How flexible are you on lesson payments?
I have been thinking a lot about this. If you read my last Teachers Corner blog, you will know that I did an intensive studio growth coaching with saxophonist and studio guru Jessica Voigt Page. One of the biggest takeaways from that coaching for me was the idea of creating a culture of respect amongst students, parents, and teachers.
Culture of respect
This means a few different things. Firstly, it is an understanding between everyone that the teacher’s time is of great value. Secondly, that if the teacher is giving 100% in lessons, the students and parents are expected to fulfill their responsibilities as well. These responsibilities are simply showing up at the scheduled time, making payments in a timely manner, and showing effort.
This is obvious, right? I’ve only been teaching privately for a few years, but it didn’t take long for me to run across parents/students who didn’t actively pursue that culture of respect. You know… those people that show up 20
minutes late to a lesson but still expect to get their full hour. Or the family that cancels their lesson 45 minutes before the start time without thought to the fact that you had to drive an hour to get to their house and are already more than halfway there.
Boundaries are important in any relationship, and as the professional in this situation, it is your job to build those boundaries, and payment options can be one way of doing that. Here are a few ways payment can help you develop the culture of respect in your studio.
Week to week payments are the bread and butter of studio teaching. That is how my parents paid for lessons, and how I ran my studio for a long time. The problem with this method of payment is it take the culture of respect for granted. It leaves the teacher high and dry when something gets in the way of a scheduled lesson time.
My studio policies state that if a lesson is canceled less than 24 hours in advance the payment for that lesson is due regardless. I am flexible depending on the situation, but I have found it to be a necessary step in securing a consistent and dependable income for myself. With that said… this would be nearly impossible to put into practice with a week-to-week payment plan.
Incentivize parents for paying in advance!
I offer a % discount for lessons bought in bulk. For example, I just had a parent purchase five 1-hour lessons, which would normally come along with a fee of $400. But, because she is paying in advance I am offering her a 5% discount, taking the final fee to $380. Buy 6 lessons, get a 6% discount, 7 lessons, 7%… so on so forth.
I have found this to be IMMENSELY helpful in my efforts to budget myself month-to-month. As a freelancer, I never truly know how much money I have coming in any given month, and students represent a little bit of stability in that world if you create the culture.
How are payments made to you? Check? Cash? Credit card? There are so many options available to us these days, and you might find some people more willing to pay in bulk if you offer them an alternative payment option. Here is a list of all of the payment methods I offer to my students.
- Credit Card payment – through Square on my phone
- PayPal invoices – I add a convenience charge of $5-10 depending on the invoice amount to cover the fee from PayPal
- Chase Quickpay – So simple if you and your student are both clients at Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo,
- Venmo – feeless money transferring
Have a really large studio? I imagine that scheduling often presents just as much of a challenge as billing. Consider using a teaching aid program such as Music Teacher’s Helper that integrates all of your studio activities! This on-line software that takes the frustration out of managing your studio, handling everything from billing and lesson schedules, to automatic reminders and tax reports.
Sure you spend a little on this software, but it essentially creates the culture of respect for you. It keeps parents and students accountable without making you the bill collector!
Respect begets respect.
I have found that being as open, honest, and clear as possible with all of my students and parents in regard to payment is the best path. I am always sure to discuss my fees and payment options in either the first or second email with a new student or parent and stick by decisions and policies put in place. The most successful way to ensure the culture of respect in your studio is to stand up for yourself and your worth when things go awry.
How do you deal with payments in lessons? Do you go week-to-week, or do an advance payment system like the one I am implementing? Do you have any experience with Music Teacher’s Helper? Comment below and have a great weekend!!