When to Hire Someone to Help

When to Hire Someone to Help

image00136I am not a lawyer, or an experienced business person – and I have absolutely no idea how to handle payroll, but I am a teacher who has been filling the role of teacher, bookkeeper, human relations, events coordinator, etc – so what I will address today is related only to the fact that I am feeling overwhelmed and overstretched.

How does a teacher in a private lesson situation do it all?  When we teach at our homes, we live at work… we breathe work, sleep at work, eat at work, spend time with family at work.  Separating the daily workspace and homespace is easy enough, but nearly impossible when our minds are constantly working on our next “to do” list.  Sometimes, we simply need help.

If you could hire the BEST assistant (one who would do everything except the teaching), what would you want?  What skills?  What jobs/tasks would they complete?  What hours?  What mannerisms, habits, and different personality preferences would you hire?  What would be the pay?  Any benefits?

We need to address all of the above questions, and more, when considering someone to hire.  Employing someone in your home studio requires reliability, trust, their ability to work independently, and a quick grasp of their job description and tasks.

For me, the following would be non-negotiable for the all-around helper.  I would consider, however, someone who could learn the skills need (but perhaps doesn’t already use them, or know they exist).

*Clerical – computer, bookkeeping, filing, billing, ordering supplies
*Studio Tasks (daily) – practice logs,
*House cleaning – vacuuming, dusting, straighten waiting area
*Technology – keep things running, programs, software, electronics, printer
*Public relations – quick to respond to emails & phone calls, courteous, friendly
*Advertising – someone who could efficiently & thoroughly utilize the advertising options.

Hours would be…
*Before the Teaching Day (prep, public relations) – perhaps 2 hours?
*During the Teaching Day (tasks not requiring my attention) – 3 to 4 of the hours?
*After the Teaching Day (cleanup, filing) – perhaps 1 hour?

The ideal situation would be as shown above, but I’m not speaking for Assistanteveryone.  Who would you hire?  If you could sit back, relax, enjoy time with your family, and afford the financial change hiring someone would take, what would you do?  What things would you put back in your schedule?  What enjoyable things do you do to relax after a long day of teaching?  How would your life be changed by hiring someone you could trust to do things just as thoroughly & carefully as you do them?

I am new to the thought, but am excited at the possibility!  I am excited for what the future holds in my studio.  What does the future hold in your studio?

  • Posted at 8:38 am, December 5, 2011

    When I was still teaching at home, I had two parents I bartered with for lessons. One cleaned my house in exchange for her son’s lessons. The other logged expense receipts, filed papers, etc. in exchange for her son’s lessons. These were the two primary tasks that I wanted to delegate to save me time. While working at home, I wanted to maintain the personal touch of returning my own phone calls and emails. (Although I did have my teenage daughter call students to cancel when I came down real sick a time or two.) The mother who cleaned had great work ethic and worked hard the entire time she was cleaning. That is an important thing to look for. The one who did office work, however, worked VERY slowly, learned VERY slowly, and kept track of every single minute she was here to be sure she was credited enough to her account. This is not the type of person you want to hire…especially if you are actually paying them an hourly paycheck. It’s important to know that, if they are set up on work/study status, and their pay is credited directly to their account, you are not required to pay minimum wage. My students usually get $5/hr for work/study, unless I’m having them do something really big and I see that they are doing a good job.

    Now, I run a studio of 14 teachers and 135 students, on multiple instruments. We quickly reached a point of needing a receptionist/office assistant. She fields all phone calls, schedules prospective students for consultation appointments, registers new students, receives/records tuition payments, responds to general emails, manages the studio schedule, does minor clean-up at closing time, sets up rooms for group lessons, etc. The primary things I looked for when hiring her were: a very friendly personality, a bit of a salesman, good work ethic, and enough intelligence that I could teach her the rest. Some experience with the computer was important, but not critical, as the programs she would be using (primarily Studio Helper) were very easy to learn and weren’t typical programs that she would have had experience with elsewhere. Oh…and neat handwriting and good spelling/grammar. She would, after all, be the one taking phone messages for me and other teachers, sending emails to students, and proof-reading text for me.

  • Posted at 11:15 am, February 13, 2012

    Interesting articles-thank you! I have recently hired 3 staff members in the past year and addressed a lot of the same concerns. I have tried bartering with parents too and although economically a good move, you get what you pay for in the end:) I recently however, bartered with one parent with great success. The parent is a talented graphic designer/artist, and she designed our studio logo, business cards, magnets for our cars, etc., website design for our staff and well worth it.

    If you are going to hire an administrative assistant though, I’d encourage you to go a step further and hire one with a solid music background, you’ll be able to use them in many more ways and they will be much more interested long-term in the position. Most recently I hired what we call my “Piano Assistant”. After many interviews of dozens of musicians, I hired a 28 year old college graduate with a music education and piano performance degree. He easily handles any administrative tasks such as scheduling of lessons, maintaining the daily changes to our piano teaching calendar and fielding calls from prospective families. More valuably though, he teaches about 5-8 make-up lessons for me each Saturday for families that had to cancel throughout the week. It allows me to keep one day open where I do not teach and can exclusively devote that day to my own children-this is invaluable to me. Parents know if they cancel a lesson during the week, they are permitted to have one free makeup lesson per semester with Mr. Mike on Saturdays. Any future cancellations are charged at the full private lesson rate. It allows my students a chance to work with another teacher who has a unique personality and set of skills and brings his own gifts to the lesson. They have really enjoyed him and he is often full on Saturday-sometimes up to 20 students on that day.

    On the occasion where I or the other teachers are ill or have a conflict, Mike is our substitute teacher that can pop in and teach a random lesson here and there. His skill set, being a quick learner and having worked in several offices during college made him invaluable to us. He knows much more about computers and websites than I do, and has taken over updating the website, writing music related articles and planning group lesson themes/topics for us.

    We do have a separate person that we hired two years ago to handle the billing and accounting. When you get over 100 students it is certainly necessary to have some support there. My billing person records all checks, on-line and Paypal payments, sends our receipts/emails, updates accounts, sends out a new statement on the 1st of each month and also organizes my studio expenses, receipts for tax purposes. She sends reminder notices out if an account is more than 10 days late and doesn’t hesitate to call them if 30 days late and lessons are about to terminate. Since we hired her we’ve had nearly 100% on-time payments. Because she plays piano herself, I often come out to the studio and find her practicing an hour or so before she has to be there, just because she loves our pianos. I know that her own personal love of piano adds to the enjoyment of her job and one of the reasons she is likely to be a long-term employee.

    Please remember when searching for a new employee or support staff: there are many, many qualified, degreed music teachers with strong piano backgrounds out there that are looking for work these days. In my city, the public school system has cut K-8 music the past three years! When I placed an ad online, I had dozens of teachers more qualified than I applying including Ph.ds from the local community college whose classes have been cut. Investing in someone well educated with a genuine interest and love of your instrument will further enhance your studio’s popularity and develop your reputation of a place where families can come for a superior music education.

Post a Comment