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Banish the Billing Blues

Nothing fills piano teachers with more angst than the issue of students payments and billing. Palms get sweaty just trying to figure out how much to write down on that bill -- will the student get frustrated you charged him for that book? That family's car broke down on the way to their lesson, does that count as a paid or unpaid missed lesson?

What if there was a way to streamline your billing, keeping it consistent month after month for your clients and for you? What if you knew EXACTLY what you would make each month?

There is an easy way to achieve this billing utopia. It requires you to do three things:

1. Bill at the beginning of the month, not the end.

2. Require students to get their own books.

3. Automate your billing.

Seem impossible? Its not.

Bill at the beginning of the month, not the end.

Piano teachers typically bill at the end of the month, right? You fill out some sort of invoice, noting the lessons the student had during the month, and send it home at the final lesson of the month.

But here's where this gets tricky. What happens if your student misses a lesson? What happens if a student misses a lesson for a really good reason? Do you still charge?

Believe me, I know this struggle. But when you give in to that struggle, you end up hurting your own income.

When you bill at the beginning of the month, whether it is a flat tuition fee or based on the number of upcoming lessons scheduled, two things happen: you get paid a consistent amount, and your student is more likely show up.

When you bill at the end, the student does not have as much motivation to make each lesson a priority, because they know that they don't pay if they don't show. Billing at the beginning means you get paid whether they show or not. And if they miss, for a really good reason, of course, you can always offer some sort of make up lesson of some kind.

Require students to get their own books.

This points to the consistency thing. Your clients want to know each month how much they are going to pay. When you start adding things like books and other resources to the bill, it instantly becomes inconsistent.

Plus, when you have to be the book "middleman", you are outlaying money ahead of time, just to keep a book in stock. Then you are waiting to be reimbursed. Holding inventory, giving out inventory, billing for that inventory and waiting for payment on it is just one more money headache you don't need.

Simplify this for yourself and for your clients, and just send them an easy Amazon link or other link for ease of ordering. Give them plenty of notice for when they will need the book, and let them do the work of obtaining them. If you need to make a bit of money on the books, send them a link through an Amazon affiliate account and make a small bit of change that way.

No matter how you do it, just make sure you aren't the one holding the books, and the bill, for them. Let your clients get their own books. .

Automate your billing.

In my early years giving lessons, I designed professional little invoices that I sent home every month. I printed them, filled them out, and passed them along to the student.

But, today, life is so much easier billing through services such as Paypal. The initial set up is simple, the invoices can be customized with your own logo, and you can send them out in less than an hour via email.

I send out my Paypal invoices on the 20th of every month (for the upcoming month, of course!). I receive notification that my email was delivered and then notification again once it is paid.

If a client needs a little reminder, a click of the mouse sends it out again. My clients can pay via the invoice using their own Paypal account OR as a guest using their debit card. Some of my student receive that invoice but still choose to bring me their own check or cash payment.

When my clients pay via the Paypal invoice, I do lose a small percentage. But, I have found consistently that clients are more apt to pay on time when they receive the invoice and so it is worth the small fee I pay.

Automating the billing just makes sense. I'm not spending a ton of time filling out invoices, the client gets a professional looking bill, and they have multiple options for paying it.

So, want to get out of the monthly billing blues? Make those three crucial changes -- bill at the beginning of the month, require students to get their own books, and automate your billing. Trust me, you'll be glad you did!

#money #bestpractices