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5 minutes reading time (1080 words)

Making Money, Making Space

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I am excited to be bringing you the first in a series of columns devoted to the business of piano teaching! Whether you are new to teaching or have been teaching for fifty years, I hope these columns will bring a fresh perspective on how to help your business run more efficiently, make a consistent income, be less stressed about business matters, implement good business practices, and much more, so that you can spend your valuable time doing what it is you love: teaching.


You might think that a column devoted to business practices will be all about making more money. While this is important, we all know that money isn't the only factor that defines our success and satisfaction. This column will certainly discuss business practices that can help increase your income, but it will also address policies and practices that can create more space in your life for things that have meaning and impact.


Here's an example.

The phone rings. You screen the call and notice that it's Erika Johnson's mom, and you already know why she's calling—she wants an extra lesson. You really want to take the call because Erika is a diligent student who has a competition next week, and she definitely needs some help finalizing her pieces. She missed last week's lesson because her parents were out of town for a funeral. Unfortunately, you can't answer the phone because you're about to open the front door for Skip. Skip rarely practices, but you agreed to give him a make-up lesson when he missed his Monday lesson for a basketball game. You scheduled two other students for make-ups this week, and you are stressed because you're not sure you have room for Erika. The stress you feel about this, however, is not even close to the stress you feel about three families who are late with payments and another family who refuses to pay because they didn't attend any lessons last month! To make matters worse, after you give Skip his lesson, for which he wasn't prepared, his mother is fifteen minutes late to pick him up, making you late to your doctor's appointment.


Does any of this sound familiar?

Solid business practices and the courage to enforce them can definitely fix all of the problems in this little anecdote, and we'll be talking about many of these topics in future columns. But we don't often talk about the most important thing that good business practices and policies provide—clearly defined boundaries.

Boundaries are important because they create margin. And margin is where we have room to live, play, create, have fun, enjoy our families, be generous, read an inspiring book, and cherish the present moments more easily. In short, it's where we rejuvenate and energize our creativity and love of teaching. The story above demonstrates a lack of boundaries (or a lack of strength to enforce boundaries) The end result? There is little margin to provide a makeup lesson for Erika, and very likely there is little margin left for family, friends, or other important things in life.


Why are boundaries important for piano teachers?

Boundaries are important because they create margin. And margin is where we have room to live, play, create, have fun, enjoy our families, be generous, read an inspiring book, and cherish the present moments more easily. In short, it's where we rejuvenate and energize our creativity and love of teaching. The story above demonstrates a lack of boundaries (or a lack of strength to enforce boundaries) The end result? There is little margin to provide a makeup lesson for Erika, and very likely there is little margin left for family, friends, or other important things in life. Even the best of teachers, who love their families dearly, are at risk of losing margin in their life by having no boundaries. 

The good news is that all of this can be remedied! When our policies are structured, fiscally sound, logical, and firmly but kindly enforced, not only will these boundaries create more margin in our life, but we can also enjoy many other benefits!

• We'll have more time to give to truly needy or hard-working students like Erika. 

• We'll find it easier to be friendly and have fun in our lessons because our income is stable and we will not be stressed about making ends meet.

• We'll feel less stressed because our (macro) policies eliminate the need for numerous, micro decisions that eat away at our time and friendly disposition. 

• We'll have more time and energy to spend with our families, our children, and our friends. 

• We'll have more time and energy to put into planning for the success of our studio and each of our students. 

• We'll be more focused on teaching our students well. 

• We'll be less distracted by business issues during lessons and will be able to give our students more focused instruction.


What can I do now?

We haven't yet talked about what to change and how to change it, but since change usually takes time and our minds sometimes have to change before our behavior changes, I want to give you two action items that might help you consider areas in your business that need some adjustment. 

1. Make a list of any business related problems that you'd like to eliminate or solve. Identifying that something is a problem is often the first step to fixing it, but sometimes we don't take the time to do this. 

2. Ask yourself, "What would I like to do more of in life?" Then brainstorm about what you'd like to do less of in your piano business that might give you more time for these coveted activities.

I'm excited to be starting this new column in the forward-looking Clavier Companion and I would invite you send any topics or questions that you'd like to see in future issues to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I'd love to hear from you! 


1 "How to make a consistent income even when students miss lessons" will be addressed in a future article. If you need help with this now, please see: http://www.composecreate.com/nomore- charging-lessons-by-the-week/.

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The Future of Piano Teaching: Changes and Constant...
Mind matters: Perspectives
 

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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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