How People-Pleasing is Ruining Your Music Teaching Business and Your Life…
This is one of the most-asked questions on every music teaching forum. I hear it all the time. Everyone has strong opinions one way or the other. Teachers are wondering how to make a living, how to have a semblance of work-life balance, and how to do it without alienating students and parents.
As for me, there’s no question. I do not offer make up music lessons. It’s a hard and fast rule now. I only offer make up lessons when students are sick (or emergencies), and then only when it is convenient for me and the student.
I used to offer make up music lessons or refunds if my students gave me 48-hour notice before their regular lesson time. This ended up being a disaster. I was constantly rescheduling students (for hours when I didn’t really want to teach) and I was repeatedly reminding parents about the 48-hour notice rule. Everyone wanted make ups or refunds whether they canceled two days in advance or just didn’t show up.
When I switched to a no make-up or refund lesson policy, I lost a few students. But guess what? I made more money anyway. I bet you can guess why. Students actually showed up to their lessons.
Once my students were accustomed to the idea that they paid for my time whether they came or not, their lesson attendance was basically guaranteed. Now that I have been doing this for awhile, I have found that there are numerous reasons why a no make-up lesson policy is optimal. Here are ten:
1. You are basically hemorrhaging money when you teach make up lessons.
Not only are you losing the time of the original lesson, you are sacrificing an hour of your personal time to make it up later. You are giving them twice the time for half the money. And that’s not even taking into account all the time you are spending trying to re-schedule that lesson!
2. Attendance goes up.
If your students know that they have to pay for every lesson (they should be paying in advance by at least a month) they aren’t going to skip out for birthday parties or other nonessentials.
3. Your students progress more quickly.
Guess what happens when your students regularly attend their lessons each week? They get better! Even if they are not practicing, at least they have a consistent lesson each week and make some progress. Progress==>Excitement==>Engagement==>Retention.
4. Lesson behavior is generally better.
Kids thrive on routine. If they are constantly coming at a different time on a different day each week it throws them off their groove. This upset in the routine can make it difficult for them to perform at their best.
5. You make more money.
Not only are you getting paid for the lessons in your regular schedule, you may actually have room to take on more students because you are only teaching during your set teaching times. When you are teaching make up lessons all the time, there is no room for anyone else. Potential students languish on a wait list while your current students are canceling constantly. Making more money isn’t bad, and being worried about making money to pay your bills doesn’t make you a bad person. Yes, you teach because you love it, but you have to make money to live, and to invest in your business.
6. You have time to take care of the other things in your life.
Even if you don’t have kids that you need to be with during your off hours, your free time should be yours. You set your teaching schedule so that you would have time to take care of yourself, your home, your family, and your friends. If you are teaching make up lessons all of the time, and your work-life balance is not good, you will begin to resent your students. This feeling makes it extremely difficult to be the fun, exciting, amazing music teacher that your students need you to be.
7. You can be more organized.
It’s so much easier to prepare lesson plans and games if you know who is coming and when. If the schedule is constantly changing, it makes it difficult to do the little extra things that can make your lessons crazy fun.
8. You will attract higher-quality students.
The students who would be canceling all the time, are not likely to commit to consistent practice. You want students who will respect your time, schedule, and commitment to running a successful and fun violin studio.
9. You will save money.
If you are paying for child-care or renting a space in which to teach, you won’t have to make arrangements for more time because you are teaching make up lessons in addition to your regular teaching schedule. This is especially true if you are traveling to your teaching location. You will save money on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle.
10. Your studio parents will take you more seriously.
Do you know who doesn’t offer make up lessons? Karate teachers, ballet teachers, swimming teachers, soccer coaches, school teachers, and so much more. If you take yourself seriously enough to value your time, so will they. And who knows? Maybe they will practice…
Honestly, you will be a much happier and more effective teacher if you have a policy that protects your time. I know I am! I offer make up music lessons only in case of emergencies or illness (I don’t want to be exposed to every little thing, and I understand that sometimes you have car trouble, or water damage, or whatever.) I think a policy that is flexible in those cases, but firm for other “conflicts,” serves both the teacher and the student.
My students also know that if there is something that they would like to attend during their lesson time, they can contact another student to switch times. My students are usually happy to do this for each other, as they want others to be willing to do it for them.
Introduce the new cancellation policy in advance to allow parents to become accustomed to the new set of rules. If the idea of instituting a strict policy is scary for you, practice what you will say when students or parents call to cancel after you have introduced your new policy. Here’s an example from Emily Grossman:
“I’m sorry you can’t make it, I’d hate to see you pay and get nothing for it, but if this is what’s best for you, then I understand.”
Do you offer make up music lessons? Why or why not?
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