Success. This word gets bandied about a lot… on social media, talking to friends and family and in business development materials. What does it mean to you? Is that the same as it means to me? Should it be?

I define success for my business based on 4 principles: 2 student centered and 2 business centered.

Student Success

1. What are my student retention and turnover rates? Do I have a stable core of students who continue with lessons year after year and add in new ones as needed? Are most of my students short term and I have many new faces every few months? I see high retention rates and high referral rates from current students as wildly successful, but I do know that there are times when many students leave at once (graduation…) and that is not necessarily a sign of lower success; in fact it is a testament to the high retention rates to have many students graduate at the same time!

2. Students are meeting their personal goals that we talk about at the beginning of each lesson term (check out my FaceBook post on goals!). These can vary widely amongst members of the studio from getting into youth orchestras, chair auditions, memorization, playing tests, and learning new skills/techniques/pieces.

Business Success

1. Financial stability: being able to cover all of my personal and business expenses each month from the income I make (whether it is lessons, coaching in the schools, free lance playing or any other type of income). This was a huge milestone for me: for many years I was a part-time public school teacher to help pay the bills and once I was able to cover all of my expenses with my studio as my main income I finally felt like I was getting successful from a business stand point.

2. I have a high level of job satisfaction. I was not happy teaching public school, I always felt like I was being pulled away from my studio and it was incredibly mentally draining to feel like I couldn’t give my best to all of my jobs, so I think its very important to consider job satisfaction as an indicator of success.

Right now, based on my own success measures, I am successful! There have been and will be days/weeks/months when I am not successful, but that is part of the nature of self-employment sometimes. I am willing to take the uncertainty in exchange for a fabulous job that I love!

How do you define success? Is it the same for your personal life as your business? Does that definition change over time?



For this first post, I wanted to introduce myself and say hello! I am a musician: teacher, player and music advocate. I run a private lessons studio out of my home for violin and viola as well as playing with local ensembles and speaking at music education conferences.

I LOVE my job, it is amazing/fun/enjoyable and keeps me on my toes! But there are several things I have learned along the way that have led to this being my career that I wish someone would have helped me figure out earlier on, so I decided I would share them with everyone I meet who is thinking about following along this crazy path :)

In future posts you can expect to see topics about the business of running a studio and being a freelance musician, audition tips, specific teaching techniques/mini lessons, ups and downs of life as a self-employed person, balancing work and free time and anything else you want to know about.

I am working on building a more active presence on social media, so feel free to follow along @lissaviolin on Instagram and Melissa Barru on Facebook. I hope to see you there!

Happy practicing!!!