Change Things Around

Do you ever get tired of the same old thing and want to shake up the routine a bit? Or have you heard how other teachers do things, but are not exactly sure how it works? Today I am sharing some ideas to make your studio more responsive to your students’ needs and reduce the time you have to spend on the “business” end, so you will have more time to spend on music and teaching.

However, before you make any big changes in your studio, give your parents plenty of notice. That is why I am posting this in January and not July. You need time to think it through, write and re-write policy sheets, and finally inform parents BEFORE they sign up for fall lessons. If you make plans now, you can have everything set up for lesson sign-up in April. Yes, I said April!

Begin Lesson Sign-Up in the Spring

Teachers have told me they can’t make out their schedule until August, after parents know when soccer, scouts, choir, drill team, and 4H club is going to meet. My students sign up for piano first, in April, and they are very busy students. Why shouldn’t piano be the first thing parents schedule? Sometimes, but rarely, a conflict turns up in August or September and I have to find a student to switch with. Parents keep their time slot from year to year. Say good-bye to the summer-time schedule crunch forever!  Yes, you will need to require a deposit by April 30, but it can be refundable if it turns out there is an impossible conflict. I remember going to a sports meeting and the coach said they could practice Monday or Tuesday. One parent spoke up that Monday was scouts, so they decided on Tuesday. If one day is as good as the next, it might as well not be their piano day.

Online, Credit Card Payments

If collecting payments drives you crazy, a recurring PayPal payment may be your best friend. Yes, there is a fee but think about how nice it would be to never have a late payment again! [Or parents can pay you on their mobile device with Venmo, and there is no service charge!] Another idea is to ask parents to set up an electronic payment with their bank. At some banks it is free.

Mobile Deposits

If you receive monthly checks and have a smart phone, then “mobile deposit” is the way to go!  Once you set it up, all you do is take a picture of the check you want to deposit and it mysteriously shows up in your bank account. No more driving to the bank with a bunch of checks!

A Semester Discount

Paying by the semester saves everyone a lot of work. To encourage parents to pay by the semester, give a discount. Or raise tuition slightly for monthly rates. It is more work to deal with more frequent payments, so it is fair to have lower rates for semester payments. Paying by the semester may not be something your parents can swing, especially if you teach siblings, but some might surprise you and happily opt-in if it’s cheaper.

All Inclusive Books and Materials

By that, I mean parents give you one payment before lessons start to cover all their books and printing charges for the year or term. At some point I grew really tired of keeping lists with the cost of books and material and my parents hated being nickel-and-dimed to death. Music schools usually have a material fee for that purpose so I switched over to that. If you have a large studio, writing down every $6.99 and $2.99 for each student gets old quick. It’s been a real parent pleaser, too.

Overlap Your Lessons

Overlapping lessons is a great way to get the best of both private and group lessons. Many years ago I tried this in my studio so that I would have more time to work on theory. I asked my first student to stay 10 minutes later and the next student to come 10 minutes earlier. It gave us time to have some hands on learning, play some theory games, and even work on duets together.  It takes more work to make sure you have activities planned, and you have to be organized and able to stay on a strict schedule, so it’s not going to work for every teacher. This kind of schedule can be a little confusing, so I “made up” one below with a 10 minute overlap just as an example.  The beauty of this schedule is you are teaching the same amount of hours, but students are getting more of your time. Some teachers charge a bit more because you need more planning time. One suggestion is to try it with a few students for limited time to see how it works. Most students love getting to know other students in your studio. 

You might not think any of these ideas are right for your studio. We all have different communities, traditions, and expectations. But it’s always good to be exposed to different ideas, and maybe you’ve been considering some of these ideas yourself. Just remember to plan ahead, inform parents way in advance, then give it a try.


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6 thoughts to “Change Things Around This Year

  • Nancy

    Susan, I appreciated reading this post. I relate to the thoughts about keeping track of music book costs, as I am slipping behind on that this year. What is your flat fee for books and materials, if you would share? I’ve been reluctant to move to a flat materials fee, but am re-thinking that subject…especially when I read that it works well for all involved. Thanks!

  • Jennifer Foxx

    I just had to “2nd” the recommendation to do fall registration in April! This is when I do mine and everything is due back by May 1st (though I think this year I’m going to have it due back by April 15th instead). At the same time, they also choose their summer camp sessions. Parents LOVE having all this information early! 🙂

  • Sarah Stinson

    One of my parents who forgets the monthly check suggested Venmo so I downloaded it and signed up. It works great and now another parent is also using it. It’s easy and quick and saves the trip to the bank.

    I like the idea of the materials fee. I may start that in the Fall. Thanks for all of your ideas!

    • Susan Paradis

      Thanks, Sarah! Sounds like Venmo is definitely worth checking out!

  • Phyllis Pan

    Very nice….I’ve the overlapping lessons a lot this past semester. It also gives students a chance to make up for lost time if parents are late and helps if students are close to the same level. Haven’t tried the April deposit yet. I may do it in beginning of May as the kids are finishing up their recital pieces. About paypal…I have heard about Venmo….no fee. My sister in law started telling me about it over Christmas. I started looking at it over winter break. Couldn’t hurt to check it out too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Susan Paradis

      Venmo, thanks Phyllis, for reminding me. I have heard of it but forgot about it when I was writing the blog. I will do some research on that and update my blog. I suggested PayPal because more parents seem to know about it.


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