My top tip to any new private teacher would be to get a policy drawn up with your students. Everyone will be much happier for it! Pupils and parents need to know how you run things and your business will benefit from establishing some ground rules.
A feature I love about Music Teacher’s Helper is the “studio policy” web page that is part of the included music teacher website package. This gives us an opportunity to explain to prospective students, who might want to register for lessons, how we run our teaching businesses.
When I first started giving private music lessons I had no contract with my students. Things were casual. Some weeks pupils would turn up and pay for that lesson, other weeks they didn’t. It became very frustrating as I waited to see whether they would attend and pay and as a consequence, my earnings were extremely erratic. I began to quickly realise that I needed a solution otherwise I would simply run out of steam. Enter the contract!
I remember the night before I was planning to present my newly drawn-up contract to my students I was feeling rather anxious. What if they didn’t like the idea of a formal agreement? Would I lose pupils? A couple of parents grumbled but most, to my surprise, were very understanding and agreed that it was a good idea to get things into writing. The improvement was immediate! People were now paying for their lessons a month in advance and because they had paid, they were turning up. People were starting to take their lessons seriously, they were making musical progress, my earnings stabilised and so did my morale!
So do you have a contract/studio policy/terms and conditions? If not, maybe now is a good time to seriously consider how the benefits will improve your teaching business and even help your students. Here are some starting ideas (bearing in mind that I am not a legal expert):
• Make sure to date the contract at the top of the page so that they can see that you are regularly keeping your policy up-to-date
• State how much you charge so that all your pupils understand that they are not subject to different rates
• Explain that your fees are subject to annual review so that even if you don’t wish to raise your rate of pay in a years time, your students will not be surprised when they eventually increase
• Some teachers are happy to be paid on a weekly basis and others, per term. Personally, I’ve found that invoicing students at the beginning of a new month for that month is a nice balance of ensuring commitment from the parents but not making the charges overwhelming
• I’ve always insisted on weekly attendance to lessons and if lessons are missed for illness, offered an alternative catch up lesson so tuition is consistent and I still get paid
• In my policy, I state that “lessons must run strictly to schedule. Lessons will finish on time even if the Student arrives late.”
• Also important is to explain how much notice you expect if students wish to terminate their lessons
If you would like to take a look at my contract as a starting point, please click here.
What other important issues do you feel the need to be included in a music teaching policy? Feel free to leave a comment.