The Art of Being First

Weekly Teaching Tip – March 9, 2020
by Aimee Geddes

In 2004 my husband and I were newly married. I was the first out of the 4 children in my family to tie the knot. My husband however, was the 7th out of 10 kids in his family, the 6th having beaten us to the altar by a mere 3 weeks!

It was not long after that there began to be other family events that required our attendance. The next Summer was particularly shocking to me when I discovered that my mother-in-law had already set aside specific dates for the family to be together for a family reunion. At this point, there were over 30 people to coordinate on my husband’s side of things (there are over 50 today with the grandkids now getting married).

I felt somewhat jilted that we didn’t have a say in what we did on certain holidays because my mother-in-law had made plans already for the entire family.  My family never made plans in advance and since there were no in-laws to work around, it hadn’t  been necessary. They didn’t seem to fuss too much if you didn’t make it to something either. On the other hand, family events had to be much shorter in my family and didn’t happen as often.

So, how does this relate to teaching? I discovered some time ago that my mother-in-law had something figured out. “The Art of Being First.” If you are the First one to the table, you get first pick and the most options are available to you. If you say what you want first, the other party has the option to counter, but only with the terms you have already established. I even read about this concept in a book called “The Truth About Negotiations.” Often times the person to make the first offer, has the most power. 

Being First in Teaching

This is how I learned to keep my studio full. I learned that if I wanted my students to put voice lessons first, before other activities, I had to speak up first. Here are some of the things I tell them right away, or at first, so that I have the options on the table that I prefer:

1. Be FIRST to state your Tuition Policy. In Writing, on the wall of your studio, in every lesson reminder you send every week. They can’t avoid seeing it, and if you say what you want first, they will most likely not argue.

2. Require Tuition due the FIRST Lesson of the month (or sooner). Once they have paid, they will not try to re-negotiate the price after they have skipped out on their first lesson or two of the month. (See tip 1 above.)

3.Be FIRST to Set your schedule for the year. This means school year, and Summer, if they are different in your studio. Be first to decide which days you will and will not teach, and which times are available and tell your clientele in advance. I mean, like way in advance. I send out my summer schedule options in January. And give those who stay on over the summer FIRST pick of Fall lessons, which go quickly. I also let them schedule the Fall as soon as they have signed up for all of their Summer lessons. So, being FIRST is beneficial for students as well.

4. Be FIRST in pricing. This doesn’t mean be the cheapest, but charge the most you think your services are worth. This will increase as your skills and experience does as well. If people are paying more for your time because they believe you are worth it, you can bet they won’t bump you down the list of priorities. They will make sure to show up at their lesson to get their money’s worth. (See list of Firsts above).

There are lots of other ways and reasons to be first. These are just a few. I’d like to hear how you teachers end up applying this in your studios. Happy Teaching!

Related Articles