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From Passion to Profession

Updated: Jan 26

In the world of music education, starting and running a music school is not just a venture but a journey that intertwines passion with business acumen. As a business owner, one quickly learns that owning a business isn't simply about being good at your craft – it involves mastering a completely different skill set.



The Beginning: A Symphony of Aspirations


Starting a business, for me, was not a sudden leap but a gradual transition, much like a musician learning to play a complex piece. My journey began modestly, rooted in my passion for teaching piano, a skill I honed since I was 18. Initially, I worked for various companies, where I quickly learned the financial dynamics of being an employee versus an owner. As an instructor in these settings, I received only a portion of what students paid, the rest covering the studio's overhead and administrative costs​​.


The realization that I could retain full earnings by teaching at my home was a pivotal moment. It dawned on me that apart from financial benefits, this approach allowed for a more intimate and personalized teaching environment, fostering a deeper connection with my students and their families. This personal connection was something I deeply valued and sought to nurture.


Embracing the entrepreneurial spirit, I started to hustle, advertising my services on platforms like Craigslist and Facebook. This was a time when social media and online marketplaces were burgeoning tools for small businesses and freelancers. Utilizing these platforms, I gradually built up a clientele, starting with a few students at my house and slowly expanding. The process was organic but required persistence and a belief in the value I offered as a teacher​​.


As word-of-mouth spread and my reputation as a skilled piano teacher grew, so did the number of students. I remember the excitement and affirmation each new student brought, confirming that my decision to teach from home was the right one. This period was marked by a sense of discovery and experimentation, learning the nuances of managing a business alongside teaching.


An interesting twist occurred when one of my student's parents inquired about guitar lessons. Seizing the opportunity, I expanded my offerings to include guitar, enlisting the help of a talented friend. This was a strategic move that not only broadened the scope of my business but also highlighted the importance of adaptability and responsiveness to customer needs​​.


However, success brings its own challenges. As my home-based business flourished, it soon became apparent that I was outgrowing my space. The increasing number of students made it clear that to sustain and grow further, I needed to transition from a home setup to a more formal studio. This decision marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new, more challenging phase of my business journey​​.


The Crescendo: Scaling Up and Facing Challenges


The evolution of my teaching business from a cozy home setup to a commercial space was a major milestone. This transition was not just a physical move but a significant leap into a more complex business landscape. Initially, the comfort and simplicity of teaching from home had its charm, but as my student base expanded, the limitations of space and the potential for growth made the move imperative​​.


Securing a commercial space for my music school was both thrilling and daunting. Suddenly, I was faced with overhead costs – rent, utilities, and other expenses associated with maintaining a physical location. This shift necessitated a strategic approach to ensure the business's financial health. I was propelled into a scenario where the constant influx of students became more crucial than ever. This period was marked by a 'mad dash' to attract and retain more students, a task that was challenging but essential for the survival and growth of the business​​.


Amidst these challenges, one of the most profound realizations was the distinction between being a skilled musician and teacher and being an adept business owner. My proficiency in music and teaching did not automatically translate to business savvy. Running a music school required a different set of skills – understanding finances, marketing, customer relations, and overall business management. It was a striking revelation that the role of a business owner was an entirely separate and complex job​​.


This phase of expansion was not just about physical growth but also about personal and professional development. It involved learning to balance my passion for music and teaching with the practicalities of running a business. The experience taught me the importance of adaptability, strategic planning, and the willingness to learn new skills beyond my comfort zone.


The journey from a home-based setup to a commercial space epitomized the saying 'growth comes with its own set of challenges'. It was a period of learning, adapting, and evolving, not just as a teacher but as a business owner, shaping the future path of my music school.



Adagio: The Art of Balancing Leniency and Firmness


In the early days of my music school, I often leaned towards being flexible with student payments. This was mostly because I worried about losing them – in the world of music education, there's always another piano teacher around the corner, offering plenty of options to students. So, keeping each student felt vital to the growth of my business. I found myself frequently overlooking late payments or inconsistent fees. Although I was trying to be understanding and accommodating, this approach eventually started to strain the school's finances.


The financial strain became evident when students missed their payments, yet I still had obligations to pay the teachers. This meant diverting funds from other areas to cover these costs, a practice that was somewhat manageable when I operated from home. However, as the school transitioned to a commercial space, the financial landscape changed drastically. Beyond the obvious expenses like rent and internet, a myriad of smaller yet significant costs began to accumulate. Items like cleaning supplies and toiletries, seemingly minor, added up. There were also unexpected expenses, such as minor repairs, office supplies, and utility fluctuations, all of which demanded a portion of the school's budget. This scenario meant that every unpaid student fee impacted the delicate financial balance more heavily than before, underscoring the need for a more stringent approach to payments


The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was a turning point for many businesses, and my music school was no exception. The pandemic forced us to shut down physical operations and transition to online platforms like Skype and Zoom for lessons. This unexpected shift, while initially disruptive, provided an unforeseen opportunity to reevaluate and reset my business policies. The transition period allowed me to address the issue of non-paying students, a challenge I had been hesitant to confront. It was a moment to streamline the client base, focusing on students who were committed and financially consistent​​.


In this period of uncertainty, I made a strategic decision to only continue with students who respected the value of the services provided. This wasn't just a financial decision but a step towards recognizing the worth of my work and the importance of maintaining a sustainable business model. It was a time to recalibrate and prioritize the needs of the business without compromising the quality of education offered.


Emerging from the pandemic, I came back with a renewed plan and a clearer vision for the business. The new strategy involved setting firmer payment policies, ensuring a stable cash flow, and fostering a clientele that respected these terms. This shift was not just about financial stability but also about setting a professional standard and respecting the business's worth.


Importantly, this phase of my business journey also brought a crucial realization about respect and professionalism. In the past, my lenient approach, which I believed was kind and accommodating, unfortunately led to situations where students and their families took advantage of my flexibility. It became clear that leniency was sometimes misconstrued as a lack of firmness or seriousness about the business.


However, when I began to enforce stricter policies and demanded the respect that my business and I deserved, I noticed a significant change. People began to take my business more seriously and treated it with greater respect. This was a profound learning moment for me – in the world of business, and perhaps in life generally, setting boundaries and maintaining a certain standard often invites more respect. It was a lesson in the importance of not just being a kind and accommodating business owner but also a respected and assertive one.


This experience taught me that while kindness and empathy are invaluable qualities, they must be balanced with firmness and clarity of expectations. The way I presented my business and myself had a direct impact on how others perceived and interacted with it. By demanding respect and upholding high standards, I was able to cultivate a more professional and mutually respectful environment for my students and the business as a whole.


Financial Rhythms: Adapting to the Business Beat


Expanding on the financial strategy and policies I implemented post-pandemic, I focused on balancing strictness with compassion, a key aspect of running a successful and respectful business.


After emerging from the pandemic, I returned with a strategic approach to ensure financial stability and professional respect. I instituted a policy of charging students at the beginning of each month. This approach was not just about maintaining a steady cash flow; it was also about setting a standard of professionalism and mutual respect in business transactions. Ensuring payments were made on time each month was critical, especially considering the need to pay the teachers I had brought on board​​.


In line with this, I established a firm rule regarding late payments: if a student's payment was over three weeks late without any communication or explanation, they would be removed from the schedule. This policy proved to be highly effective. Since its implementation, I observed a significant improvement in payment timeliness. Students either paid on time or were proactive in communicating their situations. It was a clear demonstration of how setting firm boundaries could foster a culture of respect and responsibility.


Interestingly, this stricter approach brought about a notable change in the dynamics between the school and its clientele. Previously, my leniency, though well-intentioned, often led to being taken for granted. But with the new policy, there was a newfound respect for the business and its standards. It highlighted an important lesson: demanding respect through firm policies does not negate kindness or empathy. Instead, it establishes a framework where respect is mutual, and business relationships are more professional and sustainable​​.


This balanced approach – being strict about business policies while remaining humane and understanding – created a healthy and respectful environment. It showed that being firm in business practices is not just about financial necessity but also about cultivating a professional relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.



Embracing Failure: The Key to Growth


In the entrepreneurial journey, the way we perceive and interact with failure is fundamental. I firmly believe that failure is not an obstacle but rather a companion along the path to success. In the world of business, doing things that seem right but turn out to be wrong is a common occurrence. These situations, whether they involve financial missteps, hiring decisions that don't pan out, or unexpected outcomes of strategic choices, are essential components of the entrepreneurial experience.


The concept of 'failing forward' is pivotal here. It means viewing each failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and refine strategies. This approach transforms failure from a dreaded outcome to a stepping stone towards success. It's a shift in perspective where failure is not seen as a definitive defeat but as a series of learning experiences on the journey towards achieving one's goals.


Additionally, the fear of failure is a significant barrier that prevents many from pursuing their dreams. This fear, while natural, often stands in the way of ambition and growth. Overcoming it requires a simple, albeit challenging, mindset: to try, fail, learn, and then try again. This cycle of continuous effort and learning is the essence of personal and professional development. Over time, this process becomes more graceful, leading to the realization of what should have been done all along. The path is not linear and involves numerous setbacks, but it is the perseverance to keep pushing forward that ultimately paves the way to success.


In essence, my approach to failure is not just a business strategy but a life philosophy. It's about recognizing that failure is not the end of the road but a part of the journey itself. Embracing failure as a learning process is key to fostering resilience and continuous growth in all aspects of life.


The Encore: Persist and Triumph


For anyone aspiring to start a business, the journey is replete with lessons and philosophies that pave the way to success. Here's a consolidation of key takeaways from my experience:


  1. Embrace Your Passion with Business Savvy: Understand that being skilled in your craft is just the starting point. Running a successful business requires learning and mastering a completely different set of skills, including finance, marketing, and management.

  2. Start Small and Grow: Begin your journey where you're most comfortable, even if it's as simple as teaching from your home. Use your unique strengths to create a personalized and intimate experience for your clients. Remember, every big venture starts with a small step.

  3. Leverage Modern Tools for Expansion: Utilize platforms like social media and online marketplaces to broaden your reach. These tools are indispensable for modern businesses and can help in gradually building up a clientele.

  4. Be Adaptable and Responsive: Be open to diversifying your offerings in response to customer needs. Adaptability is key in a rapidly changing business environment.

  5. Prepare for Scale and Its Challenges: Recognize when it's time to expand. Transitioning from a small setup to a larger operation will bring new challenges, particularly in terms of overhead costs and the need to attract more clients.

  6. Balancing Empathy with Firmness: Learn the art of balancing leniency with firmness, especially in financial matters. Setting clear boundaries and expectations is crucial for mutual respect and the financial health of your business.

  7. Foster a Culture of Respect: Command respect for your business by upholding high standards. Show that professionalism and kindness can coexist and that setting firm policies can enhance mutual respect between you and your clients.

  8. Embrace 'Failing Forward': View failures as opportunities for learning and growth. Adopt a mindset where failure is not a setback but a step forward. It's about learning from missteps and continuously refining your strategies.

  9. Overcome the Fear of Failure: Encourage yourself and others to try, fail, and try again. Understand that the fear of failure is often the biggest hurdle to success. It’s the persistence in the face of setbacks that leads to eventual triumph.

  10. Persevere and Keep Evolving: Persistence is key. The entrepreneurial journey is not linear – it involves ups and downs. Keep evolving with each experience, and remember that continuous effort and learning lead to mastery and success.


Concluding Notes


In summary, the journey of establishing and running a music school intertwines the deep-seated passion for music with the practicalities of business management. It's a path marked by personal growth, continuous learning, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The experiences shared here serve as a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit, highlighting the importance of resilience, strategic thinking, and the willingness to embrace both successes and setbacks.


Whether you are a budding entrepreneur in the music industry or simply seeking inspiration for your own venture, remember that the journey is as rewarding as the destination. It's about crafting a harmonious blend of passion, skill, and business acumen, a melody that resonates with success and fulfillment.


And for those who are inspired by the world of music and wish to embark on their own musical journey, whether it be in piano, voice, or guitar, Descant Music is here to guide and nurture your talents. To explore the possibilities and start your musical adventure, visit www.descant-music.com.



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