I think the fall is probably an expensive time for most studio owners across the board as we prepare to head into another year of teaching…
Here’s what my business records show for this month:
Membership renewal in my national, state, and local teachers’ associations: $135
Ad in the local paper: $45
Ad in local parenting magazine: $100
New teaching materials for lessons: $50
Business license renewal: $25
You get the idea.
Here are a few ways I try to help offset some of the costs of being a small business owner:
- Charging an annual registration fee. Having a two year old myself who has taken tumbling class, swim lessons, and a Music Together class, I realize that every other activity charges an annual–or sometimes even a semester — registration fee. Why should piano be any different? Last September I began charging each family a $20 registration fee to help offset some of the expenses that inevitably come for me as a teacher and studio owner each fall. No one has sounded any complaints, which echoes my belief that registration fees are fairly common with any activity these days. Since I charge this every fall, my most expensive time of the year as a teacher, it has definitely been helpful.
- Charge appropriate fees for your service. If you and every other teacher in the area are charging $15 a lesson, but you are the only teacher who participates in ongoing education (at your own expense), rents recital halls (at your own expense) and belongs to teachers associations (at your own expense) then you are offering something the competition is not. Your rates should reflect this, and it is probably time for you to charge a bit more than other locals in your field. It can be easy for us and our clients to think that we make $15-$20 per half hour, but the hours we put in behind the scenes and the expenses we incur as studio owners should be reflected in the rates we charge, too. Don’t undercharge your clients for your services. Educate your clients about this, too! Let them know about the preparation, continuing education and studio expenses that you put in outside of their child’s weekly piano lesson or ballet class so that they understand how much you offer them as a teacher and realize that they are paying for more than just a weekly lesson slot.
- Keep track of your expenses for tax purposes. Music Teacher’s Helper and Studio Helper are excellent resources for studio owners in this regard. I had no idea how many things that I did as a studio owner were tax deductible until purchasing an account with Music Teacher’s Helper. Now, keeping track of my monthly studio expenses and gas mileage and entering them in when I do my taxes each year is simple. Whenever I purchase an ad for my studio or pay a membership fee, I enter it into my Music Teacher’s Helper account right away. (Note: I keep a folder in my file with all these receipts in case I am audited.) At the end of the year, the website does all the math for me and prints excel charts and graphs with my annual totals. This has helped me take advantage of the tax breaks I can receive as a self-employed studio owner. Do you use a portion of your home for your studio? Check with your tax accountant about riding off portions of your utilities and mortgage based on the square footage and amount of time you use the portion of your house for a studio.
I hope all the studio owners out there have an enjoyable and successful year!