Spring Into Registration

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.

This article is all about the essential docs you’ll need & how to best get that 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).


The basics

There are a few things I think every teacher should have included in their registration process.  They ensure your studio looks professional, have clear guidelines for your clients, & set up your studio to run smoothly … so you can focus most of our attention on the fun part, teaching!

  • Registration form
  • Contract
  • Photo/Video release form
  • Calendar
  • Teaching & office schedule
  • Interview sheets & new client process
  • Welcome packet for new clients

This may seem like a lot at first glance. And, I get it.

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.

How you set up your studio registration affects everything in the course of your year.

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!


Registration Form

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.  

Remove as many obstacles to studio registration as possible so parents re-register quickly & easily!

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!


Contract & Photo/Video Release Form

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.”

Contract

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.

The goal of your studio contract/policies is that your clients know what you expect of THEM & what they can expect from YOU.

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.


Calendar

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.

Parents & students are busy. They need multiple ways to check important dates on their devices. Otherwise, you WILL spend more time on studio communication.

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.  

After much experimentation, learn from me.

The most valuable real estate on a practice page is at the top. Make good use of it.

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.


Scheduling Students

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.”  

Most clients will respect that you want them to have the best of you & want them to get value out of piano lessons.  

And if they really don’t want to work with your schedule, it tends to be a rough year all around.

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.


Registering 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.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be letting you know how I vet new clients so I can be sure they will be a great fit for my studio, as well as giving you a peek at the welcome packets they will be getting this year!

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!

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!

3 comments

  1. Hi Rosemarie,

    Thanks for the good tips. I’m wondering when your registration begins? In May? Earlier or later? I opened my summer session registration in April and I’m wondering if I should start fall term registration in May of if that will be overwhelming for parents as it will overlap with the summer session registration. Any thoughts?

    1. Thanks, Shelley! I’m glad the tips are helping!
      I have staggered registration in my studio. In April, I let clients know about summer & fall registration. Summer registration isn’t a big thing in my studio & I budget accordingly. My current clients have a few weeks before it opens to the wait list.
      That being said I’ve experimented with different months. During the main part of the pandemic, I started registration later since I knew quite a few of my clients were already suffering from decision fatigue & didn’t want to add to that. My goal is to always have my schedule finalized before school lets out in June. That way it’s less stress for both my clients & me. 😉

  2. Hi Rosemarie!

    Thanks for the reminder of setting borders for scheduling students. I´m working from home and so it´s very easy to let students come at any time they want. But I´m positive it´ll be easier for me in autumn. I´m expecting my daughter next month, so my work will rely to her schedule. 😉

    Because of her I´m really wondering how to select future students. I´ll have less time to teach and I want to spend this time with interested and practicing students. So I´m very looking forward to your thoughts about this in an article.

    Besides, I´m from Germany and we don´t have this registration every year. They register once, set up an automatic payment and the journey begins.

    Have a nice sunday
    yours Carina

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