Three keys to making a consistent income
One of the unhealthy mindsets in our profession is the notion that piano teachers cannot make a reasonable or a consistent income. This is tragic because it is simply not true! Adjusting your business policy to ensure a consistent and reasonable income can be accomplished in three steps.
Reframe how you think and talk about payments
When we charge a weekly lesson rate, parents think they are only paying for their weekly appointment and will sometimes feel free to withhold payment if they miss a lesson.
But think about your year of teaching. In addition to giving your students a weekly appointment you are also:
• Choosing appropriate repertoire
• Carefully planning each lesson
• Planning and facilitating festivals, recitals, and events
• Creating motivational programs
• Attending continuing education events and forums
• Subscribing to journals for professional development
• Doing many other things to help your students
Because parents cannot possibly know about these invisible aspects of teaching, it is important to inform them about all the services that we give our students. Reframing your fees as a "tuition package" will help parents understand that their investment pays for a number of valuable services. This also assures parents that if they happen to miss a lesson (more on make up lessons next time), they will still be receiving value for their investment.
Revise how you calculate and collect payments
Budgeting is a challenge for both piano teachers and their families. But when payment for piano lessons is calculated as a "tuition package" divided into equal payments, budgeting is easier for parents, and making a consistent income also becomes easier for the teacher.
Moving to a "tuition package" will be one of the best things you do for your studio.
Setting up this tuition package model is easy with these four steps:
1. Divide your year in one of three ways (by the year, by the semester + summer, or by the school year + summer).
2. Calculate how many weeks you want to teach in each time segment.
3. Multiply this number of weeks by your "per lesson" price. Keep in mind that you will never share this "per lesson price," as you want your families to get away from thinking this way about your services.
4. Decide how often you want to be paid. Divide the previous number by this and collect tuition!
Here are three examples of how you can apply this process:
Example 1: Tuition by the year
1. You choose to collect tuition by the year, and you teach 44 weeks each year.
2. Your lesson price is $35 per lesson x 44 weeks = $1540 yearly tuition.
3. You want to collect monthly, so $1540/12 = $128.33 per month. This means that you will collect $128.33 per month, regardless of whether the month has 1 or 4 lessons in it. Make the number easy to remember by rounding down to $128.
Example 2: Tuition by the school year
1. You choose to collect by the school year (summer is not included), and you teach 30 weeks during the school year.
2. Your lesson price is $35 per lesson x 30 weeks = $1050 school year tuition.
3. You want to collect monthly, so $1050/9 (September-May) = $116.67 per month for 9 months. Families pay $117 each month, regardless of the number of lessons.
Example 3: Tuition by the semester
1. You choose to collect by the semester (summer is not included), and you teach 15 weeks each semester.
2. Your lesson price is $35 per lesson x 15 weeks = $525 semester tuition.
3. You want to collect by the semester, so families pay $525 for the semester. You could offer an option of paying $265 two times during the semester, thereby giving a discount to those who opt for one payment.
In examples two and three, you can calculate your summer tuition in the same way (calculate weeks taught, multiply by price of lesson, and divide total into equal payments). By not including summer in your tuition, you are free to price things differently should you decide to offer camps or take extra time off.
Communicate changes with a parent's point of view in mind
Moving from a per lesson payment structure to a tuition package can be a smooth transition if you communicate clearly, concisely, and with a parent's point of view in mind.
Parents will need to be re-trained into thinking about lessons as a package that includes far more than just the weekly appointment. Even if you do not plan to change your tuition structure for a while, go ahead and give them the free "Where Does My Tuition Go?" brochure1 to help them understand the valuable services they are receiving throughout the year.
A few weeks before you send out your new policy, create a beautiful newsletter that showcases all the accomplishments of your students, lists all the opportunities you have provided in the previous year, and informs parents of the activities that you do to enhance student learning. You can see examples and do this by downloading the free piano teacher newsletter template on the ComposeCreate.com website.2
When you send out your new policy along with the tuition brochure, be concise and explain the changes in a positive way, showcasing how it will help parents.
This year, I have reworked my tuition structure such that it will be much easier for you to budget for lessons. No longer do you have to wonder how much you owe because your tuition package will now be evenly divided into equal payments. This tuition package will cover all the lesson planning, lesson time, repertoire selection, and other out of lesson activities that go into ensuring your child receives an excellent music education. This new tuition package structure will also help free up time and energy for both you and me since we will no longer wonder how much is owed at the end of the month.3
Moving to a "tuition package" plan will be one of the best things you do for your studio to ensure that you can make a consistent and reasonable income doing what you love!
1See the free brochure, "Where Does My Tuition Go?" at www.composecreate.com/brochure/.
3For more assistance in moving to a tuition package, see www.com-posecreate.com/how-to-increase-tuition-without-a-revolt/.