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Get Paid on Time as a Piano Teacher!

How to get paid on time for piano lessons!

How do you get paid on time for piano lessons? Because after you have moved from a per-lesson payment system to a tuition based structure as advocated in the “Best Stress-free Business Policies” online workshop, you might still struggle with this problem. There are many ways to tackle this issue, so I’ve outlined a number of ways to tackle getting paid on time and you should use what combination works best for your studio.

Pre-pay in Full

The most effective means of ensuring that you get paid on time is pre-payment. How your tuition is structured (as in whether you charge by the year, semester or otherwise) determines how when these payments will be due, but you have to admit that prepayment is difficult and sometimes impossible for many parents because of their budget.

If you do choose to make this an option, it is appropriate, though not necessary, to give a discount for pre-paid tuition. This helps motivate parents to make this commitment and offers them a reward for doing so. Even something as small as a 2-3% discount is appreciated, though a larger percentage like 5% is certainly even more motivating.

Post-dated checks

Get paid on time for piano lessons! Using post-dated checks for piano teaching is a bad idea.Misinformation about post-dated checks is rampant in the piano teaching community. While it not illegal per se to write or collect a post-dated check, there are several dangerous factors to consider when dealing with post-dated checks and most consumers are advised not to do it.

  1. It is a liability to a piano parent to give you post-dated checks. They are trusting you that you will not cash their check early and risk being overdrawn. Banks can cash any check (post dated or not) at any time, so a claim can never be made against the bank. However, you could theoretically be liable if you cash their checks early.
  2. While the solution might seem to be extra cautious to not cash the checks early, it is never advisable to ask parents to do something that is financially risky for them. Their financial and legal advisors would most likely advise them to never write post-dated checks, so it is rather unprofessional to ask them to pay in this way.

Please see this authoritative article for more information about why post-dated checks are never advisable for the consumer.

Scheduled Monthly Online Bill Pay

Get paid on time for piano lessons! Set up online bill payBesides pre-paying in full, automatic bill pay is the best and most reliable way to get paid on time as a piano teacher. Once parents have this set up, they never again have to think about paying on time which is a big value-add to them. Parents can add you and your address to their payees in their online banking. Then, they can schedule you to get paid on time with the same amount every month for a set number of months.

Extra expenses like piano books, one time fees, or other piano lesson expenses can also be made via the same online banking bill pay, but will be a one-time instead of recurring payment.

Sell parents on this idea strategically!

The importance of selling piano parents on the idea of monthly bill pay cannot be underestimated. It will certainly save parents time and money (because there will not be late fees), but it will also save you tons of time and energy in chasing payments, reminders, and more. Therefore, it is worth the time investment that it will take to convince piano parents to pay you in this way. Selling the idea of automatic bill pay should be done well in advance of the first payment due. Here is wording you can use in an email or letter to help sell the idea:

To help save you time and energy, I’d like to encourage you to set up online bill pay for piano lessons. This will save you considerable time because you can set the recurring payment up at the beginning of the year and never have to think of it again! No more forgetting your checkbook or extra trips to drop off payment. Plus, you’ll never have to pay a late fee because you can tell your bank exactly when to deliver the check!

If you do not choose to set up recurring payments online, and payments are not on time, you will be unfortunately be charged a $15 late fee. Since I have to pay late fees when my payments for bills are late, I need more money to pay them when your payments are late. So setting up online bill pay so that you don’t forget and end up paying late fees can also save you money as well!

Of course, there are some piano parents who do not use online banking and bill pay. So, in your policy (rather than the example email above), you might want to allow for another form of payment. Here is sample wording you can use for your policy:

Payments should be made by online bill pay scheduled to arrive by the _____ of every month. Payment can also be made by check or cash, but if check, cash or bank payments are late, there is a $25 late fee. When an account becomes more than 30 days past due, it will be considered in default and lessons will have to discontinue. Scheduled online bill payments through your bank are therefore the most reliable way to ensure that lessons are never discontinued for your child.

Use Online Payment Options to Invoice Automatically

It would be handy to have invoices sent automatically and allow parents to pay online and with a credit card, right? Well, a few online payment processing systems offer automatic monthly invoicing and payment processing. There are fees that are assessed when the piano tuition invoice is paid (such as the 2.9% + $.30 transaction fee as Paypal charges) but the simplicity of not having to remember to invoice parents, invoicing them early at the same time every month, and allowing them to easily pay their piano tuition with their credit card can easily make this fee worthwhile! You can begin to get to know the two biggest fee payment processors and their automatic invoicing systems here:

  • Square
  • Paypal (Note that you must have a premier business account to access this feature in Paypal.)

Of course, there are online services and apps that may also help you get paid on time with automatic invoicing, but these charge a monthly fee and offer many more features. I do not have any experience with these services, but if you are looking for more than just automatic invoicing, you can check into options like:

Charge their credit card for payment on site!

Get paid on time for piano lessons! Use a credit card processor on site!Yes, you can charge credit cards very easily with an iphone or table app like PayPal Here or Square. Each of these companies has secure credit card readers and the app will give you the ability to process credit cards on site, which will allow parents to make piano tuition payments at the lesson. You might choose to only use this for delinquent payments as there is a fee for the charge, but getting paid on time and not having to chase payments is well worth the 2.9% that Paypal and other apps like these typically charge.

Late fees for delinquent piano payments

Late fees are necessary to help motivate parents to pay on time. All of your services that you use (utilities, internet, house payments, etc.) assess fees when you are late, so if you do not get paid on time, then you cannot pay these services on time. Therefore it is important to not only have a late fee, but also enforce it.

Late fees can vary in price, but some typical late fees can be:

Enforcing the late fee is difficult but necessary and should be treated in an escalating manner for each offense. For example:

First overdue payment:

Email the parent and tell them that their payment is late and remind them that there is a late fee. Feel free to waive the fee for this month, mentioning that you will have to assess it for any other late payments in the future.

Dear Mindy,

I just wanted to let you know that this month’s tuition payment is late. I’m sure you have been busy and this is the first time it is late, so I will waive the $25 late fee if you can get it to me within 3 days. I won’t be able to do this in the future since I can’t pay my bills without getting paid myself. But I’m happy to do it for you this time if you can bring me the payment in 3 days. Thanks so much for your prompt attention to this matter!

Second overdue payment:

What you do when the second payment is overdue sets the stage for how seriously parents take your late fees in the future. It is very important to enforce your late fee policy the second time it happens as parents will learn whether or not you take your policy seriously. This may also be the time to again mention how online bill pay would save her time and money.

Dear Mindy,

I just wanted to let you know that this month’s tuition payment is late again. Unfortunately, you’ll need to add the $25 late fee to your payment this time. Please send your payment of $xx [include the late fee in this] to me as soon as possible.

You might also consider scheduled online bill pay so you don’t have to worry this in the future. This is the method that most parents use and it is super convenient. As long as you schedule the recurring monthly payment to occur by the 10th of every month through May, you won’t have to worry about payments OR late fees for the rest of the year.

Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter!

Overdue payment that’s more than 30 days late

The first and most important thing to do when a payment is more than 30 days late is to call the parent! You never know what is happening in a family and most parents will share if there is a problem when you are talking on the phone or in person, but not by email. If you cannot connect even after contacting the parent by phone (and leaving messages) or in person several times, then this email or text may be appropriate. However, care must be taken that this is only used when you have repeatedly attempted to make contact in person or on the phone.

Dear Mindy,

I hope everything is okay with you and your family. Please let me know what’s going on. I’m so sorry to say that since your payment is more than 30 days late, it is now considered delinquent and lessons will have to discontinue until this payment and the next payment is made. Please let me know what you are thinking about this as I’d hate to lose Suzie, but will have to accept another student to take her place in the schedule.

Though working with families with a delinquent account is difficult, it is very important to stay on top of this as resolving delinquent payments is even more costly the longer parents are allowed to not pay for lessons received. Pro-actively setting up an efficient system of reminding parents payments are due or allowing them to set it up one time and forget about it (as in online bill pay) is definitely worth the effort!

Get paid on time – it’s worth it for everyone!

I hope this helps you find ways to get paid on time as a piano teacher! It is always more difficult to get started doing this, but it is most important to get started in a firm and confident way. This will set the tone for how piano parents treat you, pay you, and respect you! Making sure you get paid on time is a difficult thing to address for some personalities, but knowing that being firm will save you time and energy in the long run should be very helpful. It is quite possible to be kind and firm, so I hope this article helps you to do that!

Read More:

A less extensive form of this article is available in the July/August edition of Clavier Companion in the regular monthly business article I write called “Making Money, Making Space.” Clavier Companion is a wonderful piano teaching magazine that is available in print or digital editions.

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21 Comments

  1. Margaret June 27, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Just wondering if you or anyone else reading has used Venmo? Experiences? Thoughts?

  2. Natalie Whittington June 27, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    I agree with you, Wendy. I changed to the tuition based payments a couple of years ago, and it’s much easier. I also use Wave, another free invoicing system like the ones you mentioned where you can enter someone’s credit card info on site and sends out automatic invoices each month to my families. It also allows me to send “reminders” on the due date for those few late stragglers. Thank you for the insight and helpful tips!

  3. Melinda June 27, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Great advice!! I’ve definitely tried selling the auto bill pay for a while now! I haven’t taken the leap to include a late fee in my policies because it’s been a VERY rare occurrence, though I may need to find a way to include it in the future if I have any problems at all. As an alternative, I put in my policies that if a student arrives without payment on the first lesson of the month, I will run their credit card through square with an additional processing fee added to their cost (so it’s a teensy, tiny late fee in a way), and that students arriving without payment without arrangements being made if there’s something out of the ordinary going on, will not be given a lesson until payment is made. When deciding on a late fee, a fellow piano teacher told me that it’s important to make the late fee high enough that it’s motivating to avoid. She has chosen to make payments due by the 10th of each month. She started assessing a late fee of $3 and had to collect it ALL THE TIME! She changed the late fee to $10 and she said she’s never had a late payment since! Just in case other people shy away from a higher amount because it seems harsh, it’s actually what makes it a motivating factor to avoid! And it can be especially beneficial when you allow the grace of waiving it for a first time offense, since it is a larger amount being forgiven.

  4. Wendy Stevens June 27, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for telling me about Venmo, Margaret! I have never used it before but it might worth checking into!

  5. Wendy Stevens June 27, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Natalie! I’m glad you are enjoying the benefits of the tuition based system! I haven’t used Wave, but it’s a great one to check out, I’ll bet. Thanks for placing it here in the comments so others can see!

  6. Hannah Zamora June 27, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Awesome article! Definitely some great advice.

  7. Amy Boze July 11, 2017 at 11:46 am

    I love this article! I need to add a late fee, but I have one family struggling to catch up on bills after a medical emergency in their family. So they’re sometimes late, but I’m ok with that. How do I add this in the fall without making that family feel it’s because of them?

  8. Leigh July 14, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for another great article! I will be curious to hear more about Venmo.

  9. Wendy Stevens July 20, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Amy!

    Great question! Sorry for the delay. I’ve been out of the office. I would just have an in person conversation with this family tell the family this. “Hey, I wanted you to know that I’m adding a late fee to my policy, but I wanted you to know that it’s not because of you guys. Your situation is unique and one that I’m most happy to work with you on, even if I had a late fee in the past. So I just didn’t want you to think that my late fee is because of you. It’s just something that I need to do in general.”

    Does that help?

  10. Marty Alcala July 26, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Awesome article Wendy 🙂 Late payments are why we recently launched Skeddle (https://skeddleapp.com) — a new billing app designed specifically for music teachers who collect tuition based payments. I’ll give a quick breakdown of the other payment apps such as Venmo, Square, PayPal, and Wave to explain why teachers have been switching to Skeddle.

    Recurring Billing
    With Skeddle, teachers and parents never have to reopen the app after initial setup — payments simply process automatically on the 1st of each month. As a result, teachers never have to worry about late payments again.

    By contrast, Venmo does not offer recurring billing, which means parents must remember to send a payment each month. Unfortunately, parents are busy and may forget, which leads teachers back to reminding parents about payments. This wastes time, leads to uncomfortable conversations, delays cash in-hand.

    70% Lower Transaction Fee
    Square, PayPal, and Wave do offer recurring billing, but they charge teachers 70% more than Skeddle per payment. As a result, teachers who switch to Skeddle will save hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars per year in payment processing fees. We want teachers to keep the money they earn.

    Hope that sheds some light on the payment apps available, and I’d love to answer any additional questions you may have in this thread 🙂

    You can get paid on time while keeping the money you earn by getting started here: https://skeddleapp.com

  11. Alyssa Kellum December 4, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Great advice for those who knows piano, online piano course, I will this out, I hope it can help me for my financial needs – additional income.!

  12. Aaron July 31, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Starting September, my policy is completely changing and I’m happy to say that payment options are basically those you suggest. I’ve also included a $20 late fee for payment after the 7th day of the month (payment is always due by the 1st).

    This shift has been psychologically challenging to me because most of my students have been with me for several years, and I feel like adding this level of professionalism is somehow detracting from the personal relationships I’ve built with parents (albeit still professional). So at the same time, I’ve been adding various other levels of professionalism to “compensate.”

  13. Alice July 31, 2018 at 9:03 am

    I’m in Canada, and post-dated cheques (sorry, checks!) are looked on much more favourably here. A few of my families (an increasing number) pay by Electronic Funds Transfer, but most are comfortable giving me a year’s worth of cheques up front — with the options to pay by the month, half-year, or full year.

  14. Melinda July 31, 2018 at 9:42 am

    I have started using Google Pay since there is no fee to transfer from one bank account to another. Since most of my parents still prefer to write a check and hand it to me, this simplifies my taxes by not having to determine fees paid to PayPal for a super small percentage of online payers-or have to open a new PayPal account so as to not confuse business/personal transactions. Just make sure parents know the first transaction they send with google pay will be slightly delayed because their account must be verified first.

  15. Wendy Stevens August 1, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Ah, good to know that they are looked on more favorably in Canada! Thanks for sharing that, Alice!

  16. Rita Martin August 1, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Hi. Let me first say I enjoy your music and info. I am going “Full time” teaching piano….so needless to say, I need to get my “Policy and Procedure” act together……..lol (never really had one, since this was perceived as a “hobby” used to earn extra income). I don’t want to alienate my long time students/parents with tuition increase and the new P&P handout…….I guess I’m kinda nervous of their response……

    So, should I have all of these changes ready to be implemented by the 1st of Sept.? What is a friendly way of saying..”This was my hobby, but now my Profession”??

  17. Wendy Stevens August 1, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Rita,

    This is a great question, so thanks for asking! I understand your desire not to alienate your long time students. But I think it’s good to give them the benefit of the doubt that THEY want what is best for you too! So I think you should just be honest with them and still package it in a way that benefits them also. So here’s what you might consider saying (with intro text of course):

    “I’m needing to make what has been my hobby of teaching piano into my profession. In thinking about this, I’ve needed to make sure that I structure things in a way that ensures that I can stay in business and that I’ll always be able to offer top quality lessons for your child. So this new policy is one of the things I need to do to accomplish that. And it will help ensure that will make sure that I can teach your child as long as possible. Please don’t be afraid of the new policies. I know it sounds formal, but I’ll still be the same person, always making sure that I give your child the best possible instruction and nurturing as before. But these policies will just help me make sure that I can keep doing it!

    Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I’m happy to chat with you about it and want to make sure that we continue to have a great relationship!”

    Now keep in mind that I do tend to “overexplain” myself, so in many cases, I think it’s fine to just be kind but brief (and maybe in this case too). This word is not an example of brevity that I normal advocate for simply and small price increases, but I sense that you want to do all you can to make sure that you are not misunderstood. So that’s why I’m suggesting this slightly longer explanation. You shouldn’t have to explain that you are charging what you are worth. But, a big transition sometimes requires more effort in this area.

    Does that help? I hope so! It’s all just another perspective that you can add to other advice that I’m sure you’ve received. Take the parts that you think fit your situation! Do let me know how it goes though if you have time. I’d love to hear.

    ~ Wendy

  18. Lucy October 10, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for the information. But if a student can’t pay the lesson fee within 21days after due date and mentioned that will pay the late fee. Please advise the maximum days if the late payment fee is included before stopping lessons. Will this also take a risk of not receiving any payment after all.
    Cheers, Lucy

  19. Wendy Stevens October 11, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Hi Lucy,

    These are great questions and the answer lies in: 1. How you have your policy set up and 2. Your tolerance and ability to enforce not giving the lesson.

    So, for example, if the payment is due August 10th and they don’t pay by that day (or within a few days after depending on your tolerance), you should add the late fee. But I would add the late fee within several days of your original payment due date and don’t wait until the next month to add it. If they have not paid the August 10th payment by September 10th, then you can stop lessons then, because it would seem that they have no intention of paying if they are 4 weeks late. But by this time, you should have communicated with them both by email, maybe text, and definitely in person multiple to remind them about payment. In doing that, you will have opportunity to hear from them about any significant reason that they haven’t paid (maybe a relative died, maybe their funds have been frozen for some crazy reason, etc.).

    However, I would also have an additional in person or phone conversation with them before stopping lessons especially if you have a good relationship with them. You can then explain that you can’t give any more lessons until the August AND September payment is paid.

    I hope that helps!

  20. April October 17, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Wendy, I have a question with online bill pay. It may be a silly question. I just want to make sure. Is this the one that you provide clients with the account number that they have to send the payments to? Thanks in advance.

  21. Wendy Stevens October 19, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Hi April,

    That’s a great question. I think the way most banks do it is that the person paying can just input your name and address and the bank will send payments to you. They don’t need to know your account number. So, they would log into their banks online services and schedule recurring payments to be made to your name and then they’d send you a check. It’s not a direct transfer to your bank account.

    I suppose ACH transfers would be possible, but not something that most parents are going to want to set up.

    I hope that helps!

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