How to Start a Private Music Lesson Business
Learning to play a musical instrument has many benefits. It’s creative, it can relieve stress, and it feeds your brain. Playing an instrument can broaden your social circle, and it can give you a real sense of achievement. No wonder then that according to CareerExplorer, there are an estimated 122,500 music teachers registered in the USA teaching all levels of abilities and a broad range of musical instruments.
Unfortunately, music lessons are often the first ones to be cut in elementary and secondary school budgets, creating relatively low job security for employed music teachers. This is why offering private music lessons through your own business can be an excellent opportunity.
Teaching music can be such a rewarding experience, especially with students who are positive and excited about learning an instrument. It’s also a business with low entry barriers. You can easily start off small, ease yourself into being your own boss, and then grow your business from there. A private music tuition business will also travel to some extent. If you already offer part or all of your tuition online, your business and your students will easily travel with you. Plus, running your own music lesson business means you can develop your own ‘brand’ and have more freedoms in the way you develop students, when you work and how much you charge.
On the other hand, don’t underestimate teaching. It can be quite hard work. You might have students who are in your class because the parents thought it was a good idea. You will also do a fair bit of lesson planning and, of course, administrative work relating to the business.
But if you have a real passion for music and are excited to share that with others, if you treasure the students’ ‘aha-moments and you enjoy being your own boss and working on your own terms, then running your own private music lesson business ticks all these boxes.
Music Lesson Industry Overview
Typically, private music tutors are competent in and specialize in one area, such as piano lessons or guitar lessons, or a class of instruments. They tend to work one-on-one or provide small group lessons. Tutors will help beginners develop their basic skills and understand music notation. They might also offer lessons to improve instrumental technique, increase performance ability, or prepare for auditions. Lessons are generally conducted at home, online, or at the student’s home, sometimes in a studio.
According to IBISWorld, close to 18,000 businesses and over 26,000 musicians are registered in the US offering private music lessons. There are no major players in this industry. These numbers show us that the majority of private music lesson businesses are owner-operated, i.e., they are run by one person. And when it comes to gender, it’s almost 50/50; 51.7% of private music tutors are women.
As with many businesses, online tuition is forecast to be the future of private music lessons. Although remote music instruction is limited in terms of the ability to control the sound quality, for example, many operators in this industry have already implemented a shift towards virtual communication platforms. The bonus here is the ability to record lessons and make them available regardless of time and place. Plus, this generation of youth is a lot more tech-savvy and will be better able to make the most of online tuition.
Your target market will have one common denominator: the musical instrument they wish to play. After that, every student will have different learning styles and different needs. Your target market is likely a mix of ages and levels of capabilities. Note that if you take on smaller children, your credentials and communication will also be important to their parents.
Skills, experience, and education useful in running a private music lesson business
Credentials and Competence: You don’t need a degree in music to start your own music teaching business, but you certainly need to be competent in the instrument you are going to tutor. Especially if you are planning to teach at higher levels of music theory and exam preparation, your credentials and potentially affiliations and memberships will help back up your tutoring ability.
Teaching experience: Again, you don’t need a teaching qualification to run your own music tutoring company. But remember, you will likely be dealing with students of all ages and abilities. Happy students = happy business. It is vital that you can adapt your teaching style to the needs of your students, especially kids. You’ll also need to be able to organize a lesson plan and set goals for your students.
Stay up to date and on top of trends: It’s good to keep an eye on three main areas: Changes and advances in music and musical instruments, advances in teaching, and also the emergence of new online platforms, improved online resources, and services. Stay connected with your industry and your network. It’ll help you to stay ahead of the game and offer your students a competent, professional, and innovative learning experience.
Excellent interpersonal skills: You’ll have happier students (and parents) if you are able to relate well and if you are patient and positive. This is especially true for teaching smaller children where frustrations can lead to tantrums. You’ll need to be able to communicate ideas and steps clearly and in a positive way. There’s nothing quite like the student’s feeling of success when finally mastering a competency and ‘getting it.’
Checklist for Starting a Music Lesson Business
Starting a music lesson business can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s important to make sure you’re prepared for the challenges ahead. Use this checklist to help get your business off on the right note.
Step 1: Write your Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your own music lesson business should be to write a business plan. You might think a plan is not that important because starting a private music lesson company doesn’t require a large sum of capital upfront. But the business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of your business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting income and expenses, and much more. Multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business and sustain it longer-term.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Name the Business
Finding the perfect name for your private music lesson business can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Step 3: Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a music lesson business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: 3 steps to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Select your Location
It’s an important consideration, but perhaps one that comes with easy options. Statistics show that most private music lesson businesses are run from the tutor’s home. To offer lessons from home, you will need to verify whether you need licensing to operate a home-based business.
Other common options are dedicated studio space, online tutoring, and offering lessons at the student’s house. Providing group tutoring will normally require dedicated space, so be sure to run the numbers to see how many students will be needed to cover the facility costs. Rental costs will depend on the studio’s square footage, location, and amenities.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
You won’t need a degree to offer private music lessons, but a business owner will need to obtain certain general business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Some common local, state, and federal registrations a private music lesson business may need include a business license, sales tax permit, and Employer Identification Number.
Step 6: Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start your own business is another. Luckily, a private music lessons business does typically not require a large amount of capital upfront and can start small scale. However, should you need a loan, it is important to understand that the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
A music lesson business will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Music stores and schools are excellent places to build connections and leave flyers and business cards.
Common marketing techniques for private lessons include social media marketing, online advertising with Google ads and Craigslist, and print advertising. Creating a customer loyalty program aimed at families or small groups can help to encourage new and repeat students. Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your business greater visibility and reach. The website can also be used as a portal to online tuition for existing customers. Marketing costs will depend on the activity performed and its volume.
One important task while working on the marketing is developing an online presence. A website developer may be out of the budget, but Wix makes it easy for non-technical people to get a website running quickly and affordably.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
Compared to other businesses, a private music lesson business will not need an extensive range of insurances. But you should explore:
– General liability insurance protects the business from expenses like medical and legal bills that it could face if a student is ever hurt while on the business’ property.
– Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.
Insurance policies will vary in cost depending on factors like the business’s location, the value of its inventory (if any), and the number of employees on staff (if any). To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.
Step 10: Hire Employees
A large proportion of private music lesson businesses are owner-operated. But should you want to hire staff or instructors to expand the range of tuition you can offer, the average pay for a private music teacher is $26, according to Salary.com.
In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff. It will also be useful to set aside some time and budget for training and development.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system for your music lesson business is critical to its long-term success. A good system will allow you to stay on top of your billing and will track income and expenses. It will allow you to maximize profits, identify trends and also keep the business out of trouble with the government.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does it cost to start a music lesson business?
Estimate amounts are not very useful here, unfortunately. There are so many variables when setting up your private music lesson business. It can be said, though, that becoming your own boss in this industry is relatively easy and doesn’t require a huge investment upfront.
Most tutoring can be done at home, online, or at the student’s home. There is no need to rent or buy a studio to start with. We are also assuming that you already own your instrument(s) of choice, so there should not be an additional cost.
Your expenses will largely be associated with marketing, setting up business-related systems, accessing teaching material and perhaps additional sheet music, music stands, and potentially setting up online teaching platforms.
How profitable is a music lesson business?
According to Salary.com, highly experienced and specialist private music tutors can earn up to $54plus per hour. That is a relatively high rate, certainly if you look at the comparatively low overheads and expenses. That said, it pays to check out your competition in your area.
Your rate will be determined by the demand for learning to play a certain instrument but also by the supply. Your charges will be influenced by what level of tuition you provide, your experience and the skills and expertise you offer, and whether it is one-on-one, a group, or online.
Are there grants to start a music lesson business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a music lesson business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What is the NAICS code for a music lesson business?
The NAICS code for a music lesson business is 611610, which is categorized under Fine Arts Schools.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.