Get Paid on Time as a Piano Teacher!
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
Besides 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:
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!
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:
- A percentage of the bill
- $25 or any set amount after the payment is late
- A specified amount per day (like the infamous $5 a day late fee)
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.
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.
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.
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!
- Online Workshop: “Best Stress Free Business Practices for Your Studio”
- Is Your Agreement to Terms Missing Key Ingredients?
- How to Increase Tuition (or change your policy) Without a Revolt
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.