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Piano tuners are generally mobile service technicians that complete simple repairs and routine tuning for a wide variety of pianos at the piano owner's home, business, or school. They are knowledgeable in the construction of pianos, and they can repair felt, keys, minor wood damage, and replace wire as needed to maintain action and sound. Pianos used in a commercial or academic setting can be tuned after being moved or on a regular four month, six month, or yearly basis. It is a service that relies on the tuning technician’s expertise and experience.
Who is this business right for?
If you are an individual with a great appreciation for the function, construction, and general maintenance of fine instruments, as well as a basic understanding of music, this business may be a good fit for you. Generally, piano tuning businesses are one-man operations, so you must enjoy working alone and you must be self-motivated.
What happens during a typical day at a piano tuning business?
When you operate your own piano tuning business, you can expect to complete a variety of tasks on any given day. They may include:
- Traveling to your daily appointments
- Replacing felt, hammers, damaged piano wire, and even a damaged key.
- Setting up a grand piano that needs to be positioned for performance
- Tuning as many instruments as possible while maintaining strict level of performance
- Collecting payments from clients
- Developing new clients through networking professionals in the music industry
- Sending out reminders and advertisements to existing customers to encourage them to set up an appointment
- Answering all correspondence pertaining to your business quickly and professionally
What is the target market?
Your ideal clients will be music schools and colleges, public schools, recording studios, and performance venues. These clients will have a multitude of instrument that will regularly require your tuning services. In-home piano tuning clients are less likely to call for regular maintenance for their instruments, but they will still generate a decent portion of your profit.
How does a piano tuning business make money?
Repeat business is the only way to make money in this industry. There are no extra products to sell the customer, so your service must be top notch every time. Your reputation among music professionals will dictate who calls you for service and how much you can demand for your service.
What is the growth potential for a piano tuning business?
Initially, a piano tuning business may function exceptionally well as a second job or a part-time endeavor. Once your reputation is established and you make connections with school systems or colleges, it is possible to grow the business into a full-time endeavor. It is also possible to secure a salaried position with major music colleges or performing arts venues.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful piano tuning business?
Some of the most important skills you'll need as a professional piano tuner are:
- Either perfect pitch or excellent relative pitch is a necessity
- An understanding of the mechanics of pianos, in all shapes and sizes
- Piano tuning training - completion piano tuning training course and at least a year of experience as an assistant will help you provide a satisfactory service
- Good personal skills to help you build a client list
- Basic accounting knowledge
- A solid background in music and music performance to better understand how the instrument is used in a real-world setting
- Recognition as a Registered Piano Technician by completing their exhaustive exam process
What are the costs involved in opening a piano tuning business?
While a good set of tuning tools will only cost you a few hundred dollars, piano tuning is really a skill that is built over time through repetition of the process. You will need reliable transportation, but not necessarily a large van. Basic training courses cost around $1,000, but proper training and certification are essential to market yourself as a piano tuning professional.
What are the steps to start a piano tuning business?
Once you're ready to start your piano tuning business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your piano tuning business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your piano tuning business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a piano tuning business?
You need to get your name out in the local music scene. Visit local music schools, touch base with music department heads, and leave your contact information where music lessons are offered. In a city, it is easier to get your first few customers as the demand is higher. In suburban and rural areas you will need to do a lot of personal outreach. Talk to organists and choral directors at a local church for more contacts.
How to promote & market a piano tuning business
In the music industry, relationships and referrals are everything. You can send out fliers to music schools, but you will need to shake a few hands in order to make an impression. Get in touch with production crews who are responsible for setting up performances and leave your name for emergency service. Offer introductory rates to get your foot in the door, as your client needs to trust your expertise before handing over their prized instrument.
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How to keep customers coming back
Satisfied customers will return to you the next time their piano needs maintenance. Communicate any concerns you might have about damage and offer repair services on a quick turnaround, as doing so will assure customers that you are knowledgeable and that you care about their instrument. Using internet forums and bulletin boards to generate recognition of your name, along with purchasing ad space in university newspapers and in program notes for local concerts can also attract new customers to your business.
How and when to build a team
Building a team usually isn't necessary until your demand exceeds the confines of your schedule. If you find you need more piano tuners, hiring a team of highly skilled tuners is paramount. Each member of your team reflects your team so, not only do you need skilled professionals, you also need people with exceptional social skills.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a piano tuning business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
You can only advertise yourself as a registered piano technician if you have been certified by the Piano Technicians Guild. If you would like to advertise yourself as such, make sure to take courses offered by the PTG. Otherwise, refrain from advertising yourself as a registered piano technician in order to avoid legal penalties.
In business where services are provided on an extended basis, a services contract is often put in place outlining terms and conditions of service.
Piano tuning businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, and service level expectations.
How much can you charge customers?
A standard piano tuning service typically runs for a flat rate of anywhere from $100-$180. However, many tuners will charge by the hour when tuning multiple instruments or while completing basic repairs. Regular tuning takes anywhere from an hour to ninety minutes, depending on the condition of the instrument. Hourly rates run from $100/hr. to $200/hr. based on client base and the technician's expertise.
What are the ongoing expenses for a piano tuning business?
Ongoing costs are very low for a piano tuning business. You will need to pay for gas to transport yourself to clients. Other than the cost of fuel, occasionally you will want to replace your tools and you'll need to maintain a supply of felt, wire, wood and other accessories.
How much profit can a piano tuning business make?
The average income for a piano tuner is around $35,000 a year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
The most successful piano tuner will garner contracts from performing arts centers and music schools that require regular tuning and repairs for their instruments. Repeat business builds your reputation which allows you to charge higher rates.