Studio Management

Billing, scheduling, collections, fee raising, and other related topics.

When I moved to Denver, Colorado from Atlanta, Georgia eight years ago, I started working for a company that built computers. I began advertising for music students in my home for January 2001 by leaving brochures at a national chain music company, Guitar Center. By April 2001 I had signed up thirty students and had to quit my job at the computer company. I gave the music lessons in the finished basement area of my town home, providing me enough area for a waiting room, restroom, and two teaching studios.
I currently keep between forty and fifty guitar, bass guitar, piano and voice students, as well as teach music full time at a local high school. Most of my private students are referrals, although I continue to leave business cards and brochures at the music store as well as in schools.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a home music studio. However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of a home music business. Let’s start with the advantages.

ADVANTAGES

  1. Working your business from home gives you many tax deductions, including utilities and mortgage interest or rent deductions.
  2. You have more control over the studio enviroment verses working as a teacher in a music store. You can design the layout of the studio and use furniture/equipment that works the best for you and your students.
  3. There are no music studio rental fees to pay.
  4. Parents enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of a home studio waiting room. In a music store, parents usually wait in hallways on metal chairs. Many times parents and students from two different families will run into each other during lessons, not knowing that the other family also took lessons in the same studio.

Disadvantages

  1. Wear and tear on carpets, walls, entrance door, etc. Students carrying instruments often put small holes in the walls.
  2. Housekeeping needs to be done regularly, such as cleaning the bathroom, waiting room and studio, vaccuming, refilling supplies such as toilet paper, paper towels, and paper cups. And when it snows or rains, students and their family tend to track debris and mud into your home.
  3. There is an increase in your utility bills. On some occasions, students leaving the home left the front door open, causing the heat or air to stay on.

Next week I will discuss the layout of my studio, beginning with the Waiting Room. I will show you how I use the waiting room to market my business and handle collections while providing the students and parents a relaxing atmosphere. This is the room where the lessons begin and end.
The studio should work for you, helping you to recruit new students, retain current students, and provide the best learning enviroment for both you and your students.

I look forward to your comments and advice on your experiences in running a music studio business at home. What do you see as advantages and disadvantages? What are your success stories with your home music studio? What are your strategies?

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I’d like to call your attention to some very useful ideas about scheduling students using Music Teachers Helper; these ideas were suggested by Tina in response to my post a couple of weeks ago. Take a look at her comments at the end of that post, Tips for Easier Lesson Scheduling. She even has PDF examples of how she does it.

The basic idea is to add your own categories, such as “available”, “makeup lesson”, “group lesson”, or whatever you’d like to track or offer to students–and then color-code them to make them easier to see.

For example, I’ve taken to listing available lesson times [···]

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One of the most important benefits of Music Teachers Helper (MTH) is that students can look up information at their convenience: they can look up online when their next lesson is, what they did in their last lesson, what their payment situation is–and if you wish, they can look up alternative lesson times in case they need to schedule a makeup.

At this time of year, teachers are scheduling lessons for the fall, and MTH can make that much easier. Who hasn’t had to play phone tag or use multiple emails to schedule a lesson?

I’ve tried a few different approaches with MTH. One was to create events on the calendar that were global, open to all, showing when there were available lesson times. This had the benefit of being easily accessible to students, but the drawback was that most students didn’t need this information very often, and it cluttered up their own calendar, making it harder to view their own lesson information.

What I do now (though we would all appreciate hearing from you about your own experiments–just add a comment at the end of this post) involves a fictitious student named “Just Visiting.”  It works well both for new students trying to schedule a first lesson, and for existing students needing to reschedule. [···]

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