Block Booking (All Teachers)
MemberApril 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm
Matt asked me to post about this ages ago but I’ve not had the head space to do it. My business runs almost exclusively on block bookings (I teach 20-25 hours a week, about 3-5 of which are paid lesson by lesson). It’s been the key to making my business grow and create security while I pursue other projects alongside teaching. So here are my top tips for getting those block bookings:
1. Understand the benefits of it – block booking isn’t about you getting more money at once. Block booking is really important for the student as well.
It creates a commitment between you and the student to keep them coming back after the initial excitement of the first couple of lessons starts to fade. It focuses the student as the see lessons as more of an investment that they want to get the most out of. If you’re like me, and provide a discount, it helps the student save money. It gives both of you an understanding that we’re in this together for the long haul so it creates a connection between you. It helps both you and them plan their time and their money. It creates routine, and most human beings love routine. If either you or the student takes a break it gives them a reason to come back and not get lost in the ether. There are loads of reasons why block booking is a good idea. If you understand that and have enthusiasm for it, that will make the student excited about doing it too.
2. Communicate it everywhere – my block booking rates are on my personal website, my MGR music website, my Facebook, my Google business page, I talk about it with every potential student in my email communication and any phone calls. Its very rare a new student comes to their first lesson not knowing about my block booking.
3. Ask for it – don’t feel bashful about asking people if they want to block book. If people say no that’s fine, but there is no harm in asking the question. I usually do an initial vocal consultation for new pupils and at the end I talk money with them I tell them all my rates and ask them what they’d like to do. Something I’ve been thinking of trying is asking for an initial block booking and then if they want to switch to lesson by lesson after that block that’s fine. However, I’ve never really seen this as necessary.
4. Be clear about your strategy – are you offering blocks of 4, 5, 10 or some other number of lessons? Whilst I value flexibility I’m always clear that my default block booking is 4 lessons. I only have one pricing rate, even if someone wants to book say 8 lessons. I charge it by the hour then I take £5/hour off. Even in my rare 90 minute lessons, I take that same rate. If you start fiddling with X amount of lessons is Y discount and A amount of lessons is B discount, then things get unnecessarily difficult for you and the student.
5. Make sure you understand how this fits in your budget – I’s rubbish at this. I’ll get a term’s worth of lessons from a school and laugh all the way to bank and spend like a maniac. This can lead to problems later when you are still 6 lessons away from being paid and you burnt through all the money. Don’t block book more lessons than you can be financial responsible for.
6. Be clear about your/the student’s responsibilities – are you going to demand that the block lessons are all in the diary straight away or can the pupil book their time slot week by week? Most of my block bookers take the time slot each week, but for those that are on shift work, it is invaluable to them that although I take the money up front, they get to book the time slots based on when their work schedule comes out. How are you going to handle rescheduling and how does this work with your cancellation policy?
That’s about all I can think of. Feel free to add your own suggestions or ask questions below.
MemberApril 28, 2016 at 12:23 am
Yesyesyes! Since I started offering block bookings it’s made the admin side of my life SO much easier, especially where cancellation policies are concerned because people have already put the money down, and know what kind of commitments they’ve made and make sure they know their way around the policy, which avoids any confusion. But you’re right, it does take some self control when you’re looking at your finances. I tend to put away as much as I can in separate savings accounts for rent, bills etc. when I get a big lump of money so that I know exactly how far it’s going to go.
MemberApril 28, 2016 at 8:39 am
I’m tempted to try this – even if just because this week I’ve had a few cancellations for the first time, which makes me a little nervous. I’m still fairly new to MGR and have only been teaching in Exeter since February (I was in the Midlands before) – I do worry that although I’ve done well at picking up new students, if they start to cancel is this because they’ve become comfortable enough to do it on a regular basis.
Is it easy enough to put block bookings through the system on the website?
The majority of my students are young adults and I worry about asking for that amount of money upfront – do you only really find that it’s parents with children who can afford block bookings?
MemberMay 2, 2016 at 6:16 pm
Hey there, sounds good and is something I’m looking at focusing on in the very near future.
I’m also looking at the possibility of making it into a subscription, so basically they are automatically billed for 4 lessons every month but still have the flexibility to schedule weekly if they need it, offset any lessons they haven’t had against next month’s subscription (or save them up for a free month) and get access to a membership website where I give them a bit extra in terms of practise aids, video lessons and sheet music etc.
Do you think that could work? I’ve mentioned it to one or two who have seemed enthusiastic about the idea but the reality may be different. Any thoughts would be very welcome!
MemberMay 3, 2016 at 5:28 am
@Louisa As for asking for money upfront, you definitely don’t have to make it compulsory. If you put on a little discount for a certain number of lessons booked at a time, and let all your students know about this (and the fact that it means they don’t have to think about bringing payment separately to every lesson, so, less to have to think about), you may find that even young adults jump on board.
@Ben, the subscription idea could work. I know a guitar teacher in my area that uses it. Just some things to think about though: a) what system would you put in place for weeks where the student would have 5 lessons (for example there are 5 Mondays this month), b) if you’re allowing students to offset (which is a good idea), would you still have to have a normal cancellation policy in place? For example 24 o 48 hours?
MemberMay 8, 2016 at 10:10 pm
Yeah I’d thought of that – I was planning on taking the risk, same as they would do with overpaying me, only seems fair. Plus it’s likely that most would already have paid for that lesson anyway. Cancellation policy would still apply as usual.
However, I think in the short term I’m going to drop the subscription model as my payment platform doesn’t give me the flexibility I’d really like to enact it! I would like to come back to it though.
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