Money 101: The Boring Thing Piano Teachers Must Do
Advertise!!!! Giveaways!!!! Promotions!!!! Fancy statements!!!! Family discounts!!!!
(Are you tired of the exclamation points yet?)
There are tons of things you can do to promote your business in order to make more money. And yes, we explore a lot of those options and ideas on this blog and at www.pianolessonmom.com.
But, the one most important thing you must do, which matters more than all of it?
I know, that's not fun and that's not fancy. In fact, it is downright boring.
But I can promise you what ISN'T boring - in fact, its a surefire recipe for high stress and wasted time: not keeping records, or being a poor bookkeeper.
Piano teachers would way rather just teach the piano, do the fun stuff, engage the students, but nothing will cause you more stress than when you aren't keeping good records. Let me give you a few examples:
Client Super Organized pays you exactly on the 1st, every single month, but you forget to track that in your bookkeeping files. Come along the 19th of the month, you wonder, "Did Super Organized pay me?" You go back and forth, because of course, Super Organized wouldn't forget, or would she? And so you are forced to ask, and Super Organized gets a bit irritated because she made sure she paid you, and how come you don't know? Ouch.
Or how about this one: Client Over Stressed pays you late, month after month. Sometimes Over Stressed includes the late fee, but not always. Finally, you realize this just isn't sustainable, but when you go to prepare for the conversation with Over Stressed, you have no records for when he did or didn't pay late. Then, you don't really have much of a case, so you don't say anything and swallow your frustration and irritation over Over Stressed's behavior. Ouch.
And then there's this very common one: You are the Pretty Cool piano teacher who does all this great stuff for your students. You print off loads of resources, and give away free things all of the time (free to them, but YOU paid for it). In fact, when you hand off a book to borrow until the student buys it, but they never do, and so you, Ms. Pretty Cool, just let them have it, you don't write that down. And then, all of a sudden, it occurs to you that you just don't seem to have as much money from all of these lessons that you thought you would. But you have no idea why. Ouch.
Now, let's change these three scenarios doing one little, very boring thing: keep records:
Client Super Organized never has to have you ask her if she paid -- in fact, she gets invoices and receipts emailed to her which proves to her you are as organized as you say. Your client now feels very good about this business relationship.
Client Over Stressed listens carefully while you have the conversation with him. When you show him the actual record of his payments over the last eight months, he sees indeed that he has consistently paid you late and forgotten to add the late fee. Your proof puts you both at ease, because its there in black and white and Over Stressed realizes the error of his ways. Your client now owns the responsibility and starts paying you on time (or at least remembers the late payment now!)
And, the most important person in this scenario -- YOU, the Pretty Cool piano teacher. You sit down and look through your profit and loss statements carefully, month by month, and realize that you may be bringing in $1000 per month from piano lessons, but, after expenses like printer ink, and pencils, and replacing lost piano books, that after taxes, you are netting only $650 a month, which is NOT what you thought you were making.
That knowledge helps you to chill out when you are scrolling Amazon late at night trying to find just the right gift for your piano students (ahem) and you realize that maybe you don't have to buy that particular item just like that. That knowledge helps you to be more responsible when loaning out vs. giving away books to other students.
And best of all, that knowledge helps you sleep at night, knowing that you have a clear and accurate grasp of your business finances. There will be no surprises come April 15 because you've been setting aside money for taxes. You will eliminate hard feelings between you and your clients, because everything is clear and well recorded.
In the Bible, Proverbs 31 describes a wise and admirable woman. I love this, in verse 18 -- she sees that her trading is profitable and her lamp does not go out at night. Piano teachers, keep track of your "trading". You are trading a service, your fantastic lessons, for money. Make sure you are keeping track of it. Even if you have to stay up a little bit later.
It may be boring, but it is worth it!