One of the most uncomfortable issues a private music teacher faces is what to do about students who cancel a lesson at the last minute or don’t show up. A few strategies have helped me deal with this issue:
1. I charge for the month up front. If a student misses a lesson, they’ve already paid for it, so there’s no uncomfortable conversation the next week like “By the way, you still owe me for last week.”
2. I teach in a rented room in a music store. Doing this has helped keep my business more professional. I make it clear to parents that I have to pay to use the room, and other teachers use it the other days of the week. I remind parents that I only have access to the room for a limited amount of time and can’t just do a make-up any time.
In the past, I had taught lessons out of my home. This this kind of situation may give some parents a misconception that they’re really not inconveniencing me if they cancel at the last minute or don’t show. It can also make parents think they can schedule a make up lesson anytime because they think you’re always available anytime.
3. When a student cancels in advance, I try to call other students to offer that time slot, even if I don’t owe them a make up lesson. I think parents appreciate that offer even if their schedule doesn’t allow it. I’ll even admit that I know in advance that some families can’t make it at that time, but I call them anyway just as a goodwill gesture.
Also, I try to remember that a majority of lessons are missed because of the parent, and through no fault of the student. So I try to avoid reprimanding the student if the parent brought them late.
Teaching private lessons definitely has a business component to it. I think the more we do to demonstrate professionalism and treat our students and their parents as business clients, the more likely we are to make wise decisions about how we handle issues like cancellation, no shows, make-ups and billing.