Does anyone have suggestions for getting more students who actually show up each week and pay on time? What works to get students and what have you tried that didn’t work at all or that attracted unreliables? students who don’t want to rent or buy a harp or only come 4 x’s a year, or never seem to bring their checkbook
Misty, sorry I don’t have a clear answer, especially as it’s a recession now in the U.S. and many students are dropping out these days from private music lessons. One thing you could try, however, is contacting a nearby elementary school and offering a free mini-concert and demonstration of the harp. Such an educational approach might bring a new student to your door. At the very first encounter, then, (mine are free) you could explain honestly the demands and delights of learning to play harp. I include snips of DVDs of accomplished players as well as of a young player,
Misty, I only play (do not teach) harp – but I do teach voice. A very clear studio policy, and the willingness to stand your ground, really help with your problem.
Common practice in a voice studio is to require a month (or sometimes two weeks) paid in advance, due at the first lesson of the period. People are much less likely to skip if they’ve already paid. Set a firm grace period in your head (not in your written studio policy) – you might let the student be one week late with payment twice a year, for example – and really stick to it. Say “no” if you must. “Mr. X, I have placed your lessons on hold until I receive payment. Your lesson for 3 PM tomorrow has been canceled. Once I receive a check, I would be happy to resume.”
In fact, this is a perfect time of year to send out an email to all of your students with a PDF or Word doc clearly outlining your policies. For example: in a voice studio, a certain amount of notice is required if a student is going to miss a lesson and wants to reschedule it. If that student doesn’t give the minimum notice (such as 24 hours), he forfeits the fee he paid – at the beginning of the month – for that lesson. That way, the teacher is at least minimally compensated for the annoyance. And if the student wants to keep skipping and forfeiting, well, that’s his choice! Of course there are exceptions for emergencies, but “emergency” means emergency: it needs to involve an illness including fever, hospitalization of self or family member, or death in the family. I once had a student show up and my door and explain that her husband’s daughter stopped by and they were all going to go to the park! Not an emergency! lol
Make sure to address your pet peeves. For example, since you don’t like it when students just drop in a few times a year, describe the level of commitment you require.
If you have many students who are problems (and it sounds like you might), I would recommend that you ask everyone to sign the document to indicate understanding and acceptance, and get it back to you _before_ their next lesson. Settle on a grace period in your own head (such as one lesson), and stick to it. That’s the most important part. You need to stand firmly behind the policies you set. Keep some hard copies on your music stand for those who “forget” to bring it to that second lesson. As in, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I have some right here. Have you read it yet? No? Well, this is what it says. . .” Even read it to them word-for-word if you must, and then hand them the paper and a pen.
Whether or not you need the income, you’re running a business. Don’t be afraid to act like a business-owner! 🙂 It can be hard, but just remember: friendly but firm.
Best of luck!
Thanks for all the advice. I do charge by the month but I have three students whose families seem to never be able to provide the money on time. I will have to use the “lessons on hold until payment received approach.” I usually try to talk to the parents in person but they drop the kids off when they need to pay and I can’t get to them before they’ve driven away. I’ll have to send a formal letter with a reminder of studio policy.
I have experienced people who feel free to take advantage of a harp teacher, either by lying or false bargaining. If they think you are weak, they will do it. Some have no respect. With some it must be ego, and then there are those with disorders. Some are snobs, elitist or otherwise, some boorish, some ill-mannered, and some are just mean. Thank goodness it is a (hopefully) minority who are this way.
Mr. S, You have discovered the main stumbling block between liking the sound and look of harps, and being able to take lessons on a harp: the expense. Couldn’t they start on a small harp, made in your country? They could be sold cheaply if partly finished, in “kit” form. The family of the prospective harp player could finish it at home. Experienced stringed instrument builders in your area could make the kits, perhaps after purchasing one to use as a model. The builders would make more sales, the family purchasing the small harp would help their student, the student gains new marketable playing skills, the teacher gains a new student–somehow, starting small and gradually arriving at a larger harp could be the way over that stumbling block. If you offer a group rate for young beginners, the talented ones in your group will soon be apparent to you. When a teacher offers a scholarship (free lessons for a short time) such motivated students will want to continue and they will find a way to pay your full rate. A number of years ago my local newspaper published a picture of a young woman as she worked for the company that collects garbage from homes. The woman interviewed said she took the well-paying job in order to buy a harp. Another young person delivered morning newspapers before going to school each day. At Conservatory for four years, I waited on tables for the three summers in between those years, at a fancy resort in New York State. Wealthy patrons at the resort left handsome tips for the waitresses and for the caddies on the golf course. My “tips” helped with tuition at my school.
In ten years of teaching private piano lessons, I faced this dilemma many times. Eventually, I wrote up a studio contract which stated clearly each aspect of behavior in my studio, including payment and practicing expectations, then had the parents or adult student sign and date it at the first lesson. Every year or so I updated it and made sure everyone read it. This helped, to a large degree.
I also became much pickier about who I accepted as a student, always scheduling a (free) interview first before committing to teaching. There are some dead giveaways for problem students.
I hope you are able to figure it out!
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