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8 minutes reading time (1599 words)

How to get paid on time

If you have successfully moved from a per-lesson payment system to a tuition-based structure,1 you may still be left with the challenge of parents paying on time. There are many ways to tackle this issue, so choose what works best for your business.  


Prepay in full

The most effective means of ensuring that payments come to you on time is prepayment. How your tuition is structured determines when these payments will be due, but it must be acknowledged that prepayment is difficult and sometimes impossible for many parents because of their budgets.

It is appropriate but not necessary to give parents who are prepaying in full a discount on their tuition. This helps motivate parents to make this commitment, and offers them a reward for doing so. Even something as small as a 2-3% discount is appreciated, though a larger percentage like 5-10% is even more motivating. 


Post-dated checks

Misinformation about post-dated checks is rampant in the piano teaching community. While it is not illegal per se to write or collect a post-dated check, there are several factors to consider when dealing with post-dated checks, and most consumers are advised not to do it.2

It is a liability for any piano parent to give you a post-dated check. They trust that you will not cash their check early and risk being overdrawn. Banks can cash any check (post-dated or not) at any time, so a claim can never be made against the bank. However, you could theoretically be liable if you cash their check early.

While the solution might seem to be cautious not to cash the checks early, it is never advisable to ask parents to do something that is financially risky for them. Their financial and legal advisors would most likely advise them never to write post-dated checks, so it is rather unprofessional to ask them to pay in this way. 


Scheduled monthly online bill pay

Besides prepaying in full, automatic bill pay is the best and most reliable way to get paid on time. Once parents set this up, they never again have to think about paying on time, which is a benefit they'll appreciate. Parents can add you and your address to their payees in their online banking. Then, they can schedule you to be paid the same amount every month for a set number of months.3 Extra expenses like books, one-time fees, or other incidentals can also be made via the same online banking bill pay, but will be a one-time instead of recurring payment.

The importance of selling parents on this idea cannot be underestimated. It will certainly save parents time and money (because there will not be late fees), but it will also save you time and energy in chasing payments, reminders, and more. Therefore, it is worth the time investment that it will take to convince parents to pay you in this way. Selling the idea of automatic bill pay should be done well in advance of the first payment due. For ideas, visit https://composecreate.com/get-paid-on-time-for-piano-lessons.

Of course, some parents do not use online banking and bill pay, so in your policy, you might want to allow for another form of payment. Here is sample wording you can use:

Payments should be made by online bill pay scheduled to arrive by the ____ of every month. Payment can also be made by check or cash, but if check, cash, or bank payments are late, there is a $25 late fee. When an account becomes more than thirty days past due, it will be considered in default and lessons will have to discontinue. Scheduled online bill payments through your bank are therefore the most reliable way to ensure that lessons are never discontinued for your child. 


Online payment options (automatic invoicing)

A few online payment processing systems offer automatic monthly invoicing. Fees are assessed when the invoice is paid (such as the 2.9% + $.50 transaction fee charged by PayPal), but the simplicity of not having to remember to invoice parents, invoicing them early at the same time every month, and allowing them to pay easily with their credit card can make this fee worthwhile. These are the two biggest payment processors and their automatic invoicing systems:

• Square: https://squareup.com/townsquare/how-to-recurring-payments

• PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/pdn-recurring (Note that you must have a premier business account to access this feature in PayPal.) 


Late fees

Late fees are necessary to help motivate parents to pay on time. All of your services that you use (utilities, internet, house payments, etc.) assess fees when you are late, so if you are not paid on time, then you cannot pay these services on time. Therefore, it is important not only to have a late fee, but also to enforce it.

Late fees can vary in price, but some typical late fees can be:

• A percentage of the bill

• $25 or any set amount after the payment is late

• A specified amount per day4

Enforcing the late fee is difficult but necessary, and should be treated in an escalating manner for each offense. For example: 


First overdue payment

Email the parents and tell them that their payment is late and remind them of the late fee. Feel free to waive the fee for this month, mentioning that you will have to assess it for any other late payments in the future.

Dear Mindy,

I just wanted to let you know that this month's tuition payment is late. I'm sure you have been busy and this is the first time it is late, so I will waive the $25 late fee if you can get it to me within three days. I won't be able to do this in the future since I can't pay my bills without getting paid myself. But I'm happy to do it for you this time if you can bring me the payment in three days. Thanks so much for your prompt attention to this matter! 


Second overdue payment

It is very important to enforce your late fee policy the second time a payment is overdue, as this sets the stage for how seriously parents take your late fees in the future. This may also be the time to mention again how online bill pay would save time and money.

Dear Mindy,

I just wanted to let you know that this month's tuition payment is late again. Unfortunately, you'll need to add the $25 late fee to your payment this time. Please send your payment of $xx [include the late fee in this] to me as soon as possible.

You might also consider scheduled online bill pay so you don't have to worry about this in the future. This is the method that most parents use, and it is super convenient. As long as you schedule the recurring monthly payment to occur by the tenth of every month through May, you won't have to worry about payments or late fees for the rest of the year.

Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter! 


Overdue payment more than thirty days late

The first and most important thing to do when a payment is more than thirty days late is to call the parent! You never know what is happening in a family, and most parents will share a problem on the phone or in person, but not by email. If you cannot connect even after contacting the parent by phone (and leaving messages) or in person several times, then this email or text may be appropriate. However, care must be taken that this is only used when you have repeatedly attempted to make contact in person or by phone.

Dear Mindy,

I hope everything is okay with you and your family. Please let me know what's going on. I'm so sorry to say that since your payment is more than thirty days late, it is now considered delinquent and lessons will have to discontinue until this payment and the next payment is made. Please let me know what you are thinking about this, as I'd hate to lose Suzie, but will have to accept another student to take her place in the schedule if payments is not made. 

Finally, apps like PayPal Here or Square can provide you with a credit card reader and the ability to process credit cards on site, which will allow parents to make delinquent payments at the lesson.

Though working with families with a delinquent account is difficult, it is very important to stay on top of this as resolving delinquent payments is even more costly the longer parents are allowed to not pay for lessons received.5 Proactively setting up an efficient system of reminding parents payments are due or allowing them to set it up one time and forget about it is definitely worth the effort!

Do you have a question for Making Money, Making Space? Send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 


1See the March/April 2015 issue of Clavier Companion.

2goo.gl/AsVW72

3Remember the importance of a yearly tuition that is divided into even monthly payments. https://composecreate.com/no-more-charging-lessons-by-the-week/

4See https://composecreate.com/a-policy-tip-from-day-care-5-a-day/ for an example.

5https://composecreate.com/whats-your-agreement-to-terms-good-for-court/Enter your text here ...


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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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