How To Teach Music For A Living

Want to know how to quit your day job and teach music for a living? I'll tell you exactly how. 

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I was a scientist that quit her job making $65,000/year to teach guitar and voice full-time. That's right, I wasn't flipping burgers or working as a barista making minimum wage. I actually had a great paying job with good benefits making $31.25/hr. (That's me dressed up at work for Halloween. Yep, I'm a total nerd.)

So why would I quit my job to teach guitar and voice full-time?

Because I wasn't feeling fulfilled in my life. I knew I wasn't a 9 to 5'er. I was miserable and knew that music was my passion. I didn't have a degree in music (yep, talk about totally unqualified), but I knew that I absolutely wanted my life revolved around it.


Why Did I Quit My Job to Teach Guitar Full-Time?

1. I knew that I could work a 'job' that I didn't need or want to take a vacation from. (Still true).

2. I knew I could easily make twice what I was making working the same hours, or at least make the same amount of money working half the hours.

3. I would have more freedom and flexibility in my schedule to perform or do whatever I want to do with my life.

4. My local guitar teacher told me that it was more secure than my job because at my current job, it only takes one person to fire me before I was unemployed.


Now that I run multiple locations and have been successfully teaching for years, I could easily add to this list of good reasons, but this is what I was thinking when I wanted to quit my job. I honestly felt like a slave and like I wasn't living up to my full potential. Not only that, I really wanted more freedom to enjoy the outdoors and my life as well as perform and record.


If you are reading this, chances are you are slacking off at work or a musician dreaming about a way to make your music teaching career a reality.


Like me, you probably have some concerns or fears over teaching. I know I did, especially since I don't even have a degree in music. I asked myself:

  • Do I have want it takes to actually teach someone and be successful at it?

  • What order do I teach things in or what exactly should I be teaching?

  • Will I be able to make enough money long term or will I be living off Ramen the rest of my life?

These are perfectly reasonable fears to have, but trust me, with the right guidance, you won't have to worry about any of them. Here's why.

  1. I don't have a degree and to be honest, students often prefer my teaching style over Berklee educated teachers

  2. You will develop a method over time, or you can buy method books to help you get started

  3. You can absolutely make money. You can read my article on how easy it is to make at least $84,000/year teaching music.


How I Went About Phasing Out My $65,000/year Research Job to Teach Music  Full-Time


1. I set up shop while I was still working. 

If you want to phase our your job to teach guitar, piano, voice or whatever, you need to maintain income at first. I worked 7am-3pm, which meant I could usually get home in time to start teaching around 4pm. Then I would start teaching 4pm-8pm. That gave me 4 hours after work to start taking students. For those of you that can't do during the week, start by teaching weekends. There are so many students that want to do weekend lessons.

2. I started building a teaching method & repertoire

It takes a number of students for you to learn your style of teaching. So in the beginning, do not be surprised if you gain and lose students quickly. After you have taught 25-50 students you will have a good method for teaching. I have a great method for teaching beginner guitar students that you are more than welcome to ask me about.

3. I improved my playing and singing skills

To be honest, I was a pretty bad guitar player when I started teaching, but I knew I could absolutely teach beginners. As I taught more and more students, and helped them learn the songs they wanted to learn, I actually became a better guitar player. For voice, I had to learn how to play all my scales by ear. For my first couple months of teaching voice, I played my keyboard with shaking hands and I messed up the scales all the time. My students didn't seem to care much as long as they were seeing results. 

4. Once you have enough income, quit your job.

I suggest creating a budget where you figure out how much money you need to live off of before you can quit your job. I figured out to the dollar how much money I could live off of to quit my job. How much my rent, bills, car loan, students loans, etc were going to cost me each month and I calculated that into how many students I would need to quit my job. 

So let's say you need a minimum of $3000/month to 'live' and you charge $150/month for 30-minute private lessons. At that rate, you need to have 20 students or 10 hours of teaching to reach your goal. To play it safe you might want to get to 25 students and then quit.

 

All in all it took me about 5-6 months to build up my teaching business to a point where I felt comfortable pulling the plug on my job. And let me tell you it was the best decision I ever made for myself. 


What do I believe helped me quit my job so quickly? 


First, was my determination to make sure this worked. I had no choice. It had to succeed. Second, I believe there was a strong market for what I was doing. Let’s be honest, it’s going to be easier to make it in a town of 50,000 people than a town of 5,000 people. Third, I give credit to the mentors I have worked with along the way. My guitar teacher really gave me the push I needed and she taught me the most successful way to teach guitar. I am forever grateful to her. 

I know from experience that you can get from point A to point B so much quicker when you work with someone who has already done the work and made all the mistakes. And trust me, I made many mistakes along the way that I wish I hadn't.

If you want to know the most effective ways to teach music to others and how to build a successful music teaching business to quit your job, contact me and let me know how I can help you. Or, if you are ready to dive in, check out my Business Bootcamp, where I help music teachers build successful teaching businesses from the ground up.