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Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting up your own guitar teaching studio, but you keep putting it off. The root of procrastination is FEAR, and fear will always rob you of opportunities for success. If you can understand and overcome your fears, you can step out into the kind of life you dream about living.
In this episode, I’ll get into 7 key fears that can keep from starting your own business teaching guitar lessons, and for each of the 7 fears, I’ll give you a solution to help you overcome it. If you can muster the courage to face some of these fears, you really can become the guitar teacher you’ve always wanted to be.
To call in with a question, a comment or to leave feedback for the show, call the Listener Feedback Hotline at (719) 428-5480 and leave a message! I just might include your recorded message in a future episode.
Items Mentioned In This Episode:
Link – “Done For You” Email Autoresponder Series
Link – STG All-Access
Link – How To Set Up Your Own Guitar Teaching Website In 30 Minutes Or Less
Link – Recommended Teaching Books
Link – MusicTeacherWebsite.com
So, maybe you’ve been watching other guitar players in your area start teaching lessons, or maybe you’ve been lurking around STG, around Start Teaching Guitar, trying to kind of gather information. Maybe you’ve been thinking about this teaching stuff for a long time, but you haven’t really taken the plunge yet and started teaching guitar lessons yourself. If that’s you, then you’re the person that I’m talking to in this episode, and I’ve got some good stuff for you today.
Maybe there’s something that’s just holding you back. You really have a desire to teach. You know, you really have something good to offer and you know that teaching would be something good for you to do, but for some reason there’s something holding you back. Something you’re afraid of that’s keeping you from taking action and actually getting started as a guitar teacher. Being stuck and procrastinating on something that you really want to do is no fun at all. So, what this episode is going to hopefully do is help you get unstuck. This is going to be awesome.
Benefits of Teaching Guitar Lessons
So, you probably already know a lot of the benefits of teaching guitar lessons. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast and considering it, but I’ll just go through some of them for you. Teaching guitar helps you improve your own skills on the guitar while you work. You know, that’s one reason why teaching is so cool, because hey, you get to work, you get to make money, and you get to improve your own skills at the same time. If you love playing the guitar, like I do, then it’s a really cool aspect of being a teacher. Teaching can also boost your success as a gigging musician because of the relationships that you make with your students, the networking that goes on, the level of expertise that you establish in your local area, not to mention the improvement in your musical skills and learning songs that you teach other people. You know, networking with other musicians that teach. All of those are ways to help you be more successful as a gigging musician that can all come from teaching.
It also allows you to set your own hours. You can schedule your lessons whenever it’s convenient for you for the most part. You can be your own boss. You don’t have anybody telling you what to do or when to work, and stuff. Teaching guitar lets you have the ability to work from home if you want to. So, you could teach out of a music store or out of some commercial space, but you could also teach out of a home office or out of your basement, or out of your living room, on the sofa, if you want to. You know? It’s a really cool thing. So, it eliminates your commuting and stuff, because you get to work from home.
Teaching also gives you more control over how much money you can make. It’s not like you make a flat salary and that’s all you’re ever going to get paid, or a fixed minimum wage type of situation. If you want to make more money, you just teach more lessons or improve the value of what you offer and raise your tuition rates. There’s a lot of control that you have over your finances whenever you become a self-employed guitar teacher. Teaching also lets you get paid to do something that you love, and that’s something that’s hard to put a price tag on because fulfillment and happiness and joy that you get from your work is a really important piece of having a quality life and having a healthy life and being happy with your life.
So, if you love to play guitar and you love to talk about the guitar and you love to teach things to other people, then it could be the perfect career option for you, because you get to do something that you love and get paid to do it at the same time. Teaching also lets you make a difference in other people’s lives. There’s a lot of significance that comes with being a good guitar teacher, because you really make a difference in people. You help them to change the course of their lives in some cases and to pursue a career in music or in music education. And if nothing else, you bring joy and satisfaction and fulfillment into their lives by helping them master something as cool as the guitar. So, it’s awesome.
Another cool thing about it: it doesn’t require any formal training. It doesn’t require a college degree necessarily. If you have a music degree, it will only help, but you don’t need to have a music degree to teach beginning rock students, for example, or beginning country students. Those types of genres. Beginning blues students, bluegrass and things like that. Those genres are not really known for their high level of music education for the most part, so you don’t really have to have a degree in classical guitar or in jazz improvisation, or anything like that, to teach a lot of those genres to beginners. You just need to be one step ahead. Right Now, any training or degree that you have – I’m not downing those things. That will help you be a more effective teacher and a better musician, but it’s not required. If you don’t have it, you could still be a successful guitar teacher without it.
And another benefit is you can get started teaching guitar lessons – open up your music studio – for not very much money. You know, some businesses require a lot of money. Like if you buy into a McDonald’s franchise, for example, or something like that, you’ve got to come up with a quarter of a million dollars of your own money. Either you’ve got to borrow it from the Government or take out a loan, or save up all your money or sell everything you have to get into it, and then basically what you own is a job, right? Well, you can get started teaching guitar for just a few hundred bucks. You know, just enough money to get a website setup and a few things like that, and get your teaching studio in order. Do a little bit of advertising and boom, you have a business with money coming in that’s profitable. You know, not too many businesses will let you do that, but teaching guitar lessons is one of them that does.
So, there are a lot of benefits to being a guitar teacher. Now, most of you already are familiar with all of these things, like I said, or you wouldn’t be interested in this in the first place, but I just wanted to put that out there so that you have some motivation to actually breakthrough some of the fears that I’m going to talk about in a second and experience some of these benefits in your own life so that you can actually get started if you’ve been sitting on the fence and you want to teach guitar lessons, but you’ve never really pulled the trigger on it. You know, you probably keep telling yourself things like: “Oh, I’ll get around to teaching guitar one day. Just not today. Just not right now.” And chances are one of the following seven fears that I’m going to talk about is holding you back and keeping you from starting up your own teaching studio.
So, I’m going to go through these fears one by one and talk about each one, and kind of give you some solutions if it’s something that you feel like you’re susceptible to. Something that might be an obstacle for you in getting your teaching studio launched and off the ground.
Fear #1 – I’m Not Ready
So, fear number one is pretty common. “I’m not ready.” That’s probably the big fear a lot of people have. I’m just not ready for this yet. And if you’re in that situation, you probably keep reading books. You probably keep collecting method books and listening to podcasts, and learning as much as you can, and you keep having knowledge coming in, but you never have any practice of it going out because you’re just afraid that you’re not ready to get started yet. Well, I hear this from a lot of would-be teachers and most of the people that I hear this from, honestly, are actually more than ready to get started.
Some of the people who say this have been teaching family and friends on the side for free for a long time, some of them even for years, but they still feel like they’re not ready to open a business at it. And there’s even other people that are experts at the guitar that know and understand music inside and out, have amazing technique, and a wealth of information to share, and they know that teaching guitar lessons could solve a lot of their financial problems as a musician, but for some reason they don’t feel like they’re ready. Well, if that’s you, I just want to tell you you’re probably a lot closer than you think you are to being ready to start teaching. You probably are a lot closer to being ready to get started than you think. You might not feel ready, but if you ask anybody else, they’d probably tell you, you would make a great teacher and you should’ve started doing it years ago.
Okay, so here’s a solution for this fear. If you feel like you’re not ready, if you’re afraid to get started because you feel like you’re not quite ready, then what you should do is you should pick a date when you will start teaching your first guitar student for pay whether you feel ready or not. You know, feelings are not real. They’re just feelings. They’re just chemicals in your brain a lot of times, and fear is a feeling. And if you’re afraid and you feel like you’re not ready, that’s not necessarily an accurate indicator of reality. So, pick a date and write it on your calendar, and that’s the date that you are going to start. You’re going to put your shingle out there and you’re going to start attracting students, and you’re going to start teaching guitar for money. Whether you feel ready on that date or not, you’re going to start doing it. And sometimes just giving yourself a deadline can help spur you out of procrastination.
And that’s true if you’re a more experienced player too and you’ve been teaching for a while. You can use this deadline trick to help yourself push past fear and procrastination in other areas that you’re trying to expand into too. So, that’s the first big fear. “I’m not ready,” and I’m going to say yes, you probably are. So, take that step.
Fear #2 – I Don’t Know What To Teach
Okay, fear number two: “I don’t know what to teach.” This is kind of that fear of unpreparedness or that fear that you are going to mess something up. I don’t know what to teach. It’s kind of like that fear that you have, where you wake up at night in a cold sweat because you had a nightmare that you showed up at work in your underwear or in your pajamas. Because it’s that fear of just not being prepared; of missing something. I don’t know what to teach. Well, there are really two variations on this particular fear.
The first one is: “I have no idea what to teach. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to communicate to my students in my lessons.” Okay, and then the second aspect is: “I know so much that I don’t know where to begin. I have such a vast musical knowledge. I don’t know how to get down to the level of a beginner and show them what to do. I don’t know what to do to start it off.”
So, if you know how to play guitar, this is for the first thing. You know, if you really don’t have any idea what to teach, if you know how to play guitar, then you have some valuable information that you can pass on to someone else. So, you have the knowledge. You have a level of skill. You have something to share. So, all you have to do is just distill that into a way that you can communicate it to someone that is at a lower level on the instrument than you are, and then you have lesson material. If you’re on the other side, where you know so much that you don’t know where to begin with lessons, then all you need to do is get your knowledge a little bit better organized.
So, the solution I have for you for this fear, for number two, is you want to reverse engineer the process of learning guitar that you followed yourself. Reverse engineer it. What does that mean? It sounds technical. Well it’s not. It means you simply write down all the steps that you can remember following as a guitar student yourself. Okay, so back whenever you were younger and you first picked up the guitar, what steps did you remember following? What did you do to learn the guitar? Where did you start? Then what did you do after that? Then what did you do after that? What progression of concepts and techniques and exercises did you work through? What songs did you learn in what order?
Okay, just take a little trip down memory lane and write all that stuff down. And then put them in the best order that you can for a new student, for a beginner, taking into account what you learned from your mistakes along the way. You know, just because you did it one way, maybe it’s not going to be the best way for someone else. So, if you’ve learned from some of your mistakes, you can make it better for the people that you teach. And then just fill in each of those steps with the appropriate musical concepts, exercises, music theory, repertoire, and other parts. You know, songs. Other things as you think best. Just fill in the blanks with different things that you can do in your lessons with your students.
And then, if you kind of run out of ideas, use some good method books to fill in any gaps. I have some links on this StartTeachingGuitar.com homepage in the Toolbox section of good teaching books that you can check out and purchase, and lots of great lessons materials in those books. Now, I say this a lot. I don’t recommend teaching through them from cover to cover, but they’re a great source for material for your lessons if you kind of cherry pick what you need and put it into your own framework. So, that’s the solution. Just reverse engineer the process that you followed for yourself, and then you can put together an entire curriculum that you can use with pretty much all of your students, starting at different levels, and that will forever solve the problem of: “I don’t know what to teach,” and you won’t ever have to be afraid of that one anymore.
Fear #3 – Nobody Will Sign Up
Okay, fear number three. This is one that’s pretty common. Fear number three: “Nobody will sign up.” I’m afraid that if I start that will no one will sign up. If I build it, no one will come. Well, nobody wants to pour hours and days and weeks into starting a teaching studio, and then have no students show up that are interested in lessons. Now, I can’t guarantee that you’re going to have a line of students waiting outside your door to sign up for lessons with you. I can’t guarantee that, but if you’re offering something good, good quality lessons that other people need, and presenting it in a way that they’re liking and interested in and taking notice of, then the chances are very high that they’re going to sign up with you.
Okay, all marketing in this context is, is offering a solution to a problem that people are aware of and communicating it to them in a way that they can understand it and take action on it. You’re solving people’s problems with your teaching studio. Okay, and if you can do that with a group of people, then they’re very likely to sign up. Now, you don’t need, or you don’t even really want a hundred new students in the first month anyway. The best growth is going to happen kind of slowly over time and it’s going to allow you to keep pace with the growth, because if you’ve got swamped with a hundred new students the first month that you opened your door, then you would get overwhelmed. You wouldn’t be able to teach them all. You would never have any time off and you would end up doing a lousy job probably and not giving anybody the best of what they need.
So, you don’t want a hundred new students in the first month, unless you’re a little bit more established, and if you’re teaching group classes and things like that. That would be a great problem to have. But when you’re first getting started, a hundred new students would be like a death sentence almost if you got them all at the same time. All you need are a few students to get started. And if you do a good job with a few new students, things are going to grow from there. Referrals will start coming in, especially if you ask them for referrals. You’ll get better at what you do as a teacher. You’ll get more confidence. You’ll get more established. You’ll kind of find your groove and your niche as a teacher. Things are going to start to open up, and then momentum is going to start to build.
So, it happens kind of slowly over time and it’s an awesome thing. That’s the way healthy businesses grow. They don’t grow too fast. They grow at just the right speed so that the person that’s running the business can grow right along with it. Okay, so if you’re afraid no one’s going to sign up, the perfect solution for that is to go ahead and get started, but start by working your existing network of contacts to find your first few students. So, what I would do is I would ask everybody that you know. Make a list of family, friends, associates, neighbors, co-workers, anyone and everyone. Members of your church. Members of your country club. Members of your local political group or whatever you’re involved in. Whatever kind of stuff you do, band members that you play with. Anyone. Everyone that you could possibly know their first name. Ask them if they know anyone in your area who might be interested in learning the guitar. Chances are there are going to be at least two or three people who are going to be interested in signing up. If you are like most people, I mean Facebook is a good place to do this if you’re active on Facebook and you have a personal page. I have a page with like four or five hundred people on it that I’ve known throughout the course of my life in one way or another. So, actually that’s a great place to ask: “Do you know anyone who might be interested in guitar lessons?”
You know, chances are at least two or three people are going to be interested in your groups of friends and family and associates, and then those people may even know a few other people. So, between all of those connections, you should be able to find a handful of people to get started with. So, if that’s what you do, then you’ll have your handful of students. You’ll have two or three to start off, and then things can grow from there. So, you don’t have to worry about opening your doors and not having a single student.
Fear #4 – My Lessons Won’t Be Good Enough
Fear number four: “My lessons won’t be good enough.” And this is a common one too. It’s like the fear that it’s not going to work out. That I’m not going to do a good job. That I’m not going to be able to perform. That I’m not going to be able to deliver what I’m promising. Maybe you’re afraid that you don’t have enough knowledge or skill or experience on the guitar. Maybe you think you’re not a good enough guitar player to be able to teach lessons. That it’s preposterous. It’s like: “Why should I assume that I could be a guitar teacher? You know, I really need other people to be teaching me.” And yeah, that may be true that we all have things to learn, but if you don’t think you’re good enough to be a teacher, then you’re never going to try to do it. You’re going to be afraid.
Maybe you’re afraid that you won’t be able to deliver on your promises to your student. Okay, this is something that every new guitar teacher feels, honestly. It’s across the board. Pretty much everyone deals with this at first. “Am I really good enough to make this work?” And a lot of established teachers who’ve been doing it for a while feel that from time to time too, so just prepare yourself. This is a feeling that you’re going to have. It’s a fear that’s going to pop up every once in a while, and you just acknowledge it, say yeah, I’m feeling a little bit of fear that I might be a little inadequate, and then just let it go and keep on teaching. And before long, it’s going to go away. Remember everybody has to start somewhere. You’re not going to do everything one hundred percent perfect the first time out, but if you don’t quit, you will improve over time.
Okay, that’s just the way it works. Also, you’ve got to realize too. If you’ve got fears like this, you’re afraid that you’re not going to be good enough; you don’t have to jump into this teaching thing alone. You know, that’s one of the reasons I put together STG All-Access; is so that you can have a supportive community of other teachers to help you succeed, and new, encouraging information on a regular basis to help you stay motivated, to help you improve your business skills, your teaching skills, and slowly, over time, get to the point where you’re established and where you want to be. So, you can check out STGAllAcess.com for more information about that, but there’s a whole community of people from all over the world – guitar teachers – that would love nothing more than to encourage you and to help you get to the next level with your business. So, check that out if you think it would help you.
But the real solution for the feat that you’re not going to be good enough, if you’ve never taught before, is to teach a few lessons for free at first to just gain some confidence in yourself. So, the way you do that is you find two or three students who would be interested in one free month of guitar lessons. In exchange for four free lessons, ask them to give you three things in return. Number one: give you feedback on your performance as a teacher. So, after the four free lessons are up, they’re going to tell you what you did well and what you can use improvement in. They’re going to be honest and give you feedback, which is important because that’s going to help you with your confidence level and it’s going to show you areas you can improve so that you can be more successful.
The second thing you’re going to ask them for is a video testimonial, where you just pull out your smartphone and they talk into the phone and say, “This is why I recommend taking guitar lessons with Joe, or with John, or with Edward,” or whatever your name is. You know, with this particular teacher, and then they give you a video testimonial that you can, in turn, use on your website. Okay, and then the third thing that you ask them for is a list of referrals. “Do you know anybody that would be interested in taking guitar lessons with me,” and you get a list of three or four people from them. And then those people you reach out and contact, and say, “Hey, so and so gave me your name and said that you might be interested in learning the guitar. Here’s what I can do for you,” or you have your friend pass your information on, or something like that.
So, you get feedback, you get a video testimonial, and you get some referrals in exchange for those free lessons. So, those are things that money can’t really buy, so the lessons really aren’t free. You’re getting a benefit from that, but even in that case, after the free lessons are up, those students might want to continue on a paying basis. But even if they don’t, you’re going to have what you need to get started with your business and you’re going to have gained some confidence because you’ve taught these people successfully for a month. Okay, so that’s a great solution to that problem if you’re feeling inadequate. It’ll build your confidence if you can do that.
Fear #5 – I Don’t Know Anything About Websites And Stuff
Okay, fear number five: “I don’t know anything about websites and stuff.” So, this is kind of like a fear of technology or a lack of understanding of technology. So, if you’re not a technical person, you can still be a successful guitar teacher. Yes, you’re going to need a website. Yes, you’re going to need to be able to work social media. Yes, you’re going to need to be able to manage and run an email list and things like that. You’re going to need to be able to do some stuff on your computer. But if you’re not a technical person, you can still be successful as a guitar teacher.
The solution to that is to use easy-to-understand tools where you can. You know, you use simple, well designed online tools to help you wherever you can, and then the other areas where you don’t have easy-to-use tools, get someone to help you. Okay, so this is the solution to that problem. WordPress is a godsend for websites. WordPress with your own hosting account is the easiest website you could ever build and manage, and you could do almost everything yourself with WordPress. You don’t need to pay someone to go in and update the text on your webpage, or your phone number, or your lessons rates, or policies, or anything like that. It’s so easy to go in and do it yourself.
And I have a free video tutorial that explains how to build your own teaching website using WordPress in 30 minutes or less. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. You can check it out. Okay, it’s free. It’s easy. Okay, and for Gold Level STG All-Access members, I actually giveaway a free basic website with free website hosting and a free domain name. If you’re a Gold Level STG All-Access member, Gold or Platinum, Gold or above. So, it’s basically everything you need to get started with your own website. I’ll even install for you, and you’ll have a basic shell of a website that you can go in and add your text, add your photos, and change your colors around, and things like that, and make it look like you want. Add the content, but it’s all there. It is done for you, and you don’t have the monthly expense of a hosting account and you don’t have the annual expense of a domain name. It’s all free with your STG All-Access Gold Level or higher membership. So, you can go to STGAllAccess.com and check out more info about that.
And if all of that is still too much for you, then I can even build the whole thing for you from beginning to end for a set price. So, I can help you with every level of that kind of technology stuff. You could check out MusicTeacherWebsite.com to find more info about that part. But if you use easy-to-understand tools wherever you can and get someone to help you with the stuff that you can’t do yourself, you could get it all done and you can focus on your teaching business instead of worrying about technology. Okay, so don’t let fear of technology stop you.
Fear #6 – I Hate The Idea Of Marketing
Number six. This is a common one. “I hate the idea of marketing.” Fear number six: “I’m terrified of marketing. I don’t understand marketing. I hate the fact that I have to sell myself. I don’t like marketing.” Well, some people are natural marketers. You’ve run into people like that. They’re confident. They’re charismatic. They have an instinctive understanding of what benefits that they offer that are going to appeal to their students and things like that. You know, but those people are kind of rare. Most people, probably most of us, have a harder time with this stuff at first. I know I did.
Marketing may not come natural to you, but you can definitely learn it and you can definitely learn how to do it well and be effective at it. Marketing your teaching studio is not selling yourself. Okay, it’s not about sales. It’s not about cold calling. It’s not about putting yourself in an awkward situation, trying to talk someone into something that they don’t want. Marketing your teaching studio is simply letting other people know what you can do for them. People that have a need for a guitar teacher. Matching your solution with their problem, and then just telling them about it. Letting them know what you can do. That’s all it is.
And if you do it right, students come to you. You don’t have to go to them. You don’t have to sell yourself if you do it right. Okay, they just come to you. And some people are going to decide not to sign up. Some of them are going to come to you and not sign up as a student. That’s totally okay. Maybe they don’t have the money. Maybe they don’t have the time right now. But other people are going to be excited because they found exactly what they’ve been looking for and you’re the perfect teacher for them, and they will sign up.
So, if you have a fear of marketing, you hate marketing, then here’s a solution for you. Really try to understand the benefits that your guitar lessons bring to your students. Okay, and then if you can really approach this conversation from a benefit perspective, then you can help them understand what your lessons can do for them. What problems do your potential students have that your lessons can solve? What pain do they have that you can make go away with your teaching studio? If you can identify those things and communicate it on your website and your emails and your advertising, then you’re not going to have to do any kind of selling at all. You’re going to presell your lessons to those kinds of people and they’re going to come to you. Okay, so you don’t have to worry about marketing. If you do it right, it will work for you and you’ll never have to sell yourself again. So, that’s fear number six.
Fear #7 – What If I Fail?
And then the last one. Fear number seven is: “What if I fail?” The fear of failure is one of the biggest reasons people don’t get started with something that seems a little bit risky, like starting your own teaching studio. The fear of failure. This can be one of the biggest fears of all. What if this blows up in my freaking face? What if I put myself out there and it just flops? It falls flat on its face. And what is everybody going to think of me? How am I going to be able to face people if I fail as a guitar teacher?
Well, honestly, in my experience, the fear of failure is usually a lot worse than the failure itself. And failure is not a bad thing. So, the solution to this is to redefine what it means to fail. If your business has a month where you don’t make enough income from your business to pay your expenses, that’s not the ideal situation. Obviously you’re going to be doing this to make a profit, but if you have a month like that, that might seem like a failure in one regard, but it doesn’t have to be. Okay, redefine what it means to fail. Failure isn’t fatal. It’s not going to kill you. Failure isn’t final. It’s not the last word on you as a person, you as a teacher, or your business. It’s not final.
What failure is, is a part of your education. If you never fail, that means that you’re never even trying, because everyone who attempts something bigger than yourself is going to fail at some point. When you fail, what you do is you try to learn from it and you try to move forward, but you just get back up and you keep going. It’s called failing forward. Whenever you fail, you fail in a forward direction so that every failure brings you closer to where you want to be. And then success comes from a series of failures if you just don’t give up.
Okay, so if you think about it in that regard, failure is actually one of your best friends because it means that you’re trying new things. You’re stretching. You’re expanding. You’re taking calculated risks and, if it doesn’t work out, then you learn and you recalibrate, you recalculate, you do some mid-course correction, and you get up and keep going and you never make that same mistake again. It makes you a better business owner. It makes you a better teacher. It makes you a better person. So, don’t be afraid of failure. Instead, embrace it. Embrace it and fail as often as you can, and learn from your failures because the more you fail, the faster you’re going to succeed.
I think it was Thomas Edison. A quote about him. Whenever he was trying to invent the lightbulb, someone asked him, “How did you invent the lightbulb?” He said, “Well, I invented one thousand things that didn’t work, and then the one thousand and first time I tried to invent the lightbulb, it worked. So, it was a process of elimination.” And success for you as a guitar teacher, dependent on your situation, is going to be a process of elimination as well. You’re going to try stuff. Some of it’s going to work. Some of it’s going to fail. You learn from the failure, you redouble your efforts, and you go back smarter and more dedicated than you were before, and then you make more progress. And then you have a small area of failure again. Then you get up, you learn from it, and you keep making more progress. And before you know it, you are successful. Isn’t that awesome?
So, to wrap things up today, if any of these fears have been keeping you from launching your own teaching studio, I just want to encourage you to make a decision to walk into that fear, to push passed that fear, and get started today.
Thank You For Listening!
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