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Earlier this year, I decided to shift to monthly billing, charging my students a monthly, recurring flat-rate for their piano lessons.
Previously, like many teachers, I’d been charging on a lesson-by-lesson basis so, if a student had four lessons in a month at $50 per lesson, they’d be charged $200, etc. But if they missed one or there was a public holiday, they would be charged $150.
As you’ll see below there are a number of key disadvantages to this approach to charging, so in this article, I want to show you step-by-step how you too can simplify your billing process to the point of complete automation. In this post, you will also be able to find a video demonstration for how I charge my piano parents.
I guarantee you will never look back!
The biggest issue with this system is that you don’t get any continuity of income, especially over summer months when you or your students might be on holiday.
I never considered it an option to charge for each individual lesson, because unlike plumbers, dentists and auto mechanics, we teachers must rely on very small group of clients each week for our livelihoods, which means empty slots can’t be filled by clients who call each week. If a student wishes for a teacher to commit a time slot to them each week, the student must commit to paying for it each week. Chat Twedt.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with continuity of income during certain parts of the year, then this could be a valuable solution for you.
Charging by the lesson can also get complicated when:
There are so many advantages to recurring billing, both for parents and for you:
Here’s a comment I read on a blog post about this from Angela:
Aside from budgeting reasons, I made the switch because what we do is a course of study, not a doctor’s appointment. When you take a class at the park district or in college, you pay for the class as a whole, not for each individual session. You don’t get credit on your bill if you miss your Wednesday class. I think it helps convey the idea that music lessons are a long-term commitment and curriculum.
You need to be honest and clear with your students’ parents about monthly billing. A good way to do this is by setting up a studio policy.
One of the first things you’ll need to do in order to change your billing process is be very open with parents as to:
When I moved to this system, I started talking to parents in lessons about this and followed-up with an email explaining things and linking to my policy in detail.
If you’d like to access my own full studio policy, it’s available to all members of my Inner Circle in our community forums. Otherwise, if you’d like to explore what other people add to their policies, feel free to Google “piano studio policy”.
Here’s a short version of what I say about monthly tuition:
Tuition is spread equally over the course of a year and charged each month in advance. The monthly payment amount is divided evenly between the 11 months from February to December. This means that whether there are 5 or 2 lessons in that month, the tuition fee is exactly the same. Weekly students are allocated 35 lessons per year, fortnightly students will be allocated 17 lessons per year. Eg. If hourly lessons are $100 each and a student is having lessons weekly, their monthly charge will be $100 x 35 lessons = $3500/11 months = $318.20 per month.
Regardless of how you’re charging for lessons, it’s important to be clear about your make-up policy.
There is great conjecture about the best way to manage make-up lessons. I personally don’t offer make-up lessons but many teachers do. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide how you’d like to approach this.
There are lots of articles around the web on this topic as well. Here are just three you might like to take a look at as you consider your own policy stance:
In my ‘other life’ I am an economist and teach at our local university. Students pay good money to attend classes at the university; but if they don’t come to my lecture on a Monday morning, then I am not going to turn around and deliver them a private tutorial on Tuesday afternoon. When I go to the store and buy groceries, I may purchase something that doesn’t get used. Days or months later, I end up throwing it out. I don’t get a refund from the grocery store for the unused merchandise. If I sign my child up for swimming lessons at the local pool, and s/he refuses to return after the first lesson, I can’t get my money back….During May, my eldest son will be missing three lessons because he is going to accompany me on a trip to New Zealand to visit his great-grandparents. I do not expect my son’s teacher to refund me for those missed lessons, or to reschedule them by ‘doubling up’ lessons in the weeks before or after our departure.
If monthly recurring billing makes sense to you and you’d like to try it out, just follow this step-by-step plan:
I recommend MyMusicStaff as the simplest way to set this up automatically in your studio.
If you’re still using paper and pen or spreadsheets to track your income and sending invoices manually, then please stop wasting your time. There are much more clever ways to do this that don’t take a lot of learning or cost very much at all.
Here’s how you can set it up in MyMusicStaff:
If you’re interested in moving to MyMusicStaff, you’ll be able to access an exclusive discount as a member of my Inner Circle. Find out more here.
Before you jump in and start making changes, please keep the following in mind:
I also recently did a live Facebook video on exactly how to use this template. You can see a replay of that below.
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. It has made a huge impact in simplifying my studio policies and procedures and, so far, everyone is happy.
How do you charge for piano lessons? Do you charge on a monthly basis? Do you offer make-up lessons? Leave your view and any questions in the comments section below.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.