Found in: Studio Management
Nancy B. Kansas
I am newly licensed, and will start teaching SM soon. I am only able to establish a small studio (approx 10 students) at this point, and for the foreseeable future. So it is natural to envision my friends being among (or totally comprising) the small group(s) of folks I would teach first, as I am talking so much to them lately about this great new piano method I’ve discovered! However, I realize that it could be difficult or at least challenging to teach friends/children of friends, and want to look carefully before jumping in with both feet (my usual tendency).
Also, I am aware that having a “friends and family” discount could be sticky/inadvisable. How do you handle this? How did/do you discuss with friends the financial aspects of lessons with SM love & seriousness (if there are any tweaks from how you’d talk to strangers)?
Would you please consider sharing any experiences and/or insight regarding teaching friends/family?
Sue K. AU
You are in an interesting position here. When you say 10 students, are you limited by space or time… If you have 10 spots, my suggestion would be to do groups in those spots. This allows you the freedom to have students at reduced rates, which, when mixed with other students, makes your hourly rate reasonable. If you are doing private lessons, a discounted or free student
plays havoc with your business. I guess you really need to discuss these scenarios with your friends and family, let them know how tightly scheduled you are and that you are here to
make some money. They can then decide if they want to learn or not. One option would be to put them all together in one class – that way you know that Friday at 2pm or whatever time slot you put them in, is bringing in less money for you. And what are friends and family for, if not to experiment on?
Good luck, you will make the right choice. And if things change, you can always make another decision then.
Hilary C. AU
I would make sure they understand that the lesson situation is a professional zone and that they will be treated like everyone else.
Marg G. AU
Having taught traditionally for over 25 years (while only VERY recent in Simply Music) I have taught many friends. (As I have no family anywhere near where I live so I have never taught family).
I have always charged them my normal fee, as they appreciate the fact that this is my business and I really can’t afford to give discounts. It is important to realize that you are “selling” your time and you don’t discount the quality or quantity of the time you give family and friends SO it is unwise to discount the fees you charge.
I have, on three occasions, used a barter system and each of these times I have made sure the barter is financially equitable.
Not sure what others think but this was reinforced to me by many very experienced teachers over my years of teaching so it’s not just something that I have decided.
Cathy W. AU
A number of my students are friends or children of friends. Conversely, and number of my students have become very good friends! Have confidence that this is a perfectly acceptable and achievable situation. What is really at the heart of this matter is open, honest, effective communication and mutual respect.
If you are approaching this situation with the mantra “Never do business with friends” in your head, then I think this could be problematic for you. There is certain “business” that you or I certainly wouldn’t want to do with friends. Eg If your only motivation for this business is to “drive a hard bargain and make the biggest buck possible” then sure, don’t do it with
friends otherwise you will probably end up losing your friends!
However, I’m quite clear in my head that “drive a hard bargain and make the biggest buck possible” is not my motivation for teaching SM, and I bet it isn’t yours either. Whilst we all want to support our families and provide an acceptable standard of living for our loved ones, our central drive comes from a love of music and love of empowering other people to learn and play
piano with ease and joy. This being the case, where is the problem with teaching friends? One of the very best things about teaching music is that we make a living by helping bring happiness into other people’s lives. No friend could object to that and neither should you!
Since you have posted this letter on the forum, I’m guessing there is something that you are not comfortable with. Ask yourself what is causing you this discomfort. Then work out your way of dealing with it. If in doubt, try reversing the situation in your head – ie suppose you or your children were taking lessons from a personal friend. What qualities would you be requiring of the teacher? What expectations would you have? I have a rule of thumb, if there is something that doesn’t “feel right” for delivering to friends, then it’s not right at all and needs to be thought through. Like I said before, it all comes down to open, honest, respectful and effective communication.
With respect to “friends and family discount” remember that the bottom line is we are all free to charge as much or as little as we see fit. So, if you want to go down that road, just come up with something consistent. However, personally if I were learning from a friend, I would pay them the full rate as I see it as undervaluing the teacher to not to pay the asking price. Why should the teacher take a cut in income because they are teaching a friend? It’s that mutual respect issue again. So, make your own decision here.
Sue C. AU
I have practiced teaching by teaching a friend. She is now in Level 8 and we are just ahead by one level of my most advanced student. I find her valuable as I allow her to push me along, so that when I get to the next student I have it all sorted out.
Amy Y. New Mexico
One thing that I would suggest is to make sure you are comfortable running requirement based lessons with your friends. I find for myself it’s hard for me sometimes to insist that my friends follow through with my directions and I had to learn the hard way that I wasn’t doing any of us any favors. Also, regarding fees, unfortunately I believe it’s human nature that if you pay more for something you tend to value it more. I had offered some deep discounts to friends at the beginning and I sensed that a number of them did not take the lessons very seriously and expected me to do a lot more for them than the students who were paying more. I’ve been in the uncomfortable situation of having to get rid of some of my friends from my roster. It may be just my experience but it’s something to keep in mind. Also I hate to admit this, but I find myself taking the lessons a lot more seriously when I’m paid in full–I realized this fact after a friend of mine on her own initiative decided to pay the regular fees (while she was unemployed) because she absolutely appreciated the lessons.
Finally, one thing that I read somewhere and I believe is very true is that women in business tend to undercharge for their goods and services. Be aware of this tendency. It’s okay to charge lessons for what they are worth. I’m still trying very hard to not be apologetic when I tell people my fees.
Caron S. AU
I have been teaching for three months and most of my students are friends or ‘friends of friends’. I was also wondering how I would go charging friends and feeling a bit awkward in the beginning. I have not given any discounts and I have just been assertive about it and everyone has been so understanding and just not expected any free handouts.
They all realize this is my income and respect that. I think it is important to do this from the beginning and not to give different rates to friends etc. I have written up a very simple page of my policies and included how I would like payment and the different ways they can pay me. I hand this out from the beginning and everyone is clear what is expected. This has taken a few months to tweak – but like the teaching side it is a constant process and learning journey.
Vee S. Florida
My first student was a friend. I gave her a small discount. I was very relaxed teaching her as she is very easy to be with. The only problem I have is we would talk after the lesson to catch up on stuff. It has worked out ok because I do not schedule anyone right after her. So my thoughts are teach you friends. Why keep such a wonderful piano experience from them just because they are friends. I want everyone to play.