7 Tips On How To Avoid Failure As A Guitar Teacher

Firstly lets define success. Research found that most people are happy at between $75,000 and $100,000 per year. After $100k a persons happiness doesn’t change much. If we then define success as $100,000 per year what do you think most guitar teachers would earn? Well I have some pretty good numbers based on interviewing hundreds of teachers from around the world. I would guess 90% earn less than $50k per year with the majority being below $40k. About 1% would be over $60k and most of them work long hours to achieve their above average income. Bottom line, very few guitar teachers are experiencing what I’d call financial success and are well below the happiness line. They are in fact, failing and here are my 7 tips on how to avoid ending up in the same boat.

Assume your ignorance

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” – Mark Twain

This is perhaps the most important and why I am listing at the top. We all like to think we are pretty clever but in reality business is tough. Statistically over 90% of people fail so its much better to assume your ignorance than to be overly confident. Its okay to be confident about your ability to find answers but always be the student. Always be willing to be wrong. The best thing you can do to avoid ignorance is to read everyday. If we assume we are ignorant the remedy must knowledge. One book has the power to transform you. Most business books condense years of experience into what equates to about 10 hours of reading. 10 hours for a lifetime of someone’s hard earned experience is a bargain and anyone who doesn’t read generally remains ignorant. They are almost certainly doomed to fail.

Teach groups

If you were to consult a business investor the first thing they’d want to know is whether your business is scalable. Teaching privately is not scalable. In fact its not even a business. Its a job. When you run out of hours your income stops. This is a fundamental reason why most guitar teachers fail. Learn how to teach in groups. Yes it will be a challenge at first but the rewards far out weight the intial hurdles. Like guitar playing, it just takes practice.

Learn marketing

It always amazes me how little research guitar teachers put into understanding marketing. You should know how Facebook Ads and Google Adwords work. You should understand what CPC and ROI mean. You should understand the concept of A/B testing and much more. Marketing is often what makes or breaks a business. Guitar teachers who know how to effectively market can get away with being less skilled teachers because they know how to find more students.

Manage your finances

Financial neglect is so often at the heart of failed business ventures and guitar teachers are no different. I find it amusing when I ask guitar teachers how their business is going and they say “Great. I’ve got 50 students”. When I ask to look at their financial books they are a mess. On even closer inspection it seems their 50 students often miss lessons or don’t pay on time. A well organised teacher with 25 students will often out earn the teacher with 50 students and works a whole lot less hours. If you are not in control of your finances you are not in control and its only a matter of time before you realise failure.

Develop your teaching

If you want to get the edge on your competition spend time developing your teaching. How many books have you read on teaching? How many courses have you attended lately? In fact its hypocritical to be charging students to learn guitar from someone who can’t even be bothered learning how to become a better teacher. Knowing how to play guitar is a basic requirement of any guitar teacher but developing your teaching is what makes you a true professional.

Know thy strengths

You aren’t going to be good at everything. In fact you’ll only be really good at a few things. Spend time identifying your strengths and leverage them. For example you might be good at communicating with people but suck at lesson preparation. In this case spend more time talking to your students to ensure they are progressing and don’t worry so much about prepping your lessons. Instead, find a method of teaching guitar or pay another teacher to prepare your lessons.

Invite feedback

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

The fastest way to improve your chances of success is via feedback but you need to ask for it. Your students will usually not speak up unless encouraged for fear of insulting you but, they are the ones who will offer the most important feedback. It doesn’t mean you do what they say. A large part of feedback is understanding how your students perceive your lessons. What you are teaching may very well be correct but perhaps they don’t understand why. In some cases you will need to change but either way feedback is the key.


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