How Do You Charge for Lessons?

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Trombone
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How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Trombone » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:01 am

I have a few students and I want to charge them at the beginning of the month so that they don't take advantage of my time, etc. I really hate no-shows. Do you folks do this?

Basically, I'm looking for a template on how to run my lessons studio. I usually tell them that they pay for whole month at the beginning of the month. It's their obligation to make it work, though I'm very flexible with trying to reschedule for conflicts, etc.

And what about my own conflicts?

What if I know I'll have a conflict 45 days away?

What if THEY know they'll be on Spring Break next month?

What if they're sick?

I want to be fair, but I don't want to be taken advantage of - I don't want to be an expensive babysitter.

I have a lot of questions about all of this. Thanks so much for the fine people here.

:shuffle:
I play and teach the trombone, as well as other novelties.
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Trombone
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Trombone » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:04 am

Hey, cool! I got my third post now!
I play and teach the trombone, as well as other novelties.
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Matt K
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Matt K » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:12 am

I've done that before. I basically gave 4 weeks worth of credit at time and whenever they wanted to use it, cool. I used to teach on the way home from work and do maybe one a day though so as long as I didn't show up at the door and nobody was there then I'd be cool with them cancelling. Any reason. Or if I did show up and they had a legit reason, okay. Only one time did I ever have to charge for a no-show and I didn't even ask. They just paid me because they totally forgot.
bigtiny
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by bigtiny » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:50 am

I've found the following to be effective:

- I charge for a month ahead
- lessons can be rescheduled with at LEAST 24 hours notice at my convenience. I'll also reschedule in the case of extraordinary circumstances (death in the family, car accident, force majeur, etc.)
- I will allow a certain number non fixed students as my schedule allows

Naturally, all of this comes with the need for some flexibility. I find that once I've been teaching a student for a while, scheduling problems can be worked out pretty easily and reasonably. The bigger problem is students showing up faithfully but not practicing and preparing for the lesson. But that's partly my problem too! =:-)
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Neo Bri
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Neo Bri » Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:01 am

Do you ever use a contract?
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by greenbean » Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:51 pm

My daughter has studied with two good piano instructors in San Francisco. They both operate in a similar way that seems good to me.

--All lessons in a month are payable by the 1st of the month.
--At that time, they discuss any known conflicts and make adjustments.
--Lessons can be rescheduled in advance (a make-up) if families have a conflict. 24 hrs; preferably more.
--No-shows are considered a paid lesson.

That said, both instructors were understanding of families' schedules and worked hard to make it work. They also sent out a document with their policies and expectations every few months.

I think the key is that no-shows MUST be charged. So, having collected all fees up front means you won't have to ask to get paid for no-shows. It is a done deal. If you don't charge up front, then you spend more of your time requesting payment and keeping track of anyone who owes etc. More wasted time...
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Neo Bri » Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:34 pm

These are great points. Keep the info coming!
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by tbonedude » Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:57 pm

I used to get paid immediately after the lesson ended. But, being down-state in NY (Long Island), I had a lot of issues with late-cancellations and no-shows. I switched over to having a "student/parent agreement" (contract). I got paid on the first lesson of the month for the full month's worth of lessons. I gave 4 lessons per month, and used the 5th week, in months with them, as a "make-up" lesson week. There was no option for refund, just to make up the lesson within a set period of time, or it was forfeit.

I was able to move my entire studio over to this system without loosing a single student, but this system might not be for everyone.
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Neo Bri » Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:19 pm

tbonedude wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 6:57 pm
I used to get paid immediately after the lesson ended. But, being down-state in NY (Long Island), I had a lot of issues with late-cancellations and no-shows. I switched over to having a "student/parent agreement" (contract). I got paid on the first lesson of the month for the full month's worth of lessons. I gave 4 lessons per month, and used the 5th week, in months with them, as a "make-up" lesson week. There was no option for refund, just to make up the lesson within a set period of time, or it was forfeit.

I was able to move my entire studio over to this system without loosing a single student, but this system might not be for everyone.
What about when YOU had a conflict?
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by tbonedude » Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:36 pm

When I had a conflict, I would usually try to move my lessons to a different day in the week, as I only taught Saturdays and occasionally Sundays. If not, I would also sometimes give an hour in place of a half hour (for 30 min students). I had to get creative from time to time, but I never was forced to provide a refund to a parent.
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by AlexMcMahon » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:42 am

Charging by the month has helped me when I taught lessons at home. Reschedules were ok with at least 24 hours notice and I could fit them in around other students or events otherwise they would likely get a double lesson for makeup at the next week. I asked for the upcoming month payment at the fourth or last lesson of the month previous. There were no rollover credits or refunds, period. If I had a gig, I let them know at least a few weeks ahead. If the gig was too late contacting me, I declined because steady teaching income and professional relations are more important to me.

If I was doing it now, I'd ask for a card payment and use something like Square or send an invoice through Paypal
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Jimprindle » Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:28 am

Generally I charge per lesson, but I have had many students take advantage of what I call "Tuition". They pay for 10 lessons in advance, but are charged for 9. IOW buy 9, 10th is free.

2 advantages:
1. Parents prefer this because it keeps them from writing checks over and over for basically a semester's worth of lessons.
2. It gives me control over unexcused absences and preparation, and gives the student an added commitment to consistently attend.

I am pretty flexible about cancellations, I say 24 hours advance notice but if they let me know a reasonable time in advance (say, the morning of the lesson) I don't charge. I also (without announcing it) give them 1 last minute change per 10...stuff happens.
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by ExZacLee » Sat May 12, 2018 6:40 am

When I was maintaining a studio, I used a "simple" system.

Lessons were $25/half hour, $50/hr. A month is 4 lessons (although sometimes you get a free fifth.) Payment of $100 (4 half hour lessons) or $200 (4 one hour lessons) is due at the first lesson each month.
Explain the "extra 5th lesson" and explain that sometimes they won't get that lesson because you have a conflict.

To keep it fair, if you have a conflict in a month with only four lessons, you don't get paid.

If you charge by lesson (i.e. you charge for that occasional 5th lesson) then you just have to bite the bullet on all cancelations on your part.

I had a make-up policy for a little bit, mainly available morning weekend times that I could knock out before noon and hit the road in time to make whatever gig I had. Students would abuse this by missing (unannounced) during the week and just coming in on saturdays, so I dropped it.

I don't maintain a studio anymore, my teaching schedule at UCO doesn't allow for it really. I have one composition student and I get the occasional student who wants to work on their all state audition or jazz stuff. I'm thankful to not have to worry about that hustle -you're running a small business and it's a lot of work.
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by bassbone » Sun May 13, 2018 7:55 pm

I do not run a studio anymore, but when I did followed most of the advice here:
- I used a contract just to lay out expectations/payment/rates/how to handle conflicts, etc
- payment due by 1st lesson of the month
- My lessons were purposely scheduled on days that had few conflicts for gigs. When one came up, I either rescheduled or they only paid for the number of lessons they got that month. I would communicate all anticipated conflicts and try to finish rescheduling before their first lesson that month.
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by dustanchevalier » Tue May 15, 2018 12:13 pm

I just accept payment at each lesson these days, because it's a side gig and my schedule is a bit unusual (911 dispatcher). I ran a private studio (trombone/euphonium and piano) full-time for a while but ultimately found self-employment stressful with small kids. I hope to return to it someday when my spouse's employment provides medical/dental/life, etc. benefits for the family.

However, when I did run a studio, tuition was a flat rate of $240/month, due by the 1st of each month (if paid electronically) or the last lesson of the month prior (if cash or check). Tuition covered 44 full-hour private lessons and four 90-minute group performance classes (included performance times, viewing video of great/historic performances, and refreshments) annually. That's 48 billable items, each at $60, divided into 12 equal payments. That essentially provided me with 8 free weeks a year which functioned like paid time off.

No refunds and makeup lessons only if I had to cancel for sickness/emergency. I didn't have other conflicts because this was my full-time job - I planned my year around it and kept to the scheduled weeks off.

It worked well and I hope to get back to it someday!
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Neo Bri » Tue May 15, 2018 2:18 pm

dustanchevalier wrote:
Tue May 15, 2018 12:13 pm
I just accept payment at each lesson these days, because it's a side gig and my schedule is a bit unusual (911 dispatcher). I ran a private studio (trombone/euphonium and piano) full-time for a while but ultimately found self-employment stressful with small kids. I hope to return to it someday when my spouse's employment provides medical/dental/life, etc. benefits for the family.

However, when I did run a studio, tuition was a flat rate of $240/month, due by the 1st of each month (if paid electronically) or the last lesson of the month prior (if cash or check). Tuition covered 44 full-hour private lessons and four 90-minute group performance classes (included performance times, viewing video of great/historic performances, and refreshments) annually. That's 48 billable items, each at $60, divided into 12 equal payments. That essentially provided me with 8 free weeks a year which functioned like paid time off.

No refunds and makeup lessons only if I had to cancel for sickness/emergency. I didn't have other conflicts because this was my full-time job - I planned my year around it and kept to the scheduled weeks off.

It worked well and I hope to get back to it someday!
That is a fascinating model! Thank you for posting this.
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Neo Bri » Mon May 28, 2018 2:43 pm

Maybe someone here wouldn't mind emailing me a copy of their contracts? I'd love to see those.
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by torobone » Fri Jun 08, 2018 12:32 pm

Personally, I avoid the use of the word "contract". To my mind, contracts are fairly wordy and describe at great length when things go wrong, and usually contain legalese that is only useful for lawyers looking to be in court. Who you gonna sue? Besides the Ghostbusters, there isn't enough money involved on either side for a lawyer.

Setting out clear expectations, no longer than one page, is a good idea. You can talk about lessons times, duration, rescheduling for either party, payment options and practice expectations between lessons. Include anything else that turns into an issue.

If anything becomes an issue, talk to the student and parents to work things out. If that doesn't work, likely your easiest and best response is to drop the student.

Does this sound simplistic? Perhaps to some people, and likely to every lawyer. I have used this approach to do business around the world with great success, mainly because I'm always willing to do my part.
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Matt K
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by Matt K » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:16 pm

Personally, I avoid the use of the word "contract". To my mind, contracts are fairly wordy and describe at great length when things go wrong, and usually contain legalese that is only useful for lawyers looking to be in court. Who you gonna sue? Besides the Ghostbusters, there isn't enough money involved on either side for a lawyer.

Setting out clear expectations, no longer than one page, is a good idea. You can talk about lessons times, duration, rescheduling for either party, payment options and practice expectations between lessons. Include anything else that turns into an issue.
Paragraph #2 sounds an awful lot like a 'contract' to me ;)
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Re: How Do You Charge for Lessons?

Post by torobone » Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:10 pm

Matt K wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:16 pm
Paragraph #2 sounds an awful lot like a 'contract' to me ;)
Not really. Setting what you are going to do, how you will get paid, etc. is actually a statement of work. It brings clarity and simplicity if kept short.

Contractual things, at least in my mind, include what happens if people don't pay, don't pay on time, if there is a breach of the agreement, etc. These items can bring more clarity, but are needed only if things have gone awry.

My suggestions are meant to be clear and simple. Other people might enjoy a more complex situation, but simple works better for me.
Martin Hubel
Tenors: 2009 Yamaha 891Z, 354 (loaned out)
Symphony tenors: 1972 Bach 42B, Yamaha 882 GOR (on loan to me)
Basses: 2011 Yamaha 830 Xeno, 1990ish Yamaha 322
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