Becoming an Instructor
You are the go to guy for your family and friends and like helping people and you ask yourself, “What does it take to become a firearm trainer?” The easy answer is desire. The real answer is a commitment to improving yourself, promoting your business, and connecting with people. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Whether you want to do this as a fulltime job, second income, or as a hobby you’ll need to commit to improving yourself with firearm skills, teaching skills, and interpersonal skills.
First, as with any skill they are perishable and new ones are developed all the time. You owe it to yourself and prospective students to make sure you are aware of new training and that you can demonstrate the skills you have confidently. You are not going to instill confidence in a new shooter if you are trying to teach them a skill and you don’t know how to properly do it. This goes for instructors that have served in the military, are law enforcement officers, or a civilian who has been around guns their entire lives. When you are teaching civilians you have to make sure you are teaching skills civilians can use in the real world. Places to look for quality firearm instructor courses are the NRA, USCCA, and SAFTD. All of them have quality courses to help improve your skills and the skills you can teach your students. Don’t pass up taking non-instructor level classes either. These can help you develop specialized skills in the areas of trauma first aid, computer skills, knife fighting, and hand to hand combat. Face it if you want your students to come back for additional training you need to speak from personal experience why additional training helps you. My personal goal each year it to attend at least 2 training courses to better myself and to attend at least one national conference a year.
Secondly, instructing is an ever involving field of study. The basics are the same but how you deliver the information has changed. Some of you might remember teachers using chalk boards as compared to today’s white boards. Overhead projectors compared to PowerPoint and computer screen projectors. For firearm training the use of laser pistols has changed a lot because students can now practice in the comfort of the classroom before ever going to the range. Add in software like LASR and you have a completely different dynamic going on in the classroom compared to 10 years ago. I’ve been teaching most of the last 10 years and I have seen the change myself. Once I brought the SIRT pistol and LASR software into the classroom it changed everything. I’m sure in 10 years there will be even more advances which will make what we are doing today look ancient.
Finally, if you are going to be working with the public you need to have a thick skin and be able to diffuse a situation effectively because word travels fast and if you can’t deal with someone asking you less than intelligent questions or challenging you on a specific idea, then people will hear about this and new shooters won’t want to come to your classes.
Promoting your business:
You have the skills but does anyone know about them? Your family and friends can be your first customers but eventually you’ll need to be able to effective promote out to the public for new students. Using the internet for promoting any business is a hit and miss proposition. You can have a great website but if no one can find you when you they search you are basically hidden from everyone. Conversely if you pay a lot of money to be at the top of every search you could go broke promoting your business if you aren’t selective on which searches you rank highest. Search for “Concealed Carry” or “Firearm Training” and see how much competition you have in your area.
To be successful promoting your business needs to have a three-pronged approach. First after settling on a name for your company setup a quality website. Providers like Go Daddy, Quicken, etc. can all help you get a quality website in a short amount of time. Many of these companies have easy to use web site design tools and if you have a little experience with computers you can install WordPress or Joomla and make a high quality site in no time. Having a website site is important so people have a place to see your training schedule, prices, how to contact you, and most of all know that you are a reputable company. Having a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Instagram account isn’t enough but doesn’t hurt to have one in addition to a website so people can find you there too. While you are building your website make sure you also have a way to for people to sign up for your mailing list. Companies like MailChimp make it really easy to integrate an email signup form into your website or Facebook page so you can capture this information and be able to send out mailings.
Second spend some money on having a few shirts or hats made with your company name on it for everyone who is going to be working for you because it’ll show a level of professionalism during the class and that will get you repeat clients. You’ll also be surprised how many people will ask you about something at a gas station or restaurant if they see firearm training on something you are wearing. Last year while I was picking up food at Long John Silvers the cashier started asked me questions about what kind of training I offered. By the time the food was ready I had given them my card and had them interested in learning more about the training I offer. You just never know when you will peak someone’s interest in asking you about what training you do!
After you have a website presence and logoed gear print up flyers or visit Vista Print to have business cards made. Drop these off at gas stations, home improvement locations, or wherever you can to get the word out. You’ll find some people will find you on the web when they are searching for a concealed carry instructor, some will be referred to you by past students, but a lot will come from those people at the checkout counter who see your card and take one for themselves or someone else they know who’s looking into training.
Connecting with people:
For most people talking with people they don’t know is a pretty intimidating. The part that I always tell first time instructors is that they already know a lot of people, they just need to let their network know. Your network includes your church, business, sports, and social circles that you see on a regular basis. People you know through your church probably already know you are a gun person so letting them know that you are starting to teach classes shouldn’t be a challenge. Give them a few business cards to hand out for you or see if you can put some in their business. The church might even allow you to advertise in their newsletter or put business cards for people to pick up from members of the congregation businesses.
Don’t overlook organizations you may already be a member of; scouts, youth groups, or sports leagues. You are already involved with these groups and can spread the word around the people you already know there. If your business is successful enough you could sponsor a sports team who will be wearing your company’s name on their uniform every game they play. Depending upon where you live having a gun training business on little league uniforms may or may be ok. You may have fore go the picture of the AR and pistols on the uniforms and just go with just the name of your company. i.e. “Rob’s CCW Training” Look for ways to be active in the community also. Groups like Kiwanis, Elks, Lions, and Eagles are always looking for members and it’s a great way to help the community while also letting people know who you are.
There are also professional organizations that you probably belong to that may allow you to advertise in their newsletter. Don’t overlook a $20 ad in a newsletter to make an impact on the number of students you get. For those who want to connect with others while improving themselves look into Toastmasters International. They can help individuals improve their speaking skills while also connecting with a wide variety of people from across your area. I’ve belonged for a long time and it’s improved my presentation skills as well as connected with others I would never have known otherwise.
Other issues to consider:
Finding a location to teach can be challenging, unless you live in a rural area where you have the option of teaching a class in your living room and walking outside to shoot. Even if you do have that option I would recommend taking a long look at what you want to use as a classroom and a range. Remember this is going to be what people remember about you. Most of us will need to find a shooting club, local gun shop/range, or someone else who has a range/classroom already that we can use. Depending upon your area can make this an easy find or a difficult find. The place I currently use I meant the owner of the classroom/range at a class we were both taking. That’s another reason to take training and connecting with people!
Another issue to consider before scheduling your first class, it’s hard to put on a class by yourself. Do you have others who are qualified to help you or want to take the instructor classes with you? Maybe they can help with the facilities or has additional training aids (blue guns, projector, charts, different kinds of guns) that you can use during class. If nothing else having another set of qualified eyes watching what is going on in the classroom and on the range is a good thing. If you are using someone else’s property for a classroom and range or even if you are shooting in your back yard you should consider instructor insurance. Make sure whatever insurance you get it will cover you and your facility in case someone get hurt. This could range from someone falling and breaking a bone to someone getting shot to someone accusing you of teaching them the improper what of using their gun. None of them are pleasant thoughts but having insurance to make sure you don’t lose your business, home, and land is piece of mind. The NRA offers insurance as does many of insurance companies.
Being an instructor is not always easy dealing with the challenges of putting on a quality class and sometimes can be downright frustrating. If you are an instructor who is willing to put the time into setting up a quality business, put on quality courses, and promote it you’ll be rewarded with meeting some of the best Americans. Remember to stay in contact with your students through email, Facebook, etc… and be a resource for them if they have questions. One caution that all instructor should follow is when it comes to the law remember that you are not a lawyer and should stay away from giving any legal advice. You have your opinion on the law but any legal advice for your students should come from a qualified lawyer.
If you are someone who wants to help others, then check out becoming a firearm instructor in your area.