I think my calendar is trying to kill me.

This is not the first time we’ve had our disagreements. A few years ago I noticed that my studio calendar was becoming rather demanding, so we sat down and renegotiated.

For the first time ever, I scheduled time off. Real time off. The kind where I close the studio and don’t teach for a week with no obligation to provide makeup lessons or refunds when I get back.

This was a total game-changer. It was only a week off for winter break and a week off in the summer, but it was such a relief to be truly “off” during those times so that I could actually enjoy traveling or bumming around the house.

It’s been a few years, though, and my life and priorities have changed a bit. That arrangement we came up with four years ago isn’t working anymore.

It’s time for another calendar negotiation.

This Isn’t Working

So this week I took some time to figure out what wasn’t working. It came down to three things:

  1. Not enough time off in the summer. Our families are spread out all over the Midwest and when we travel to see them, 3.5 days of our trips are spent in the car just driving between different cities. With that amount of time on the road, a week of vacation just doesn’t give us enough time to actually see people.
  2. Last minute cancellations around weekday holidays. I’ve usually kept my studio open for weekday holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, the days before/after Thanksgiving, and July 4th, but even the most dedicated students often call at the last minute and cancel. The cancellations don’t hurt me financially since my students pay monthly tuition, but I’ve often turned down invitations to fun things for myself during those holidays so that I could be available for lessons. It’s really disappointing to have stayed home for nothing.
  3. Unplanned cancellations. Speaking engagements. Family emergencies. Family celebrations. Inevitably, a couple of times each year, something unexpected comes up where I need to cancel lessons and I am faced with the extremely difficult task of rescheduling makeups. I need more flexibility to accommodate these unanticipated times off.

Let’s Try This

With a better sense of what was causing me stress and why, I took a fresh look at my calendar and came up with some simple solutions.

Since my students pay monthly tuition, it was important that they get the same number of lessons as last year, but I got creative with the lesson formats.

  1. Take two weeks off in the summer. I’ll take one week of vacation, like last year, and one week I’ll send out pre-recorded video lessons. I love the idea of getting a jump start on selecting repertoire for the fall, and I think a video lesson is a great way to do it.
  2. Face the facts. My students don’t want to come to lessons around long weekends and holidays. I don’t blame them. Rather than having them forfeit these lessons by cancelling, I’m going to close the studio and offer a group lesson the week before or after instead. My schedule will be more predictable and students will actually get an extra lesson since this is normally one they would miss entirely. Win-win!
  3. Build in flexibility. Finally, to manage those unavoidable cancellations from my side, I’m going to set the expectation that up to one additional private lesson each semester may be made up with a group lesson.

Takeaways

I’m all about building a studio that works with my life, not against it. This studio calendar issue has been a good reminder that when something is not working in my studio, I can do something about it. Making these decisions is one of the responsibilities and privileges of being self-employed.

It’s also a good reminder that building a sustainable studio requires iteration. Changes may work for a season and then something shifts and they need to be adjusted again. That’s OK. It’s all part of the entrepreneurial process.

What changes do you want to make to your studio calendar this year?

 

Photo by Kelly Jean on Unsplash

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