My name is Michael Gumley and I am a guitar teacher, author, and entrepreneur from Melbourne, Australia. My claim to fame in the guitar world is that I was able to earn over $200,000 AUD a year teaching guitar. Some of you reading probably doubt my claim, and yes, you have every right to. $200k is a lot of money and is pretty unheard of within the space of guitar teaching. I’d even forgive you if you didn’t believe me when I say it only took me 18 months to do, but I did, and every word in this article is true.
Now, do you know what the best part about earning $200,000 per year teaching guitar is?
If I can do it, you can too!
Read on to find out how.
Introduction: The Problem of Settling for Just Getting By
The biggest problem I see facing most guitar players (and musicians, in general) is that they spend 10,000 hours mastering their instrument but don’t spend $30 and a weekend on reading a personal development book to get their life and financial situation organized.
We tend to have dreams of being a rockstar or a professional touring musician, but too often, our careers never quite take off. So we revert to our backup plan to become either a classroom music teacher or music shop salesperson but usually end up working a 9-5, which we don’t like as a means of surviving well enough to allow us to perform on the side.
Gradually over time, our dreams are compromised and we settle for less than what we wanted as the reality of our situation sets in.
So as a trade-off we settle on a mentality of “As long as I’m playing music, I’ll be happy if I am just making enough money to get by”…
This is one of the worst mentalities you can ever have because it kills your ambition and leaves you stuck in a job you hate, feeling unfulfilled while you wish for things that could have been.
First Steps to Earning More Teaching Guitar: Mindset is Everything
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and you shouldn’t accept this as your reality and your future.
You can create the life you want, and shouldn’t have to settle for a 9-5 you don’t like.
And it all starts with you changing your mindset.
Mindset is everything.
Related: Read How to Relieve Stress by Defining Success
Now before we go any further, I know that some of you are starting to think I am sounding like one of those cheesy self-help gurus and are going to get sceptical…
Let me tell you that I’m not a self-help guru. I am just a guy who read a bunch of books, implemented what I learned, and then changed my life for the better.
If self-help and motivation aren’t for you, I get it. But if you could change from your current situation doing whatever you do now to earning $100,000 a year or more teaching 10-20 hours per week, wouldn’t that be worth reading to the end of this article and considering what I have to say?
I read something like the paragraph above around the end of 2014 and it changed my life forever.
At age 24, I was still working part-time, doing 12 hours a week of teaching guitar and another 12 hours at the local supermarket. The rest of the time, I was trying to get my music career to take off. I was making about $16,000-$18,000 a year max and I was going nowhere in a hurry. By the time I factored in my living costs, musical gear and touring and releasing CD’s with my band, there wasn’t much money left over for anything else.
Twelve months later, I had over 100 students and earned $120,000 in a single year teaching guitar! Within my second year, I had almost 150 students and was earning over $200,000 all by myself, teaching from the spare bedroom at my parent’s house and a few local schools. All because I read a few books on how to create your success and then implemented all the steps I was learning.
Now you can hate on self-help and success principles all you want, but it took me from earning a max of $18,000 a year in a supermarket job I’d had since high school to working for myself and earning over $200,000 annually in less than two years.
You can also hate on money all you like, but it made a significant improvement to the quality of life for me and my family, which ultimately led to all of my students getting to learn from a better version of me with better equipment and a better studio to teach in.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “$200,000 is a lot of money, I’d love to make that much teaching guitar,” then keep reading to find out exactly how I did it.
If you’re thinking, “This guy is full of it. No one can make that much money teaching guitar” keep reading because if I can do it, you can do it, too. And I’m sure knowing how to make more money from teaching will change your life for the better.
If you’re getting angry reading this and think that money is the root of all evil and that rich people are bad, then I feel sorry for you because thinking the way you do is going to severely limit you in life. Read a book called ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki and then come back and read this article.
Here are the Steps to Success Teaching Guitar
So, in brief, here are the key things I did to make not just $100,000 a year, but $200,000 a year teaching guitar.
1. Commit to Success
I was reading a book called Think and Grow Rich while attending a music career seminar over in Chicago. At the end of the event, I made a decision that I would choose to be successful, and that I would put 100% of my attention, effort and energy into my Plan A.
The night I arrived back from the USA, I broke up with my girlfriend who, before leaving for the trip, had asked me when I was going to stop playing the guitar and get a real job. The next morning, I walked into the supermarket I had worked at for the last 9 years and gave them my resignation.
It was risky because I had just cut off my safety net, but now I had no choice other than to make my plan work. From that moment on, I had started taking massive amounts of action to make achieving my goals a reality.
2. Set Goals and Focus On Them
You can’t hit a target that you’re not aiming at. So to be successful, you have to set goals and define what success is to you.
Related: Read 5 Ways To Increase Your Guitar Lesson Prices Without Losing Students
Success to me involved making $100,000 a year teaching part-time so that not only was I financially successful, but that I also would have plenty of time and money to invest back into my music career while helping as many guitar students as I could.
Once I had goals set, I reverse engineered them and broke them down into smaller steps and milestones so that I had an action plan.
Then all I had to do was work on my plan every day until I achieved my goals.
3. Change Your Mindset Toward Money
I came from a middle-class family and had what I would consider a pretty normal upbringing. We didn’t live a life of luxury, but we had everything we needed, a lot of great family holidays and the newest gadgets to keep you entertained.
My dad had a massive collection of business books and had me read a few of them when I was a teenager, but I didn’t take any of it in and had forgotten everything I read shortly after. My mentality between the ages of 16 and 24 was, “If I make enough money in my day job to support myself and do my career on the side, I’ll be happy.” This kind of thinking put a serious cap on what I could achieve without me ever knowing it at the time.
I was also very complacent and wasteful with money, thinking I could always make more later if I spent it. It wasn’t until I read Rich Dad Poor Dad again years later that I realised the value of compound interest and how much money I had squandered in my teens and early 20s on stupid stuff.
Man, oh man, how I wish they taught you about compound interest and investing in school, and how that every dollar you save and invest becomes a little work for you.
Ah well, hindsight is always 20/20. But If I could do one thing to change your life right now, it would be to develop a positive money mindset where you learn how to value money and use it as a resource.
You don’t have to worship the dollar and be greedy with money, but you also don’t condemn money as the root of all evil and avoid it.
You use money as a tool to create the life you want.
4. Be Organized and Professional while Teaching Guitar
Time is your most valuable asset and I started to value my time a lot more. I started using my calendar, being strict with appointments, looking for ways to optimise everything I did, and cutting out activities that weren’t aligned with my goals. Instead of playing 10-20 hours of video games or watching tv each week, I was reading books, improving through personal development or working on my business, and this made a world of difference.
I dressed professionally, created a website, business cards, proper looking documents for all of my lesson materials, and people started to take me more seriously, trust me more, and pay me a higher price.
People who don’t know about you or your business can’t take lessons from you, so you need to get your name out there.
Depending on where you are in the world, you could have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other teachers or music schools in your area. If you implement just one form of advertising, you’re likely to be in the top 10% of teachers in your area.
I used mailbox flyers quite successfully when building my business among dozens of other forms of advertising. A lot of people are afraid to advertise and think it’s a waste of money. But if you spend $50 on flyers and you get 2 students who pay you $25 each, you’ve made back your money in the first week. Every week after that, you’re getting pure profit.
6. Sell Yourself
Before getting organised, I relied on word of mouth and would get the occasional inquiry about lessons. I would do one lesson with them, get paid my $20 and hoped that I did a good enough job so that they would come back next week. When I started advertising, I got a big influx of students doing trial sessions who all seemed happy enough in the lesson, but when it came time to sign-up for ongoing lessons, got scared off by the price I was asking.
It wasn’t until I learned some basic sales skills that I was able to start converting students with real confidence. And before long, I was getting 9 out of every 10 students during their free trial sign-up for ongoing lessons.
I was able to present myself as the only consideration within my local area who stood out head and shoulders above the competition and was well worth the premium rates I was charging.
Learning how to sell was single-handedly the most crucial factor that helped tie everything else together to get massive results in my business.
7. Conclusion On How I Made $200,000 A Year Teaching Solo Guitar
I didn’t make any mention of my actual teaching skills or ability here. You need to be a good teacher. And depending on where you are in your journey, you either need to put a lot of time and effort into improving your teaching skills or just need the occasional new trick or method to keep things fresh for yourself and your students.
Many of you may be great teachers already, but it doesn’t matter how good a teacher you are if nobody knows who you are. The best-known teacher will always be more successful than the best teacher.
So take the 6 things that I did to become successful and start implementing them in your business so that you, too, can be well on your way to earning 6 figures by teaching guitar.
Imagine how much better your quality of life would be, how much better you can provide for your family, and how many more amazing things you could do for your students if you were earning $10,000, $25,000, $50,000, $100,000 or even $200,000 more than you are right now!
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Thanks for the feedback, I’m glad it could help inspire some of the teachers in your crew and I hope it helps them reach their financial goals! Feel free to reach on the membership forum for more specific advice.
Hye Michael, I can’t thank you enough for this article. I’ve read it and shared with my students, many of whom are interested in becoming teachers. This is a great resource to show them how they can do the same thing!
Don’t forget to check out https://thebestpianoteachers.com/