Summer is the perfect time to think about revising your studio policy sheet for the upcoming school year. Why is a policy sheet important, and how do you create the best one for your studio? Read on for my tips on creating the perfect studio policy sheet!
If you don't already have a studio policy sheet, you might wonder--why is a policy sheet important?
A policy sheet is a way to clearly outline the expectations that you have for your business so there are no misunderstandings between teacher, parent, and student.
A well-written policy sheet can prevent many issues that might arise over the course of piano lessons. What happens if a payment is late? What happens if you (the teacher) are sick and have to cancel a lesson? These issues, and more, can be addressed in a well-written policy sheet so that everyone is on the same page when lessons begin.
Here are my 5 tips for creating a comprehensive, easy-to-understand studio policy sheet:
1. Keep it short.
A comprehensive policy sheet doesn't need to be lengthy! If at all possible, try to keep your policy sheet to a single page. I find a list of bullet-pointed topics to be the most efficient use of space, as well as the easiest format for parents and students to read quickly.
2. Cover these essential topics.
There are several business-related topics that should definitely be included in your policy sheet, as these answer the most common questions that your studio families are likely to have. Here are my policy sheet "must-haves:"
- Price and payment. How much is tuition? When is it due? How do you accept payment (cash, check, payment apps, etc.)? What do you do if payment is late, or if a check is returned for insufficient funds? Are materials included in tuition? If not, how do you handle purchasing materials?
- Studio schedule. How many lessons per semester or year does a student receive? How do you handle holiday breaks? Do you offer lessons over the summer?
- Missed lessons. What do you do if the student cancels a lesson? What if you cancel a lesson? How do you handle inclement weather? (Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, you might also consider adding a section about how you will be handling lessons if schools are closed for an extended period of time.)
- Withdrawing from lessons. Do you require students to commit to a certain number of lessons? Do you require a certain amount of notice (30 days, for example) for withdrawing from lessons?
3. Consider covering these optional topics.
You might consider dedicating a section of your policy sheet to some of these other topics:
- Expectations for practice. How often or how long do you expect your students to practice? Are there any practice resources you recommend?
- Rules for your home studio. Do you require students to wash their hands, remove their shoes, etc. before lessons begin? Do you have a waiting area for parents and siblings? Do you have a restroom available? Are there any areas of your home that are off-limits to students?
- Recitals/performance opportunities available to students throughout the year. Do you have studio recitals, group classes, masterclasses, etc. throughout the year? Does your studio participate in any festivals or competitions? Are these events mandatory or optional?
4. Communicate your policy sheet effectively.
Once you have a clear policy sheet, be sure to communicate it effectively to your studio families. I use the "rule of three" for all of my studio communications--meaning, I make sure to communicate everything 3 different ways:
- Via email. I send potential new students and returning students an email copy of my policy sheet before their very first lesson. This gives them a chance to read over my policies and bring any questions they might have to our first lesson.
- In person. At the first lesson with a new student, I reserve a few minutes at the end of the lesson to go over the policy sheet in person and see if there are any questions. For returning students, I make sure to point out any updates or changes to my policy sheet at our first lesson of the year.
- On paper. Each student gets a hard copy of the policy sheet at their first lesson to take home with them.
5. Stick to it!
And last, but certainly not least, a policy sheet is only good if you enforce it. You will undoubtedly have parents who question your policies and ask for exceptions. If you've communicated your policies effectively before the start of lessons, hopefully these questions will be few and far between--but they do happen!
For example, if your policy is that you do not offer make-ups for missed lessons, but you continually offer to reschedule lessons, the end result is that your studio families will accept that this is something you are willing to do--despite what it says in your policy sheet. And you will likely end up feeling resentful because of these rescheduling requests.
This is not to say that you can never, ever make exceptions to your policy sheet--however, think carefully before bending your policies. Unless it is a very rare request due to a very special circumstance, I find it is usually best to stick to the policies I have outlined in my initial communications with my students. I am a happier teacher knowing that I have a studio full of families who are respectful of my policies and my time, and my studio families are happy because they know exactly what to expect when they enroll in lessons each year. I call that a win-win!
What do you think? Do you have a studio policy sheet? What are your best policy sheet tips? I would love to hear from you in the comments!