Monday Mailbag – Students Taking Time Off

Do you ever have issues with students taking off the month of December? For example, do they ever take off because they don’t want to pay for the whole month when they will only get 2 or 3 lessons?

In years past, when I was still making the transition to a monthly flat rate for lessons, this was an issue. It was hard at first to help families understand that the lesson fee included more than just the time at the lesson, but all the other “perks” that come from being a part of my studio. That’s why the monthly rate is the same, regardless of the number of lessons from month to month. Now that I’ve learned how to communicate better with families, this doesn’t seem to be an issue.

One thing that I have learned over the years is to openly and clearly communicate when these sorts of issues come up. Several years ago, I had a situation where an adult student contacted me to let me know that she wouldn’t be available for several of her lessons in May and suggested that we just take the month off and resume in June. I did a little digging and was able to track down the e-mail response I sent her:

Thanks for letting me know about your schedule. I just wanted to run something by you so you would have my perspective…one of the reasons I charge a flat monthly rate for lessons is because teaching piano is the way I make my living and I have to be able to budget a certain amount of income so that I can meet my expenses each month. Even though I am incredibly blessed that my parents have allowed me to continue to live in their home, there are a lot of expenses associated with running my own business (insurances, license, professional association fees, continuing education, website fees, etc.), in addition to just my regular living expenses. I have to factor all of these into the amount I charge for lessons and then teach a certain number of students to meet those expenses. While I certainly understand the dilemma you are in with various scheduling conflicts and it may seem best to just skip a month of lessons rather than paying the same amount and receiving fewer lessons, for me the result is a fairly significant reduction in the income that I was expecting to receive that month.

I hope that this doesn’t come across wrong. I just thought that it was important for me to express this to you. I wish I had more flexibility in my schedule to work out other times when you have other commitments, but sometimes things are just too tight to try to find other times that will work for both of us. If there is another time that you think would be better for you in the fall when I rework my schedule, just let me know and hopefully we can work that out!

Upon receiving my response, this student was not only understanding, but she was also incredibly grateful that I had taken the time and effort to share my perspective with her. Even though her children had previously taken lessons from other teachers for years, no one had ever taken the time to communicate this to her. I have had similar situations with other families that have helped me realize the importance of not getting upset or offended, but being gracious and patient, and equally open to hearing their perspective. Just like any business should, I want to make sure that I am providing the best value for my clients so that they always feel like they are getting their money’s worth. It takes a while, but eventually each teacher should be able to figure out the right balance between professional policies and a friendly personable approach to operating their studio.

Hope this helps! As always, any additional input is welcome!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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