Starting a business of any kind can be daunting, with initial start-up costs, advertising bills and even an employee payroll stacking up against you. Given these obstacles, it’s no surprise that people looking to be a music teacher, like me, are increasingly turning to online channels. The benefits are numerous, allowing people to set their business up from home, with fewer overhead costs and ultimately, less risk. Over the many years that I have been using online platforms to run my own music tutoring business, things have moved on enormously, with e-commerce sites homing in on this burgeoning market to offer services designed for the modern day small business.
I moved to Brentford, West London 12 years ago, and soon after launched the guitar teaching business I’d long hoped to start. Music, and particularly the guitar, has been a passion for me since I was 13, and having spent years as a freelance musician, I always dreamt of a career in the industry. As a one-man business, offering music lessons from my own home, I turned to online marketplaces and channels such as Gumtree and YouTube as a way of advertising my business to the wider West London community. Now, almost ten years on, I was amazed to hear that I’m the longest-running advertiser on the Gumtree site, educating many students along the way.
The entrepreneurs singing from the same song sheet
Online platforms are great for those thinking of launching a music teacher business for the first time. Despite having very few contacts when I first moved to London, within one week of posting my original listing on Gumtree, I’d gained six new students, many of whom still come for lessons ten years later. On the whole, I was getting three to four requests coming in every day, meaning that I was quickly able to make my guitar teaching business a feasible money earner alongside my freelance work, gigging. Since I started out, opportunities born out of the internet have only increased, and most recently, the advent of the ‘sharing economy’ means you can be even more targeted over who you market to.
Choosing an online platform that hits the right notes
Every online platform offers something different. While some specialise in areas like motors or recruitment, others profit from their ease of use and vast numbers of visitors. It’s important to know what you want from a platform, and explore all the opportunities and options out there.
Gumtree has remained a firm favourite of mine given how easy it is to post an advert. Much like the popular method of pinning up adverts in the post office or local supermarket, Gumtree allows people to sell items and offer services within their local community. The site delivers about half of my business, giving me the opportunity to expand and grow my customer base in other ways. With a steady flow of students I can offer sessions to all abilities, in styles ranging from rock and jazz to classical. As a recognised music teacher in the area, I now visit local schools and colleges, teaching local children and young people across West London.
Tricks of the trade for a music teacher
The business world has changed considerably since I first started my music teacher business ten years ago. Gumtree was the first of its kind, but is now one of many platforms allowing people like me to launch their dream businesses online. But while back then starting a small business online was relatively easy, competition has intensified, meaning it is now much harder for small business owners to ensure they stay one step ahead of the game.
My advice for a music teacher hoping to stick out from the crowd is simple – use every means available to you. Using more than one online platform will mean you can benefit from a breadth of users from various demographics and communities. Social media is also a great way to get your name known, and something I’ve long since used to promote my music tuition.
Saying this, the importance of getting your advert right should not be overlooked. Gumtree and other online platforms offer targeting and insight services to identify your audience, and making the most of this requires a well thought through advert. For those offering services such as music tuition, my advice is to be specific about your business in the advert you create. With nearly one million adverts posted every month on Gumtree, helping people find your advert with relevant tags and keywords is vital. Avoid using generic tag lines such as ‘Tutoring in West London’ and think about the phrases people might be searching for to find you.
My other advice would be to keep your business ‘fresh’. Think of creative ways to attract new business, and don’t be afraid to experiment. In the near future, I hope to develop my tuition business by offering online lessons to students outside of West London. I’ve already trialled this, teaching a student in Saudi Arabi via Skype when he moved out there from London. Using Skype to host video-led lessons, I’ll be able to attract students far and wide, who would otherwise be unable to travel.
Using online platforms has allowed me to create the business that I’d always hoped to build. Sites such as Gumtree have given me access to tools and resources which have enabled me to connect with students across West London, and build a small business that I’m proud of. With the continuing popularity and additional functionality from online platforms, I’m looking forward to seeing where my business goes in the next ten years!
Gianluca Chiarella is founder of Italian Guitar Lessons.