Teach a Man to Teach, and You’ll Feed Him for a Lifetime

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” – Ben Sweetland

Wouldn’t you like to make money doing something you love? And what if you could do that job on your own terms, with complete independence and control? Starting your own business giving private lessons is the perfect solution. I know that from experience, since I started mine about nine years ago.

You see, 10 years ago, I was training to be a ballroom dance instructor. Frankly, I’d gotten into ballroom dancing because I thought it’d be a good way to meet girls – but it turned out I had a knack for it. For close to a year, I worked as an apprentice without pay for about 40 hours a week. But the hard work and no pay seemed worthwhile because I enjoyed the teaching, I liked to dance, and I thought the job would eventually pay pretty well. (At that time, the studio got $60 an hour for a private lesson.)

Once I made it out of training, passed my teacher exams, and was deemed ready to be an instructor, I didn’t make nearly as much as I’d hoped. The studio only paid me $15 out of that 60 bucks. To make matters worse, I was only booking a few lessons a week.

It became clear to me that if I was going to make a living as a ballroom dance instructor, I needed to put out my own “shingle.” But I had a problem: I didn’t have any capital to open a studio. I took a whack at seeking out some investors but, since I had no experience, I wasn’t able to find any takers.

That’s when I had a brainstorm! Maybe I could go into business without a studio. I suspected there were a lot of people out there who would like to have a teacher come to their home to give private lessons. And for those who didn’t like that idea, surely I could find some commercial space that I could rent by the hour.

Flash-forward one year to me driving home and listening to a Mariah Carey song – something about finally making it. I was really feeling those lyrics, because I’d just completed my first week of self-employment (and I was finally earning enough money to pay my bills).

If I told you it was a piece of cake to build my private-lesson business, that would be a lie. But I did build it – and with virtually no capital. It took a lot of trial and error, but I finally developed a system that worked reliably.

You’re probably not going to get rich just by operating your own private-lesson business. But if you want to be self-employed … if you want to do something you enjoy … if you want a job that gives you independence and pays decently … this type of venture is perfect for you.

Plus, working part-time at your own private-lesson business can be a steppingstone to even greater success. That’s how it worked for me. I was able to earn a modest living in a few hours each week, so I could spend time on other wealth-building activities that eventually greatly exceeded the earning power of my lesson business.

The private-lesson business is certainly not limited to ballroom dancing. You can create a business by teaching anything from martial arts to cooking to embroidery to day trading to yoga… or almost anything else you can think of. For example, my cousin used my system to build a business teaching clients how to speak Japanese. And a good friend used it to build a business teaching adults how to play the piano.

If the private-lesson business sounds like something you’d like to get into, here are the basic steps in my quick-start system:

1. Gauge the market for your business by studying the competition.

My favorite way to do that is by “shopping” them. Seek out their advertisements in your local Yellow Pages, on the Internet, and in local newspapers and shopper’s guides. Then, pretending to be a prospective client, call to find out what kind of services they offer and what they charge.

2. Devise a marketing strategy.

Get started with small, inexpensive classified ads and space ads in local newspapers. Focused mailings to your target market can also work well. And, naturally, you should have a basic website so you can get listed in search engines (like Google) that prospective clients are likely to use. As your business grows, try the Yellow Pages and other more expensive advertising vehicles.

3. Create a strong USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that will give you a competitive edge.

In my case, I had three big advantages. First, I offered the convenience of going to the client’s home for the lesson … which none of my competitors offered. Second, instead of the packages and programs being sold by my competition, I took a “one lesson at a time, pay as you go” approach that made it easy for prospective clients to book a lesson and give me a try. And, finally, without the overhead of a studio, I was able to charge about half what my competition charged. So, my USP was: “Get convenient ballroom lessons in your home at half the price charged anywhere else … without any pressure to buy expensive packages.”

4. Test your marketing plan to make sure you can get enough customers.

5. Determine how you’re going to do business by figuring out where you’ll give lessons, how you’ll take payment, what credentials/licenses you’ll need, the kind of accounting system you’ll use, etc.

For quite a few years, I didn’t take credit cards – and it worked okay. But these days it’s so easy to take them with online services that I recommend giving clients that option. As for any licensing requirements, check state and local regulations to find out what (if anything) you need. Many kinds of lesson businesses don’t require a license, but some do. In Florida, there is actually a rule that dance studios have to be registered with the state (and there is an annual fee to do so).

6. Find suitable places where you can rent space by the hour when you need it.

Depending on the kind of lessons you’re giving, it might not work to do it in the client’s home. And even if it does work, as I said before, not every client is going to like the idea. I found several good spots for my ballroom dance business just by calling up studios and asking if they’d like to make some extra money with no work or hassle. If an office environment would work better for your lessons, you could try executive suites, real estate agents, etc.

This quick-start system will help you quickly and easily build a private-lesson business that can provide you with a steady income by doing something you enjoy. My ballroom dance business really changed the direction of my life – and there’s a good chance you can find similar success.

[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence’s ballroom dance business got him started on the road to success. If you’ve been searching for something that can do the same for you, consider getting into the private-lesson business.]