Many times when we talk about setting up a schedule, we think about our teaching time. Or, if you are a traveling teacher, teaching & travel time. But, do you also schedule administrative tasks that go into running a successful studio? Or, is it a bit of a wing-it type of situation?
Chances are if you are feeling burnt-out … or burnt-out adjacent (not quite there but just one tiny thing will push you over), it’s because you’ve missed budgeting time & energy for something.
And having learnt this the hard way, a few times, I don’t want you going through the same learning curve I did.
Even Teaching is More Than Just Lessons
Running a studio is so much more than teaching. And even if you work for another studio, there is a certain amount of work outside of lessons.
That’s right. It isn’t just the students that have ‘homework’ over the week. Not if you want a successful studio.
It doesn’t matter if you want a boutique studio with limited student spots, to grow a multi-teacher music school or something in between. Success is the vision YOU have for your studio. But, it takes work.Rosemarie Penner
Making lessons look effortless
Very few teachers are able to just show up & pull off a successful, engaging lesson that not only meets the needs of their students but keeps them progressing each week. And, I know those teachers still do things in the background to pull off this “effortless” lesson.
So, what makes a lesson look effortless?
- Knowing what you will be teaching/covering in lesson
- Music ready for students
- Activities ready to go
- Back-up plan … for when the original plan goes off the rails
- Parents & students have a clear understanding of expectations
You may want a written out lesson plan. For me, it’s a practical consideration. I used to travel to my students’ homes. I would rather not spend lesson time writing out what students should be practicing from scratch. And if I don’t bring it … it’s stuck at home. Now that I teach online, I still don’t want to waste lesson time creating notes from scratch or looking for materials. That time is precious!
Even if you prefer not to write out your plans, you need to make time to pull everything needed for lessons. Before the lesson. Otherwise, you have a student sitting around twiddling their thumbs while you look for the right resource.
And, that just doesn’t look effortless.
As much as we love to focus on teaching, there is more to running a successful studio than being with our students.
- Communications with parents & students
- Advertising, marketing & creating community
- Researching, purchasing, prepping new resources
- Professional development
- Teacher training (if you have a multi-teacher studio)
- And, the list keeps going
Oh, & this assumes you don’t have a life outside of your studio. (Right now I’m laughing because when was the last time you heard someone say they don’t have a life outside of work?)
Part of running a successful studio is making time for the things outside of your studio that are important to you. Life is so much more than endlessly working.Rosemarie Penner
The need to schedule administrative tasks is the part of our schedules that tends to be forgotten.
And, this is the part that tends to lead to overwhelmed teachers. And, then they want to sing along with this song.
Communication is key
I’ve been on the receiving end of great communication & horrible communication.
As a parent, I can tell you that nothing frustrates me or turns me against someone faster than finding out last minute something needs to be done with or for my children.
The families in your studio have a life outside of piano lessons. It doesn’t mean they don’t love music. They just have a multi-faceted family life. If you want happy clients, give them lots of time before schedule or expectation changes.Rosemarie Penenr
Sometimes we can forget that our studio is not on the mind of our clients all the time. And, that’s the way it should be.
It’s our job to keep them updated & make it easy for them to do so.
Batching your communications
Schedule administrative tasks, like communication, ahead of time can seem overwhelming.
But, batching most of your correspondence ahead of time makes a world of difference!
For example, once I create my annual studio schedule it takes just one day to write out & schedule all 11 newsletters my clients receive over the course of the year.
It also means that I never find myself waking up at 2 am thinking, “Oh, no! I forgot to send out important information for the next few weeks!” (True story!)
While insomnia misses me, I am much happier getting full nights of sleep. At least until a new idea says, “Wake up! We need to do something about this NOW!”
Using “canned” responses
You can create “canned” responses, or pre-written emails that have been saved as templates. These are great for email requests you get often or with regularity.
- wait list requests
- makeup lesson requests
- anything that comes up often
Don’t have “canned” responses? No worries.
The next time you have to answer a client email, ask yourself if this is a request that comes up regularly. If so, save the email as a template. Then, just change out the name & specific details when the situation comes up.
I have saved so much time & energy by creating these templates. And, those days when I am tired & feeling uncreative? Those templates keep the quality of communication between my clients & I at the level they expect.
I will not call myself a marketing expert, but I have learnt over the years …
- Regular online content is key to keeping your studio in Google search engines
- People want to connect … social media channels give people a glimpse into your studio & help set expectations of what the experience is like
- Make it easy for clients to brag online & in person about what their kids are doing in your studio
Just relying on word of mouth isn’t enough anymore.
One of my favourite podcasts on this topic is “The Foot Traffic Podcast“. The best part? Stacy Tuschl focuses on brick & mortar businesses with actionable ideas each & every single episode.
Another great resource is Sara Campbell over at “Savvy Music Studio“. Her framework for studio social media marketing has continued to save me hours each week in trying to figure out what to post plus so much more!
My husband is a math geek. In the best possible way. Unfortunately, he has no interest in doing my bookkeeping. Sigh. And while I have a deep need for financial security, I am not a fan of dealing with all the data entry that bookkeeping requires.
If you have a love-hate relationship with an admin task, schedule short amounts of time each week or month to just get it done.
Your future-self will thank you.Rosemarie Penner
Plus, being a good business owner means knowing your numbers.
That being said, I will admit this is one of the hardest parts of running my studio. I know picking lint out of the carpet isn’t more important than entering numbers. But, there is always something that seems like it “has” to get done.
Setting this task in my schedule regularly just makes life easier. What used to be weeks of entering data before tax time is now about 5-10 minutes per week. And, I’ve started to enjoy this time! What!?!
Like our students discover when they don’t want to practice, getting started is the hardest part & it isn’t nearly as painful as originally thought.
Resources & Professional Development
Yes, having a spot in your schedule for administrative tasks for finding resources & professional development is a must.
Even with creating many of the resources in my own studio, I still continually research new:
- Lesson & group activities
- Lab ideas
- New (to me) teaching ideas
I also make the time to connect with my colleagues on a regular basis.
APTA (Alberta Piano Teachers Association) holds regular staff rooms in Calgary (& other areas of the province). These informal gatherings have been a great source of information & support on a wide variety of topics.
Check out your local music association to see what resources & gatherings they offer throughout the year.
Teaching doesn’t have to be a lonely profession. You become an expert teacher when you make the time to learn from & with your colleagues.Rosemarie Penner
Making Time For What is Important
With this long list of administrative tasks to schedule, you may be thinking there is no way to have a personal life & run a studio.
This is not true at all.
Schedule the important stuff first
Know what is important to you by completing a Ladder of Priorities.
It’s an exercise I highly recommend to everyone. And, it’s one I’ve done multiple times over the years.
When you know what is important to you, it sets everything else up for success.Rosemarie Penner
For example, I know that I want to be able to say goodbye to my kids as they head off to school & hello when they get home. I know that date night with my husband & spending time as a family is also important to me.
So, I teach Tuesday through Thursday. Monday & Friday are my office days where I batch as much as possible.
We make time for the things are truly important to us. What do you need to make time for?Rosemarie Penner
Schedule Administrative Tasks
The temptation can be to just focus on the teaching side of your studio. After all, that’s why people are coming to you, right?
But, putting lint picking ahead of admin won’t keep your studio successful & profitable. Yes, there is a little tongue in cheek there.
As much as I don’t like bookkeeping, I schedule a short session each week to get everything entered & see a financial snapshot of my business. This meets my need for financial security. And, it keeps me from stressing about tax time & the hours upon hours it would take to do data entry. No thank you. Instead, I now look forward to looking at that financial snapshot!
Schedule your priorities first. Schedule administrative tasks after. Work can become more efficient. But, your priorities deserve your time & energy.Rosemarie Penner
Click those social media icons below to become part of a community of other independent music teachers that want to teach creatively, run a successful studio AND have a personal life too! When you get there … answer this question!
What is something that you need to make time for on the business side of your studio?
NOTE: This article was originally published on October 2, 2019. It has since been updated to reflect both the changes in how I handle admin, but the resources that have made a difference in how I schedule administrative tasks.