Has fluctuating income been a problem for your music studio?
Do you find it hard to build up momentum – just when it seems like you’re going to have a banner year you lose students? If you’ve always wanted to know how to always have more students than you need – keep reading.
Like it or not, dealing with students…or the lack of them is a part of being a music teacher. But just because it’s a challenge, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself against income swings from an unexpected loss of enrollment.
Here are some of the tips that we compiled from long-time music teachers as well as based our own experiences.
Require deposits in advance
One of the biggest pet peeves that we hear from teachers who work with a semester-style system is students who bail out at the last minute. This is particularly infuriating after the teacher has already turned away new potential students because they thought that they were ‘all booked up’ for the next few months.
One way to combat this is to make a deposit payable at a least a month before lessons begin. You can also make the deposit non-refundable if a cancelation doesn’t occur within a certain time frame.
This measure forces your students (or their parents) to be serious about taking the lessons. It lets you see who is committed versus interested. Nobody wants a cancelation, but when a student does so a month in advance you still have time to find a replacement. If they cancel during the non-refundable period at least you have the deposit to work with as opposed to nothing at all.
Too many professionals wait until they’re low on business to start marketing again. Successful businesses prioritize their marketing efforts and don’t take their foot off the gas.
Make marketing a daily or weekly occurrence if you want to always have a full calendar. Start up a monthly newsletter, do social media updates and blog about your experiences as a teacher – the biggest secret to marketing is to have a plan and work it consistently; not just when the work dries up.
You’ll also need to have a strong grasp of who your audience is and what you are uniquely qualified to teach. This will distinguish you from the other instructors in your area.
Know Your Numbers
You won’t last in business for long if you don’t wrap your head around the numbers.
Not only do you need to charge a fair price for your lessons, but you also need to value your time. If parents and students can’t distinguish you from the competition, they’ll often tend to choose their teacher based on price.
Offering the cheapest lessons in town can easily work against you, even if you have plenty of students – they or their parents tend to make life difficult for you.
Knowing your strengths and having a clear idea of what type of student you want to work with will allow you to price your time accordingly and build up a stable student base.
Keep tabs on your marketing efforts, whether on the internet or the local paper. How much are you spending and what kind of return are you seeing? Can you quantify that a specific promo is generating income for your business? Guessing about the numbers will ultimately cost you money.
And remember that time isn’t free either. Make sure to take your ideal hourly rate into account for any of the activities you do to promote your business when you’re not teaching.
Nobody knows how much time they have left, and you can never get the time that you spend back – so spend it wisely!
Keep an up to date Waiting List
It seems like the most inquiries occur when your schedule is completely full, but taking them for granted will almost certainly come back to haunt you later.
Music teachers lose students all the time. Whether due to relocation, a downsized job, an illness or just waning interest in music – losing a student is always a possibility.
Being a superb teacher won’t matter much if a student is moving out of state or becomes injured.
While most studios can handle some loss in enrollment, it’s a direct hit to the wallet, so why prolong the situation?
A waiting list helps insulate your business from student attrition. Always take contact details from inquiries that you get over the phone and make it easy for people to also sign up on your website.
Stay in contact with these prospects by sending them your newsletter updates each month.
If you get an unexpected cancellation – hop on the phone and call some of the names on your list and verify if they’re still interested in taking lessons. This will help to keep your waiting list fresh and allow you to have more control over your business.
This waiting list gives you a place to turn should unforeseen circumstances affect your business, it can make the difference between having a banner year, or going under.
Don’t lose sight of why you started your Studio
Most private music teachers love what they do, but they also chose to start a business because they wanted to be their own boss.
While there are plenty of uncertainties and risks involved, the added freedom and income potential can more than make up for the potential drawbacks.
These risks can be further minimized when you follow the tips we just discussed. So review your actions for having more students then you need and build more peace of mind into your life going forward.