Aug 4, 2017
Caution: I’m about to be rude.
I want to teach you how to attract wealthy clients, and just writing those words makes me feel like Rodney Dangerfield’s crass character in Caddyshack. As much as we Americans like to think we’ve transcended class, we still have a long list of unspoken rules on how we talk about money, and I’m about to break several.
It’ll be worth it though. I’ve benefited so much from working for wealthy clients — I teach some of the richest people on the planet — and if this is your goal, I’d love to help.
Just lemme throw on my plaid sport coat, light a cigar in the non-smoking section, crack a Bud Light, and get right to it.
If you want to work for wealthy clients, you can’t just add a premium feature to what you currently offer. You have to choose them as your ideal customer, or “avatar” in business-speak, and then align your business toward them.
My own pivot toward teaching wealthy people was a violent U-turn. When I got out of college, my plan was to give back to my community by teaching English in a public high school and, if I’d been any good at it, that’s where I’d be today. But I quickly burned out and, after a couple miserable years as Seattle’s Worst Handyman, decided to try private guitar instruction.
It was a business-savvy friend who brought my avatar into focus. He was helping me design my website when he asked: “So, who’s your ideal student?”
I considered the typical rate for music teachers in Seattle —$60 an hour — and decided that income wouldn’t go far in supporting a family or making mortgage payments. My first priority, then, would be to make my business sustainable. Once I had food on the table, I could return to saving the world.
“I want to charge top dollar,” I said. “$80 an hour. So…my ideal student should be able to afford that.”
“Dude,” my buddy responded. “If you want to aim high, you should charge twice that. You should teach Bill Gates’ kids.”
Bill has yet to give me a ring, but that simple suggestion gave me a snapshot of my ideal client, so that when ultra-wealthy clients (or rather, their personal assistants) did call, I was ready.
Your brand is how other people perceive your business. If you want to attract wealthy clients, you should broadcast “I am a premium service” in all the ways you present yourself and your business to the world. That means a professionally-designed website, good grooming, and a beautiful workspace.
But by far the most important way you convey your premium brand is by getting your clients excellent results. In fact, if you’re known as the greatest yoga instructor in New York, you could probably get away with teaching sun salutations to Michael Bloomberg while wearing torn jeans and eating a Reuben.
Chances are, you’d land that job not because of your nice website, but because Bloomberg asked his golfing buddy if he knew a good yoga teacher. And his buddy was so confident in your ability to deliver results, that he felt comfortable recommending you to someone who could hire any yogi in the world.
The first time I taught a guitar lesson in a student’s home, I charged a paltry $5 extra. I quickly discovered that $5 didn’t begin to reimburse me for the commute time, fuel and car maintenance, and discomfort of being on the road. I considered never offering in-home lessons again.
But I finally realized that instead of spurning students who wanted this service, I should simply price in-home lessons so that they were worth my time. The travel fee I arrived at, that I still use today, seemed obscene: it more than doubled the price of a lesson. Most students could not afford it, but the ones who could became my first wealthy clients.
Since then, I’ve learned from selling online products that it’s good to offer both a “basic” and “premium” version. The basic buyers feel like they’re getting a good deal, the premium buyers get the exceptional experience they’re seeking, and you make better money.
Also, by offering multiple price tiers for your services, you’ve made them accessible to a variety of students, wealthy and not.
If, like me, you want to be inclusive while still targeting wealthy clients, you can expand your impact further by teaching online. Ironically, my income from teaching wealthy clients has helped me circle back to the goal I had as a public school teacher, because it’s allowed me enough free time to develop my online teaching.
I now offer excellent, free guitar instruction to millions of people, many of whom could never afford even the cheapest guitar teacher.
I’ll raise a can of Bud Light to that.
Rob Hampton is a guitar teacher and business coach in Seattle, WA. He’s the author of Rob’s Totally Awesome Guitar Teaching Handbook, teaches guitar online at Heartwood Guitar, and helps music teachers inspire their students and grow their business at Greatest Gig.
Wondering if you’re charging enough for music lessons? Check out his super cool Rate Calculator.