It’s that time of year. Crunch time. Recitals, summer camps (if you are holding them), and studio re-registration all get put on top of our regular responsibilities. On the one hand, it’s an exciting time of new possibilities & ideas. On the other hand, it’s stressful wondering if the finances are going to work out so those new possibilities & ideas can become reality.
Weathering economic ups & downs
In 2016, my province (Alberta) was in its 2nd year of recession. The last time this happened was in the early ’80s, so to say that many people are stressed about finances is a bit of an understatement. We hadn’t recovered from that recession when the Covid pandemic hit.
In an environment where many are worried about the future, how we, as teachers, handle our registration process, especially studio re-registration process makes a big difference. This is one of the best tools in ‘recession protecting’ our businesses so we still get students enrolled annually.
While there are many things that go into studio registration, let’s focus on current clients. It’s much less expensive to keep current families & students than spend time, money & energy getting new clients. It may seem counter-intuitive, but with a few creative studio admin tips, you can have a work-life balance … even at a busy time in your studio’s year!
And don’t worry. I’ll be linking to several other articles at the end to help you with other background admin tasks related to registration.
Become more than a teacher
Remember you are more than a teacher. Notice I didn’t mention piano? You are more than a teacher. You are also a confidant, advocate, cheerleader, life coach, & so much more.
One of my clients talks quite a bit about how much her child has grown during lessons over the years. He is on the autism spectrum (high-functioning) & teachers don’t always accept his idiosyncrasies. While she does talk about his musical growth, what she really focuses on are:
- His coping skills when he is frustrated (no more leaving the room),
- His ability to articulate what he wants to say
- Increased social skills (reading non-verbal cues)
- Comfort level with trying new things whether they are on the piano, activities or apps.
When you are teaching important life skills, you become part of the team. Or, as one of my clients said, “You’re their second mom.”
We all want to be heard
Listen. Listen. And, listen some more. Tf a parent or student brings up a concern, actively listen. Then, do your best to address it.
Sometimes you’re going to wonder where on earth the concern is coming from. I remember one conversation that I could help but think, “We haven’t used that computer program for 3 months. Why are we talking about this?” I had failed to keep this parent up-to-date on what programs & tools we were using. As a parent, I would have been frustrated as well trying to help my child with something only to find out it had been a waste of time.
Try to understand the root of the problem. Is it:
- Really a program concern or is it something else?
- A parent who is overwhelmed with trying to help with practice time & doesn’t know how to ask for help?
- That other things are going on outside of lessons & this concern has been magnified by their stress?
I can’t say that I’m always great at this. It is a conscious choice to stop & think before I respond. Often, I will leave an email for a few hours or overnight to think about my response before sending a reply. If it’s in the moment, asking clarifying questions & repeating back the concern helps me better understand the root concern. “If I understand correctly, you are concerned that Juan is not excited about practicing anymore. You are wondering if his programming really works for him.”
Parents need to feel you are listening & genuinely trying to address their concerns. When it comes time for studio re-registration, they are more likely to remember how positive the experience was.
Be in their corner
Let parents know that their child(ren)’s well-being is your priority, both through your words & actions. As a parent, I can attest to this. When I feel that my child’s teacher is in their corner & will advocate for them, I WANT to help that teacher however I can. I go out of my way to tell others about that teacher & how my child has thrived with them.
Parents can feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of decisions they need to make for their kids. What school should they go to? How much should we help them with their homework? Before they are in school, what skills do they need to learn? What extra-curricular activities will have the most benefit for my child? Will online music lessons fall under “empty” screen time or something educational? And, the list keeps going on.
Little positive reminders don’t hurt
Reminding parents of their great choice to hire you makes them want to share that decision with others. And if you know there is a specific life skill the parents would like their child to focus on, be sure to give praise that includes those skills.
A couple of examples of comments include:
- “I was so impressed at how Suzy looked for patterns in her music all on her own! A month ago, she would have needed help seeing the pattern, but today … wow! Suzy looked at the music & told ME what was happening!”
- “I was so happy to get Charlie’s text this week. When he wasn’t sure what exactly to do, he texted to ask for clarification. Great advocating, Charlie! I like how you asked for help rather than waiting for the lesson.”
Share your professional growth
Tell clients about your professional development. Letting them know how you are continually improving your teaching & program offerings sets you are apart from other teachers. There is still a stereotype of the piano teacher alone in their studio doing the same thing for decades. It’s up to us to let parents know that is no longer the norm (we hope).
Who do parents want to teach their child(ren)? The teacher who is static or the one who has the skills to individualize their approach for their child? (I hope you said the latter.)
This can be formal like a TopMusic membership or informal like reading great ideas from a book or site!
(The TopMusic link is an affiliate link. This means that at no extra cost to you I get a small fee. This is used to cover the cost of free resources … like this article!)
Go beyond just words
The other part of this tip is to continually add new ideas to the studio. When the studio becomes static, it’s a lot easier for parents & students to feel they aren’t missing out. But, when something new is coming up students are loath to leave because they may miss out.
I like to informally tease out our upcoming studio theme around studio re-registration time. Even though it’s months away, both parents & students want to know what will be coming down the line!
Say thank you often
Thank your clients regularly for choosing you. This last tip may sound a bit strange I know, but hear me out.
I know my clients could choose someone else. But, they don’t. This knowledge reminds me that I should be thankful.
I used to have a client referral program, but very few of my clients would accept the money. (I understand this is a nice problem to have.) If a parent or student recommends me to someone else, I make sure I give heartfelt thanks. Regardless of whether that recommendation pans out, it’s important to acknowledge the referral. And, if they want the monetary reward I will gladly put it towards their tuition! I understand that the thank you will help when it comes to studio re-registration.
A few other thank you ideas
Another way to thank clients is to celebrate their child(ren)’s successes. One year, I posted a Weekend Shout-Out on our studio Facebook page. There, I list the milestones that students reached that week. It’s hard to walk away when you see your child & others continually growing musically. Plus, who wants to leave when it’s thriving?
At your recital (or even random times throughout the year) thank everyone for their contributions.
- Students for practicing & being willing to try new things.
- Parents for enrolling their child(ren) & providing an environment conducive to practicing.
- Grandparents & other family members for encouraging comments every time they hear a child play.
Keep it simple
This is something I discounted for years but was reminded of recently.
I used to have multiple physical forms for my clients to fill out. Granted it was all information & permissions I legally needed. But, the joke was that it was time to develop carpal tunnel syndrome while filling them out. Which when I think about it is kind of sad.
When my studio moved online, those forms became Google Forms. And, it was the best decision I could have made. All the information & permissions I needed were included, but it became much easier for parents during our early bird studio re-registration.
A cautionary tale
One parent asked me in our 2nd year online if I was keeping everything online. It took a few questions of my own to understand fully, but I was able to answer that yes it was going to stay as a link to a single form. “Oh, thank you! It was so much easier to go click-click-click rather than printing out forms, signing them, scanning them & trying to send them back.”
Look at what your studio re-registration process looks like. Can your clients easily go ‘click-click-click’?
Studio re-registration starts early
And as promised, here are a few more articles to help you with your studio re-registration & new client registration!
- Determining your tuition rates so you get paid what you’re worth
- Deciding whether to list your rates on your site (spoiler alert: yes!)
- Finding out what your clients really think during lessons
- Checking in “with the masses”
- Find out what fascinates your ideal studio clients
It can be hard to keep our businesses running when economic times are tough.
What are your tips for ‘recession protecting’ your studio?
I would love to hear from you below!
NOTE: This article was originally published on April 29, 2016. It has since been updated with current tips & plenty of ideas to make studio re-registration a breeze in your studio!