I have had many lessons enquiries recently. Mostly, they are enquiries about how much I charge. One recent enquiry to my lesson fees responded along the lines of ‘you have got to be kidding…you charge too much’. This prompts me to think about what it is I am charging for and how do I differentiate myself from the piano teachers who charge much less. It is obvious to me that I am charging for my education, expertise, experience, time and effort involved with proving a quality music education.
However, this is not always what prospective students are seeing in the lesson fee. It is not an easy message to get across to prospective students and parents of students, who are shopping around for a low priced teacher. When I get an enquiry like this, I simply state that this is my fee and I give the caller an escape route to end the call, by saying that they can think that over and give me a call back when they are ready. On the flip side of this, I often get calls from prospective parents and students who have seemingly already made up their mind and are prepared to commit to lessons presumably on the information provided on my website. Often, these students turn out to be long-term students.
At the simplest level, the student is paying a fee for the a regular time slot. I think most students and parents understand this point, but I also like to make sure they see that I am giving a commitment to the student for more than the scheduled lesson time. It is important for students and parents to know that I am interested and involved with their progress. Below are some of the ways I demonstrate my commitment to students, which is not so obvious in the lesson fee.
During lessons the student, parent and I will often discuss goals and motivations for learning the piano. In these discussions we talk about plans for exams, school assessments, school performances or family celebrations where the student will be performing and pieces for the performance. I also plan or map out how to progress through pieces or what the contents of the next few lessons will aim towards. This is as simple as a writing in a lesson book what should be practised during the coming week and issues which were raised during the lesson that will need more focus. This lesson book is also a good place to put in messages for parents who do not sit in during the lesson. I will often put a brightly coloured post-it note on the front of the lesson book just in case the message is not relayed. A phone call is even better for really important messages.
I keep a databased (Bento) of students with a section for lesson notes. I use this information to record repertoire studied, challenges to overcome. This makes for useful information in preparing a half yearly and yearly lesson progress report. Apart from informal chats to parents before and after lessons, I think it is vitally important to provide feedback to parents and students about their overall progress. This feedback assists in many ways such as giving parents some formal information about the progress of their children, highlighting good and not so good issues such as practising and areas for improvement. This is useful tool for those students who need a little push, but also great for students who are doing really well and love receiving positive feedback as a learner and serves to motivate them even further.
Newsletters are also an important added feature which helps to disseminate important information to students parents such as exam deadlines, exam fees, and general news and tips which could be of interest. Newsletters are a great way of highlighting student achievements and results, and assists to reinforce the notion that as a teacher, I am committed to the musical education of my students. Newsletters are also a good promotional tool. I am sure many of my students have come from word-of-mouth referrals, and a newsletter can help keep those referrals coming.
It seems like a no-brainer these days, but having a professional looking website or promotional material is easy to achieve. These things can help prospective students be better informed about your studio and what to expect from your teaching. It is your opportunity to promote your teaching philosophy, experience, professionalism and all the other value you bring to the lesson, allowing you to highlight the often unnoticed part of teaching which is the on-going commitment you make to students for their music education and advancement.
There are probably countless things we do in the process of our teaching which adds to the value students receive in their lesson fee. Prospective students will be attracted to what you can offer them.
What became of the enquiry who said I charge too much? I don’t know, I chose not to respond, but the enquiry did serve to highlight that students are shopping for low priced teachers, and that I should be doing more to show the benefits I can bring to students who chose to study with me. It prompted me to write this post, contemplate my teaching and what it is that I offer.