My student's spring recital is in two weeks. It's my mom's 95th birthday. My car needs servicing.
But what am I doing?
I'm updating my studio policy and calendar for next year and you should be too. If you don't jump on the end-of-the-year opportunity to make real changes, your new year will be exactly like your last and you'll be wishing you'd taken the time to make it better.
Here's what my To Do List looks like. I've tried to get some of these done early enough to be able to share them with you.
1. Update Your Studio Policy for 2015/2016
Are there things you didn't like about the way your studio ran this year? How are your payments going? Would you like to change something about it? Here's my studio policy updated for the coming year. Feel free to copy and use any of the wording. Or if you don't feel comfortable with it, figure out what you would want in your ideal world. This is the best chance you have to make your studio better fit your life. Your life is changing every year. Your kids are growing up, or maybe you've just had one. Something has changed and you should make your policy reflect those changes. I take Mondays "off" because that's the day I go to visit my elderly mother. What do you need to do for yourself or your family?
2. Make a Teaching Calendar for 2015/2016
Some things can be planned. Every year I plan when I will teach and which weeks I'll take off. I don't teach whenever my daughter has a school vacation and whenever I'm out of town speaking. I also schedule one flex week - a week I can take off if I'm sick or stuck with jury duty. The idea for Flex Weeks is only one of Wendy Steven's brilliant ideas I've adopted. Read more about it in her post How to Take Unscheduled Time Off.
Here's a link to the google doc for my studio calendar. I've made a copy, so feel free to edit it and use it as yours. Just make a copy of the document before you edit it.
3. Create a Swap List
Here's a google doc sample swap list from my studio. You can edit it online and use it to make your own swap list. You can share it directly from Google. I usually attach it as a document to an email so my students' parents won't lose it.
I color-coded mine by length of lesson time. Sometimes someone with a longer time will switch with a shorter lesson because it's better to have 45 minutes than none if they have a conflict. (The families in turquoise have chosen not to swap which is always an option.) This format has been successful and is a great way to have families deal directly with each other. It also builds community within the studio as families help each other out with scheduling conflicts.
Here's a picture of my swap list from this spring.
4. Raise Your Rates
The only time you can raise your rates comfortably is in between billing periods. It's also good to give people notice, so now is the time. Your rates should go up every year, even if it's only a small percentage.
For a more thorough description of the business of piano teaching, including the importance of having a website and how to do it, read Studio Business Basics.