Formerly of Ireland, Barry Carroll is a musician in Scotland who runs the music teaching business ‘One Lad Music Academy’. Since starting in April of 2021, his school has grown to almost 100 students and 6 teachers. Barry himself teaches and plays guitar, drums, ukulele, harmonica, bass and band classes from his fancy little wi-fi-enabled and air-conditioned shed.
I started out my teaching business in April 2021 when the world was still in the middle of a pandemic. In spite of those less than ideal conditions, I managed to get myself busier than I’d ever been. That may sound great, but it had some surprising long-term downsides.
Here’s how it played out, and why you shouldn’t try to do everything in your business all at once.
In order to set up this new venture, I left a salaried teaching job. I genuinely thought I was mad doing it! I convinced myself that if I made use of all the musical skills I possessed – no matter how small – I believed I’d be able to fill up my schedule really quickly. And, hopefully, make my leap of faith pay off.
Well, in some ways it actually did pay off. In others, not so much.
If I Build It, They Will Come…
I’m a self-taught musician, and was always able to learn on the job. Other than an almost Higher National Diploma (HND) in Sound Engineering from 2012, I have absolutely no formal qualifications whatsoever. My way of teaching has always been to show people how I learnt to play rather than what I refer to as “the conventional way”. And since I play several instruments, I thought I could teach all of them.
After all, like I said, I had quit my paid teaching job so I needed to fill my schedule quickly.
For example, I play harmonica (very casually) and thought it couldn’t be that hard to teach someone how to do what I do. Until I took on a student and ran out of material in the first lesson.
Setting Yourself up for Success, Not Failure
As you can imagine, that harmonica lesson taught me – the hard way – what I could do to build a successful teaching business.
Play to Your Strengths
My strength is guitar. I’m a good guitarist, and a good guitar teacher.
I should stick to teaching guitar.
One of my other assets is that I’m always thinking about the next thing, or how to improve the last thing. Because I’m wired like this, I’ve learnt to take the time needed to “sense test” ideas and plans to make sure they’re worth my time today, tomorrow and the next day.
Assessing and accepting your strengths is a good first step in ensuring your teaching venture won’t fail.
The converse of that is true, too.
Accept Your Weaknesses
Fact is, I’m an OK drummer, and an OK drum teacher. Therefore I’m currently having to let go of some of my students because they’ve outgrown my capabilities as a drummer. My intention was to practise and work hard to become a better drummer as the years went on. But…
I should stick to teaching guitar.
Perhaps like me, you think you can add an extra instrument and/or service to your roster just to fill a hole. I’ve found that improving my current business model is far more rewarding than trying to think of something totally different to appeal to a new audience.
I’ve learnt to embrace that I have nothing to prove to anyone. If I focus my time on doing the one thing I’m good at, then my people will find me.
More Is Not Better
I’m the worst person in the world for overthinking things. Over the years, I’ve had so many ideas that I never acted on because of tiny details I couldn’t see past. Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of those ideas in other people’s businesses. And those things worked amazingly well for them. But should I let it get me down?
Lately I’ve found that what I’m really searching for is a balance between my work and my life that works for me and my little family. I don’t need to be the best or the biggest in the world, or even in my postcode. Just being the best that I can be is all the perfection I could ever need.
Nicola has loads more info about setting up and running your music teaching business the RIGHT way. Check out the top resources at her centralised business hub page.
Slowing Down: The 1% Rule
Does my story resonate with you? Are you trying to solve non-existent problems?
I’m a firm believer in the “1% rule”. If I can improve my business by 1% each time I make a change, then I’m happy. I challenge you to do the same. This week, if you’re feeling that improvements need to be made in your business, picture your ideal work-life balance. Imagine what your business needs in order to achieve that.
The next thing you need to do is disprove the idea. Come up with ways in which this idea won’t work until you can’t find any more faults. Once you know what you really want and what won’t actually work, implement the idea. If you fail, then you haven’t wasted your time. You’ve saved yourself from a bad idea, therefore improving yourself and your business by 1%.
What is your 1% going to be this week?
Tell me about it in the comments below.
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