STG 080: The Pros and Cons of Self Employment


complete guitar player

Being a full-time self-employed guitar teacher is a path to the kind of success and the kind of life many people dream about…but it’s definitely not for everybody. There are lots of reasons why it could be the best decision you ever make, but there are also some downsides and pitfalls to watch out for.

In this episode, I’ll explain the main benefits and drawbacks to being a full-time self-employed guitar teacher. I’ll also give you some practical advice about how decide if self-employment is the right choice for you, along with some tips on how to avoid many of the biggest problems many self-employed teachers face.

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.

Podcast Transcript

All right, in this episode, we’re going to get into the pros and the cons of self-employment. It’s a little bit difficult sometimes for people to make a full-time living as a musician. Actually, a lot of people have trouble with that. It’s not always easy. There are a lot of different factors that come into play that makes it hard for you to make a living wage.

I was actually reading something today, and it was an eBook that I was reading through, and there was a reference in there to a survey that was done on musicians in North America. And results were basically saying that most of them, even though they were making money and doing music full-time, were still just above the poverty line. And unfortunately, that’s the case for a lot of musicians, because you love the guitar. You want to do it as your vocation and as a career, but you know, artistic people aren’t always good at the business stuff and at marketing and at promotion, and things like that. And a lot of times we just end up taking what we can get, and most of the time, more often than not, it’s not enough.

So, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to make a full-time living doing music. It’s definitely possible. It’s just not always easy. Okay, so even for super talented people, if you walk down the streets of some place like Nashville or Los Angeles, there’s going to be talented musicians on almost every street corner and, you know, out there busking, playing for tips and stuff. So, you know, talent alone is not enough, but I’m starting to digress already.

We’re going to talk about self-employment, and the good things about self-employment, the bad things about self-employment, the things that you need to know about, and things that you need to anticipate, because if you’re going to do music full-time, you’re not going to be working for anyone else. You’re going to be self-employed, whether you’re playing music, whether you’re a songwriter, or whether you’re a guitar teacher. Okay, so self-employment is the mode of operation for a full-time musician, guitar teacher in particular. So, that’s what we’re going to cover in this episode today.

And the biggest thing that you give up when you strike out on your own as a guitar teacher – it’s really the feeling of security. That’s what keeps a lot of people from doing it; is that it’s scary, and we like that feeling of security. We like knowing that there’s a steady paycheck coming in and that everything is kind of in order and in place, and there’s not a lot of risk. And you know, it’s an illusion a lot of times. A job provides you a little more stability, a little more predictability, but it gives you the illusion of security because, in reality, you still have all of your eggs in one basket. And you could be let go at any time for any reason. They could just have some financial hard times at the company you work for and you could get let go. You know, something could happen and you could get fired. It’s really not as secure as we traditionally think it is, a situation like that, but it gives you the feeling of security, having a full-time job. The illusion of security.

And don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to badmouth jobs or things like that. It’s totally okay to love your job and just teach guitar lessons on the side, if that’s what you want, because running your own business is definitely not for everybody, which is what I’m going to get into in this episode today. So, don’t want to make anyone feel guilty. I just want to inspire you and educate you so that you can understand how everything lays before you take a step into self-employment. I just want to make sure that everyone understands what that’s really all about.

Interesting Statistics

So, here are some interesting statistics that I recently read about self-employment. Did you know that only 40% of small businesses actually make a profit? And small businesses – that means like 25 employees or less, or something like that, maybe 15 employees or less. I’m not sure what the official categorized number is for employees, but anyone that owns a small business or operates a small business is typically going to be self-employed. And statistically, only 40% – 40 out of 100 – actually make a profit. And out of those, 30% break even, and then 30% consistently lose money on a regular basis. So, maybe you can relate to some of this. Maybe you’ve had profitable times, teaching guitar. Maybe you’ve had times where you broke even. Maybe you’ve had times where you lost money. On average though, if you look at all things combined, self-employed people make more money than employed people do, people that are employees at a job or a company.

And there are reasons for that. I’ll explain them in just a second. And success rates for small businesses and self-employed people are kind of interesting. You’ve heard this one before. 50% of small businesses fail in the first year, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Most of them have to do with money, but another interesting statistic is that 95% of small businesses will fail within five years. 95%. And honestly, it’s not that you have a 95% chance of failing. The real reason that these statistics are so high is because so many people just leap into self-employment and starting their own business of whatever kind, whether it’s a restaurant or becoming a plumber or something like that, and they end up, within five years, having to go back and get a job and reenter the workforce just because they don’t know what they’re doing when they get into it. They don’t plan. They don’t take into consideration a lot of these pros and cons, or maybe they do, and then unforeseen circumstances happen.

The Pros of Self-Employment

But there are so many people that try to do it. That’s why the numbers are so high, in my opinion. But let’s just jump into the pros and cons of being self-employed and running your own guitar teaching business.

Pro #1 – You Get To Set Your Own Hours

So, some of the pros of doing it on your own. You get to set your own hours. That’s pretty cool, right? You get the freedom and independent to set your own hours and decide when you’re going to work and decide when you’re going to play, and decide when you’re going to sleep and when you’re going to eat, and when you’re going to go to the bathroom. You know, it’s all up to you. No one is going to set your schedule for you. So, that means no more 9-to-5 business hours, unless that’s the way you want to work. You can schedule your own hours. You can kind of dictate how you want your days to look, and that’s a really cool thing. You know, that’s important for a lot of people and that’s one of the benefits you get of being self-employed as a guitar teacher.

Pro #2 – You Get To Work From Home

Another one is you get to work from home if you want to. So, working from home is cool because you get to save money on commuting, on gas, on work clothes, on work lunches, and on all the money that you spend associated with having a full-time job. You know, it costs money to work at some places because of what you have to do and things you have to have. And working from home, if you want to do it that way, also gives you flexibility for your family. So, if you have a spouse that works, for example, and when she’s working, you need to be available to take care of the kids, or something like that, well, you can do that if you’re self-employed, working from home. You’re there and you can rearrange your work schedule, and you can take care of business for your family. So, it’s kind of a cool thing.

Pro #3 – Tax Benefits

You also have some pretty significant tax benefits whenever you’re self-employed. And anytime I talk about taxes or legal things, I just always want to throw a disclaimer in there. Make sure that you talk to a tax professional. Don’t just take what I’m saying at face value and go out and apply it in your own business. You want to talk to someone that knows what they’re doing. This is for information purposes only. But taxes benefits. Instead of the Government taxing your income first and then giving you whatever’s left, which is what happens when you have a job, right? Before you ever get your paycheck, the Government takes their money out and then you get to live on whatever’s left. When you’re self-employed, instead you get to pay your bills first and then you pay your taxes on what’s left.

There are some definite benefits in that, being that a lot of your bills, if they’re related to your business, become tax deductible, which I’ll talk about. But you know, the cool thing is that you get to earn your money first and pay your expenses first, and then you pay taxes on what’s left. It’s really a cool benefit, here in the United States anyway, of having your own business. And the way that you do that is you form an LLC here in the states. It has different names in different countries, but an LLC here in the United States, and then you can choose how you want to be taxes as an LLC. You can be taxed as a partnership, which I think is the default. You could be taxed as a C corporation or as an S corporation. And if you elect to be taxed as an S corporation, then you can save a lot of money on your payroll taxes.

So, what are payroll taxes? Well, that’s your social security taxes. Your Medicare taxes that you pay here in the United States. If you operate out of an LLC and then get taxed as an S corporation, then there are strategies you can use to save a lot of money on your taxes. So, you would definitely want to talk to your tax accountant about that. But as a business owner, everything you use and spend related to your business is probably tax deductible, even a big portion of your home, if you teach out of your home, your music gear, your strings, your picks, your amps, your guitars, your instructional books and videos and DVDs, and even your STG All-Access membership. The money that you spend here at All probably tax deductible. Again, check with your tax professional that you work with to make extra sure. Okay, but in general that’s case. And that amounts to getting about a 30% discount on whatever that you spend for your business that you would otherwise have to pay in taxes. So, it’s pretty cool.

Pro #4 – Dress Like You Want

So, you’ve got definitely some good tax benefits if you’re self-employed. Some other benefits. Well, you get to dress however you want to. No more business suits. No more business casual. No more Polo’s and dress shoes, and shirts and ties, and crap like that. You know, you get to dress however you want, however is appropriate for you to dress as a guitar teacher, depending on what style of music you teach. If you teach classical and things like that, jazz maybe even, you might want to dress up a little bit more because you’re going to have maybe a little bit higher expectations from your students, but in general, things could be a lot more casual and you can dress however you want. You can grow your hair out long. You can grow your beard out long, like Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. You can do whatever you want. You can get covered with tattoos from head to toe, and no one’s going to care. You’re self-employed. You’re running the show. You can dress and look like you want.

Pro #5 – No Boss To Deal With

Okay, another pro to being self-employed is no more difficult boss to mess with. So, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some difficult bosses in the past. And you know, to be fair, being a boss is not an easy job. There’s a lot of pressure on someone that’s in management in a company or something like that, and a lot of times what you catch from your boss is just what’s flowing downhill because they got it from their boss. You know, but sometimes bosses have ego problems. Sometimes bosses have a chip on their shoulder. Sometimes you get on their bad side for some reason and then they treat you bad the whole time that you’re there.

Well, guess what. If you’re self-employed, running your own teaching studio, you don’t have to mess with that anymore. No more boss. No more supervisor. Another one is: no more disagreeable coworkers. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, there have been people that I really enjoyed hanging out with and getting to know and working with, and there are people that I would rather have never had that experience with. Okay, you could probably say the same thing. So, if you’re running your own teaching studio, self-employed, you get to choose who you work with. Okay, you can bring a new student on or you can choose not to bring them on. You can work with other teachers in town or you can choose not to. It’s totally up to you. No more disagreeable co-workers to mess with.

Pro #6 – Doing What You Love

Okay, another important benefit of being self-employed is you actually get to do something you love. Now, if you’re working in a 9-to-5 job right now and you really enjoy it and it’s really meaningful and stuff, and it makes you feel significant, that’s awesome. But most people, in my experience, are in a job that if they had a choice, they would do something else. They might put up with the job just to get a steady income, but they wouldn’t honestly say that they love it. Well, if you love teaching guitar, if you love working with people and mentoring people on the guitar, then you get to do that. Okay, so that means you have higher job satisfaction. You have higher fulfillment in your life. You feel better about yourself and about what you’re doing. It’s really a cool thing.

Pro #7 – You Can Scale Your Business

Okay, and another big benefit. Big pro to being self-employed is that you can scale your business. What does it mean to scale your business? Well, it means that you can start out small and then you can grow as big as your imagination and your abilities will take you. You can earn as much money as you can generate. There’s no limit to how much you can earn. There’s no hard ceiling that keeps you locked into a certain wage or a certain pay rate, or a certain range of money that you can earn and then no more. There’s really no limit. You can improve your business skills. You can improve your teaching skills, your playing skills, your marketing skills, and you can attract more students. You can find more creative ways to work with your students, to leverage your time, and you can keep on making more and more and more and more money, and it’ll be contingent only on how smart you are and how well you can implement strategies like some of the things I teach here on this podcast.

So, scaling your business is cool. You can’t do that with a job. You know? I mean you probably have a range that you fall somewhere in between, and there’s a bottom and there’s a top. And as long as you’re working in that company, you’re not going to make any more than the top of that range, if you’re lucky. Most people are somewhere in the middle, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it other than try to negotiate a raise or try to apply for a different position, or go out and get another job. But with your own business, sky’s the limit. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying that you’re like walking out and picking up money off the ground. Okay, don’t misunderstand me. It takes work. You have to really earn that money, but you have the potential to earn as much as you want.

The Cons of Self-Employment

So, those are some of the big pros for self-employment. Now let’s talk about some of the cons. I’m your friend here on the podcast, so I want to tell you the good side and the bad side. Now, the good news is that these things I’m about to tell you about – yes, they are the reality of self-employment and running your own business, and things like that, and a lot of these things you don’t have to mess with when you’re an employee, some of them you do, but I spend a lot of time on the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast talking about ways to mitigate these things and overcome them, and a lot of them, avoid them completely. Okay, so I’ll share a few of those at the end of the podcast as I wrap it up today, but let me just give you the bad news.

Con #1 – Long Hours

Just shared with you the good news. Here’s the bad side. The cons of being self-employed are: first of all, you have to work some pretty long hours, at least when you first get started. Why? Well, because no one’s going to do it for you. You don’t have a department of people – a whole staff – that are going to go out and do everything that needs to be done to keep your teaching studio running. It has to be you. Plus you have to teach all the lessons. Plus you have to return all the phone calls and the emails, and you have to meet with parents, and you have to do this and that, and there’s all these other things you’ve got to do. You’ve got to do collections. You’ve got to do scheduling. Okay, you don’t have a secretary to do all of that stuff for you when you’re first starting out.

So, you spend a lot of time teaching, because that’s where your money comes from, and then a lot of the rest of the stuff – the admin work, the bookkeeping, the taxes, and all of that – that’s what takes up the time when you’re first getting started. So, yeah, the hours are a little bit longer sometimes when you’re self-employed. It’s not like you can clock in and clock out, and then forget about everything.

Con #2 – Erratic Work Schedule

The next thing to be aware of is that your work schedule is going to be kind of erratic sometimes. You know, if you’re the kind of person that really likes to have a fixed schedule and that you need everything to be predictable, then self-employment might not be a good option for you honestly. You know, sometimes a fixed 9-to-5 schedule is a good thing because you know when you’re going to start, you know when you’re going to stop, and you can plan other things around it, whereas when you’re self-employed, you’re going to have lesson cancellations, you’re going to have gaps that show up in your schedule, you’re going to have last minute changes, things get shuffled around at the last minute, and a lot of times it’s really hard to plan until you get established and then you put some systems in place to kind of manage that for you. So, an erratic work schedule is something to be aware of.

Con #3 – Your Customers Become Your Boss

I mentioned before that you don’t have to deal with an irritating boss. Well, one of the cons of being self-employed is that your customers become your boss. So, instead of one boss telling you what to do, you know, the tables get turned and all of your students, in a way, become your boss and they’re the ones that you have to please and the ones that you have to take good care of, and the ones that you have to make sure have everything that they need. So, as long as you choose your students wisely and you like the people that you teach, and things are going well in that regard, it’s not big deal, but those are the people you are now accountable to. Not to a boss, but to your students. Good to know.

Con #4 – You Become Responsible For Everything

Like I kind of alluded to a minute ago, you also become responsible for some things that you might not love so much. So, I mentioned earlier one of the pros is that you get to do something you love. Teaching guitar. Yeah, I love that too. It’s awesome. But you also get responsible for some things you might not love so much. Things like accounting and bookkeeping, and taxes, and scheduling, and collections, and client communication, and customer service, and things like that. You know, you’re also going to be responsible for marketing, which I talk about a lot on the podcast. Love it or hate it, whether you’re good at it or bad at it, you’re going to be responsible for it. So, that’s why I spend a lot of time covering those kinds of things on the podcast, because it’s important for you to have some basic skills in those areas so that you can take care of it until you grow big enough to have someone help you out.

Con #5 – Working From Home

So, the next thing to be aware of – a con for self-employment – is – I had mentioned this as a benefit – working from home. Well, one of the cons is working from home, because sometimes working from home is not all that. It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. You have distractions sometimes to deal with when you’re working from home. Sometimes you can have too much family togetherness so that whenever you’re trying to run your business and teach lessons and do things like that, your family can overflow into your business life and it can make things awkward and messy sometimes. A lot of times, your family can try to drag you away to go do other things when you really should be working in your business. And definitely, you know, I can relate to this completely. There are a lot of times you get interrupted by your family members, and a lot of times it’s for a good reason, but still the interruptions happen anyway. It’s not like you can go off somewhere and lock yourself in an office, and work undisturbed sometimes. Things come up. Kids come in. Dogs bark. Things happen.

So, distractions are something you have to be prepared for and be able to mitigate. Some people just are too bored to work from home. You know, they just need that interaction with other people, and working in isolation at home by yourself is really difficult. And it’s not as bad as a guitar teacher because you’ll be interacting with your students, but you know, working from home, it’s just you. So, if you get sick or if you need to take some time off for like a death in the family or something like that, there’s nobody to cover for you. It’s not like you have coworkers that can fill in the gap. It’s up to you. Now, again, I have strategies for dealing with almost all of this stuff, but you know, it’s just something to be aware of. Working from home is not always a bed or roses.

Con #6 – It Takes Time To Get Established

Another thing to think about is it takes time to get established as a self-employed guitar teacher. You know, it’s not like you all of a sudden walk into a position at a music store that already has 30 to 40 students and they just need someone to teach them. Where you don’t have to do any marketing. You don’t have to do any bookkeeping. You show up. You teach the lessons. You get paid. If you work at a music store, now, that’s just like having a job. But if you’re self-employed, you have to establish yourself. And when you first start out, you’re not going to have any students, and then you’re going to have one student. Your first one, and you’re going to be so excited. And then you’re going to have two, and then you’re going to have four, and then you’re going to have six, and then ten, and then hopefully you’re going to keep growing to where you have 15, 20, and 30. Up to 30 to 40 students is a considered a full roster for one teacher. Okay, but it could take time to do that.

It could take a long time. It could take months for some people before you have enough students to generate full-time income out of your teaching studio. And a lot of people don’t realize that, so they quit their jobs and then go off and say, “I’m going to be a guitar teacher.” And then whenever no students come the first month, they finally realize: “Oh, wow, I have to learn how to do some advertising and some marketing,” and then, finally, the students start to roll in while your savings cushion starts to dwindle down. And then finally, after like four or five months, or something like that, then things get established and you have enough students coming in to generate the money that you need to live, but it doesn’t happen right away. Never, ever, ever does it happen right away. So, you just need to be aware of that. You need to be prepared for that because it takes time.

Con #7 – You Have To Do Everything Yourself (At First)

Another one is, like I said, you’ve got to do everything yourself. You don’t have anybody to answer the phone for you. You don’t have anyone to return emails for you. You don’t have anyone to go and hand out flyers or pass out business cards, or do business networking, or anything like that. Now, in the short-term, you don’t get paid for doing those things. It’s not like a lesson where someone cuts you a check and then you teach them, and the money is right there, but these are the things that make your business successful over time and you do get paid for them, just not today. So, they have to be done. And like I said, you have to do it yourself, or if you have enough extra money set aside, you can pay someone else to help you with things like putting your website together, building your email list, and doing all the stuff that you need to do to get your business rolling and to have your marketing and stuff be successful.

Con #8 – Income Can Be Sporadic

So, just to be aware, you’ve got to wear all the hats when you’re self-employed. Your income can be sporadic is another thing to think about. You’re going to have good months. You’re going to have bad months. Like I talked about in the last episode, for a lot of teachers, summers are slow. For two or three months they lose quite a few students, and then a lot of them come back in the fall. Okay, so if you don’t plan around that or take steps to fix that, then those months – you need to make sure that you have enough money set aside to cover them. You’re going to have ups and downs. Good months. Bad months. You’re going to have months where you have a lot of new students. You’re going to have months where you lose several sometimes, especially early on. So, just be prepared because your income is going to be sporadic, at first especially.

Con #9 – You Pay Self-Employment Tax

So, I talked about the tax savings before that come with being a self-employed guitar teacher. Well, there’s another side of that coin too. You have to pay self-employment tax now as a guitar teacher if you work for yourself. So, in the United States anyway, 15% of what we make goes to social security and Medicare. 15%. And if you have a job, then your employer pays for half of that. So, they pay 7.5% and then the other 7.5% gets deducted from your paycheck before you ever see it. That’s if you have a job. But when you’re self-employed, guess what. That irritating boss that I talked about before that pushes you around and controls your schedule – well, he’s not around to pay that 7.5% for you anymore, so you’ve got to pay the whole 15% of your self-employment tax to the tax collection agency yourself. That means you’ve got to set that money aside every month. Whenever you get your tuition money coming in, you’ve got to set aside 15% of it to pay your self-employment tax, and then your income tax and the other stuff on top it, so usually around like 25% or something that you’ve got to set aside.

And you’ve got to set it aside and you’ve got to pay it quarterly yourself to the IRS, which is the tax collection body in the United States. So, every three months, you’ve got to write a big check to the IRS to pay your taxes. Okay, no one takes it out of your check for you. Nobody contributes half. You’ve got to do it all yourself. And that point right there alone scares enough people away from being self-employed that they don’t want to do it, but let me just tell you it’s not that bad. Okay, yeah, you do have to pay more taxes. You just have to figure that out in your budget and make sure that you prepare for it. But like I said before, forming an LLC for your business and electing to be taxed as an S corporation can give you a structure that can significantly reduce the amount of self-employment tax that you pay. Okay, so that 15% – you end up not having pay it on every penny that you make. Only up to a certain amount. And again, a good tax accountant can explain all of that to you and make sure that you’re doing it correctly.

Con #10 – Lack of Benefits

So, another thing that kind of sucks about being self-employed is that you’ve got no benefits. No benefits. That means you have no health insurance that’s paid for by your employer. You have no disability insurance. You have no life insurance that’s paid for by your employer. A lot of times, when you have a job, they pay for all that stuff for you or for a big percentage of it. There’s no retirement plan that’s built in when you’re self-employed. You know, some places, you contribute a little bit of money to a retirement account and the company will match it, and it grows tax-free until you’re old and then theoretically you have money to live off. Well, if you’re self-employed, then you have to do that yourself. Nobody is going to do it for you.

And then the other thing is you don’t get any paid time off, unless you’re really smart about it and you do some things that can allow you to make money while you’re not actually working, which we call passive income. But you know, when you work a job, you have so many vacation days a year, so many sick days a year, so many days of personal time, and things like that, and you still get paid when you’re off work. Well, when you’re self-employed, no one’s going to do that for you. You have to do it yourself.

Con #11 – Sometimes You Have To Be a Bill Collector

And then sometimes, when you’re self-employed, you have to become a bill collector. So, when students don’t pay you on time or don’t pay you at all, you can’t go complain to your boss or to the collections department, or whatever. You have to take care of it yourself. You have to pick up the phone and call them and work it out.

A better way to do it is to structure your studio so that you get paid in advance and you are never in a position where you have to be a bill collector. Okay, that’s my way around that little problem. So, you know, these are just the cons – the negative things – and there are other pros and other cons. I’d love to hear some of your suggestions for things that I might have missed in this discussion, but those are generally the good points and the bad points of being self-employed.

So, what you’ve got to do now is you’ve got to weigh those in the balance and say, “Okay, does the good outweigh the bad for me,” because all of us are different. You know, not everyone has what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur or a self-employed person. Not everyone is supposed to run their own business. Some people work better in a situation where they can be part of a bigger team and they can have support, and they can have other things in place so that they don’t have to wear every single hat, but other people, a lot of you listening to this episode right now, thrive in that environment. And if you only had the proper skills and some education and some knowledge and some helpful advice, some help to cover the areas that you’re a little bit less familiar with, you’d be absolutely successful running your own business. But what you’ve got to do is you’ve just got to count the cost.

How To Succeed With Self-Employment

So, here’s how to succeed with self-employment. I’m going to give you a few tips. Things that I’ve learned over the years that have been very helpful being successful while I’m self-employed. Okay, so the first one is you need to have some self-discipline. If you aren’t a motivated, self-disciplined kind of person, self-employment probably isn’t a good option for you. I’m just going to say that because you don’t have anyone standing over you, making sure that you do things. You have to do them yourself. You have to motivate yourself. You have to discipline yourself. And you have to do the things that nobody else is going to do for you. So, exercising some self-discipline and preparing your mindset before you even get started with your teaching studio so that you know: “Hey, I’m going to have to make this happen.” That’s a huge key. You know, it’s having that mindset ahead of time.

The next thing to succeed is you need to have a strong work ethic. If you’re basically a lazy person, like a lot of musicians tend to be kind of lazy, self-employment is probably not a good solution for you either. Okay, because you’ve got to work hard in your teaching studio. If you don’t do it, again, nobody else will. Somebody’s got to do the hard work, and if you’re the business owner, it’s nine times out of ten going to have to be you. Okay, so prepare yourself ahead of time. Say, “Okay, this is not going to be easy. This is going to take some work. It’s going to be a big challenge, maybe bigger than anything I’ve ever had to do face before. But the rewards are so great that it’s worth it.” So, you just need to prepare your mind to work hard in your business and you’ll be okay.

Okay, so the next thing that you need is you need lots of knowledge and experience about the guitar. You should have a good musical foundation in place. You should be pretty good at what you do at this point. And you should’ve been teaching in your spare time for at least probably three to six months before you think about doing it full-time and becoming a full-time self-employed teacher. You want to make sure that it’s not just something that you’re going to get tired of, something that you’re going to have problems with later. Make sure that you’re going to stick with it and that you know what you’re doing. That you’re confident in your abilities as a teacher. That’s an important piece. You want to make sure you have that in place at first, before you get started, especially before you branch out and do it full-time.

Okay, the next thing you’re going to need is a supportive family. Your family, especially if you’re teaching from home, they are going to need to be able to give you your space and honor your privacy while you’re working in your business. So, you’re going to need some really understanding family members. Your spouse and your kids, and whoever else might be staying with you. They’re going to have to be supportive and they’re going to have to be willing to have people coming in and out of their house, and being able to give you blocks of time where they don’t disturb you. Okay, unless it’s an emergency of course. And you know, you might even need your spouse, for example, to help you with generating income for the family until you get established with your teaching studio. So, having a supportive family, understanding family members, people that are in your corner and that have your back goes a long way towards being successful when you’re self-employed as a guitar teacher.

And then the next thing. Man, I beat this one to death all the time, but it’s so important to have a savings cushion in place. Savings cushion. So, like Dave Ramsey was the first person that inspired me about this idea, but like he teaches, you want to have six month’s worth of emergency savings in the bank to cover unforeseen things. Okay, so six month’s worth of your living expenses saved up in a savings account somewhere where you can get access to it if you need it to cover things like medical emergencies, or problems with your car or your house, or a slow month where you lose some students that you didn’t expect, and things like that. That savings cushion will literally make the difference between success and failure in your business. So, it’s very important that before you launch out on your own that you have that six months’ worth of emergency money put away to cover unforeseen things.

And if you’re doing both right now, if you’re working a full-time job and teaching lessons in the evenings and weekend, then it’s easy. Just work your day job for a few more months before you leave and then all the money that you make in your teaching studio, put it all in the bank so that you don’t need to use any of it for your living expenses. Just save it all away until you get six month’s worth of your living expenses in the bank. And then, once you have that in place, your business will probably be even bigger in a few months, then you can take the leap and you don’t have anything to worry about.

And then another thing that’s good to think about. Now, some people will tell you the opposite of what I’m about to recommend. That’s okay. It’s just different strokes for different folks, but it’s never a bad idea to diversify. And that means have a few other income streams along with teaching just to add even more safety and even more security. So, in other words, you’ll be teaching your guitar lessons, but it’s also a good idea, if you’re a performing guitarist, to have some gigs lined up too so you have money coming in through performing. And maybe you’re a songwriter. You can make money doing that. Or maybe you do session work and play on other people’s recordings. You can have money coming in doing that. Maybe you have your own recording gear in-house and you can record and produce other artists, and make money doing that. Maybe you can do guitar repair and setup work, and do things like that.

So, these are all just kind of complementary skills that a lot of us have anyway. Things we already know how to do. So, if you have some free time, particularly in the mornings in your teaching studio, then you can take on this kind of work and supplement your income while your business is being established. And if anything ever happens – you know, I can’t imagine anything other than a total economic collapse that would make people stop taking guitar lessons -, then you have something else that you can do that may or may not be impacted by the same factors.


So, those are just some tips on how to overcome some of the drawbacks to self-employment and be more successful with it. So, if you’re thinking about becoming a full-time self-employed guitar teacher, it’s really important to go into it with both of your eyes wide open. And the pros and the cons are about 50-50. It’s probably not going to be as easy as you think, but it will definitely be rewarding. So, just make sure that you understand the pros and the cons, make sure that you take the necessary steps to prepare yourself, and then make sure you make the right choice for you.

Thank You For Listening!

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STG 080: The Pros and Cons of Self Employment was last modified: May 12th, 2014 by Donnie Schexnayder