Raise your hand if you’re in the midst of scheduling your piano studio for the fall? Actually, maybe I should say raise your carpal-tunnel ridden, wine-glass clutching, shaking-with-shot-nerves hand…
For most piano teachers this time of year is one we’d prefer to skip over. While our non-piano teaching friends are frolicking in the local swimming hole, we’re doing anything but frolicking (although it is like being in a hole…)
But help is on its way as we’re bringing you our Top 7 Strategies for Piano Studio Scheduling. After years of scheduling a 7 room, multi-teacher studio, my hands are free from shot nerves… and I’m rarely found clutching a wine glass in despair. So, here’s your chance to learn from my mistakes and benefit from my triumphs.
7 Success Secrets For Piano Lesson Scheduling
1. Plan out your “Best Case Scenario”. In a perfect world, what would the ideal schedule look like for you. Get organized by using a spreadsheet or online calendar and figure out a color-coding system. Lay out your days, your times and your students in a way that would make you jump with glee. Then… decide how flexible you are willing to be when it comes to breaking free from this utopia. Shade in areas where you would teach if you had to (or decide on the “take it or leave it” approach and block out your time exactly). Slot each of your students into a space when you believe they would likely be happy to come. Try to leave empty spaces in places that you think newly registering students would find attractive.
2. Fill your most difficult spaces first. My Friday night, late evening and very early afternoon spaces are the first to be filled. After that, I can work my way inwards into the “prime real estate” that I know almost anyone will be able take. Students who are flexible, who have been okay with these times in the past, who are new to my studio, or who are desperate to “just have a spot” are the ones that I place in these timeslots. Have a good knowledge of your local school dismissal times and dole out early afternoon spaces accordingly to maximize your teaching time.
3. Learn how to “sell” time slots. If you email your students, your format should look a little something like this:
Paragraph that is chatty – discuss your own summer, mention something you remember they themselves were doing, a mention of how you’re looking forward to seeing their child again. (this is SO important as you set the tone for the entire exchange here… it really does make a difference).
State the time you have available for their child and why you are offering it to them specifically. I use sentences such as “I was able to coordinate both of your children’s lessons for you so you’re only having to come to the studio once per week – thought that would make your life much simpler this year!” or “I know that Jamie prefers to have some downtime after school, so I’ve saved the 5:15 space for your family”. Simply stating the time gives them the opportunity to find what’s wrong with it. Giving them your reasoning on why it’s the best time for them shows that you’ve put some thought into the time you are offering and helps them to see 1) that yes, that time is actually a good idea and 2) that you have their best interests at heart – that this isn’t a random process.
Give a time frame to reply by to convey urgency. You are in demand! There’s no time for dilly dallying. Say something like “As you know this is a busy time of year for me, and as my openings are few and far between I’d really appreciate you letting me know before the weekend… (and here’s the important part) that this works for you. (Don’t say “if”… say “that”.) “If” leaves an opening for a back and forth that could go on for weeks!
Sign off with a friendly “Thanks so much!” or “See you soon!”.
4. Avoid giving a wide array of choices – this gives the perception that you’ve got a ton of space to choose from, when really you’ve trying your best to make this Tetris Puzzle fit in the best way it can. Go with your “ideal world” and offer accordingly. Make changes as needed but just offer one time slot in the beginning.
5. Give priority to multi-sibling families. Families are busy these days and convenience can play an important role when parents are choosing extracurricular activities. While I would never want someone to sign their children in piano lessons for the sole sake of convenience, it goes a long way if you try your hardest to provide sibling-friendly time slots when scheduling. And, the best way to organize sibling-friendly time slots is when you are first starting your scheduling and your calendar is more flexible.
6. Learn to say “sorry!”. If you run into a very inflexible family whose extracurricular activities read like the London train schedule then learn to say “Sorry it didn’t work out! If anything changes let me know.” More often than not they’ll find a way to make it work. Avoid disrupting other families (or your own family!) to cater to just one student. If they’re a committed student they’ll likely make the needed changes. If they don’t, it’s quite possible that they would cause a few scheduling problems for you during the year anyway.
7. Send only what’s needed. Schedule first, send start-up information later. Avoid cluttering the process with studio policies, welcome newsletters etc. This can all be sent once your studio is completely scheduled. Too many distractions slows down the process (and wouldn’t you rather be at the beach?)
With a systematic and sales-minded approach, scheduling a piano studio can be less of a headache. And while my system is not 100% foolproof… I am currently at the tail-end of booking in 328 students… and I’m headed to the beach! Hope you can all join me 🙂