"I am fairly new to teaching - how often do you raise your rates? Every year? I am sure the going rate in your area is much higher than here, but I still get pushback on raising rates."
— a teacher from North Carolina
Teachers write me with questions all the time. What's interesting about this one is the assumption—If I get pushback, I must be doing something wrong.
Let's look at that.
When you walk into a grocery store and the price has increased on something, do you like it? Would you like to be able to complain and get it changed? Of course you would. We all would. We'd like to be able to push back. But prices increase every day. On groceries, rent, phones and clothing and utilities and tuition and...
It's tough for those of us who have hearts soft enough to make us good teachers to be tough enough to make a decent living.
It can still be challenging for ME, and I've been doing it forever. Because private teaching is based on personal relationships with families, it's sometimes difficult to see things clearly.
One thing that helps me a lot is having a colleague. My dear friend, Gemma, and I have been helping each other stay clear and professional for years. When she needs to write a dicey email to a student's parent, she often writes a first draft and then sends it to me for revisions. She helps me in exactly the same way. Sometimes it's just the fact that it's MY problem that makes it hard for me to be my clearest-headed self.
No matter what business decision is best for you, the fact that you get pushback doesn't mean it was a bad decision. It means that someone didn't like it. I've noticed that people rarely like it when I increase my rates. (Though I do have one adult student, Mike, who tells me when he thinks it's time for me to raise my rates. "Diane," he'll say. "You haven't raised your rates in a while and I think you should." Boy is that a rare student!)
When I recently listened to Mike and raised my rate for adult students, one student wrote this to me:
"I have to tell you that I had some difficulty justifying to myself paying your previous rate for piano lessons. Your recent rate-hike puts the justification out of reach."
I get it. I understand that lessons with me are expensive. I understand that increasing my rates may mean that someone may choose to leave me. It might even mean that someone won't like me.
When that happens, I remind myself that pushback doesn't mean that I've done the wrong thing. It means that I'm taking care of myself and my family.
I still have my soft heart. I just have a little bigger bank account.
If you find the business of teaching challenging, you might want to read Studio Business Basics.