So, 'tis the season and all that. Everyone is happy, everyone is excited, everyone can't wait for a bit of time off work or school (I realise this is a huge sweeping statement and there may be many among you who hate the festive season but please, just go with me for a minute). Unfortunately for the self employed teachers out there it also means cancellations and a drop in income.
I set up as a singing teacher about 5 years ago and, at first, I had another job to supplement the little income I had coming in from teaching but now, three years on, all I do is teach singing. When I initially decided to go it alone I was extremely dependant on my private singing students turning up, and paying, for their lessons. One week I would do quite well and have 8 or 9 students turn up, the next it could be as little as two as everyone else dropped like flies, sometimes with an interesting array of excuses. The turning point for me was a a year and a half ago when I started working for my first regular theatre school. So now it isn't all private lessons - staying at home, drinking tea while people sing at me - I also teach at two theatre schools. This meant that I have became less reliant on the private students turning up as I know I can pay my rent at the end of the month regardless.
However, that is not the point. The majority of my students are respectful. They only cancel when they have to and try to give me as much notice as possible and I never object to them cancelling. I am not stupid, a singing lesson is only a singing lesson. Sometimes it is not a priority. Life gets in the way and you have to concentrate on other things. I get that. Although, having said that, sometimes the best thing you can do when life gets you down or you are a bit stressed is go and have a good sing. Unfortunately I will always have a few students who don't understand what I do and that I actually make my living doing it. They will think nothing of booking in for regular lessons at the same time every week and then cancelling 3, 4 even 5 in a row the evening before (or on the day) not realising that that means I don't get paid or that, had I had a bit more notice, I could have given that time slot to another student.
Many colleagues of mine tell me I should get people to pay in advance for lessons either singularly or in a block. I have been reluctant to do this up until now because I like people to feel they have some flexibility. I am thinking about it but have reached no decisions as yet. I don't want people who are genuinely ill coming to my house for a lesson because they have paid for it and think they will lose that money if they don't. Of course there would always be an element of discretion on my part but, for the most part, my present system works.
So as we enter the Christmas season, all I ask is that students think before they book and think before they cancel. That way I will be a very happy teacher, you will be a happy student and I will have no reason to vent again.