Are you struggling to be a highly successful guitar teacher? Do you want to have more new dedicated students who remain committed for the long term? Are your methods working as effectively as you would like them to? Are you unhappy because most students don’t reach their musical goals and/or an advanced level of guitar playing? Are you unable to support yourself and your family with your guitar teaching income? Are you not earning the money you would like to?
Most guitar teachers struggle with at least some of the areas mentioned above. Many years ago, I was no different. I used to have a difficult time balancing the challenges of trying to help more students, become a more effective guitar teacher, grow my teaching income, and have time left at the end of the day. When I began teaching guitar, I had only a few students and struggled to support myself on teaching income only. My biggest challenges were getting consistent results with different types of students, having reliable systems in place for attracting more students and keeping my existing students from quitting before reaching their musical goals. I also couldn’t see an effective way to increase my income other than increasing the number of hours I taught or raising my lesson rates to very high levels.
Unfortunately, I could not find much help from anyone on how to change my situation. Although there were some very good musicians teaching guitar in my area, very few had anything that I considered to be a thriving guitar teaching business, meaning one that ensures effective, powerful and consistent results for students as well as financial success for the guitar teacher.
It became clear to me that following the conventional approaches to teaching guitar was not going to bring me the results I was after, neither for myself nor for my students. It took a long time of studying successful business people (outside of music), and a lot of trial and error, before I finally began to understand why my earlier attempts to become successful teaching guitar were so ineffective. Eventually I realized what I needed to change in my approach before I would be ready to start a highly successful guitar teaching business.
In this article, I will share with you nine of the biggest mistakes I used to make as a guitar teacher and that I notice many guitar teachers make. By correcting these mistakes, I was able to completely transform my guitar teaching in very powerful ways. This article is focused specifically on how to improve the business side of your guitar teaching, the ‘teaching side’ of your teaching business will be discussed in a future article.
Before reading further, it will be useful for you to assess your current level of readiness to become a highly successful guitar instructor. Take this five minute guitar teaching test before reading further. It will help you discover if you are making one or more of the top nine mistakes guitar teachersusually make.
1. Having limited teaching models.
The vast majority of guitar teachers only engage in one form of teaching: one-on-one lessons. While this approach certainly has its place, it is not the only guitar teaching method that could be or should be used to maximize the benefit to both your students and yourself. Contrary to conventional wisdom, students do not “always” learn most effectively in a one-on-one lesson format. Unfortunately, very few teachers ever venture outside of this traditional method. Many teachers simply aren’t aware of the benefits that other teaching formats have, or they follow what other guitar teachers do. There are many cases where a group class could be a more appropriate model, or at least be a useful addition to private lessons. The wide range of group teaching formats (when designed and taught in the right way)allows your students to interact and learn from one another. This is obviously not possible in private lessons. Also, group classes are usually more focused on one specific topic, allowing students to master it in less time. Finally, including group formats into your teaching can make your teaching business much more lucrative, less time-demanding and add more value to your students (plus it becomes more affordable for them!)
2. Not achieving meaningful results with students.
When it comes down to it, the only thing that really matters is the results that your students get from you. If you are able to consistently turn out good or great guitar players, then your positive reputation will begin to spread and referrals will come to you. So if your business is not growing at the rate you would like it to, one of the questions you should ask is: “How effective am I in getting powerful results with my students?” If your students are not happy with the results they receive, then you need to take a closer look at your teaching methods and ask yourself: How can I teach more effectively? How can I add more value to my students? Do the lesson formats I use produce effective results? Do I inspire my students or do I simply give them “information” about guitar playing? How can I lead my students through a literal life transforming experience as their guitar teacher, trainer, coach and mentor? One great way to improve as a teacher is to find the most successful guitar teacher you can, and take lessons with him or her on how to TEACH. Remember that the more you are able to fulfill and transform people’s musical lives in genuinely empowering ways, the faster your teaching business will grow.
I explain more about the topic of getting powerful and consistent results with students in my free 7 day e-mail mini course about teaching guitar.
3. Working too much “in” your guitar teaching business and not enough “on” it.
It is very common for music teachers (and business owners) to get so caught up in doing the daily work of “teaching” that little action is taken to actively expand and grow the business further. As a result, a business owner doesn’t really own a business; he/she only owns a “job”. Of course your teaching may expand on its own to some extent, but it will grow MUCH faster if you invest some time each week into doing things that will speed up this process. Focusing on promotion, analyzing and improving your teaching effectiveness and business models, creating referral programs, joint ventures and partnerships all create opportunities for you to maximize the value you add to your students and expand your business! Schedule some time each week to plan the direction you want your business to take in the next three, six, and twelve months. By being proactive in this way, you will see many positive results.
4. Not knowing how to distinguish yourself from the competition.
The best way to distinguish yourself from your competitors is to not have any. Read the last sentence several times and think about what it means! How can this apply to your situation as a guitar teacher? There are probably dozens (or hundreds) of guitar teachers in your local area, so it may seem impossible to “not have competitors”….or is it? One effective way to make all competition “irrelevant” is to offer something that no other music teacher in your area does. Having several teaching models in addition to the standard one-on-one lessons is one such possibility, but there are MANY others.
The options range from changing the way you conduct lessons to thinking of innovative ways for overcoming objections of prospective students that will make them want to choose you over the competition every time.
Here is another common competition problem and something you can do about it:
Very often you may only be able to attract students who live close to your teaching studio. When a prospective student lives further away, that distance creates a barrier of inconvenience and the student is more inclined to find a guitar instructor who is closer. Most teachers would simply give up and allow the person to study with someone else. But have you ever thought about what that inconvenience really means? Most of the time, the “distance” isn’t the problem. The problem (the objection) is the “time” that the student feels is wasted each week as they travel to and from your guitar lessons. They may love your lessons but hate wasting an hour to travel to you. Have you ever thought about what that means for you and how understanding this difference can be of great benefit to both you and your prospective students? There are several things you could do to turn this situation into a positive one. The question on your mind should be, “How can every minute they invest into traveling to me be reinvested into something useful for them?” Asking this question will likely inspire you to create some powerful resources to offer to your prospective students that they can study while commuting to and from your lessons! This is one of many examples of how you can differentiate yourself from the competition. The more you set yourself apart, the easier it will be to grow your teaching business.
5. Not understanding how to achieve geometric growth rather than linear growth.
Most music teachers only know how to grow their business linearly. They take one action in one area, and achieve some result. Then they repeat that same action and receive more results. Of course there is nothing wrong about this, but such an approach limits the amount of total growth you can achieve and the number of people you can help. Here is an example.
Most guitar teachers have only one or two ways of acquiring new students. Perhaps the most common method is advertising locally (posting flyers or placing ads in newspapers). So to recruit more new guitar students, most teachers either increase the number of ads they release, or change the ads to make them more effective. Let’s assume that last year you were able to recruit twenty new students. To increase this number, you publish more ads than before. As a result, this year you recruit twenty-five new students. Certainly this is good progress (a growth of five students or 25% per year), but you have only achieved linear growth. What if, in addition to advertisements you also focused on keeping your existing students longer, establishing joint ventures with music stores, and focused on converting a higher percentage of prospects into students? Most music teachers are completely unaware of how these elements can contribute to their guitar teaching business, and miss huge opportunities for MASSIVE growth!
If each of these elements provided you with 25% more students, your growth would now become geometric! The growth in each of these elements would compound on top of the others. Instead of expanding by only 25%, you can now grow by 144%! If your current state of business is at level 1, and you expand it by 25% (multiply by a factor 1.25) from 4 different business elements, your total growth is about 144%! (1 x 1.25 x 1.25 x 1.25 x 1.25 = 2.44 or 144% increase!!!). This means that your student count can go from 20 to 48 instead of 20 to 25 in one year!
6. Not being able to think of unconventional ways of attracting more prospective students.
Even if all you do is post flyers in your area and take out ads in newspapers, what have you done to maximize the results you get from these efforts? If you simply try to copy what everyone around you is doing to attract students, you will get the same results as everyone else. But if you want to grow your business and help more people than the average guitar teacher, then you will need to use approaches that are better than average. Taking some marketing classes will help you to greatly increase the response rate to standard ads. But in addition to the obvious, it is often the most unconventional methods that bring the best results. Have you thought about partnering up with a music store around your area to refer students/customers to each other? This idea can result in much more business for both parties, and it costs nothing to set up! I have a guitar student right now (who is a professional guitar teacher) who does this in his area and almost all of his fifty-seven students came from this single idea!
7. Not having effective systems in place for converting prospects into becoming students.
Students will be so much more likely to take lessons from you when you can prove to them beyond any doubt that their life will be enhanced by having you as a teacher. One of the best ways to do this is to show the results you have achieved by helping other people. No matter what you promise “in words”, there must be clear proof to back up your claims. When it comes to conversion, there is little else as effective as solid proof of your success with other students. Some guitar teachers make the mistake of acting like salespeople, trying to “sell” the lessons to students. What you need to do instead is to make the prospect see on their own that you are the most logical and most viable solution to their musical problems. Nobody likes to be “sold” to, so you should let your massive evidence of success with students speak for itself. You must also find out as much as you can about your prospective student’s specific goals, musical challenges, and current playing level. After you know this, it will be easier to prove to the person that you can give them the help that they need. Most importantly, you MUST back up every claim you make. If a prospective new student asks to study with you, but you are not comfortable teaching in his/her style, skill level, or musical ambitions, then do NOT teach that student. The fastest way to destroy a business is to fail to deliver what you promise!
8. Not knowing how to keep students for a long time (years!)
Your students will continue studying with you as long as you continue to find unique ways to add value and enrich their musical lives. When you do this, it is possible to keep students for five, six, eight, ten or more years! One effective way to ensure that students remain with you longer is to have something to offer that will allow them to continuously advance as musicians. This becomes easy to do if in addition to private lessons you teach several group classes that go in depth on very specific topics. This will allow your students to learn more from you in a new setting while also learning from your other advancing guitar students. Think about the students you have now. You know them well (or at least you should). Ask yourself, in what ways might you be able to provide additional benefits and value to each person you work with? To be clear, I am not implying that you should create an environment of “dependency”. Certainly our goal as guitar teachers is to make our students grow so that they may become totally independent and not “need” us forever, but that does not mean you should not constantly look to add huge amounts of value to them for years to come! They should WANT to remain your student for a long time because of the benefit you provide them (not because you are holding them back). Although this might seem like simple common sense, the truth is the VAST majority of music teachers in general, and guitar teachers in particular, don’t do a very good job in this area, and that is why so many teachers and students struggle unnecessarily.
9. Not knowing how to motivate existing students to refer new students to you.
Growing your student base through referrals is a very powerful method of expanding your guitar teaching business. However, in order to encourage referrals, you need to have incentives strong enough to make your existing students to WANT to refer their friends to you. One of the strongest incentives is to consistently turn your students into great players and help them reach their musical goals. In most cases, the more satisfied your students are, the more referrals you will get.
Another possibility is to offer bonus lessons or bonus instructional items that your students can ONLY obtain when they refer their friends to you. There are many more possibilities, but these are just two to get you started thinking. Don’t simply rely on word of mouth to work for you! An effective, organized and systematic referral system will bring you exponentially more students!
It should now be more obvious why guitar teachers struggle with teaching more effectively and earning more money in the process. I hope that by reading this article you have seen that this situation does not have to be this way! Although the list above is not all inclusive, if you take action on each of the nine points discussed here, you will surely see your level of success and effectiveness as a guitar teacher begin to grow more rapidly. If you haven’t taken the test mentioned earlier in this article, I encourage you to do so now to find out how prepared you are to establish a highly successful guitar teaching business. Test yourself here.
Also, I highly recommend checking out the free 7 day e-mail mini course about how to become a truly exceptional guitar teacher.
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