Lesson Payments (All Teachers)
MemberJanuary 26, 2016 at 4:41 pm
Over the past few months I have had a lot of students fall behind on payments, not pay or stop lessons without giving me any notice. I’m really trying to crack down on this and I would just like to know peoples thoughts on paying for a block of lessons every month compared to every week. Is there anyone who has done this or moved between the two? Or do you do something else?
This is what I do already:
– When booking an initial lesson, all students have to pay for their first lesson upfront online through my booking system. I don’t have any problems here
– When attending their first lesson, I go through all of my T&Cs – this includes paying for their lessons a week ahead if they wish to continue lessons. I give them a copy of these to take home.
– I ask for 2 weeks notice when stopping lessons – this is what is bothering me at the moment as people are just disappearing off the face of the earth, leaving me out of pocket. My thoughts are if I moved everyone to pay for their lessons in monthly blocks, and let them know that if they do not wish to carry on lessons, then they do not need to pay for another month (hence keeping them up to date and they know for how many lessons they have paid for)
What are peoples thoughts?
ModeratorJanuary 26, 2016 at 5:55 pm
Apart from the first cash-in-hand lesson, I don’t accept anything less than 2 or 4 lessons paid for in advance, which covers a full month of weekly/fortnightly lessons. This shows commitment for at least a month of rent!!
Still doesn’t eliminate the risk of people cancelling all lessons forever, 48 hours’ before their next scheduled lesson, which they have a right to do. I don’t mind this though, as this still gives me enough time to rebook the slot (hence 48 hour rule) and then for the regular slot renewal, I just take someone off the waiting list, which can be quite quick too.
Ts&Cs are covered upon booking either face to face or by email. They are included in more detail on my invoice which they get after their first lesson, ready to start paying advance blocks of lessons.
I like the idea of 2 weeks notice for stopping lessons – I might try this. But to be honest, having monthly lessons paid for upfront sort of eliminates this anyway, as like you say, people know the system is monthly, so can tell me ahead of time.
This also brings me to the issue I keep hearing about – first lesson cancellations. What Matthew calls “bad debt”!
One solution might be to keep a “non teaching hours” slot free each week for people to piss you about in, so that you care a bit less.
MemberFebruary 1, 2016 at 4:40 am
Up until this year students were paying me lesson by lesson. Now I ask for payment in advance (although I’m not very good at this all of the time), and people have the option of buying 4 or 10 lessons at a time, at a discount. I don’t ask for notice when people quit. I do try and ask for feedback when it happens so that I can understand if there’s something that I can do to better my teaching…. but really there’s very little we can do.
I know it’s not really helpful, but I find mindset plays into this a lot for me. I think I’ve just finally accepted 4 years into this job that people are going to not show up occasionally – this happened with a brand new student this morning in fact! There are ways to prevent this, such as maintaining a solid line of communication with the student about their needs and to make time for calling them if the alarm bells go up that they may not be engaging with your business as you’d like. At the end of the day though, you’re a service. And when people stop prioritising that service or have second thoughts or it becomes no longer as important to them, they’ll just stop coming in. in fact if they think they’ll be reprimanded for quitting, they’re probably MORE likely to cut off all lines of communication when they stop showing up, as hard as this is for us.
One way to not feel this as harshly is to be booked out so much that the break is a welcome relief (if only this was me haha!). Another point is that if the student really cared so little about you that they gave you no notice, then perhaps it’s a GOOD thing that they’re gone. And an opportunity now arises to work with someone new in that time slot who is far more enthusiastic. This will make your work much more fulfilling as well. I know this sounds bleurghhk but at the end of the day there are pros and cons to this job. The pros are getting to inspire new people all the time and helping them unleash their creativity and having the flexibility that comes with working for ourselves. The cons are that people will piss off and may take for granted the time and effort you put into them, and chasing them up is only going to make them resent you more, even though it represents a loss of income on your part. It’s bleak, but unavoidable. For me personally, even though I’ve currently made peace with this as much as possible, I know that in the long term this unpredictability will probably take its toll (what? there are jobs where you get paid leave and predictable work hours and guaranteed income?? sign me up haha) and I’ll find a more stable line of work. Sorry if that got heavy and philosophical haha.
ModeratorFebruary 1, 2016 at 10:56 am
No, well said. I don’t tolerate any bad behaviour but that’s an interesting, positive angle to take! I do welcome the break sometimes and also agree that I’m glad to not have to work with people that don’t show up!
MemberFebruary 7, 2016 at 9:15 am
I don’t think its healthy(for us as teachers) to make expectations that could on the worst side of a situation, leave us feeling let down or out of pocket. What works for me personally is students paying for booked time in advance, i expect no more than that and i always end up with what i expect financially, and consequently I’m rarely annoyed or let down. This wasn’t always the case!
If they want to quit at any point, i accept that its their prerogative to do so…in other words you can’t control their decision(we would all like to think they would play ball with our T&Cs when they agree and start lessons with us). Trying to enforce particular T&Cs that are seemingly unenforceable is a road to frustration when dealing with certain types of people. Make your T&Cs so that you’re guarded by them, rather than relying on someones decency or expected social etiquette(even if you have made it clear and they agreed to them). Some people will always take the road of least confrontation/friction…telling someone that their services aren’t required seems to be too much for some people and they will avoid that at all costs.
Its disheartening, esp when you’ve made it very clear, but the reality is people will behave this way. Protect yourself and your time with advance payments and then let the rest happen, if they’re messing you about by not turning up or stopping before they agreed, then they’re making room for a new student with a better attitude 😀
MemberFebruary 7, 2016 at 10:35 pm
“Some people will always take the road of least confrontation/friction…telling someone that their services aren’t required seems to be too much for some people and they will avoid that at all costs.”
Yes, this is so true. Totally agree with your points, Mark! I think by nature a lot of us music teachers are sometimes quite assertive, organised or upfront, as these are often skills that come with the job. So sometimes it’s hard for us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who would avoid talking to you about whether or not your service is still relevant to them at all costs! We need not be disheartened though. 1. You can never please everybody 2. Even the people you do please may not be the right fit for you forever. Sometimes people just decide no. 2 of their own accord haha.
ModeratorFebruary 8, 2016 at 9:23 am
Well said everyone. I feel it’s a very British trait to not be upfront about the truth of wanting to stop, or are extremely apologetic when they do! But I completely understand if it’s the money, the lack of time to practice, or that maybe they’ve just had a sufficient amount of lessons to get where they wanted to… I don’t take offence in the way they think I do when they stop! I’m not expecting them to have lessons forever and am very grateful to those who have stuck with it for years! I love that I have about half who are solid and regular and the other half are changeable; it keeps things interesting and it’s good to be meeting new people all the time. It’s also nice when people stop and then come back which has happened a few times.
MemberApril 24, 2016 at 11:32 am
This has literally just happened again to me….one of my students has been 2 lessons in debt (forgetting to bring payment to lesson) – I haven’t seen her for a while because she’s either been ill or I’ve been away, they’ve texted me today saying she can’t come to lessons because she’s fractured her foot (not sure how that would affect her singing but oh well)
Should I just leave this as a ‘bad debt’ or do something else? I will be bearing this in mind if she tries to start up lessons again.
Why can’t people be honest? 🙁
MemberApril 24, 2016 at 11:48 pm
Don’t book any lessons in until you have been paid in advance.
With this payment system If someone forgets then the next time slot they’re asking for will not be booked in > take place until payment has been received.
Its annoying that we have to resort to this method, but the good thing is that it roots out ‘bad custom’ and makes room for a decent, honest, hardworking student 😀
Its works for me anyhow 🙂 I hope it improves!!!
MemberApril 25, 2016 at 4:11 am
Damn, that sounds so stressful, Beckie. I agree, you should have an honest conversation with her (over the phone if necessary) about how she’s feeling about lessons. It may not be a priority for her at the moment if she’s sick, and dealing with a lot of life mishaps, so it pays to be empathetic about that and potentially offer to put lessons on hiatus (ie. stop reserving her time), until she’s “ready to come back” (she may never be, but at least you’ll get a straight answer and be rid of a student who sounds more of a headache than anything). And in the mean time, if you’ve taught lessons that haven’t been paid for, then that money is absolutely *owed* to you. So make it as easy for her to pay it as possible. Maybe ask if it’s ok to send her a paypal link, so she can pay the amount instantly, so that neither of you have to worry about it anymore. Get it dealt with and do it as quickly as possible. xx
ModeratorApril 25, 2016 at 11:49 am
Mark’s right. Don’t book her in until payment is received! Although to be honest, don’t book her in regardless…! She sounds like a waste of time and will always have an excuse at the ready.
Dealing with something similar myself at the moment and not sure what to do (how many more chances can I give?!) she had a couple of false starts/cancellations (not late ones though) due to life’s mishaps, then she started asking for backing tracks without upfront payment (I only send further backing track resources once a month’s payment has been made) then she kept arriving with cash just for that lesson, or just cancelling in good time meaning that the slot was just left vacant if I didn’t get someone else in. I had a chat to her about it and how I need someone to be able to commit due to the nature of my business, etc etc, and she said she understood and was sorry for being so inconvenient, then made a promise to get stuck in as of last week. Sure enough, she paid for 4 lessons upfront and then turned up last week. But before starting, she said she wasn’t going to come to the next 3 lessons due to wanting to finish her dissertation first. I awkwardly accepted.. but said I couldn’t guarantee her the same slot as I need to fill it with someone regular.. but that I would do my best as she has now paid upfront. And the most hilarious part of this is that, after saying she understood why it’s inconvenient, kept saying “oh but I will practice, I’ll do all my warm ups and keep going over these songs daily” and I’m thinking… that’s really not the point?! It’s difficult as she is a nice person, so I’m not really sure what to do. I think if she cancels again I’ll just say she’s not ready to commit. It’s so annoying when they don’t actually owe but then they don’t stick to their arrangement.
Meanwhile, I have Dave who is on his last chance (!), for doing something very similar to the above. And he’s always full of long stories, long excuses, long explanations… and I’m there trying to get him off the phone because I don’t have the time to hear it… just get on with it, or don’t! He is also lovely and we get on so well… and the worst part is, he is self-employed too!!! I have even ironically been giving him advice about how to manage his business and have set hours, make sure people don’t take advantage… funny that!
It’s all very well dishing out the advice, but it seems I’m now being too soft..
Oh and Kat’s right about payment. I wouldn’t want to book someone in until this was sorted anyway – far too awkward having the money problem in the way of going forward!! But then would I want to book them anyway?
MemberApril 25, 2016 at 1:28 pm
I’ve just called her and it’s gone to answerphone (I had a feeling that would happen!) so I’ve left a message. She was paying a week in advance – I’ve taken off the advance lesson fee so that she only owes 2 lessons worth. Reason being she owes money is because she forgot to bring cash the last time I saw her, and then the last lesson was cancelled on the same day.
I’m seriously considering going to a pay monthly scheme as too many people have done this to me – I can still take cash in lessons but making it more worthwhile for students to pay by the month. I need to be stricter with my policy though!
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