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Creating a Studio Policy

Great relationships rely on clear expectations and good communication. Without a Studio Policy you could potentially damage the most important relationships in your teaching practice. An effective Studio Policy, and the consistent enforcement of it, will help you build and maintain solid relationships with your students. A Studio Policy both informs your student as to what they can expect from you, and most importantly it sets out your expectations of your students. Without a solid Studio Policy, you will inevitably spend less energy on teaching and more on managing people.My Studio Policy addresses the following topics:

  1. Lesson Times
  2. Lesson Fees, invoicing and due dates
  3. Contact Details
  4. Procedure for both teacher & student absences
  5. Catch Up Lessons
  6. Termination Policy
  7. Practice expectations

Before creating your Studio Policy, consider your preferences carefully. Outline the times that you are willing to teach. If you don’t want to teach past 5pm, put it in your policy. If you don’t want to start before 10am, put that in there too. Most teachers are kind & accommodating, and if you’re anything like me you, you will find it difficult to say no when asked if you can teach half an hour later. Being able to refer to my teaching times in my policy enables me to be more assertive.  I also outline term dates in this section of the policy so that there is no confusion during the holiday season.

Set your fees in relation to the industry standard in your area and your qualifications. Decide if you will charge per lesson, or charge a monthly retainer for a certain number of lessons per year. Inform students when they should expect to receive invoices, and when payment is due. If you charge late fees include that here also.

Inform parents of your contact details, as well as the appropriate times for contacting you. With so many methods of communication, I find that there is an expectation that I will be available to answer questions at any time of the day or night, 7 days a week. In my studio policy I state that parents are welcome to contact me via email at any time, and they should expect to receive a response within 24 hours. They can phone me between 7am and 5.30pm weekdays, or speak with me during their child’s lesson.

The next section of my policy is referred to constantly. It outlines what will happen in the event of my absence, or the absence of a student. This includes the amount of notice required for planned absences (eg. school camps) and unplanned absences (eg. illness). If you offer catch up lessons, the conditions for these also need to be outlined clearly. I also inform students of how much notice they are required to give to terminate lessons.

Finally, the most important section of my Studio Policy outlines my expectations for student practice and tips for how parents can help their child practice (in the case of younger students). This means that prior to beginning lessons with me, my students and their parents understand that I expect a commitment to practice.

If you are new to teaching you will most likely find that you have to refine your policy as your studio grows and your circumstances change. Making changes to your policy is perfectly fine, as long as you give your students reasonable notice of the new policy.

What’s in your Studio Policy? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Nicole Murphy
Nicole Murphy is a pianist and composer residing in Queensland, Australia. She has been teaching both piano and composition privately and in schools for over 8 years, with students currently ranging in age from four years to eighty-five years. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Honours Class I) from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and is currently working towards a Masters of Music. As a freela... [Read more]

4 Comments

  1. Sandy

    How about adult students? Do you hold them to the same policy? I’m having trouble with that. I have read other peoples’ blogs that say they are more lenient with adult students, but I don’t want it to affect my income.

  2. Dan Callaway

    Great article, Nicole. Thanks.

    Sandy, I teach adults (mostly professional performers), so their schedules are always changing. I keep my policy very simple….24 hours’ notice to cancel, otherwise they are responsible for the lesson cost.

    I do sometimes bend on this if the client gets sick that day or a last minute audition comes up….they appreciate it and it builds loyalty….you can discern whether they are genuinely in a bind or just being flaky.

    My clients pay at each lesson, so if they’ve missed and owe me, I just make sure I communicate to them before their next appointment, “Great…see you then, and you can just settle up for the missed lesson when you see me again….” Make it sound like, “Oh, of course you understand the policy.”

    This was uncomfortable for me for a while, but I found the more chill and matter-of-fact you are in handling it, the better.

  3. Leila Viss

    I began teaching adults because they could arrive during the hours that K-12 students cannot. So, the revenue generated from adults has been seen as supplemental to the the income made during premium hours. With this frame of mind, it is easy to stay more relaxed with my adult student policies. They appreciate flexibility very much as many are retired and travel. Some work and work always comes first. All students arrive out of pleasure and not out of pressure. Many prefer to drop in for a lesson here and there so I charge accordingly. Because of this, I have maintained students for over 15 years and they continue to refer friends. I am grateful that they don’t ALL arrive EACH week as it would be TOO busy.

  4. Jeanette

    I have had policies like these for quite a while. Students or their parents (depending on the age of the student) sign the policy letter before beginning lessons. But, I am having a hard time with them actually following the policies. Many people try to just not pay for lessons if they know they will be out of town, rather than scheduling a make-up (or catch-up) lesson. I also offer a pop choir to my students and even though they sign the letter and pay for the rehearsals, many of them still do not show up for rehearsal. How to I enforce my policies without losing my students?