Do you love the sound of a piano and have an ear for music and harmonies? Are you looking for opportunities to become your own boss? You don’t have to know your Steinway from your Fazioli, but starting a piano tuning business might be the perfect business opportunity for you.
So, if you have a passion for music and a talent for tuning pianos and aren’t sure how to turn that into a business, our guide is here to help you get started!
A piano tuning business provides services to music establishments like studios, schools, theaters, churches, bands, and orchestras as well as individual piano owners to keep their instruments properly tuned through periodic piano maintenance, repairs, and adjustments. Services typically include standard tunings, pitch raisings, voice alignments, regulation, and repairs. Understanding your local music scene and the prevalence of pianos in your area is key.
In addition to offering piano tuning service, business owners may also offer additional services such as piano repairs, restorations, piano moving, or even piano lessons.
Piano tuning is an underappreciated and often overlooked craft, but it is an important aspect of being a musician or owning a piano. The piano tuning business is part of the larger musical instrument repair industry, which also includes repairs of other stringed instruments, like guitars and violins. According to IBISWorld, this industry generates about $1.3 billion annually.1
Most piano tuners are self-employed, offering a personalized touch to their services, which larger companies might not provide. This industry thrives on reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations, making quality service and customer relationships paramount.
The average home piano will need tuning once a year, studio pianos every month, and concert pianos are commonly serviced before each performance.2 Given that estimates put the number of pianos in the US at close to 20 million, a well-run piano tuning business can count on a captive market and repeat business.
Steps To Start A Piano Tuning Business
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
Whether you’re turning a passion for pianos into a full-time business or a side hustle, the journey begins with a simple tool: the business plan. Even though business plans are often only thought of as being required when seeking funding, here are a few reasons why a business plan should be written, regardless of whether funding is needed or not.
First off, a business plan serves as your roadmap. It helps you outline what you want your piano tuning business to be and how you’re going to make it happen. You’ll detail your business model, lay out your goals, and describe the concrete steps you will take to meet them. Essentially, it offers you a plan of action and direction.
The second major reason for putting together a business plan revolves around understanding your market. Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. You’ll have clients to serve and competitors to consider. Good market research lays out the landscape: who your potential customers are, who else is tuning pianos in your area, and how they’re doing it. Based on this information, you can decide how you will stand out – whether that’s servicing unique types of pianos, offering flexible scheduling, or focusing on excellent customer service.
Last, but certainly not least, a business plan helps you make sense of the financial side of things. Starting a piano tuning business comes with costs for things like tools, licensing, insurance, transportation, and marketing. The business plan has you itemize these costs, helping you figure out just how much startup capital you’ll need. It also prompts you to make projections about your future profits so you can determine if running the business makes financial sense.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Source Funding
Once your business plan is in place, the next step is to ensure you have the funds to start your piano tuning business. The silver lining is that starting a piano tuning business does not require substantial capital, and many owners tend to fund it out of their personal savings. However, the cost can still add up, and if your savings aren’t enough, then you will need to explore other options. Here are the most common ones:
Bank loans: Banks are a common source of small business funding. For a loan, lenders usually want you to invest at least 15% of your own money towards the total project cost. They also prefer borrowers to have a good credit score and sufficient collateral. If a bank is hesitant about the risk, they may use a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan guarantee as a reassurance.
Credit cards: Credit cards present a quick and easy way to access funds. However, since the interest rates are high, they are best for smaller expenses or short-term financing needs.
Home equity loan: If you own a home and have some equity in it, you can consider a home equity loan.
Friends and family: Your friends and family can also provide funding. They might offer better terms than a bank, but mixing business with personal relationships can be a tricky path to navigate. If you choose this route, be sure to put all agreements in writing to avoid misunderstandings down the road.
Microloans: For smaller funding needs, microloans are an option. These loans are typically provided by local economic development organizations, and some of these organizations offer business training in addition to funding, which can be helpful for first-time business owners.
Step 3: Register the Business
Starting a piano tuning business requires a few tasks in order to be registered and legal to operate. These will vary depending on your locatation, but here is a general overview.
Busines structure: When you start your business, you’ll need to choose a structure. The one you pick affects your legal obligations, taxes, and your personal liability.
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest way to start your business. It involves less cost and fewer forms than the others. The downside is you can be personally liable for business debts.
- General partnership: If you’re going into business with another person, you might consider this. Like sole proprietorships, the startup process is simple, but each partner can be personally liable for business obligations.
- Corporation: Forming a corporation protects owners from personal liability. However, it’s a bit more complex and expensive to set up.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC also provides liability protection but with fewer formalities and easier management than a corporation.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general licenses or permits needed before opening. This could include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Although not a legal requirement, obtaining registered piano technician certification from the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) can enhance your credibility and demonstrate expertise.3
Step 4: Set Up Operations
After working through all of the planning and registration requirements, it’s now time to cement those plans into place and set the operations of your piano tuning business rolling.
The first thing to consider when starting your piano tuning business is whether you will operate from home or have a separate office space. Many successful piano tuning businesses operate from home as it saves on costs, but if you choose to operate from home, you’ll need to ensure that your business complies with local zoning laws and neighborhood covenants or rental agreements.
Aside from the piano tuning tools needed, you should also consider transportation logistics. You need a reliable method of transportation, not just for reaching your clients’ locations for mobile service, but also to transport pianos for more extensive repairs if that’s a service you offer.
After setting the gears of operations into motion, this stage also involves finalizing many administrative details, such as creating your service menu and pricing, designing invoices, purchasing accounting software, printing promotional brochures, developing scheduling systems and paperwork processes that suit your operations, securing a business phone and internet services, and more.
Step 5: Prepare to Launch!
Starting a piano tuning business involves several steps beyond the core ones of planning, registering, and setting up operations. Every business will have different needs, but here are some additional tasks that are often necessary:
Business insurance: Different types of insurance, such as general liability or professional liability to cover various scenarios, from damage to a client’s piano to injuries that might occur while working.
Setting up bookkeeping: Set up a system to handle daily transactions, prepare for tax season, and keep track of financial statements. This could mean hiring a bookkeeper or using accounting software.
Opening a business bank account: Opening a dedicated bank account for your business is important for managing your finances by making it easier to track business expenses and income.
Marketing: To let potential clients know about your piano tuning services, you’ll need some form of marketing. You can build a professional-looking website and create accounts on referral sites like Thumbtack, Yelp, and a Google Business profile where customers can find and review your services. Also reach out to local music schools and piano retailers to offer your tuning services. Consider investing in signage or a wrap for your vehicle to advertise your services while you’re on the move.
Common Questions When Starting A Piano Tuning Business
How much does it cost to start a piano tuning business?
Becoming your own boss in this industry is relatively easy and doesn’t require a huge upfront investment. An average estimate for starting a piano tuning business can range between $1,500 and $6,000 (not including a vehicle transportation). Here’s a breakdown of the estimated costs involved:
Equipment: As a piano tuner, your major investment will be in the tools and equipment necessary to tune and repair pianos. This can range anywhere from $500 to $3,000 depending on the quality and variety of tools you choose.
Business registration: Generally, you can expect to pay between $50 and $500, which typically covers filing fees for your business name and obtaining a business license and permits.
Insurance: Business insurance is essential to protect your business from liability. The cost of insurance can vary widely depending on your coverage needs, but a basic policy might cost around $500 to $1,000 per year.
Marketing: Basic promotional start-up costs for basic website development, printing business cards and flyers could come out to roughly $500-$1,000 initially.
How profitable is a piano tuning business?
The profitability of a piano tuning business can vary significantly based on numerous factors, such as the number of clients, pricing, operating expenses, and the tuner’s experience and reputation. However, we can make some educated assumptions to get an idea of potential profitability.
– The average charge for tuning a piano can range from $120 to $130.4
– If a tuner services two pianos per day for an average of $125, and works 20 days a month, the monthly revenue would be 20 (days) x 2 (pianos per day) x $125 = $5,000.
– Annually, this equates to $5,000 x 12 (months) = $60,000 in revenue.
– Monthly expenses might include transportation costs (fuel, maintenance), which could average around $200 per month or $2,400 annually.
– Other operating expenses like marketing, supplies, and insurance could total around $300 per month, adding up to $3,600 annually.
– If you rent a workspace, this could be an additional cost, but for this example, let’s assume the business is operated from home to keep costs down.
So, the total annual expenses could be roughly $2,400 (transportation) + $3,600 (operating expenses) = $6,000.
Profit: Subtracting the total expenses from the annual revenue gives us the annual profit of $60,000 (revenue) – $6,000 (expenses) = $54,000.
Therefore, a piano tuning business operating under these assumptions could potentially make a profit of around $54,000 annually. It’s important to note that these figures are estimates and actual profits can vary.
What is the NAICS code for a piano tuning business?
The NAICS code for a piano tuning business is 811490, which is categorized under Other Personal Household Goods Repair and Maintenance.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?