Cheri S., Utah
My studio is full and I’ve got four potential students coming to an introductory session next week. They are all very different from each other, so they probably wouldn’t form a new class, even if I had a time slot for them.
How do other teachers handle waiting lists? This fall I took some new students in pairs and trios, but I’d rather start new classes with at least four students. The way inquiries trickle in, it seems like it could take several months to gather up four students who are around the same age and experience level. Do students really wait that long? I feel like they’d move on to more available alternatives.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I have a few suggestions.
If you want to accommodate more students in your own studio, are there any smaller groups that you can combine in order to create an opening for yourself? They don’t have to be in the exact same place in the curriculum; you just have to manage getting them together. Of course that depends on several factors, including the pace of each class, their dedication to keeping the playlist alive, and scheduling.
Another thing I’ve done when trying to get enough new students for a group is to enlist the help of those who are ready to start. Do you offer referral incentives? Suggest that they think of anyone they know who might be interested who could start with them. They get to start sooner, get an incentive, and you get more students.
The other suggestion I have is to refer them to another teacher in your area (if applicable) if you cannot accommodate them in the near future. This is just good business for everyone involved. If you have a collaborative group of teachers, this will really help your studios grow in the long run.
The incentive idea Laurie suggests, is a good one. I offer a credit off of the next account for any family who refer a new student who actually starts.
Laurie has covered the rest I believe.
Cheri S., Utah
Laurie & Marg, thanks for taking time to share ideas. It sounds like you don’t use waiting lists. Instead, you offer referral incentives, combine classes, and suggest other local SM teachers. This all makes a lot of sense and seems to uphold my concern that waiting lists don’t really work.
Is there anyone who does successfully manage a waiting list? I was pretty sure I’d heard people refer to them before. I’d like to hear more perspectives, if there are any, so I can start tucking away ideas not only for today’s circumstances but for future inquiries and situations as well.
Rebecca G., Colorado
I took a cue from another teacher and decided that I actually would do the waiting list thing. I don’t call it a waiting list because that has an indefinite sort of feel to it in my mind. But I decided that my new goal was to form classes of 3-4 students minimum, and so in my FIS I started stating that I teach group lessons and enrolling in lessons would mean holding a spot for you until a class could form at your available time(s).
Back in September using this strategy, I had 3 students prepay for their first month of lessons without any idea when they might actually start with me (unfortunately they were not available at the same lesson times). I checked in with them periodically to make sure they weren’t freaking out, asked if their availability had changed at all, and worked like crazy to recruit other students who were available at the same times as them. Once I saw that there were possibilities forming, I let them know that as well. As of now, I have one of those 3 people starting in a class of 3 in January (I recruited 2 other students to join her). The other 2 people who prepaid are husband and wife, and I decided that if I hadn’t formed a class for them by December that I would offer to start them in class of their own. I had 2 possible classmates show up for them but both fell through, so I’m anticipating starting them in January without other classmates if that is agreeable to them. If I can recruit other students within a couple of months, I figure I can potentially catch them up and insert them in the husband-and-wife class at that point.
In October, I recruited 2 more students (siblings) and I told their mom that I would wait to start lessons for them until I could recruit other students to join them. This time it was a requirement in my mind to have other students join their class because the 2 siblings are on scholarship with me, and I need to balance out the financials of that. The mom was completely fine with it, and now I’ve found a dad and son who both want to enroll and are available and ready to start lessons with the siblings in January as well.
My overall feeling about this strategy is that it’s working well for me so far, and I will continue to use it in the future. It takes a degree of trust that the right students will show up to form the classes I need to teach at the right time, and anyone who gets upset about it is probably someone I don’t need to work with, but that fits in with my life philosophy very well. It also requires flexibility on my part, and if I see that something isn’t coming together in a timely fashion, then I want to be open to offer an alternative (such as starting the husband-and-wife class without classmates at this time).
I do think it’s entirely possible to just state your position on class formation and needing a certain number of students to start as one more part of the difference/uniqueness/advantage of Simply Music lessons as compared to traditional lessons. Simply put, people learn best via this method in a group environment, and I want to give my students the best opportunity to learn as much as they can and have the most fun possible, so I ask them to be patient while I take some time to recruit the perfect classmates for them!