If Duet (former Music Teacher’s Helper) allows you to gain or retain just ONE student, the way I figure it, you will earn double the cost of the service. In addition, if Duet helps you avoid losing money through better payments and accounting, you might actually be saving the equivalent of Duet‘s cost each month you use it.
But let’s take a look at the details. Read on for 10 reasons why I think Duet pays for itself–
1. Ease of registration: If income from just one student pays for the service, then we just need to take a look at whether Duet helps you gain students. I’ve found it does just that, in several ways. First, through ease of registration. When I get inquiries about lessons, it is both efficient and impressive for prospective students to be linked to my Duet registration form. This gives me all the info I need — email, location (to help me know whether to offer in-person or online lessons), and sometimes notes on their availability or interests. I also use the remote registration log-in feature on my own site, which allows me to send students to my website and use my link to the registration form. This way I not only supply prospective students a link for signing up, but also can create an easy-to-remember URL for use on a printed flyer or card.
2. New students appreciate a professional look and immediate access to information: If you use Duet (or Music Teacher’s Helper) as your own website or link to it from your website, its features can attract students with the blog, studio description, policies, photos, or information or resources you may offer on your own website with links to your Duet online calendar system. I’ve had some students choose me because I was able to respond quickly and by linking them to the online calendar, I could promptly provide them all the info they needed.
3. Retaining a student is equivalent in income to gaining one. One way Duet helps retain students is through transparency. When I taught at a local conservatory, I helped out sometimes in the office, especially during a transition time between directors — and I was witness to several arguments students or parents had with the administration and teachers regarding how many lessons had been taken or scheduled. This was one big motivation for me to sign onto Duet. My students and I love the transparency — not only can we all see the same calendar listings, but payments and charges are also available 24/7. I know lots of students who appreciate this, but I can think of at least one long-term student who came to me purely because Duet provided all of that information online to her at any time. I’ve never had to deal with any student disputes about these things because the transparency of Duet makes them comfortable. I have also gained the trust of students by being able to correct a few billing errors after researching a student’s payment and lesson history, and by looking online they could see the situation for themselves.
4. Ease of communication is really helpful to students, and they don’t want to lose that service. Students who are emailed lesson notes after their lesson really appreciate them; in addition, they appreciate emailed payment receipts and lesson reminders. It’s easy to keep in touch with all students through mass emails, or to groups of students, such as classes, via the email filters — and the emails come to each student personally rather than as part of a mass mailing. I have often had students reply personally to automatic reminders or mass emails, because they feel I have sent those messages to them individually — which is exactly how I feel about it but don’t have time to actually send all those messages individually.
5. Lesson rates and policies are more credible when published on the Duet website — especially when policies have to be applied to a problem situation. When students see the policy listed online on my Duet site, they know what’s what, and it doesn’t cross their minds that I might have made up a policy to answer their personal situation — they can see it has all been laid out publicly.
6. I’m sure I’ve retained many students by being better prepared for lessons due to my lesson notes and lesson history. When I print out my Daily Report or view it on my smartphone or view my daily email from Duet listing my lesson schedule, it tells me what that student did in the last lesson. That’s what they’ve been thinking about this week, and they like that I’m tuned in. It doesn’t matter how many lessons I might have in a row; each student knows that I know what they’re working on. Sometimes while teaching (especially in online lessons where I’m already looking at the computer) I can consult the Lesson History during a lesson and get the context for the student’s work over the past month or more as well.
7. Retain students by easily providing them with learning materials. No need to have books, CDs, handouts, etc. available at all times. You can have an archive of materials in the Duet File Area, and make any file, sheet music, recording,, etc., available to any student quickly, even via mobile phone.
Avoid Losing Money
8. Avoiding losing money can be just as helpful sometimes as earning it! I avoid losing money because of Duet‘s reliable financial records — I regularly go over the transaction records to see if all is well, and sometimes find I have forgotten to charge for a lesson or for a fee, something easily forgotten if I didn’t have the comprehensive listing of transactions in Duet. Checking my Daily Report also helps me make sure to be paid on time for lessons, because it shows me if a student has a credit or owes for a lesson. It’s easier to have someone pay at the right time than to chase after them later, when they owe for a past lesson.
9. The online calendar helps keep my schedule more full. Being a little more efficient with my teaching schedule translates into income that might not have happened without Duet. I use the online calendar to show available lesson slots in a different color. If a student can’t make it to a planned lesson, I can make that slot available; often another student has gone ahead and nabbed that time slot after seeing it was available. In general, the online calendar with a display of available lesson slots makes it easier to schedule lessons without playing phone or email tag. How many lessons does this produce for a teacher? It doesn’t take many (1 or 2 a month?) to cover the cost of this service.
10. Avoid missed lessons via lesson reminders. The automatic email reminders have helped countless times making sure students don’t miss their lessons or at least have no excuse for missing, making it easy to apply my policies for missed lessons. On occasion, the reminders help a student and me correct an error in my schedule in advance, avoiding wasted time for us both, and sometimes allowing for a makeup to be scheduled, or for another student to fill an available slot.
11. Easy payment means more on-time payment. On-time payment means cleaner financial records and less chance of something falling through the cracks. Some of my students go to Duet online calendar and pay directly there; some pay via the link on an invoice sent to them by Duet. These invoices are easy for me to create, easy for the student to understand and very professional looking — not only a help for getting paid, but also a help in retaining students through professional and easy-to-understand communication.
Well there you have some of the reasons why I think Music Teachers Helper pays for itself. There are other reasons too, that I haven’t touched upon: for example, making sure your students are charged the right amount by the lesson or by the month; keeping track of families with more than one student on the same bill; financial reports. But again, the bottom line is, it only takes gaining or retaining one student for Duet to more than pay for itself. I’m sure it’s done much more than that for me, and hopefully for you as well.
Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the country. He tours, often with his son Neil, a pianist in Scottish/jazz/Latin/funk styles. Ed directed the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club for 18 years, including major concerts and festivals. He has 3 CDs of his own and appears on others. His primary expertise is in Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle styles, but Ed plays other Celtic, American, and Canadian fiddle music, classical, some jazz, klez and Hungarian. For ten years he ran a CD distribution company to bring music to the USA from Scotland, Atlantic Canada, Ireland, Brittany and Wales. Ed has written the music column for Scottish Life magazine since 1996.