Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday, I think I figured it out.

     I had a long talk with a parent of mine yesterday afternoon.  He is a fireman and professional photographer on the side.  Very talented and hard working.  He does a lot of sport and team pictures around the area.  He would like my studio contract but some one else has it and I have no problem with my current photographer whom I really love.  Anyway Nate (the parent) told me that he has never shot a business where people buy more photos they cannot afford than dance studios.  He said Kim I can guarantee that 85% of the students you have right now have parents that cannot afford to pay for the lessons they are giving their children.  They do this because they think they have to.  They are compelled to do this.  This is why your tuition is such a mess. He then admitted that he and his wife have trouble meeting their tuition obligations to me.  Their daughter is one of my best young Irish dancers.  Their tuition is $75.00 a month.  I often trade with them for photographs.  Sr. pictures that would cost me $400.00 were traded for lessons last year.  This made me really stop and think.
     I remember I could not afford my own girls lessons.  My twin sister who has no children paid for the oldest daughters tuition when she was little as she got older and had to take more class I was always late.  I paid a $5.00 late fee every month.  I finally noticed that the University studio outreach program in our small town was very dirty.  Mirrors were filthy, no toilet paper or paper towels, dust bunnies every where. I asked the director if I could clean the studio in exchange for tuition.  I was not teaching dance for the University at this time I was coaching a dance team for the local high school and doing many, many shows for different theaters.  The University agreed.  One year when the oldest was about 10 we had a terrible snow year.  Remember we don't get snow here often and driving down the prairie on a small snowed in two lane goat trail is dangerous.  The dance director would call me and give me a list of all the students to call and cancel class.  This was before cell phones and a long distance call could be $1.00.  I did this for about 6 lessons in a row. I finally told the director that I felt that they were going to lose too much money canceling all of these classes.  I could go down and substitute. I had a very strong classical dance background.  She asked me to send up a resume' and I did.  Then I started subbing.  The rest is history.  But the truth is I could not afford to give my own children the quality of dance instruction I craved for them.  I found a way to do it, but most people do not have my skills.

    I also know that my mother never paid my tuition.  (Our father drank) My twin sister and I were very talented young dancers, we were tiny, cute and show stoppers, like little circus performers we sold tickets and brought our studio owner enrollment we were worth the scholarship whether she wanted to give it to us or not.  As I got older my twin left the dance world and entered the music world, she as an incredible voice and sang light opera for years after she pursued 3 degrees in music.  The dance studio became my home as our home started to fail due to my father's alcoholism and my mother's denial of all problems.  My teachers became my life line, they gave me confidence and skill.  The studio was my sanctuary.  In a nut-shell I feel guilty when I make people pay me.  I feel like these kids need me like I needed my teachers.  I did not pay for lessons. I really never thought my skills deserved payment.  The non profit dance program I worked for through the University kept me thinking this for 11 years until I was running their program at a huge profit to them and nothing for myself.  I woke up  I think getting sick did this, I realized I do have talent and people were going to pay for it.  But I still have that little voice that says you are not good enough to charge for this, you need to give your skills away. Now I have to be a grown up.  I can't let the past ruin my business.

  I am going into my 6th year of owning this business. Two years ago I was so in debt and going deeper, but now I have worked so hard and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe I will get out and be able to take home a salary.  Now that I can taste the freedom from debt in the air I am angry and no one is going to stiff me or make me borrow money to pay rent or payroll.  If they don't pay on time they will pay a service charge for my past sins.  Does this make sense?

     There now you have it.  What do you think?

A letter is being drafted by my attorney (hee, hee) that will go out to all parents, that will state the new plan.  Pay by the 10th or add a $20.00 fee strictly enforced  by my attorney.  Yes I will lose some enrollment but I do not care.  It used to be 10% of people paid late now it is over 50% and it is steadily getting worse.  I realize I will always have people who pay late that is the nature of the business, any business.  But I am going to put on my big girl panties now and they are Pink!

Out My Window:  I went out to the chicken coop yesterday and found 5 eggs in one nest tried to pick them up all at once and oops!  Note to self, take out an egg carton to coop and gather eggs.

Sorry for the diatribe, but I feel better now.

Have a great and productive day!



  1. I enjoyed your post. I never took any sort of classes or anything when I was younger, because my parents couldn't afford it, and I guess I sort of despise them for doing that to me. I have no talent!

    50% of paying paying late is too may people!

  2. I think that being honest is part of the problem also. When we were struggling with Laurens soccer payments we called the league and the coach first. On one team we were lucky because they were able to use my husband as a fill in coach and as a referee(he has the classes and the clearance) and the second one let me pay in two payments. There are parents who havent made a payment yet and its not fair to anyone.

    I always tried to pay my kids lessons a quarter in adavance when they were little(ie dance I paid from sept to december in sept then started saving to pay feb to march). But I think what you are doing is exactly right. You are not giving away these lessons and you need to be paid.

    Good luck and wear those panties proudly !


  3. You wear those panties and cheer! You are worth it!!

    There probably are alot of families who can't afford the lessons, but they feel like they are supposed to do this for the kids. They don't want to tell the kids they can't do it. So they just try and fly under the radar. No more.

    I would say if tuition isn't in by the 10th, there is a late fee of $20. AND....if it isn't received by the 15th...the child cannot attend until tuition is brought up to date. And it will be hard on the 15th to turn those kids away....yes it will....but you need to send those families a message.

  4. you are right to get tough with the non payers, I found this in my business too, I had to remember that as much as I felt bad for people who could not afford it, I was running a business, not a charity, Having clear written payment policies is important, but more important is that you follow through with the policy.

    I set myself a specific number of hours that I would do on a pro bono basis, but other than that, people either pay of leave.

    Those big girl panties will make you feel amazing ! :)

  5. I'm glad you're using a lawyer, then the lawyer becomes the bad guy instead of you. You are running a business, not a charity, though with the background you have provided I certainly understand how you feel. And people will take advantage of you if you let them.
    Glad to see you are getting TOUGH! You may lose some clients now, but you'll be better off in the long run. And much less stressed out!
    Yay for big girl panties!!

  6. It can be hard to pay for lessons, but it comes down to priorities. My daughters private guitar lessons run us anywhere between $120-$150 month and I squeeze pennies to make sure they are paid on time! Any extra money I earn goes into her lessons savings. I'm making extra money this month from some custom sewing orders & a photo shoot, so every penny of that will be saved for her lessons! As i see it, It's either a priority, or it's not. Good luck!

  7. How come so many woemn feel this way (me included)? It's like we are raised bot help people and asking for money for our hard work seems wrong some how. But a business is a business (otherwise it would be a hobby) and you need to (and deserve to!) earn an income from your hard work!! Meanwhile did you see the article about the Olson twins $39000(!) backpack selling out? These girls have no problem asking for money!!!

  8. Hi,Why dont you do what my daughter's dance teacher does and add $20 to all the fees at the beginning of the term and give a "discount" of $20 if the fee is paid within a certain time (eg 4 weeks) of the invoice being issued. That way people think they are saving money by paying on time, and not paying a penalty for being late. Believe me Im never late because I hate paying that $20!