The Business Side of Hiring a Sitter
Last week I talked to you about how our babysitting situation has panned out. If you haven’t had a chance to read that post, I ended up having William go to an in-home sitter three days a week, and then I have 4 different sitters who come to the house on other days.
This week I want to be sure your piano teaching business can handle the added expense of hiring a sitter. There are several aspects to this: Paying the sitters, earning enough money after the extra expenses, scheduling lessons around babysitting hours, can a solid cancellation policy.
You Teach Piano Because You Love It, But It’s Also a Business.
I recently saw a post by a mom piano teacher on Facebook. She was asking if it might be better to just not teach at all until her kids (there were three of them under 5) were all in school. She said that with all their activities, illnesses, and babysitting needs, she ended up cancelling on students a lot.
You’ve got to make that decision yourself. I can honestly tell you that the only time I cancelled on my students because of my baby was when he had pink eye and it was contagious. But to me, teaching is very important. Working is very important. And we need my income.
So what we need to be sure to do, is format our teaching business like a business, not a hobby. Here’s how:
Set Up Your Schedule.
Most students can come to lessons after 4pm. If you have high school students babysitting, that’s when they’re available too. I try to stuff as many students in a row from 4-6 as I can each night.
If that’s not enough, or if you teach some adults or homeschool students who have different schedules, you may want to consider sending your baby to an in-home daycare, or hiring a nanny for a day. When my baby goes to the sitter’s house, I stack my students from 2-6pm.
Before baby, I’d teach a student at 3, then another at 4:30, and another at 6. It wasn’t a big deal, I’d just do something else between students. Now, I’ll schedule those students closer together, at 4, 4:30 and 5, or move students from other days to fill in the gaps.
If You’re Breastfeeding.
You’re going to need to have gaps in your schedule for when baby’s hungry, unless you’re bottle feeding, then skip this part… I would feed at about 3:30, then again at 6, so I had a 30 minute gap in my schedule to feed the baby. I could have a student at 5:30 and at 6:30, but not at 6. People totally understand this! It’s going to take a little practice to find out exactly what time baby wants to eat in the evening, but you’ll figure it out. One of the reasons I stopped teaching at 6 was because my boy cluster fed after that, so I really wasn’t available for my students.
As baby gets older, you’ll be able to go longer between feeds and fit more students in a row into your evening schedule.
Student Cancellation Policy.
You’re thinking, “Wait, what does this have to do with babysitting?” Let’s take my Monday night scenario:
I teach four students on Mondays, at 4, 5, 5:30, and 6:15. I have a babysitter come from 4-5, and another sitter come from 5-7. Let’s say my 5pm student cancels at 3:30 that same afternoon. If I text the second babysitter to come 30 minutes late, I’m just asking for confusion. Next week she might think to come late again, or hit bad traffic and get here really late. It’s just easier to have her still come at 5.
But I had a student cancel! That mean’s I’m making half as much money, right? Nope. My students need to give me 24 hours notice to cancel, or else they’re out the lesson fee. So even though my 5:00 isn’t coming, I’m still getting paid. It took me a year or two to get confident enough to implement this policy, but I haven’t had anyone think it’s unfair, and haven’t really had any trouble with it.
Please be sure you have a clear cancellation policy, and that you discuss it with your students and their parents. As parents, they will understand the cost of child care and what it’s like to need a babysitter regularly. My students also pay me for a month in advance, so there’s no confusion about when they’ll be attending lessons. Some teachers have students pay by the semester. Whichever way works for you, remember that you’re running a business. Be firm and consistent with your students when they cancel.
Create a Rescheduling Policy.
When you need to have a sitter while you teach, having students rescheduling all the time makes life even more complicated. Once you set your schedule, it’s best to stick with it. I’ve told my students they can reschedule once each month, and that’s it. There are just a handful of places that I can move their lesson to, and if that doesn’t work then it just doesn’t work.
Sometimes, if someone’s really in a bind and we’re coming up on a recital or another important event, I’ll reschedule but tell them they’ll need to have someone watch the baby during the lesson.
Raise Your Rates If You Have To.
Most of your students’ parents will understand if you up the rate a few bucks per lesson to help pay for that sitter. Let’s say you charge $20 for a 30 minute lesson. If you have two students back to back, you make $40 that hour. But you had a sitter, so there goes $10. Plus, we don’t just spend those 30 minutes with that student, there’s lesson prep, continuing education, and all those little expenses to take into account.
I did not raise my rates, but I had enough students back-to-back that I didn’t need to.
Babysitting and Taxes.
You can only claim babysitting as a business expense if your babysitter is claiming it as income on their taxes. You’ll need their social security number and other personal information for when you file your taxes.
Don’t Trade Lessons for Babysitting.
Just don’t do it. Trading lessons for babysitting is unlikely to work out well. This either devalues the babysitting or devalues the piano lesson. And then they miss an afternoon here and you reschedule or cancel a lesson there and you have a big mess on your hands. Keep the two things separate.
If I have a student babysit, I pay the student for babysitting weekly, and they pay me for lessons monthly. In a few rare cases, I have a family that’s happy to play with baby while I teach and I don’t pay them for it. I was clear with them that I’d normally have a sitter and they told me not to spend the money.
Be consistent. When you set your cancellation policy, stick to it. If you can’t reschedule a student, then you can’t. The fortunate thing is that since all your students parents are parents, they’ll understand the constraints you’re working under.
No one in a regular day job is expected to have their child with them while they work. Nobody at Target has their baby running around while they stock shelves, and your dentist doesn’t have his/her kids banging through cabinets at his/her office. Do yourself the courtesy of treating your piano teaching like the real work it is, and hire someone to watch the kiddos while you teach. You deserve it!
Sample Piano Studio Policies
I have both a pdf and docx version of my piano studio policies for you to download. If you like them, use them as they are! If you need to change something here or there, or want to customize parts of it for different students, feel free. I’ll also send you my latest content by email when you sign up.
These are my policies:
- Students must have an instrument to practice on. The preferred type of piano is a _________ (acoustic piano/midi capable keyboard)
- Students will be expected to practice regularly. The time and frequency of this practice will be agreed upon between the student, parent and teacher.
- Lessons will be paid for in advance, one month at a time. This means that at the first lesson of the month, payment will be due for all of the lessons the student will take that month.
- A parent or student must give 24 hour notice to cancel a lesson, otherwise they will forfeit the lesson fee.
- Each student may have one makeup or rescheduled lesson a month. Makeup lessons are on Saturdays or during the week if I can fit them in.
- If a student no-shows twice with no warning, I reserve the right to remove them from my studio.
I have a prettier copy for you, just click this link!
I hope you found this post helpful, and that if you haven’t already, you implement policies in your studio that benefit you, your students, and your family.