When I first began my studio, I looked high & low for studio registration tips. Can you relate? After all, no one wants to spend more time than they have to admin. But, there are times when a little creative admin needs to happen to balance studio registration (which can be stressful) with having a semblance of work-life balance.
I’m sharing the tips on how to best get ready so studio registration becomes oh-so-easy! It’s all about taking that goodwill & transferring it into renewed contracts for the fall (or summer depending on your studio). If you’re wondering what documents to include … read here.
How real life intrudes
One night we got a call no one wants to get. “Get to the hospital as soon as you can.” My Dad had had his 2nd brain bleed in a week which also caused a stroke. Hours after that call we were on a plane to fly to my parents.
While I had planned on being back in time to teach, within a couple of days I realized where I needed to be was with my Mom. So, my clients woke up to an email letting them know lessons were cancelled for the week & what this would mean for them. My clients are amazing & we have a great relationship which helped a lot. And, when they’ve had family emergencies I have policies in place to create win-win situations.
Because I had all those basics above (in particular solid policies), I was able to get digital escape rooms into family folders & focus on being with my family. All before heading off to spend the day at the hospital’s ICU waiting room.
I walked away from my studio (outside of those activities for my students) for a week. And, guess what? It was okay.
Here are studio registration tips for each aspect of those elements!
Tip 1: Make It Simple To Fill Out & Return
There are many ways teachers & studio owners can have students re-register, most of which I have tried at some point or another.
When I began, I sent out an email on the first day of registration asking for replies. Some replied, but most waited until the lesson to tell me. It wasn’t a bad system, but I had to make a note to myself & send the documentation when I got home rather than just ending my teaching day.
Using Google Forms
These days, I send a link to a Google Form that clients can fill out regardless of where & when they chose to complete the form. This had had multiple advantages:
- I can copy/paste directly from the responses to ensure my information is accurate
- Clients have no excuse for not filling out the form.
These are my responses to parents when they have not filled it out.
“You haven’t had a chance? Not a problem. Here is the link again. Perhaps you could fill it out while your child has their lesson. I really look forward to teaching your child again next year. Thanks!”
“I understand that hockey/soccer/dance season is very busy. Here is the link again. There are so many times we have had to wait before or after an event for our boys. Perhaps during a break in the game/performance, you can quickly fill out the form on your cell phone. I really look forward to teaching your child again next year. Thanks!”
Try to create a form that is quick & easy to fill out, but also fits with families’ busy lives.
What I have done recently is divide my registration forms into 2 forms. One for returning clients that have questions that let them streamline the process. And, another for new clients that collect slightly different information. Because these are on created through Google Forms, it was simply a matter of duplicating the form & switching a few things out. This studio registration tip alone will save you so much time each year!
Tip 2: Reduce The Number Of Documents
Some teachers prefer to have multiple documents with a short, 1-page contract. I’ve chosen to have everything in the same legal document. To be honest, it really comes down to personal preference & doesn’t matter which option you choose. Though remember the more your clients have to do to re-register or register, the more reasons they have to say “No” or “I’ll get to it later.”
Some teachers don’t like the word “contract”. And, some will claim that it can’t be enforced so these should be called “policies”. This last one gets murky. Sometimes “can’t” is really “not worth it” & that distinction isn’t always made clear. Check into the legal requirements in your country & area.
Use whatever word you want: contract, policies, etc. But, the end result is the same.
I use the word “contract” because it encompasses everything, including my studio policies. This doesn’t mean it’s the right word for your studio. Think carefully about the wording you want to use.
Photo-video release form
Keep in mind that your country may have laws against taking or posting pictures/videos of students, especially those that are minors. From a legal standpoint, this form is a must.
For a photo-video release form template, I am leaving that to the many legal experts online. A search for “photo & video release form template” will give you many options to choose from. You will notice, as I did, that often the wording is near identical since it needs to cover certain legal terminology.
It should include the option to allow or decline permission to take & post pictures/videos.
Another tip to save time
I used to keep my forms separate. However, since moving my studio online, those forms became digital. And, my clients LOVE it! They loved it even more when everything was placed in one form.
On the Google Form, clients:
- Fill out registration info
- Agree to my studio policies
- Choose the photo/video release option they want.
The entire form is referred to as a contract & the wording lets clients know their answers are legally binding.
Moving to one form did mean I had to think very carefully about wording & how it would be laid out to avoid overwhelm.
Tip 3: Multiple Places To Check Studio Dates
Whether you choose a paper schedule, emailed document or online version, as long as your clients have a way to check the studio calendar it’s good.
Here’s another studio registration tip … give clients multiple places to see the updated studio calendar!
While I used to get emails all the time regarding studio dates, each year those emails have decreased as my clients have used the other options I have provided more often.
Places for clients to check dates
There are 4 places I recommend students & clients check dates throughout the year:
- Studio site: not their favourite
- Monthly newsletter: top option
- Weekly practice pages: top option
- Social media
A simple way to save time is to embed your Google Calendar on your studio website. (Here is a great walkthrough on how to do that.) It updates automatically every time you update your studio Google Calendar. Because who wants to do this manually each month, right?
Design your studio newsletter as a ‘must read’ every month. Get clients to register for studio events with links. Then, place up to 3 months of important dates as a reminder for them as well. My kids’ school does this with the weekly newsletter & I love how easy it makes it to ensure our family calendar is up to date. (We’re kind of done with surprise days off, you know?)
Some parents, no matter what you do, won’t read the newsletter. So always list important dates for the week on student practice pages.
While I used to get emails all the time regarding studio dates, each year those emails have decreased as my clients have used the other options I have provided more & more.
Tip 4: Stick To Your Schedule
In my studio, current clients get first dibs on the schedule. Not only does it reward them for re-enrolling, but it allows me to keep a fairly consistent schedule year to year.
When I first began, I took students where I could get them which meant I drove all over our city & in some cases even outside the city. And, from what I’ve heard over the years, the majority of teachers do the same as we grow our studios. But as we gain experience, we have the opportunity to choose whom we work with, as well as the parameters of where & when we are willing to teach.
Setting boundaries before your schedule
Before letting clients just sign up for lessons, sit down & determine the specific days & hours you want to teach.
Keep in mind that on top of your teaching hours you also need to budget time for everything else: administrative tasks, social media, researching new repertoire & activities, practicing piano (hopefully), professional development, etc.
If you want balance in your life, it starts with controlling your schedule. And, if you want creativity in your life, being overscheduled won’t allow for that.
They can’t meet then … now what
While I have had prospective (& very occasionally current clients) try to get lessons outside of my set days/times, I know from experience that I just can’t give my best to those students … which makes it much easier to say no.
“I understand that you prefer a different day/time. However, based on my experience I know exactly how much time I need to budget for each student to give them the best programming & lesson experience possible. My schedule is set so that your family gets 100% of me when I am at your home teaching. Outside of that schedule, you will not get the true value for your tuition & that is not acceptable to me.”
I have yet to meet an individual who has found a real argument against that statement, beyond “Are you sure?” … to which I answer “Yes. I am sure.”
If you want ideas on how to batch your time so you can create the ideal schedule for your studio, check out Batching Your Way To An Easier Life.
Tip 5: Create A System For Welcoming New Clients
When spots open up in our schedule, having an interview process & welcome packet creates a professional start to these new client relationships.
This used to take me a long time to prepare. Somehow I had this idea that each Meet ‘n Greet needed to be unique.
Now, I have this systematized. In terms of activities, I have 2 plans: one for beginners & the other for transfer students. The interview process & welcome packets are the same. And, I have email templates that nurture new clients, but don’t require me to be creative at the moment.
Getting ready for a new teaching year
I’ll admit I get excited as I prepare for registration as it is a time to reflect on what has worked well this year … & what creative solutions I can come up with to solve pain points for the next year!
Here are 5 more tips to help you during registration season!
What are your favourite parts of registration? Or, what are the parts that you would like help with?
I would love to read your comments below!
NOTE: This article was originally published on April 7, 2017. It’s since been updated with new ideas for online registration & streamlining your registration process. But, don’t worry. The awesome stuff from the original article is still here too!