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#1266432 - 09/11/09 12:28 PM How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio?
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Hi all,

I'm sorta new here but I've been lurking around for a long time just learning from all your posts. So thanks! Y'all helped me determine a lot of my studio policies and rates! smile

I have a degree in piano performance and have taught and accompanied on and off over the last 10 years and I've also taught on a college level before, but slowed down to become a SAHM. Now that my kids are older I've decided I'm ready to officially open my piano studio "full" time.

I have 5 students at present and they're all serious music students which I love. I believe I'm a good teacher and I really love what I do. My current students seem very happy with me. They are a joy to teach!

I'm starting to advertise a little and I'm getting a ton of inquiries but no call backs after I send them my rates and studio policy, which is a bit discouraging.

My ideal would be to have about 15-20 students a week and I was wondering based on general experience here, how long it took you from start, to build up to about that many steady students or more?

I'm charging $20/ 30 min lesson and $30/ 1 hr lesson. One time $15 registration fee. Tuition due first lesson of each month, $15 late fee if paid past the first week. I take cash only and provide receipts upon request. All books and materials are at students cost.

My attendance and makeup policy is pretty strict, but not anything unusual as far as I can tell. I can lay it out here if anyone thinks it would make a difference. Basically makeup and rescheduling is at my discretion unless I'm the one that canceled. I make refund exceptions for some emergencies and long term illness.

I say that parents are welcome to sit in on the first lesson, but after that to drop the kid off as I find that they focus better w/o parents sitting in the background. (Also, I teach in my living room so I don't have a sep area for parents to sit and wait.

So, do you see anything in my studio policy or rates that would turn people off? I feel my rates are on the low side for what I bring to the table, but there are several teachers in my area charging anywhere from $12-$16 per 30 min lesson (I'm sorry but I just can't charge that low) and then there are the really qualified and experienced teachers charging waaay above what I'm charging.

I live in a huge metroplex and I think my fees are entirely reasonable but I've had a few people turn me down because of pricing. They told me they went to the cheaper teacher across town and that it came down to money. This was a bit depressing as I just cannot see myself lowering my prices that much and yet I would like to grow steadily.

So I guess this morning I have two questions for you all:

1) Do my rates and policies sound like a healthy way to build up a thriving studio

and

2) How long should I expect to work to get to 15-20 students?

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and expertise! I have learned much from you so far and hope to participate here on a regular basis.
_________________________
Pianist
Accompanist
Piano Teacher
and best of all...
Mom!

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#1266450 - 09/11/09 01:02 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Sparkler]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Hi Sparkler and welcome on board.

To me, your rates do seem low, especially if you're in a larger metro area.

Everything else sounds entirely reasonable.

You'll never be able to convince parents that cheaper teachers deliver cheaper results, so you're just going to have to grind it out.

If you do not have at least a MTNA Certification, you might want to invest in that. It's always good for parents to hear, "I'm one of ten certified piano teachers in our community. It's your guarantee that I know what I'm doing and can offer your more for your money." Or words to that effect.

Luck will have some bearing on your growth rate. Keep doing what you're doing and your studio will grow.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1266451 - 09/11/09 01:03 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Sparkler]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17786
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Welcome to the forum, sparkler! smile I'm not a teacher, but I can answer from the perspective of a parent or prospective student. Your rates seem very very reasonable to me, if anything on the low side. So I wouldn't recommend lowering them any.

The only thing that came across the least bit off-putting to me was your statement that you accept only cash. I don't know if it would be a deal-breaker for me, and I pay cash for most transactions anyway. But if a prospective teacher or repairman or whoever came to me and said "I only take cash," I would have one of a couple reactions: (a) the person is trying to avoid paying taxes, and do I really want to do business with a tax evader? or (b) the person doesn't trust that my check/word is good, and do I really want to do business with somebody who thinks I'm a deadbeat?

Like I said, it wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me, and I can understand why somebody would want to avoid problems involved with credit card payments or bounced check fees etc... but those thoughts would flit through my mind, and it could be one reason people aren't following up with you.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1266458 - 09/11/09 01:19 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Sparkler]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Many potential turn-offs:

The one time $15 registration
fee. In a tight economy people just
don't like to see things like this;
sounds like you're just trying to
shake them down for extra money.

All that stuff in the three paragraphs
above: "...Tuition due first lesson
of each month...don't have a separate
area for parents to sit and wait."
Some of it sounds outright hostile
to potential customers, in particular,
the phrases: "Tuition due" (that's
a terrible word, "due"), "I take cash
only" (you don't trust them to
pay with a check?), "provide receipts
upon request" (otherwise you
don't think they are even worth
writing a receipt for?), "makeup
policy pretty strict" (more terrible
words, "makeup," "strict"), "at my
discretion" (an offensive
phrase), "unless I'm the one that
cancelled" (you're going to cancel
out on them frequently?), "books and
materials are at students' cost" (this
might be par for the course, but do you have
drum this one more unpleasant fact
into them at this point?),
parents can't sit in (this is something
that can be discussed later), etc. These
might be pretty standard items, but
these are things that should be discussed
as a matter of course after you get them
in the door. You want them in the door,
not to run them off before they're
even inside.

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#1266466 - 09/11/09 01:34 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Gyro]
Knabe26 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 221
Loc: Northern California
I agree with what has been said so far. Your rates seem perfectly reasonable. It was the cash only that startled me a little, again for the reasons already mentioned. Also, while I used to prefer that parents weren't in lessons (for no particular reason other than I was new and uncertain), I now actually like it. I've always given parents the choice: drop off, stay in the next room, or actually sit in on the lesson. As a parent (of a now-adult), I probably wouldn't have sat in, but it might have raised some feeling if I was told I couldn't.
_________________________

www.cameronparkpiano.com
Full-Time Private Piano Instructor

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#1266474 - 09/11/09 01:51 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Gyro]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: Gyro
Many potential turn-offs:

The one time $15 registration
fee. In a tight economy people just
don't like to see things like this;
sounds like you're just trying to
shake them down for extra money.

All that stuff in the three paragraphs
above: "...Tuition due first lesson
of each month...don't have a separate
area for parents to sit and wait."
Some of it sounds outright hostile
to potential customers, in particular,
the phrases: "Tuition due" (that's
a terrible word, "due"), "I take cash
only" (you don't trust them to
pay with a check?), "provide receipts
upon request" (otherwise you
don't think they are even worth
writing a receipt for?), "makeup
policy pretty strict" (more terrible
words, "makeup," "strict"), "at my
discretion" (an offensive
phrase), "unless I'm the one that
cancelled" (you're going to cancel
out on them frequently?), "books and
materials are at students' cost" (this
might be par for the course, but do you have
drum this one more unpleasant fact
into them at this point?),
parents can't sit in (this is something
that can be discussed later), etc. These
might be pretty standard items, but
these are things that should be discussed
as a matter of course after you get them
in the door. You want them in the door,
not to run them off before they're
even inside.



I didn't quote my studio policy word for word...I was just quickly paraphrasing and boiling down what some of my policies are to get feedback here. Thanks for your opinion!
_________________________
Pianist
Accompanist
Piano Teacher
and best of all...
Mom!

Top
#1266475 - 09/11/09 01:52 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Knabe26]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Thank you, that was helpful.
_________________________
Pianist
Accompanist
Piano Teacher
and best of all...
Mom!

Top
#1266476 - 09/11/09 01:53 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Monica K.]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Welcome to the forum, sparkler! smile I'm not a teacher, but I can answer from the perspective of a parent or prospective student. Your rates seem very very reasonable to me, if anything on the low side. So I wouldn't recommend lowering them any.

The only thing that came across the least bit off-putting to me was your statement that you accept only cash. I don't know if it would be a deal-breaker for me, and I pay cash for most transactions anyway. But if a prospective teacher or repairman or whoever came to me and said "I only take cash," I would have one of a couple reactions: (a) the person is trying to avoid paying taxes, and do I really want to do business with a tax evader? or (b) the person doesn't trust that my check/word is good, and do I really want to do business with somebody who thinks I'm a deadbeat?

Like I said, it wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me, and I can understand why somebody would want to avoid problems involved with credit card payments or bounced check fees etc... but those thoughts would flit through my mind, and it could be one reason people aren't following up with you.


Thank you! I'm certainly not trying to evade anything but can see why some people might think that. Good point.
_________________________
Pianist
Accompanist
Piano Teacher
and best of all...
Mom!

Top
#1266477 - 09/11/09 01:57 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Gyro]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree about the "only accept cash" part of the policy. I recently opened up a Paypal account (which is free) and I can accept payments through that. They can pay it form a credit or debit card, or if they have or open a free Paypal account, they can pay directly from a bank account using that. It's pretty nifty. Also, in the years I've been teaching, I think I've maybe had two checks return insufficient funds. In all cases the parents compensated me for the bank charges in addition to covering the original check amount.

Also, do you do any in-person interviews before signing students up? I really like to do this because you really get a feel for the student and parents. You also get to show off "you wares" if you will, and they can see how good you are with their child. I usually don't send out my policy, but I do tell them my rates over the phone and let them know my policy is available on my website, which they are free to check out. Sometimes seeing all the "rules" upfront can be a bit off-putting. I usually hand them the policy at the free interview and ask them to look it over and call with any questions. I also say as I give it to them that this is a business and often I have to have so many rules because of the few who take advantage. This little disclaimer lets them know that I'm not outright assuming they will be slow paying or anything, but it does put it in perspective for them. With the interview, the focus is more on the child and answering the parent's questions in person.

I also like to have an 8-lesson trial period. That gives us both a chance to get to know one another, and then decide if piano study is working out. This is great for the first-time student whose parents aren't sure he'll stick with it. If we are both in agreement after the 8 lessons, then we can decide to enroll them as a regular student. They pay for the 8 lessons upfront, and if they cancel, then they do not get a refund, of course. I would say 99% of students sign up for regular lessons after the trial period. It's more for their reassurance that there's an "out" if they need it.

Lastly, if you wish to build faster, tell your current students and their parents you'll give them a free lesson if they refer a new student to you (if they actually sign up for lessons). You make up for the lost income with the first lesson of the new student, so it's well worth it! And you get your students and parents in the habit of talking about you to friends, which helps build your reputation. Word of mouth is so valuable!
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1266479 - 09/11/09 01:59 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Hi Sparkler and welcome on board.

To me, your rates do seem low, especially if you're in a larger metro area.

Everything else sounds entirely reasonable.

You'll never be able to convince parents that cheaper teachers deliver cheaper results, so you're just going to have to grind it out.

If you do not have at least a MTNA Certification, you might want to invest in that. It's always good for parents to hear, "I'm one of ten certified piano teachers in our community. It's your guarantee that I know what I'm doing and can offer your more for your money." Or words to that effect.

Luck will have some bearing on your growth rate. Keep doing what you're doing and your studio will grow.


Thanks for the encouragement. I am def interested in MTNA or at least the Guild and have been looking into getting certified.
_________________________
Pianist
Accompanist
Piano Teacher
and best of all...
Mom!

Top
#1266487 - 09/11/09 02:08 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Morodiene]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I agree about the "only accept cash" part of the policy. I recently opened up a Paypal account (which is free) and I can accept payments through that. They can pay it form a credit or debit card, or if they have or open a free Paypal account, they can pay directly from a bank account using that. It's pretty nifty. Also, in the years I've been teaching, I think I've maybe had two checks return insufficient funds. In all cases the parents compensated me for the bank charges in addition to covering the original check amount.

Also, do you do any in-person interviews before signing students up? I really like to do this because you really get a feel for the student and parents. You also get to show off "you wares" if you will, and they can see how good you are with their child. I usually don't send out my policy, but I do tell them my rates over the phone and let them know my policy is available on my website, which they are free to check out. Sometimes seeing all the "rules" upfront can be a bit off-putting. I usually hand them the policy at the free interview and ask them to look it over and call with any questions. I also say as I give it to them that this is a business and often I have to have so many rules because of the few who take advantage. This little disclaimer lets them know that I'm not outright assuming they will be slow paying or anything, but it does put it in perspective for them. With the interview, the focus is more on the child and answering the parent's questions in person.

I also like to have an 8-lesson trial period. That gives us both a chance to get to know one another, and then decide if piano study is working out. This is great for the first-time student whose parents aren't sure he'll stick with it. If we are both in agreement after the 8 lessons, then we can decide to enroll them as a regular student. They pay for the 8 lessons upfront, and if they cancel, then they do not get a refund, of course. I would say 99% of students sign up for regular lessons after the trial period. It's more for their reassurance that there's an "out" if they need it.

Lastly, if you wish to build faster, tell your current students and their parents you'll give them a free lesson if they refer a new student to you (if they actually sign up for lessons). You make up for the lost income with the first lesson of the new student, so it's well worth it! And you get your students and parents in the habit of talking about you to friends, which helps build your reputation. Word of mouth is so valuable!


This was of great help to me. Thanks. I liked your wording about explaining how you're running a business and need to maintain the rules because of an errant few. smile

So at this point, if I decide to change my cash only policy, does that make me look flaky to my current students? How do I approach that?

Thanks to you and all who are giving me better ideas!
_________________________
Pianist
Accompanist
Piano Teacher
and best of all...
Mom!

Top
#1266523 - 09/11/09 03:17 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Sparkler]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Sparkler,

I receive many inquiries from music directory services where my profile is listed. I have found that of the inquiries made the majority are hesitant and tentative in taking action toward actually making an appointment for a no-obligation get acquainted interview.

I think they just want to check: Location? Price? Is there an opening? They are shopping for these things and other than what they might have read in my profile they really know nothing about me, my teaching, or my studio.

I usually have handed all the paperwork out at the interview and asked them to read it and communicate with me about any questions, concerns or problems before enrolling. For the readers and signers of the contract, we are off to a good start! To those finding an obstacle, if they tell me about it, we can negotiated or discuss. To the ones who never quite got around to reading it they are showing me something important – their lack getting involved is not a good sign for them, for their child, or for me.

I am considering listing my welcoming letter, studio policy in it’s entirety with the tuition fees, special interest programs, registration form, the contract agreement, and the 30 day termination notice. I am also considering informational content about things parents have questions about.

This new website step would be because it’s very time consuming, and disappointing, as you said, to be “dropped” from the inquiry in it’s initial stages without knowing why.

The biggest problem seems to be that I want them to be somewhat knowledgeable before beginning about the roles of the parent, teacher and student as it is the beginning of commitment to our success as a supportive team to the student. I want them to agree to my policy because it works extremely well as a business tool and it’s democratic for all. It saves me hours of “repair work” when there are “misunderstandings” or “exceptions” or “disregard” to the “rules”. The policy says!

Sparky, your charges need to be higher. If you think of it as tuition for all services you provide and not just the lesson time on the bench, you will realize that you are deserving of higher income. Do the factoring of how many lessons you will give per year. How much does each student in a small beginning studio need to pay you per year to make it work at this point? When you have double your enrollment (10) what needs to happen? When you double it again (20)? I would recommend $1000 minimum per year per half hour student. This means 50 lessons per student per year to reach $1000. At $25 per half hour, 40 lessons equals the same.


Registration Fees cover things like piano tuning, business expenses, computer programs purchased for office or teaching uses, books for you, magazines, seminars, workshops, conventions you attend, membership in professional organizations, office expenses, advertising.
Etc. $15 does not cut it. I charge $35. I think John charges $75. I’m sure his studio operation requires it. I feel I’m a little low now, but the economy means I won’t increase it now, but later.

I think you need to reexamine your Make Up, Rescheduling, and Refund policies. There are other options of how to handle these things without you forfeiting your income. You must protect yourself against that.

If you would like to see my studio policy and enrollment documents, email me and I'll attach them for you.
bpps98374@comcast.net

As for when people decline your services for others that are cheaper, you need to know how to state the benefits of piano study with you – what do you deliver that others don’t? You need to learn how to overcome their objections. For instance, across town means they are spending time driving and gas money when you might be very convenient to them. Teach them to see the value of your services. This will be easier when you have a scrapbook of activities to show them, photos, recital programs, musical events you participate in with other teachers. You can build yourself a studio resume that is attractive to the consumer

When they ask simple inquiry questions, show great interest in their child – ask questions - quote known benefits to music lessons. This is one way to show that you give of yourself and invest in their child.

When you get the short shift from inquiries, I think it is often because they might not have a piano at home, the parent might not enjoy the weekly-ness of it, or be concerned about how the child will respond once in lessons. There may be a million other reasons why they didn’t get back to you – and you, like me, and many other teachers – find fault with something you did or didn’t do that caused them to drop you without knowing you. This is how the world turns in the piano teaching industry. If parents are looking for casual circumstances in piano lesson – easy in and easy out – and cheap – and easy to do, no rules – you can be grateful that others will take them on under those circumstances.

Personally, I’d rather wait for the student that will turn out to be a long term student and who at all times will be respectful of the policies of this studio.

Wait until you get the inquiry you can gravitate toward!

Betty Patnude

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#1266536 - 09/11/09 03:44 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Betty Patnude]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
A number of you commented on the "cash" basis she is proposing.

I find this interesting. I am old enough to remember when almost all transactions were done in cash. Groceries, lessons, doctors, gas, our first tv (I was in 5th or 6th grade and was with my mom when she picked out the set and paid for it). Checks came along as a banking convenience, and safety. It was harder for someone to steal and harder for you to lose or misplace than cash. Credit cards came along first, in stores. You could buy merchandise, take it home the same day, pay for it at the end of the month.

All of this was, by the way, before mandatory employer income tax withholding, and income taxes were still relatively low for the average Joe. You had considerably more disposable income each month than most of us have today. But that's another issue, not for this forum.

Even as late as the 60's and 70's, most people were paying cash for a whole lot of their shopping needs. My wife & I got our first non-store credit card in 1978. Before then, it was store cards/gas cards only.

Personally, I dislike accounting intensely. I offer a slight discount to parents if they pay 1/2 year at a time. I had been thinking about extending this to cash payments as well. After all, getting cash is a real convenience. Saves record keeping, trips to the bank, etc., etc., etc. At tax time I can multiply 10 months time $150 and figure out what I receive from a student.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1266539 - 09/11/09 03:54 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
You'll never be able to convince parents that cheaper teachers deliver cheaper results, so you're just going to have to grind it out.


But to whom is this addressed? Several have mentioned that Sparkler's rates are somewhat on the low end, does that mean that I can expect commiserate results? If a teacher is already charging below market, how is a customer supposed to know where that magic cutoff is between "getting what you pay for" and "getting a good deal"? Is a $20/lesson teacher much better than an $18/lesson teacher, much worse than a $22/lesson teacher? All things that are hard to judge to a parent who knows nothing about pianos and piano teachers. Not being judgmental on JvdB's comment, just addressing from a potential customers perspective, just how hard it can be to know how low is too low. And to acknowledge how difficult it can be as a teacher to determine "optimal" pricing.

To Sparkler, coming from a parent of students, ditto on ditching cash only, sends the wrong message. Also, related to the pricing issue above, perhaps one thing you can do is to throw up a website where you can specifically identify the value-added that you bring to the table, that a lower cost alternative might not. Many will not be swayed because they are purely driven by cost, but you may be able to sway a few. It will also give you a consistent story to tell even to those you talk to on the phone.

Don't forget the power of networking. Make yourself known to the local music/piano shops. But in general I think that JvdB is right, just keep producing happy customers and good piano players and soon enough word of mouth should get things rolling.

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#1266555 - 09/11/09 04:22 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Betty Patnude]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Sparkler,

I receive many inquiries from music directory services where my profile is listed. I have found that of the inquiries made the majority are hesitant and tentative in taking action toward actually making an appointment for a no-obligation get acquainted interview.

I think they just want to check: Location? Price? Is there an opening? They are shopping for these things and other than what they might have read in my profile they really know nothing about me, my teaching, or my studio.

I usually have handed all the paperwork out at the interview and asked them to read it and communicate with me about any questions, concerns or problems before enrolling. For the readers and signers of the contract, we are off to a good start! To those finding an obstacle, if they tell me about it, we can negotiated or discuss. To the ones who never quite got around to reading it they are showing me something important – their lack getting involved is not a good sign for them, for their child, or for me.

I am considering listing my welcoming letter, studio policy in it’s entirety with the tuition fees, special interest programs, registration form, the contract agreement, and the 30 day termination notice. I am also considering informational content about things parents have questions about.

This new website step would be because it’s very time consuming, and disappointing, as you said, to be “dropped” from the inquiry in it’s initial stages without knowing why.

The biggest problem seems to be that I want them to be somewhat knowledgeable before beginning about the roles of the parent, teacher and student as it is the beginning of commitment to our success as a supportive team to the student. I want them to agree to my policy because it works extremely well as a business tool and it’s democratic for all. It saves me hours of “repair work” when there are “misunderstandings” or “exceptions” or “disregard” to the “rules”. The policy says!

Sparky, your charges need to be higher. If you think of it as tuition for all services you provide and not just the lesson time on the bench, you will realize that you are deserving of higher income. Do the factoring of how many lessons you will give per year. How much does each student in a small beginning studio need to pay you per year to make it work at this point? When you have double your enrollment (10) what needs to happen? When you double it again (20)? I would recommend $1000 minimum per year per half hour student. This means 50 lessons per student per year to reach $1000. At $25 per half hour, 40 lessons equals the same.


Registration Fees cover things like piano tuning, business expenses, computer programs purchased for office or teaching uses, books for you, magazines, seminars, workshops, conventions you attend, membership in professional organizations, office expenses, advertising.
Etc. $15 does not cut it. I charge $35. I think John charges $75. I’m sure his studio operation requires it. I feel I’m a little low now, but the economy means I won’t increase it now, but later.

I think you need to reexamine your Make Up, Rescheduling, and Refund policies. There are other options of how to handle these things without you forfeiting your income. You must protect yourself against that.

If you would like to see my studio policy and enrollment documents, email me and I'll attach them for you.
bpps98374@comcast.net

As for when people decline your services for others that are cheaper, you need to know how to state the benefits of piano study with you – what do you deliver that others don’t? You need to learn how to overcome their objections. For instance, across town means they are spending time driving and gas money when you might be very convenient to them. Teach them to see the value of your services. This will be easier when you have a scrapbook of activities to show them, photos, recital programs, musical events you participate in with other teachers. You can build yourself a studio resume that is attractive to the consumer

When they ask simple inquiry questions, show great interest in their child – ask questions - quote known benefits to music lessons. This is one way to show that you give of yourself and invest in their child.

When you get the short shift from inquiries, I think it is often because they might not have a piano at home, the parent might not enjoy the weekly-ness of it, or be concerned about how the child will respond once in lessons. There may be a million other reasons why they didn’t get back to you – and you, like me, and many other teachers – find fault with something you did or didn’t do that caused them to drop you without knowing you. This is how the world turns in the piano teaching industry. If parents are looking for casual circumstances in piano lesson – easy in and easy out – and cheap – and easy to do, no rules – you can be grateful that others will take them on under those circumstances.

Personally, I’d rather wait for the student that will turn out to be a long term student and who at all times will be respectful of the policies of this studio.

Wait until you get the inquiry you can gravitate toward!

Betty Patnude


Thank you Betty - this was very helpful as well. I would like to point out - the the reason I'm starting out on the low end, is precisely because I do not have the MTNA certification, the long history of studio recitals, music camps, etc etc. So there isn't much I can do at this point to dangle a carrot in front of a parent except for, a) I have a degree in piano and b) My very very tiny handful of students so far, really like me as a teacher. I figured I could always increase my fees once a year as I grow my studio experience and gain certification, etc.

I also thought about trying to convince some of those parents that cheaper wasn't better - however - I was wary of coming across like I was defensive or trying too hard to lure them to my studio instead. So usually I've just said something along the lines of, "I'm glad you found someone to meet your needs." and left it at that.

I agree with you that I would prefer to wait it out for the long term student who actually loves music. It is such a chore teaching those who don't care!

Thank you again, great thoughts for me to ponder. And I've emailed you as well. :-)


Edited by Sparkler (09/11/09 04:26 PM)
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#1266563 - 09/11/09 04:37 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: bitWrangler]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: bitWrangler
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
You'll never be able to convince parents that cheaper teachers deliver cheaper results, so you're just going to have to grind it out.


But to whom is this addressed? Several have mentioned that Sparkler's rates are somewhat on the low end, does that mean that I can expect commiserate results? If a teacher is already charging below market, how is a customer supposed to know where that magic cutoff is between "getting what you pay for" and "getting a good deal"? Is a $20/lesson teacher much better than an $18/lesson teacher, much worse than a $22/lesson teacher? All things that are hard to judge to a parent who knows nothing about pianos and piano teachers. Not being judgmental on JvdB's comment, just addressing from a potential customers perspective, just how hard it can be to know how low is too low. And to acknowledge how difficult it can be as a teacher to determine "optimal" pricing.

To Sparkler, coming from a parent of students, ditto on ditching cash only, sends the wrong message. Also, related to the pricing issue above, perhaps one thing you can do is to throw up a website where you can specifically identify the value-added that you bring to the table, that a lower cost alternative might not. Many will not be swayed because they are purely driven by cost, but you may be able to sway a few. It will also give you a consistent story to tell even to those you talk to on the phone.

Don't forget the power of networking. Make yourself known to the local music/piano shops. But in general I think that JvdB is right, just keep producing happy customers and good piano players and soon enough word of mouth should get things rolling.


Thanks for your thoughts! It has been so difficult to settle on my rates. I don't know the other piano teachers in the area (yet) so all I can go on when looking up their rates is the information they put out about themselves on their websites. What I am seeing is that those who have degrees in piano, or are MTNA certified and are actively involved in the music community, charge a whole lot more than what I charge.

And then there are those who have no degree, no certification, and appear on the outside to be hobbyists, and they under charge everyone, $10 a lesson, $12 a lesson etc. I can't judge their teaching or playing abilities, but I know that I have 3 students who came from those kinds of teachers (their parents thought they were getting such a good deal!) and when those students came to me I had a host of bad playing habits to deal with. On the upside, it was very gratifying to see lightbulbs go off in their heads every week as I tried to actually challenge them and open doors for them, musically speaking.

I feel very stuck in the middle. I believe I teach well and I am an experienced pianist with a degree, but have not gotten very involved with the music community at large.

Because of you all I am definitely changing my cash policy. I am a little hesitant to change my policy after the year has already started... however I suppose with such a small studio to begin with it shouldn't be that big of a deal...?


Edited by Sparkler (09/11/09 04:43 PM)
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#1266564 - 09/11/09 04:37 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Sparkler]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I wouldn't expect someone just starting out with little to no experience to charge the same rate as someone with more experience. As you gain experience, you can gradually increase your rate. And being at the low end of the current teaching population will help build your studio faster, as long as it's not too far below the going rate.
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#1266571 - 09/11/09 04:46 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full stud [Re: Minniemay]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I wouldn't expect someone just starting out with little to no experience to charge the same rate as someone with more experience. As you gain experience, you can gradually increase your rate. And being at the low end of the current teaching population will help build your studio faster, as long as it's not too far below the going rate.


Yes I was thinking along the same lines as you. I am in a rather unique position, because I have taught for 10 years prior to this, however, it was just for a few friends kids at a time, and one year of experience being adjunct piano instructor at a local college (until we moved away from there.)

So I'm experienced at teaching in general, but not experienced in running an official studio and do not have the certification or a string of successful student recitals to back me up. Does this make sense?

But yes, this is why I decided to charge on the lower end starting out.
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#1266579 - 09/11/09 05:03 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Sparkler]
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
Originally Posted By: Sparkler
And then there are those who have no degree, no certification, and appear on the outside to be hobbyists, and they under charge everyone, $10 a lesson, $12 a lesson etc. I can't judge their teaching or playing abilities, but I know that I have 3 students who came from those kinds of teachers (their parents thought they were getting such a good deal!) and when those students came to me I had a host of bad playing habits to deal with. On the upside, it was very gratifying to see lightbulbs go off in their heads every week as I tried to actually challenge them and open doors for them, musically speaking.

I feel very stuck in the middle. I believe I teach well and I am an experienced pianist with a degree, but have not gotten very involved with the music community at large.


Like I said (and I see that Betty said effectively the same thing before I did) that you just need to have a compelling story for why someone should spend the extra $$$. Really, outside of playing the "race to the bottom" game with prices, what else can you do? Guaranteed you will continue to lose some based purely on bottom line. That's fine, just keep plugging away. But do crank up the networking. When we were first looking for piano teachers for our kids, one of the first things we did was head over to the local Steinway shop and asked them for recommendations for teachers.

Originally Posted By: Sparkler
Because of you all I am definitely changing my cash policy. I am a little hesitant to change my policy after the year has already started... however I suppose with such a small studio to begin with it shouldn't be that big of a deal...?


I can't imagine that it would actually be a "problem" for anyone. Some might even welcome the change. I could see how if you were going the other way (from accepting various forms of payment to only accepting cash) that that would cause some distress. Like JvdB mentions you could always offer a "cash discount" and/or a discount for prepayment.

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#1266620 - 09/11/09 06:23 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: bitWrangler]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Sparkler, virtually all my students pay by check, year in and year out. I found it necessary, however, to institute a bad check policy. The parent must cover that return check fee. They must pay an inconvenience fee to you - after all, you've done without the payment, even though you had your own obligations to meet, and you might say in that case, payment in cash or money order is required before lessons continue.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1266647 - 09/11/09 07:36 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Hi Sparkler,

I had 5 students my first year. Then advertised on Craigslist and gave a certificate for a complimentary month of lessons to a raffle/fundraiser at my son's elementary school. Still have 3 students who found out about me thru Craigslist and one student plus two referrals from the winners of the raffle. The second year I had 12, and now starting my 3rd year I've gotten word of mouth referrals...now at 18.

I did get inappropriate responses also from Craigslist...but just deleted them. And now I no longer have to advertise. Still, it helped me get started.

I too made policy changes shortly after a couple of new students started lessons. But it went over OK. Now I'm planning rate increases and any policy tweaking to be done once a year.

I wish you well!

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#1266649 - 09/11/09 07:46 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Overexposed]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
I wanted to say it doesn't look "flakey" to change your policy. You could give the updated policy saying you think this will work better for parents (to pay by check or cash)...showing you're making every effort to change when needed to meet their needs.

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#1266678 - 09/11/09 08:50 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Overexposed]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
The benefit of the additional choices is that you are giving them more options with which to make payments to their convenience.

Think in "benefits" to the consumer in voicing any changes or implementing new things in your studio policy.

The times during the year I consider ripe for changing policy are for September new enrollment, January, the new year, and sometimes, June if I am picking up new students for the summer.

The policy signed previously with current clients is in force until their calendar date which begins a new year of learning.

I give out the new policies as they are instituted with new students. Present clients know the change will affect them on their next anniversary.The contract they signed with me at their enrollment rolls over into each new year until they give me 30 days notice to terminate.

About your MTNA membership - chapter, state, and national: You don't have to be prepared to be certified to join. And, you do not have to become certified unless you wish to go that route either through academic credits you have earned, or by "testing", or both. There are a few programs leading up to passing the certification exam around the country, and possible someone is doing the teaching for preparing for that in your own commuinity. Your state should have a "Certification Chair" to ask questions of which would be a good step for you since you have a degree in place already.

I paid about $139 for chapter, state, national this past June. It has always been between $100 and $139 since I've been a member in 1981. It's incredible that we get this huge professional association and their benefits in behalf of music teachers at such a low annual price.

If you haven't visited the national website before, please do.
www.mtna.org

With every encouragement and good wishes as you build your career and business!

Betty

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#1266713 - 09/11/09 10:07 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Betty Patnude]
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
I agree with most everything that has already been said. I also think that cash only is more difficult to keep track of. It is a lot easier to keep track of checks that have parent's names on them. I have had a few parents that paid in cash and I felt obligated to give them a receipt. I have had one bad check in almost 20 years and the parent called and told me before I even knew about it.

As far as parents at lessons, I encourage that, especially for young beginners. I want the parents to be resonsible and involved in the student's daily practice. Plus they see their progress and appreciate their accomplishments more when they hear what we are doing from week to week. If the parent hears me praising their son/daughter for doing such a good job at the lesson then everyone goes home feeling good about what they are doing. Likewise the parent can hear when the lesson is not quite up to standard and can help son/daughter get back on track.

Also I would recommend joining your local MTNA organization. They often have programs and events that can involve your studio.

As far as helping your studio to grow. My first students were from friends at church. My children were in school and their friends began calling for lessons. It can be challenging to teach a student one day and have them come over and play with your children the next but we made it work.

Good luck.

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#1266719 - 09/11/09 10:20 PM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Betty Patnude]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1265
Loc: California
I was going to echo Betty's comment about MTNA. Joining MTNA is different from being MTNA certified. You do have to meet certain qualifications to join, and there are a wealth of programs available to you and your students when you do join. That, in itself, will set you apart from other neighborhood teachers, particularly those who are just teaching for 'a little extra spending money'. You can then decide if you want to become certified.

I would venture that if you joined MTNA and/or Guild, and mentioned it in advertising for students, you would have no trouble getting a nice number of students. Many MTNA branches are listed in the yellow pages, have their own websites, etc..., and include a list of all teacher-member names and contact info.
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#1266848 - 09/12/09 03:01 AM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
I agree with all of the statements made here. I would make your policy sound as welcoming as possible without compromising the content.

This is how my policy is organized

LESSONS: Lessons are held once a week…..Lessom are held in a room closed off from the rest of my home, do not knock, come in and have seat. Parents are encouraged to sit through…All music and materials are provided…..

FESTIVALS RECITALS COMPETITIONS: Several events are planned through out the year and each is optional. (List events and brief description)

TEACHER RESPONSIBILITY: Student are taught from the Piano Adventure method books. The curriculum is supplemented with addition and even advanced music theory….at an intermediate level students are given the opportunity to study a much more demanding classical curriculum. This includes…..

STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY: Student should practice on a well maintained piano….Students are expected to practice the assigned pieces. Bring all music and binders to each piano lesson. Fingernails should be trimmed. Listen to and purchase piano music CD’s

CANCELLLATIONS: Cancellations should be made before the lesson. If a lesson is cancelled, it can be rescheduled the first Saturday of the month at 8:00 a.m. Periodically, soccer, baseball of other seasonal activities my interfere with piano lessons. Since this usually happens to several students at once, moving lesson times may be possible…. If public school classes are cancelled due to weather, piano lessons are cancelled. Tuition statement will be prorated…… .If a student is discontinuing lessons, notice is appreciated

TUITION and COSTS: Monthly Tuition for the 2009/2010 year is……There are no lessons scheduled for two weeks over Christmas, one week Thanksgiving…..Monthly tuition will not be prorated for those holidays. Other holidays or teacher cancellations will be prorated…….All music and books are provided at no extra charge. Students are required to purchase an inexpensive metronome and pocket Music Dictionary…..There may be additional registration fees for competition, auditions and recitals.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

TEACHER BIOGRAPHY:

This is a very condensed version of my Policy Statement. Notice that I start by selling lessons. My studio nitch is auditions. So I sell that first. Then I list Teacher Responsibilities and THEN Student Responsibilities. At the end I discuss tuition

Just some ideas.
_________________________
Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.


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#1266849 - 09/12/09 03:05 AM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5510
Loc: Orange County, CA
If you live in an area with a plethora of piano teachers and 15 "music schools" within a 10 mile radius, you're not likely to have a healthy full studio, no matter how good you are--unless you charge way less than everybody else.

Being a member of a professional organization does help, of course, unless there are 200 other teachers in the organization vying for the same 2,000 students in the local area. You're lucky if you get 20 students.

Location, location, location...applies to piano teachers, too.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1266861 - 09/12/09 03:38 AM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Mrs.A]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
You asked how long it took to build a studio. I don’t think anyone addressed that question.

I certainly paid my dues playing for Christmas programs and church services. Before I started teaching I had many people ask me if I taught because they saw me playing for an event. I also worked with many of the musical people in the community. One dear lady, who was the music director of a large Lutheran church referred many students to me. I grew very quickly. I had 20 students in six months. I hit the jack pot when an elderly teacher decided to retire. She referred her whole studio to me.

Then we moved to another community. I had no exposure in this new community and no desire to play for many events. I could hardly get off the ground. In two years I had a handful of students. Fortunately my husband’s job took us back to the original community and I was able to quickly grow a studio again.

I would suggest you play for as many events as you can. Credentials are important but doesn’t carry much weight for those who know little about music. Let people see you play for a Christmas Cantata. Get to know the music teachers in you school district and offer to play for their programs. Parents often ask their school music teacher for a piano studio referral. Ask your piano families to refer others.

Good Luck.
_________________________
Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.


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#1266941 - 09/12/09 09:11 AM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: Mrs.A]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
You asked how long it took to build a studio. I don’t think anyone addressed that question.



Mrs. A,

You're right and I was hoping some would. So thank you, this was helpful. I, too, moved to this area a few yrs ago and didn't really have time/desire at the time to get involved with the music community, except for church. Unfortunately, I actually have had a lot of ppl ask me if I teach, and I had told them all no, because I didn't at the time. Wish I could remember everyone that asked, now! Def need to start networking.

Also, thanks for sharing how you organize your policy. That was helpful to me also. I appreciate it.

Thank you so much
-Sarah


Edited by Sparkler (09/12/09 09:14 AM)
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#1266943 - 09/12/09 09:13 AM Re: How long did it take you to build up a healthy full studio? [Re: AZNpiano]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
If you live in an area with a plethora of piano teachers and 15 "music schools" within a 10 mile radius, you're not likely to have a healthy full studio, no matter how good you are--unless you charge way less than everybody else.

Being a member of a professional organization does help, of course, unless there are 200 other teachers in the organization vying for the same 2,000 students in the local area. You're lucky if you get 20 students.

Location, location, location...applies to piano teachers, too.


Are you saying I should quit now...? grin
I know you are right, because my one friend who teaches piano (and is not a pianist) charges very little and has a full studio. She has tried referring her wait list to me and they all think I'm too expensive, so....
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