Start a piano tuning business by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your piano tuning business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
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 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.
Who 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.
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.
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.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Piano Tuning Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your piano tuning business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
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.
STEP 5: 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.
STEP 6: 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.
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.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
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.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: 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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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.
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.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Piano Tuning Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
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.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
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 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 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.
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Take the Next Step
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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
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 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.