There has been quite a lot of talk about policies in various music teaching feeds lately. While I don’t think ‘one size fits all’, I would argue that the majority of teachers want to be seen for the professionals that they are. How individual teachers & studios go about this is different which is what makes our studios unique.
Set clear expectations
A clearly worded contract that clients are expected to sign each year is the first step. Whether you chose to include everything in your contract or have separate policy pages that clients sign is a personal choice. For myself, I decided having one longer contract with everything included was easier to keep track of & clients to reference. Another thing that I do each year, is review policies to see if they continue to provide a win-win situation for my clients & myself. But, more on that later.
The sections that I include in my contract are:
- Calendar & Scheduling: Months your studio is open, breaks, group lessons, etc.
- Registration: Documentation required
- Tuition & Other Fees: Registration, tuition, travel, materials, etc.
- Payment of Fees: Procedures, what happens for non-payment or late payment
- Materials: First lesson materials, who is responsible for purchasing materials
- Lessons & Weekly Practice Expectations: Frequency of lessons, what is included during practice
- When in doubt during the week … How parents or students can deal with questions during the week.
- Missed Lessons: When/how to cancel a lesson, what happens when lesson is cancelled.
- Performance Opportunities: Listing of types of performance opportunities available.
- Termination of Contract: Both how a client terminates the contract & the circumstances how the studio terminates the contract.
- Amendments: Truth be told, I do my best to not add new things during the school year. As a parent myself, I find it hugely frustrating when companies do so & would prefer to make a decision when it’s time for a new contract. But sometimes an amendment is needed mid-year. A quick clause ensures my clients know how they will be informed..
Following through on those expectations
This is SO much easier to say than do. Especially when we create personal relationships with our students. However, part of any healthy relationship is setting clear expectations & boundaries.
A big part of creating policies that you can follow through on is taking the time to ask yourself a few questions before, during, & after the process. These questions include everything from your priorities, laws/regulations that apply to your business, & finding win-win solutions for those pains that are unique to your studio.
While this process will take time at the beginning, it does create policies that best reflect you as a person, the image you want your studio to present, & fit the resources you have available to enforce those policies. By creating a win-win solution for your clients, it is much easier to recognize the potential clients that just won’t be a good fit for your studio. And, as time goes on it becomes a quicker process each year to review the policies already in place.
And, if you choose to make an exception? Be sure to get all the details first. Don’t assume someone needs an exception. This is something that I have learnt the hard way over the years & continue to need the occasional reminder. This year, in deference to a long-standing relationship with a family, I assumed (wrongly) that a client needed an exception to a policy. It turns out that it wasn’t the case at all. We have mended the issue, but my feelings of frustration & hurt are slower in going away. This isn’t fair to myself, my student or the client in question. Better to have asked straight away if something was going on, rather than let things continue as they were.
Having clearly worded & well-thought out policies makes it much easier to enforce those policies with clients. It allows us to have positive, healthy relationships with each our clients in which each person knows what is expected of them & what to do if their needs are not being met.
Looking for a template?
Perhaps you are wanting to overhaul your policies or contract to better reflect the direction you want your studio to move. If so, I have made a step-by-step guide to walk you through each section of your contract & policies.
Please keep in mind that I am NOT a lawyer & this guide is meant to help you create policies that work for you. Ensuring that policies are compliant with local/national laws & regulations is the other part of the process. Unfortunately, I can’t help you out with that last part. But, I can help you get a good start on the whole process!
What do you include in your policies?
What are the policies changes that have had either the biggest impact or the most positive impact to your studio & life? Please share those policies below, as well as what prompted those policies in the first place.
Have a great weekend everyone!