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The Healthy Waiting List

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The Healthy Waiting List
Excerpt from Philip Johnston's PracticeSpot Guide to Promoting Your Teaching Studio

Apart from the warm inner glow of feeling that you’re in demand, how can a full schedule and healthy waiting list really transform things for you?

The short answer is that teaching is a completely different job for those whose studios are full—it’s less stressful, it’s filled with more opportunities, and it’s a lot more fun. The end result is that you can actually come out of a day of teaching fifteen students less tired and more enthusiastic than you did when you only used to teach five.

So what are these changes that await? And why is it that teachers with full schedules are in such a powerful position?

1. Teachers with full studios can afford to reinvest more back into the studio itself.

Once your schedule is full, your studio won’t just be bigger—you’ll be able to support a better studio. Want to create a comprehensively stocked CD lending library for your students? Or pay for an extension to your home for a bigger, dedicated studio instead of teaching in your living room? Or purchase recording facilities so that your students can make their own CDs? All these things are possible with the additional income that a full studio brings. In turn, this then makes your studio a more attractive place for prospective students, creating a cycle that serves only to make your waiting list even longer.But it’s not just about using these new resources to attract new students. These resources will make your job easier with the students you already have, providing exciting new lesson options that will help your retention rates.

Take a moment and work out what your income would be if your studio were filled to the lid right now. What would you do with the extra money? Look around your studio, and you’ll get some great ideas.

2. Teachers with full studios can be more selective about who they take.

Instead of having to accept anyone who comes along, you can afford to take only those students that you really want to work with.The end result? Your job is easier, and a lot more fun. You can filter your studio so that your week is filled with exciting students who want to be where they are. It’s a far cry from struggling with tone-deaf and unmotivated students who, but for the fact that you have rent to pay, would never have been allowed through your door in the first place.This also increases the standard across the studio, ensuring that you are better represented at competitions and auditions.

But most of all, you can wake up each day with that most rare of gifts in any career—looking forward to your job. Because it’s a great group of hand-picked kids you’re working with.

3. Teachers with full studios don’t need to worry when students leave.

If your schedule has gaps, a student leaving means an instant drop in income—and for teachers of small studios it can feel like a body blow every time someone moves on. If, however, your studio is full to the point where you already have a waiting list, then a student leaving simply means that you replace them straight away with someone else.This also means that you can afford to gently nudge students who are either ready to move on, or for whom lessons are no longer working. Smaller studios don’t have this luxury—they need to cling to every student for as long as possible, and often it’s well past the use-by date.

The end result is that your studio will stay fresh, ensuring that your schedule is filled with enthusiastic and hard working students. They’ll also know that they need to take any warning to "shape up" very seriously, conscious of the fact that there are another dozen students who would love their lesson time.

4. Teachers with full studios can charge higher fees.

Given that you are no longer concerned if you lose a few students, you can afford to increase your fees. The laws of supply and demand apply to music teaching as much as to any other business—in fact if your teaching studio is obviously one of the most sought after in town, callers will be expecting the fees to be a little higher than normal.

You still might elect not to put up your fees—but the point is, the option is there if you wish.

5. Teachers with full studios enjoy big income increases from small fee rises.

It’s simple arithmetic. If you have ten students, and you put your weekly lesson rate up by one dollar, that’s like giving yourself a pay rise of $400 per year.If instead you have sixty students, then that same small increase will be worth an extra $2,400 to you—and this is on top of the fact that your income was six times as big to start off with.

Once your studio is full, a little increase can go a long way, and handled properly, can actually add to the perception of your studio being a place of excellence in teaching. (See the chapter on setting appropriate fees on p. 44)

6. Teachers with full studios are in a stronger position to take time out for professional development or family.

When student numbers are tight, you can’t automatically disappear for two weeks for a pedagogy conference, lest some of your students disappear too. With a waiting list to protect you, and a general atmosphere of a thriving studio, students not only are more understanding when you need to attend such events—they will perceive your participation as a virtue.

7. Teachers with full studios can expect greater flexibility from students when timetabling

Once your studio is in demand, you can be tougher when negotiating with students over less-than-ideal lesson times. Because parents will be conscious of how hard it is to get into your studio in the first place, they’re likely to be more accommodating when it comes to available times.

This also has an impact on students who are already part of your studio. Instead of expecting you to change times whenever things become inconvenient for them, parents will be more prepared to juggle their own commitments. The message is clear—don’t mess with the lesson time, because in a studio of your size, it cannot simply be assumed that another time can be found.

8. Teachers with full studios enjoy the full force of word of mouth promotion

Again, it’s simple arithmetic. If you have sixty students, you have three times the word of mouth promotion going on than if you have only twenty students.

Which means you’re likely to get three times the number of enquiries generated by recommendations. Again, it’s a variation on the "success breeds success" principle, and is part of the reason that big studios only seem to get bigger.

9. Teachers with full studios are able to take more generous holidays.

The number of weeks that your studio is open each year is completely up to you. One of the advantages of being one of the biggest and best known studios in town is that you can create longer holidays for yourself without raising an eyebrow. My own studio teaches 37 weeks in the year instead of the usual 40, but parents who come to me know that 37 weeks in my studio is going to help their child a lot more than 40 weeks with a less successful teacher. They’re prepared to forgo the extra three lessons each year to be part of the studio.

I then come back from the extra break recharged, refreshed and filled with new ideas and enthusiasm—and so I do a better job in those 37 weeks than I would have with 40 in any case.

10. Teachers with full studios are able to put on studio recitals that knock people’s socks off.

You’ll be able to hire better venues. You’ll be able to get programs professionally printed. You’ll have a guaranteed larger audience, so that even polite clapping will sound to performers like a thunderous ovation. And you’re more likely to have not just one, but several of those rare talented students who can astonish parents and inspire your other students with their own performances.

Your studio of 60 students quickly turns into an audience of three hundred if each student brings family and a friend or two. It turns a mere concert into a powerful celebration of the fact that your studio is doing a great job, and that your students are fortunate to be part of it all. Lay on some champagne for the interval, and let the parents enthuse to each other about how they wouldn’t want their child to be anywhere else.

11. Teachers with full studios are able to benefit from additional income streams.

If your studio is bringing in a little extra by selling sheet music to students, that extra goes up threefold if your studio is three times the size. What was just a little extra pocketmoney is now paying for you to upgrade your recording equipment.It’s also providing enough volume of sales to put you in a good position to negotiate a special discount with your music store. Sixty students could well mean two hundred music books have to be supplied to you from somewhere this year—your local store will be keen to ensure that the "somewhere" is them, and not their competition.Aside from the issue of sheet music sales, if your waiting list is honestly becoming too big to manage, you have the option of bringing aboard an associate teacher to help with the demand. They benefit from having access to the demand that your studio generates, and instant growth in their own student base that might have taken a decade otherwise. You benefit because they pay you a percentage of their fees—almost like a franchise arrangement. The very fact that you have an associate lends yet more credibility to your studio, helping bring in yet more students, and in time, you may consider bringing aboard a second associate...and so on.

After all, once you’re full, you’re full. If you can help fill somebody else up too, and derive some financial benefit from doing so, then everybody wins.


Found this advice helpful?
It's just a tiny excerpt from the PracticeSpot Guide to Promoting your Teaching Studio, a massive 240 page guide dedicated to ensuring your studio is the one parents call first.

From Philip Johnston, founder of PracticeSpot, and author of The Practice Revolution.

For teachers who want to fill their schedules, have a healthy waiting list, and enjoy the benefits that a thriving studio brings.

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