solve any issues you are currently facing. When you are aware of the problems that keep you from reaching success, you will then be prepared to take all the necessary actions to grow your guitar teaching business and earn more income from it than you ever thought possible!
About The Author: Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar teacher, composer and the guitarist of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He also trains guitar teachers how to develop better guitar teaching methods. Go to tomhess.net to read more information on guitar teaching, get free guitar teaching skill assessments and powerful guitar teaching tips.