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Records and Collections

These simple tips will address two important money managing issues: keeping records and collecting money

Teaching guitar and other instrumentation keeps your chops up as a player and keeps you challenged musically on a daily basis. Being a music instructor can provide a respectable income for those who strive to make a living by remaining in the music field. Even teaching part-time supplements your income and keeps your playing ability in top form.

Many factors arise when beginning to teach, such as collecting money, keeping a systematic schedule, and just how to stay organized throughout this newfound venture. When running your own lessons, managing the money can be especially difficult. These simple tips will address two important money managing issues: keeping records and collecting money.

Keeping Records
Write everything down. All of it. Don’t slack on this part. Keeping an account of all of your business dealings will keep you out of hot water. Honesty, of course, is the best and only way to run a business, but you have to be able to back up all transactions. Transactions include: exchanges of money, lesson appointment times, changes in schedule, phones numbers, addresses, receipts and any matters that will cost or make you money.

You can go to any office supply store or look online to find an appointment book that will work well for you. Make sure that you have enough physical space to write in names. When scheduling, write in the student’s name and amount of payment and mark each week that the student is paid for. The last week before they are due, it can be helpful to put an asterisk as a reminder to tell the students that payment will be due their next lesson. Most people appreciate it and only a few will act like you’re a bill collector. Regardless, the lesson fee is due and the payer needs to be told; noting it in your book will help you remember.

Design a simple form on your computer for the students to fill out their personal information. For example: name, address, payer’s name, as many phone numbers as you can get (home, cell, work, other contacts like family members), and email address. Log this information into your scheduling book and if a student doesn’t show, you can give them a call. Many times, new students forget and they appreciate being reminded. On the form you may want to put an area for referrals. If they are filled in, you will have a strong lead for new students.

“Receiving money from another person can be easy or it can be uncomfortable. Make the situation as uncomplicated as possible, since some people are funny about their money.”

Some teachers use pocket electronic devices like Palm Pilots or Blackberries. If you are comfortable with these devices then use whatever works for you, as long as it has the appearance of professionalism. But remember, the average person likes to see some things in plain old black and white.

How To Collect
Receiving money from another person can be easy or it can be uncomfortable. Make the situation as uncomplicated as possible for all concerned, since some people are funny about their money.

Always ask for the fee at the beginning of the lesson. Don’t be afraid. They are usually waiting to give it to you. Everyone pays differently. Some students have the check ready and give it to you upon the start of the lesson while others have the check visible in their shirt pocket. Some do not know when they are due and ask, while a few ask if they are due (when they know they are) just to test you. Sometimes, a student brings cash without the correct change. If you don’t have the change, go get it on their time. In that case, they might offer to bring the correct amount back after the lesson. This usually works out fine.

Sometimes students don’t know that they are due, and they don’t have the money on them. Most people offer to bring it the following week, but you should tell them that you would like it today. They don’t have to wait a week for their paycheck, do they?

Keep the exchange of money clear and precise for everyone involved. Don’t be defensive when there is a discrepancy about money. Stay calm and be cool, that’s the best way to work out a solution.

Finally, always remember to thank them when getting paid, even if they are good friends or better known acquaintances.

Guy Lee
Guy Lee is a professional guitarist, music instructor, author of The Guy Lee Guitar Method and publisher. He has been published in 20th Century Guitar, Vintage Guitar, Bassics, Goldmine, American Songwriter, Home Recording and several newspapers.