Discounts for multiple lessons?

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Melissa Suzanne said: Mar 29, 2012
Melissa Suzanne Bechtel
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Piano, Cello, Viola
Howell, MI
3 posts

I teach a number of families that have multiple children taking both violin and piano from me. I drive to their house and the tuition include gas money. What does anyone think about discounts for multiple lessons in one location?

Kelly Williamson said: Mar 29, 2012
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
246 posts

Hi Melissa—does the tuition include payment for the time you spend in your car (at your hourly rate) as well? I think of lessons in the home as a kind of premium service—I don’t see why a person would need to offer any kind of discount when they are offering that kind of service. Rather, the families should be expecting to pay more. (Gas and your driving time would be the minimum in my opinion.)

Your hourly rate is based on your skill and experience. I don’t think it is a good idea to adjust it. The exception for me is when I have a student with real financial need—in which case I might offer the opportunity to have a shared lesson time with another student (partly to assess the need), or a “scholarship”… but neither of those requires an adjustment or lowering of my hourly rate. The scholarships are not known at large in my studio. They have been offered to students who absolutely could not afford lessons. But then one has to be careful—many parents who ask about discounts actually don’t need them. Many friends have told me about such parents, who were eventually found to be well able to spend the money on other things—and the nature of some of those other things made the music teachers feel devalued and under appreciated. (I’ve had such experiences too.) In general, those who value music lessons highly will be willing to forgo some of the luxuries, and pay the full price for them.

Kelly

André said: Mar 29, 2012
André AugensteinViolin, Piano
55 posts

Hi nice to meet you ,work is work ok?
congratulations for you
Greetings
André Gomes Augenstein
Violin Teacher

Violin Student(International Suzuki Association) in Germany 1987
Violin teacher (International Suzuki Association) in Dublin 1995

Celia Jones said: Mar 30, 2012
 Violin
72 posts

I had a teacher offer to come to my house for lessons for me and my daughter. I knew the round trip would be 90 minutes for her and she was going to offer that within her rate for two 30 minute lessons. She was just setting up as a teacher. I felt that once she had enough pupils closer to her home, she would not want to teach us at that rate.

If I were a teacher myself, then as Kelly says, I would charge for travel time as well as fuel. That would mean that for a family with say three pupils it would work out cheaper per pupil than for a family with just one pupil. So it’s not a discount, it just costs less.

I much prefer to have a teacher who spends her time teaching, not travelling. So they have more experience of teaching, and they are going to have more inspiring concerts and group classes. However there are families where it is easier for you to go to them, so long as the music room is set up with no interruptions. And for the family, it may work out better value than them travelling to you, even with the extra charge for your travel time. (I’m thinking of a mother coping with baby twins for instance.)

If you have two pupils that live close and have lessons one after another so you get a shorter travel time and less gas, it’s best to charge each an amount that will cover your costs if you have to go to both separately. Then if either one changes their lesson time, moves house etc then you don’t have to think about increasing their fees or losing out.

Celia Jones said: Mar 30, 2012
 Violin
72 posts

(Accountant head on overtime) it sounds like you have already agreed travel included in your hourly teaching rate. In this case offering a lower price to a new family who have more teaching for the amount of travel is logical. Or if the family are adding an extra pupil or extra teaching time. It’s not a discount off your rate, it’s a lower total price.

The calculation works like this. Say you charge 25 dollars for a 45 minute lesson and you allow 30 minutes travel time, then your real hourly rate is 25 dollars for 1 hour 15 minutes or 20 dollars an hour. Your pupil wants to add an extra 45 minutes teaching time, then their total is 40 dollars rather than 50 dollars because your total time is now 2 hours.

Kelly Williamson said: Mar 30, 2012
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
246 posts

That’s true—there are ways of calculating it to make sure that you are adequately compensated. However, I worry when teachers say that parents are “paying them for the gas”… the time and energy of doing this is considerable, over and above the cost of gas. Parents often don’t think of that, and in my experience they generally aren’t willing to pay the extra that it actually costs for us, keeping in mind that the travel takes up time that could be offered to other students. (Which is why we need to charge our teaching rate for the travel time.) I did it when I was studying at university, and for me, I wouldn’t return to traveling to my students. New parents who are calling for information will ask me sometimes, because it is definitely an attractive idea for busy families, and the answer is a flat No! Personally I find it draining. But I know everyone’s case is different. I had a friend who was a piano teacher, and who was not able to teach in her apartment. For her, going to her students was the only option at that time.

Best of luck with your teaching.

Kelly

Cleo Ann Brimhall said: Mar 30, 2012
Cleo Ann BrimhallTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
West Jordan, UT
39 posts

When it come to discounts, I have a different method in my studio. First I charge like a private school—there is an annual tuition which they can pay monthly installments—I guarantee a certain number of lessons through the year—no makeup guaranteed but we usually can figure it out. At this point many families just don’t bother. This is my salary and they pay the same for each student in the family.

Monthly payments are due for 11 months. The 12th month they pay a registration fee and renew their contract for the next year. The registration fee includes such things as: parent membership in the local associations and SAA, student materials (so that they have them when I want them to have them and not at their parent’s convenience), office expenses for the studio, piano tuning, recital expenses, student awards and activities, etc etc. THIS is where the a “discount” comes in. Since most of these items are shared by the students, the registration fee is different each family according to the number of students—it comes to a good discount.

If you drive to their homes I would figure and fair but generous amount and add it to the tuition.

This has worked well in my studio. Parents like the fact that they pay a set amount every month and are not paying extra during the year when dues or activites come up. They feel it is a professional way to handle tuition. I have a few families who decide to pay the annual tuition in total up front.

Cleo

Lori Bolt said: Mar 30, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Melissa ~ Definitely factor travel time/ fuel (or per mile amount) and add it to tuition if going to a student. Perhaps a “travel fee” is appropriate. Years ago, pre-Suzuki, when I was just starting to teach piano I traveled to a few students. When I became a Suzuki teacher and saw the value in teaching with two pianos, I purchased a second piano and the answer to lessons in the home became “No, I’m sorry”.

You could offer a “package” tuition for violin/piano (as you described the situation, Melissa). The package would also be available to students who come to your studio for both instruments, so it is standardized. Sibling packages could also be considered.

Whatever you decide, remember that you are already supplying the parents with a “perk” by teaching in their home. Best of luck!

Lori Bolt

Laurel said: Mar 30, 2012
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

You might model it on the way sports organizations or school-photography companies do it where we are—for the first 2 children, parents pay full price, for the 3rd and subsequent children there is a discount (I forget how much). I guess the theory is that there will be so few families with 3 or more kids doing the same thing, that the organization can afford to offer the discount.

It might cut down on the “frivolous” requests for discounts… unless you’re teaching in a really rich area, not too many families can afford to have 3 or more kids doing music lessons and STILL have money left to do other things.

Laurel

Kelly Williamson said: Mar 30, 2012
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
246 posts

Just a thought, following that last line of thinking—I had a family of four where only the father worked (outside the home/as the sole wage-earner) and he was self-employed. They had one car and lived very modestly… all of the kids helped out on occasion to earn extra money, and they all had music lessons. And they never asked me for a discount. They knew which things were important to them, and they saved for those things—the kids attended the summer institute, too, and participated in the youth orchestra. One is about to graduate from one of the top music schools in North America, and I am very happy for them. I don’t think it’s necessary to live in a rich area to find parents who forgo skiing lessons or soccer camp so their kids can take music lessons.

(Not to be argumentative. But truly, there are quite a lot of parents who “can’t afford” a good teacher’s full rate, but can afford to buy their child an amazing step-up instrument, or an iPhone or a snowboard. I’ve seen all of the above. Most of us charge a fee that is so out of proportion with our years of training and experience, that I think we should not be too quick to cut our rate.)

That said, I absolutely want music lessons to be available to every child, and not just children of middle-class or wealthy parents! Perhaps if we look after ourselves, we will be in a better position to help those who truly need it…in fact I think I have heard Charles Krigbaum say that very thing. ;)

Kelly

Barb said: Apr 1, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I was talking to a parent about her son’s music lessons. He has a piano teacher come to his house TWICE a week, and also has started to go to another teacher for theory and help with his piano pieces and singing. Then she said something like the first teacher is so inexpensive, she just treats that like someone who comes over to help him practice. She admitted all the “lessons” were a way to get her out of practicing with him.

Make sure your rates aren’t so low that your teaching isn’t valued.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Charles Krigbaum said: Apr 3, 2012
Charles KrigbaumTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Offering sibling discounts is another trap many teachers fall into that lowers their income. Your time is your time, regardless of who is in your studio, and time is our one true commodity. Avoid the lure of offering sibling discounts, and charging different families different fees based on any sense of perceived need. Why cheapen your work by giving a discount?

If you truly NEED students (and we have all been there at one time or another) consider this: the time spent driving around to lessons could be better used brainstorming ways to recruit a huge waiting list of students who are more than willing to pay your full professional rate.

If you have no other space to teach, I would strongly echo Kelly’s idea of turning a weakness into a strength by offering your traveling studio as a luxury at a premium price rather than even considering a discount. These families may be large and have children that want to study two instruments—but why should they pay any less than anyone else? If you are later turning away students because your time is all booked up with discounts you may grow to silently resent your situation and then you can’t do your best for anyone.

This message has been brought to you by:

Charles Krigbaum, Director
North Texas School of Talent Education
www.ntste.com
www.facebook.com/NorthTexasSchoolofTalentEducation

Susan said: Apr 19, 2012
 Violin, Viola
22 posts

“What does anyone think about discounts for multiple lessons in one location?” Do you give 100% of yourself for each lesson? If you do, then you should receive 100% of the tuition + the same rate for travel. The only “discount” I give is in the registration fee, my fee is a family registration fee covering 1 or many students from same family.

Julia said: Apr 19, 2012
Julia ProleikoViolin, Piano, Viola
Saint Louis, MO
22 posts

Here is what I have learned over the years:

  1. My worst students are the ones who live right around the block, followed closely by the ones to whom I traveled. Commitment in travel should be made by the families—those unwilling to commit their time and energy are usually the ones unwilling to commit their time and energy in the practice room and conversely: the ones willing to make sacrifices to their time (and money) generally make the best students!

  2. If you charge too little, the parents will not value your time. Charge what you deem yourself worth and let the family decide if it is their priority or not. You cannot make someone value what they do not want to value. (You can lead a horse to water…). I have found time and time again that the very same students who claimed to have no money for lessons magically had money for things that I considered to be a luxury. I have let a student pay for their own lesson through babysitting when their parents refused to pay for lessons, but that doesn’t always work either. I also have had very resentful situations where I agreed to a barter, gave the lessons and got nothing in return…my experience has shown that every time bartering has not worked, though I have heard of others that this worked for just fine. That is not to say that there are students out there who really do need a break, but even then there should be at least a time commitment from them!

  3. I have a set rate for the half hour and a slightly lower rate for the hour. Most of my students refuse to take the hour, even though I offer a discount and it is my preference even (and especially) for the little ones (for whom I have to spend much more time teaching the parents and holding their hands through the learning process). I don’t resent the lower rate because I find I work harder in the half hour lessons.

  4. If you charge too little, people have absolutely no problem with canceling on you last minute to, for example, go to a birthday party or clean the house or go shopping. You might also get people who won’t even consider taking lessons with you ‘because you’re probably not any good if you only charge that much’.

  5. To play devil’s advocate: Kids these days are extremely overbooked. We help contribute to that by not forcing some hard decisions to be made—if you are cheap and such a convenience to parents, then they can easily add more activities and give the student even less time to practice. I’m all for trying to find each child’s genius, but no genius can be made without time and dedication.

Elizabeth Friedman said: Jul 10, 2012
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

One of the best lines I’ve ever heard, when encountering these sorts of situations, is this: “I have better places to put my charity.” Discounts are a huge no-no, as your time is one of the most valuable assets you have. If you don’t have a good reason for giving these families charity, there is absolutely no reason for giving them a discount.

I was getting re-established in the UK last year after teaching for 15 years in a few different places in the US. I used to travel to a few students in undergrad and grad school, and they all had good reasons, and gave me dinner and paid for my travel. But the fact of the matter was, it was a huge pain, I was busy, and I had better things to do than sit on a train or in a car. I made the decision that at this point in my life, now that I’m a professional adult starting a private studio, I needed my weekends and also needed to spend my time teaching and not traveling—which means I have not ended up teaching every single student who has called to ask for lessons. (Obviously this is what I need, not necessarily what you need at this point in your life!)

I have also had to stand up for myself multiple times in not giving discounts for families with multiple children—they are, after all, taking my time, which is not unlimited.

As for traveling, I have said in my own mind that if someone is willing to pay my hourly teaching rate for travel, plus the cost of the travel itself, I might consider it. After all, they are presumably precluding me from teaching other students during that travel time. Obviously no one is really willing to do that, and besides—I teach because I enjoy teaching, not sitting on a bus or in a car.

And, my opinion of families who expect teachers to travel to them is that they’re not taking you seriously as a teacher. If their major issue is ensuring that violin lessons are the most convenient for them above all else (i.e., above your skill, rapport with your students, and experience), then they’re not serious about having a teacher who is so good (i.e., so fully booked and so busy teaching) that they don’t have time to travel. I understand that there are some good exceptions (i.e., baby twins), but the fact of the matter is that if you are a good and conscientious teacher, you will get to the point where you can no longer travel to your students because you will simply be too full. That being said, if you’re in a rural area, the situation might be entirely different.

I do, however, currently offer a discount to a specific student who works really hard and for whose family violin lessons are a huge luxury for which even the discounted price involves some sacrifice. There are certain students who, if they fell on hard times, I would even teach for free, because they always show up, always practice, and have never tried to manipulate me. But you should never feel you have to give a discount to someone—after all, you’ve got bills to pay, too.

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 25, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I find that the role of “guest” in a student’s home runs counter to the role of “teacher”; the role of “host” runs counter to the role of “student”; and the role of “note-taking, attentive, participating suzuki parent” runs counter to the “I just have to check on my other kids, I just have to check on dinner, I just have to answer the phone, I just have to take care of this that or the other in the next room” that a parent in their own home falls into during a lesson.

Besides, the longer the commute to the lesson studio, the more time they have in the car to listen to the music they’re supposed to be working on, both right before and right after the lesson—imho, the two most productive times to do active listening.

Paula Bird said: Jul 25, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Haha, rainjen, right on!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

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