May 15, 2017

The Sacrifice Graph for a Startup Looks Like a Wall

Taking Off Could Mean Not Taking Off

Getting worthwhile projects off the ground requires piling extra tasks on top of your already busy life.

My wife has been a private voice and piano instructor for a few years here on Long Island, offering lessons out of our home. I’ve offered them sporadically throughout the years, never making much of a marketing effort.

However, her music studio seems to have picked up momentum from the moment she took a full time job at a local performing and visual arts organization. Of course it would become more popular right at the time she had less schedule room to devote to it!

I speculate that her job increased her visibility in our community and partly explains the spike in lesson requests.

We recently decided that I will begin offering singing and guitar lessons once again. I love teaching (especially voice), and this will give me a chance to try out some marketing ideas. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Willing to Work When Others Aren’t

Student schedules can inhibit a private music studio’s growth. School already limits possible lesson times to the afternoon and evening. Combine this obstacle with a teacher’s desire to keep the weekend free, and it is impossible to generate full time income.

I asked my wife a question a few weeks ago: Would I be willing to give up Saturdays for the sake of more flexibility on other days of the week?

The answer is “yes.”

Restaurant servers already know that the value of their job is in providing people good times while they’re not working. They work when most people relax.

If I am starting a business with a goal of more flexibility and control over my life, I probably need to forfeit those very things at the beginning.

Catering to Your Crowd

Business owners are people who serve to meet a need. This always requires sacrifice.

Here are some ideas for growing our small music school, many of which will apply to any side endeavor or home-based business. Some of these have worked well for us, and some of them will be exciting to implement:

1) Centralized location

Time is an expendable resource. Having students come to you lets you serve more students than you could if you were using potential lesson time to drive around to students’ homes.

2) Stacked Saturdays

Weekday lessons usually take place after 3pm – and even later if the teacher has another job. Saturday allows for lessons from morning to night and can account for most of the income from your music instruction.

3) “Rare Hour” Discounts, e.g. for Homeschoolers

If most people cannot schedule lessons until mid-afternoon on weekdays, it makes sense to offer a substantial discount for anyone who has the ability to take lessons earlier in the day. This easily applies to other businesses such as life and budget coaches.

4) Group Lessons

While we offer discounts for multiple students from the same home who can schedule subsequent lessons, offering discounted group lessons let us teach more people while increasing the value of our time and redeeming more hours during the week.

5) Advertising Budget

You can wait for word to get around so that people come to you, but it might take months or years. We plan to start using Facebook and other ads that will be targeted to our local community. It’s easy, it doesn’t take an insane amount of money, and it will reach people we wouldn’t normally meet.

I am far from a business expert, but I am an enthusiast. I expect to glean many insights in the next few months from our trial and error. It should be fun, so check back soon.

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