Things to Consider while Starting a Piano Tuning Business

The importance of the piano creates many conceptions about it. Of these, the three common facts are that it is unchanged even after ages of existence, it is one of the most widely used musical instruments and it is also a pain to keep it in good shape. This makes what we can call as the piano tuning business. Find what it takes to start it up.
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Whether it's a grand or an upright, pianos need to be regularly maintained. Anyone who owns one and plays it too, will be willing to pay for any and all services regarding the health of their prized possession. Even if you've ever played one, seeing the insides of a piano will be enough to conclude that it takes a professional to repair a piano. The piano tuning business being, well, a business, I have divided all its start-up processes into four parts; Initial cost, Marketing, Customer Relationship and Charges.

Starting a Piano Tuning Business

Initial Cost
The entirety of the initial cost will depend on one thing - your training. If you have already done an apprenticeship, or know much about pianos, then you got yourself a head-start. The only problem is, even if you know plenty about how pianos work (and you've probably even played it for a long time), you will still need professional training if you want to get paid for maintaining pianos. There are many aspects to it, the most important of them being,
  • an ear for the piano sound,
  • a deep enough knowledge of all the tools you're going to use
  • where to get these tools and any spare parts for a piano
If you miss any one of the three, it will amount to bad publicity and dissatisfied customers. Your training will therefore consist of any or all the above three points. Most of this can be done through a good piano tuning school. It will cost, but you'll find be able to call yourself a professional afterwards. The American School of Piano Tuning pegs the cost at $1290.00 or $1490.00, depending on how you take the course. At the end, you get a Diploma, making you a certified piano repair expert. You may also approach someone who knows about the works (someone who is in the business) and do apprenticeship. This may cost you less, but you won't get a certificate, and your knowledge will depend solely on your mentor. After that, you will need to attain the right set of tools. If you're doing the course, you will probably get the tools from the school. If you're doing an apprenticeship, you will need to buy the tools from a trustworthy source. It will also do you good if you keep a good relationship with the store owner. You probably won't be the only one doing piano repairs in town, and it will be good to have someone who knows the scene already. Another aspect of initial cost might be the work space. If you want to be into simple piano tuning, you will probably be going to the locations to get the job done. If you choose to go into the repair and restoration side while still tuning pianos, you'll need to call the piano to your personal space, better tools and consequently a large enough space to work on the delivered piano. You will also need the right permission for this.

Marketing
Once you know you can tune a piano, you'll need others to know that as well. The key to any business start-up is good marketing. Depending on your attitude, clients may or may not like you (or even know about you at all), the latter wasting all your well-earned talents. Marketing cost will depend on two things - the type of publicity and the intended area of operation inside which you'll work. You can put simple fliers, get business cards printed and distribute them, or get an ad-spot on TV. The latter obviously being easier but costlier, you'll probably want to send out cards. Once you get your cards published, you need to know where to keep them. The best place would be the piano stores. This can work in two ways. Anyone who buys a piano at the store will know about you, and you will also get access to the store owner as a client too. He will call you every once in a while to get a piano tuned or fixed. Here, you need to be on your toes; making friends with the store owner will put you ahead of any other piano tuners in the locality. This means that, for any sale, the owner refers you as the piano tuner to go to. And that is what's most important - referrals. A good word of mouth reaches farther than any other form of marketing. So keep your appearance sharp and your mind open every time you walk into a piano store. Another very important thing you need to do is to create your own website. Here, you can explain what kind of business you run, your client database, client feedback and comments, photos of pianos you've worked on. People now tend to turn to the Internet for help, and a good site means more clients. You can also link up with all the piano stores you have contacts with, for a little of their publicity.

Customer Relationship
If all goes right till now, a person within your region of workability should be reaching into his/her pockets to get out your business card when they need their piano tuned. They will call you up and you will find yourself a new client. So, keep your cell phone active and close to you at all times and a working answering machine with your office phone or home phone. When the customer calls you, put your best foot forward and impress them. Do not drone on about all your knowledge and technical prowess, you'll get to show that off when you actually work on the piano. Instead, keep an open and friendly attitude, while being professional at all times. Do not delay any appointments at the start of your relationship; being prompt is the first step to a great first impression. When you do your first job for a new client, do not leave any loose ends in impressing them. Remember, a person who owns a piano will most likely know someone else who owns one too. Once you finish your job, you can ask to keep a good word with their friends (now, if you've done a great job, you won't need to). Piano tunings need to be done annually, so you can keep a quality feedback check by calling the client 6 months since you worked on their piano. This maintains a feeling of trust between you and the client. Always maintain the paperwork and keep your time organized so you can mark the future service due-date. You can even contact an older client to notify them before any servicing is due.

Charges
You will find that breaking even in the piano tuning business may be slightly difficult, but once you do, you can get a routine started and average out the monthly and annual income. You will also see that it is indeed a sweet business. Charging your clients will depend on the kind of work needed. If it is simply tuning a functional piano in good health, keep the charge flat, generally between $90 to $130, plus service taxes. This will depend on your region and client network. You may have a discount price for new clients for a better relationship, but keep the prices flat and rational later. Here is a list of all things that you can charge extra for, that go with tuning a piano:
  • You can charge more for basic tuning, if the piano has been out of order and not played for a long time.
  • Cleaning a piano can be charged about $40 to $50. You may waive cleaning charges for a second or third tuning appointment, to keep the client link.
  • Alternate tuning can be charged extra, depending on the number of keys that need their pitch raised or lowered.
  • Travel charges should be added to the bill if the distance is far.
  • You can charge extra for replacing parts (after adding the base spare part price), installing a humidifier-dehumidifier, hammer brushing/shaving (this can be a very small thing and can be generally excluded).
  • For any major repairs or restorations, you need to charge according to the number of hours spent and any spare parts.
Piano tuning can be as lucrative a venture as you want it to be. It follows all the basic rules of home businesses and while the initial costs can be more than you thought, the long term profits are quite a lot. There is also job satisfaction if you love to be around pianos and play them. And who knows, if you become big enough, you may be called for concert tunings and help contribute to musical greatness!