The basics of managing a music studio can sometimes seem overwhelming, but a few considerations will make the process more straightforward.
On one hand, you want to be fair, flexible and accommodating. On the other, you must look out for yourself because no one else will. You must maintain what seems to be a perfect balance of niceness and firmness.
If you don’t have procedures in place to protect your interests, you could be setting yourself up for many costly inconveniences.
This comes in the form of late payments, last minute cancellations, and lost income.
Here are a few things to consider when managing your lessons.
What Are You Really Selling?
When you charge for a lesson, you aren’t merely selling your teaching services for the length of the lesson. You are selling your time surrounding a student’s musical education.
If you spend time outside of the lessons planning and managing each student’s success, you should consider this in the cost of your services.
If someone misses a lesson, can you fill the spot? Do you spend time driving to the lesson? These are things to consider when thinking of how you structure lessons and payments.
We should move away from this idea of charging strictly for lesson time, especially after the fact. A better way to express this reality is to sell lesson time slots rather than lessons.
The timing of when you collect payment has a profound effect on the management of your studio. You don’t want to teach lessons while still waiting to be paid because you have no control in this situation.
Ideally, you will always want to collect payment before the lesson takes place, especially when scheduling multiple lessons. When a client pays for lessons beforehand, they are paying to reserve their spot.
Payment before the lesson also helps to discourage cancellations and reinforce other policy provisions. Otherwise, clients can withhold money if they are unsatisfied with the lesson for some reason. While they may feel justified, you can’t get your time back.
If you are teaching weekly lessons, you should consider charging for the entire month at a time. Once people are committed to lessons, they typically don’t want to be fiddling with payments any more than necessary, so this is for their convenience as well as yours.
In my experience, this is most easily achieved by invoicing clients using a financial application such as Wave (or something similar) in the week leading up to a new month. This ensures collection of payment by the first lesson in a month.
You should have a firm cancellation policy that protects against people skipping lessons whenever they please. People will generally cancel more often when it doesn’t cost them anything.
If something comes up in their schedule, the music lesson will be the first thing to go, and it will be too late to sell the time slot to someone else.
However, if students know they will be charged anyway, they will likely cancel only under truly difficult circumstances.
This reinforces the idea that students pay to reserve your time rather than paying only for the time they actually used in the lesson.
Your cancellation policy should also allow for credits or makeup lessons for situations where you are the one missing the lesson. Although, you should generally try to avoid missing lessons if you want clients to take this policy provision seriously.
Should You Offer Makeup Lessons?
Depending on your schedule and whether you are a teacher that travels, you may or may not be able to offer makeup lessons.
If you choose to offer make up lessons, you should offer them on specific days and determine what circumstances will qualify for a makeup lesson.
I generally try to make up any lessons that I miss, and I allow students to do the same if they can provide 24 hours advanced notice and a legitimate reason for making up the lesson.
I take my own lesson attendance seriously, and I expect the same thing from students. Makeup lessons allow you to reinforce the importance of attending the lesson by providing a workaround for cancellations.
Since I mostly teach on location, I have found that makeup lessons are too difficult to offer in person. After realizing that most of my students have laptops, phones, or tablets, I began exclusively using Skype to handle all makeup lessons.
You can read more about my experience with Skype lessons here.
You should do your best to be consistent with students when dealing with this issue. Makeup lessons allow you to better accommodate students while protecting your income.
If you are unable to offer makeup lessons, you may need a more generous cancellation policy or to offer flexibility in some other way.
This article stresses the importance of treating lessons as something to be reserved, collecting payment before the lesson, avoiding cancellations, and having a consistent makeup policy.
All these business practices should work together to create a steady income for you and a consistent learning experience for your students.
Lessons work best when they are regular, and the stress of money is removed from the situation as much as possible.
If you haven’t already, check out last week’s article on Creating Your Studio Policy for a basic overview of where these sorts of things apply.