Simplify Your Lesson Policies for Private Instructors

Jun 30, 2016

by Eric Branner

A clear lesson policy is as an absolute must for any instructor. A policy sheet lays out the ground rules for a student-teacher relationship. It explains the instructor’s rate, accepted payment methods and cancellation policies. It also outlines the commitments expected by the student regarding practice and lesson attendance.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of different lesson policies while developing the framework for the Fons app. In doing so, I discovered the fundamental way to reduce your administrative time as an instructor is to simplify your policy agreement.

Billing Policy

Billing is perhaps the most important part of your policies statement, and the easiest place to simplify your teaching life. I used to offer 30, 45 and 60 minute private lessons — with a different rate for each slot.

I wanted to encourage students to take a longer lesson, so I offered a rates break for an hour slot. I also taught in two different studio spaces and charged a different rate for each one. I created six different pricing structures for my students. When billing, I’d often forget who owed how much.. it was a mess.

So I switched to offering only one hourly rate, reducing my billing to one option. It had absolutely no effect on how students chose a lesson duration. Younger kids should probably take a shorter lesson, older students can handle a longer lesson. Simplify your billing practice. You will be so happy that you did.

Here’s my old billing policy:

Lessons on Capitol Hill are $x/hour, $x/45 minutes, and $x/half hour. Lessons in the West Seattle Studio are $x/$x/$x. Payment is due by check or cash for the month on the first lesson of that month. Payment not received by the 10th puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to ask for it. Multiple late payments may lead to a penalty, or termination of lessons.

Here’s my new billing policy:

Lessons are $x/hour, available in 15 minute increments. All lessons will automatically be charged to a credit card at the time of lessons.

Wow, that’s easier huh? No more chasing checks, no more dealing with missed lessons and no more squirrelly accounting. Just one rate. This makes life easier for everyone involved — both teachers and clients.

Cancellation/No-Show Policy

This is a sticky topic for some instructors to address and enforce. You’ve got to have a cancellation policy and stick to it! Here’s my old policy..

In the event of absence by the instructor, credit will be forwarded to the next month’s lessons. Absences by the student will be credited to the next month only if the instructor is given 48 hours notice. Excessive absences will result in termination of lessons.

Once we simplified our billing practice by not collecting for the month up front, we made our cancellation/missed lesson policy much easier. If I miss a lesson, I simply don’t charge the student for their lesson that day by cancelling the appointment in Fons. No credits necessary.

I do still ask for 48 hours notice to cancel a lesson. I charge the lesson fee for a no-show or unexcused cancellation. Using the Fons app, I can also easily cancel a missed lesson charge if I feel the student shouldn’t be charged.

In short, your cancellation policies need to cover a cancellation by you, the teacher,, how much notice you need for a cancellation from a student, and how you will address an unexcused absence.

Using Fons and the best business practices built into the app, my new cancellation policy reads like this:

In the event the instructor cancels a lesson, you will not be charged for that lesson. Absences by the student inside 48 hours of the lesson will be charged their lesson fee at the time the lesson was scheduled. Reschedules incur no additional fees, and are at the discretion of the instructor.

That’s it. A super-simple policy for billing and attendance. The other areas of an agreement like practice and supplies are totally up to the instructor. I just wanted to address the business side of the student-teacher relationship and how we have drastically simplified the process in creating the Fons App.

Charge a single hourly rate and stand by your cancellation policy. If you do this, you will reduce your admin time by more than half. You will also save your students’ time and energy. The more simple and straightforward the better. Let me know how this works for you.

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