I have just finished updating two of the studio business forms from the Printables page.
The first one is the Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment pdf — I have updated the dates for use for the 2013-2014 school year. I received a number of requests from teachers to make this form available again this year, and I am happy to do so!
Here is how the form works: Write your students’ names in the first column. Each week, write the lesson date (in a month / date format) in the column for that week. This is how you can track attendance. The small circles in each cell are where you can write checkmarks indicating tuition payments. Whether you charge by-the-week or by-the-month, you can place a checkmark by each paid lesson date.
The second form that I updated is called the Record of Payments Received pdf. I print one of these sheets every month and put it into my 3-ring binder. I write the month/year in the blank at the top and then fill in all of my students’ names. As I receive monthly tuition payments from each student, I record the date, amount, and check number. Under “reason,” I write “September tuition” or whatever the case may be.
At the bottom on the sheet, there is usually extra room where I can record other income for that month, such as if I play for a wedding or speak for a piano teachers’ association. At the end of each month, I can easily total up all of the payments to see my income for the month. (To see my actual net income for the month, I would need to subtract my expenses — which I track in a separate Excel spreadsheet.)
Over the past couple of years, I have had little need for the first form mentioned in this post. While I was a college student, I had a lenient make-up/cancellation policy (which was suitable for me at the time, because my college schedule caused me to need to cancel lessons as much as my students did). At the time, that form was a huge help with keeping track of everything!
After grad school, I obviously became much more dependent on my income so it became necessary to run my studio differently So, my make-up policy is currently this: “Due to the teacher’s limited availability, makeup lessons cannot be guaranteed.” This is a very nice way to basically say that I do not offer make-up lessons — except in rare cases, at my own discretion.
After grad school, I also adapted a flat monthly fee for charging tuition (as advised by a colleague of mine). It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my piano teaching. The simple change to a flat rate (and calling it “tuition”) has helped students/parents get the idea that they are paying to reserve a weekly time slot in my schedule, versus paying me for actual given contact time during the lesson (read this article for more on that). If students decide to cancel a lesson in order to attend a birthday party or go on vacation, they certainly may do so but they still owe the monthly tuition as usual.
I liked the idea of keeping things simple with a flat monthly rate SO much, that I decided to charge a yearly registration fee that would cover the cost of books/materials throughout the year. I love the simplicity of this! Of course, I do have to keep track of how much I have spent in books each year for each student, so that I know that my registration fee is appropriate. But I no longer have to contact parents to get reimbursement for books or keep track about whether they have paid or not. This system works great for me. The other option, of course, is to have students purchase their own books.
Here is one more plus to charging a flat tuition rate: It makes it easier to raise your rates incrementally each year. (Remember, if you do not raise your rate each year, you are actually making less than you did the previous year due to the ever rising cost-of-living.)
This year, I raised my monthly tuition by $2 to cover the cost of living and to give myself a tiny raise. If I were still charging a per-lesson rate, I would have probably raised the per-lesson fee by a dollar — which is a pretty large increase that cannot be sustained year-after-year throughout a teaching career. I think this is why teachers sometimes do not raise their rates for 3-5 years at a time — because they realize it would be too great of an increase to do it every year (and for some reason they do not want to increase their rates by 50 cents or some such odd amount). It is better, I think, to teach our students/parents to expect small raises in the rate every year. The price of everything else in the world slowly goes up, and parents should not be surprised that the cost of lessons goes up each year.
I’m sure many of you charge tuition in a similar way and have similar policies, but I thought I would share in case there are any teachers out there looking for a better system! The most important thing is that every teacher must find a system that works appropriately for you and treats everyone fairly — you, your students, as well as the rest of the piano teaching profession.
What works for you? Please share in the comments below.