How to Solve Your Music Makeup Lesson Problem, Part 2

by Daniel Patterson

Reschedule Piano Makeup LessonsRescheduled lessons. Giving your students a makeup lesson. No call-no shows.

These are real concerns for the piano teacher.

Some teachers feel like a doormat. They don’t know how to say no.

Other teachers take the nuclear option… and absolutely forbid giving a makeup lesson.

How can we find balance between the two extremes?

In last week’s post, I revealed the “emotional game” of makeup lessons. I showed why taking a stand on makeup lessons and rescheduled lessons feels so difficult.

In today’s post I reveal my lesson rescheduling system.

This system has increased customer happiness, reduced teacher-parent conflicts, and reduced my admin and teaching time. Additionally, I will show you how to use it in your studio.

A Shocking Story from Nordstrom’s

Have you ever shopped at Nordstrom’s department store?Nordstrom Flagship Store

I have not.

However, I worked at Nordstrom in my early 20’s. I played the piano in the downtown Nordstrom in Indianapolis.

I enjoyed playing for twenty hours each week. I loved sneaking in pop songs played in cocktail or improvised pseudo-classical style.

As part of my onboarding process at Nordstrom, I had to take the full employee training. This training included the customer service training.

I found myself utterly dumbstruck at their customer service policies. The policies were extremely generous.

The trainer gave us several hypothetical scenarios.

In one scenario, sales people were instructed how to deal with customers attempting to return merchandise. What do you do if customer came in with a red wine stain on a $200 dress shirt? You take it back. Even if the customer says that they never wore it.

What do you do if a customer came in with a shirt that clearly was from another store? You take it back. Even if the customer said they bought it at Nordstrom.

We were told exactly how to speak to customers, even if they were being rude.

Now, I have a very strong sense of justice and fairness. Everything about this feels WRONG to me!

What about you?

The Power of Offering a Premium Service

What is Nordstrom thinking?

You might already be one step ahead of me here.

While I was making chump change playing the piano, business men and women were buying $1000 pairs of shoes. They came in on their lunch breaks and bought $200 dress shirts.

Nordstrom is a premium brand. Everything about their image says “class.”

The men and women at the cosmetics counter look sharp in tailored black clothing.

The salespeople wrap packages perfectly. They find complementary accessories for every outfit.

When you make a purchase, the salesperson walks around the counter to hand you your packages. It is luxury service.

According to Wiki Invest, Nordstrom made a gross profit of $5.77 billion in 2015. They did this with just 323 stores in the United States.

Their profit per store is the envy of many other retailers.

What’s the point?

Nordstrom is playing the long game. They do not care that a few cranks might try to rip them off by returning a stained shirt.

They know that over the long run, they are making a high profit margin because they are offering premium service… while charging premium prices!

Premium service = Premium prices and fantastic loyalty.

What Piano Teachers Can Learn from Nordstrom

It is so easy for any business person to think of themselves first and their customers second.No Selfishness

Sadly, many people in business think only of their own interests.

I have taken the Nordstrom attitude to heart when it comes to my lesson reschedule and makeup lesson policy.

When constructing a makeup lesson system, I wanted to keep my customers in mind.

For that reason, I have an unrestricted rescheduling policy. Students can reschedule for whatever reason at any time – provided I have “the night before” notice.

As you can imagine, I field a lot of requests for reschedules and makeup lessons.

I have spoken at length at getting inside the minds of our customers.

How does that apply to giving a makeup lesson? Well, I wanted to make it convenient and free of hassles.

In this case, I asked myself what would best serve my customers while keeping hassles to a minimum – for both myself and the parents of my students?

A Good Problem To Have

In early 2010, my studio size increased from 50 students to 70 students.

My old rescheduling system could not handle this increased demand.  I was spending hours each week trying to fit in makeup lessons. I was calling parents, emailing parents, and playing phone tag. It was a mess.

I estimate that I was spending 2-3 hours per week on the phone.

I knew that something had to change, but I didn’t want to end offering students a makeup lesson.

I sat down to brainstorm one day and came up with a simple solution. It was simple and low stress. I was actually a little upset that it took me so long to come up with it.

I will introduce it here, discuss objections, explain the impact on my studio, and then show you how to implement in your studio.

Introducing: The World’s Best Solution to the Piano Makeup Lesson Problem

I created a simple Google calendar with every lesson on my calendar.

I marked them (by default) as “0 open spots”. You can see here what the calendar looks like:

My Piano Makeup Calendar

Whenever someone cancels a lesson, I mark the time as available / open.

When parents contact me for a makeup lesson, I send them my permanent link to the calendar. I instruct them to bookmark the link. This link gives all families in my studio a real time look at my schedule. I preserve everyone’s privacy by not including names on the calendar.

When parents need to reschedule a lesson, they look at available spots on the calendar. When they find a spot, they email me with their selected time.

It took me about 30 minutes to build the calendar (since I was unfamiliar with Google calendar at that time). Weekly maintenance on the calendar is less than 10 minutes all told.

I will give a detailed explanation of how to set up this calendar near the end of this post.

I will then explain the impact that my policy and scheduling system have had on my Studio. Before I do that, I want to address some objections that are commonly given to an unrestricted reschedule policy.

But! But! But! (or, Answering a Few Objections)

Keep An Open MindI begin this section by stating that – at one time or another – I exhibited most of these attitudes.

If you think I’m being unfair or singling you out, please understand that I point the finger at myself first.

What I’m saying is…. keep an open mind!

“These parents aren’t respecting my time!”

Though problematic, I won’t even comment on the “me vs them” thinking. Rather, I’d like to point out that we teachers might have a possible blind spot.

Is it perhaps fair to say that (from the parent’s perspective) you aren’t respecting their time either?

The 3PM – 6PM time is prime time for children because most children are available at that time.

This is why soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, swim, academic club, debate club, student government, and countless activities are scheduled at this time.

Overscheduled Kid

Look at it from the parent’s perspective. Those other activities schedule groups of children or teens. We teachers only have to schedule one child per spot!

Can you not understand a parent’s frustration?

I have previously written that empathy is one of the best business skills that you can have. That certainly applies in this case.

“But other activities like sports don’t offer reschedules or swaps”

That’s because of the structural impossibility of offering it.

With a little imagination, teachers can overcome that obstacle. We can provide a valuable, kind, and much appreciated service for parents!

That is just good business.

“But this will cut into my personal time!”

I respect this. The boundary between your personal time and your working time should be sacrosanct.

However, I do have a thought… and bear with me.

In the United States, private teachers make anywhere from $30-$100 dollars per hour depending on where you live. Group teachers can even make north of the $100+ rate by employing proctors to help with a class of 4 or 6 students.

Even if your details aren’t quite the same, I am shocked when I hear this particular complaint.

I will quote one of the best blog posts that I’ve read on the topic of piano makeup lessons. This post handles far more objections than I have the space or inclination to address here:

“We work less hours than K-12 teachers and earn more per year for it, and yet we still act like victims when asked to give students time that they’ve already paid for!”

The purpose of this point isn’t to say you should give up personal time. The point is that they have paid us for the time…. we should be using our creativity and ingenuity to find a solution!

Once again, do remember that I am pointing the finger at myself.

The Benefits of a Generous Piano Makeup Lesson Policy

I will now show you what happened when I implemented the calendar in my studio.

When I implemented this new rescheduling system, I noticed that:

  • My admin time dropped from 2 hours to about 10 minutes per week.
  • Parents began thanking me profusely for the change
  • Lesson reschedules did increase – but I never had to work outside of my “normal” hours nor did my admin time go up
  • Parents seemed more grateful. Before the change, parents talked with a sense of entitlement about makeups and reschedules. After the change, parents began to apologize for rescheduling lessons. At the very least, they said thank you for the service
  • Parents stopped chasing me down for scheduling the makeup lesson. I put the ball in their court.
  • Parents let go of a lot of missed lessons. This one surprised me. I was no longer a convenient excuse for them not getting their makeup lesson. If they overscheduled their child, it was clear that I was not the reason they were 3 lessons behind. I put many available times on the calendar, but they were unable to attend because of their schedule.
  • Parents wouldn’t wait to contact me about lesson reschedules. This also surprised me. It makes sense though. By contacting me earlier, they were getting first crack at getting a good time on the makeup calendar.
  • One other benefit that took me a while to understand: I became the easiest thing for parents to schedule. No other activity or sport had such a simple solution. I earned so much good will – and parents told me. Sometimes repeatedly!
  • Wasn’t sure where to put this one in, so I will include here: A swap list doesn’t help parents. It might solve YOUR rescheduling problem. But, it pushes yet one more thing onto your customer’s “to do” list. Again, we could go around and around arguing about who is to blame for overscheduling or being inflexible. I would prefer to rise above that argument and just solve the problem for everyone.

So, let’s talk about it! This solution:

  • Is simple
  • Reduces your work load
  • Saves parents time and effort

It’s effective. It shows parents that you care about their time, their happiness, and your relationship with them.

The Calendar: The Key to Making This Policy Work

If you are ready to start reaping all the benefits of this system, then set aside 15 to 20 minutes, as I show you how to set up this very simple system.

1. Go to Google Calendar.

This is pretty self-explanatory. The page should look like this.

New Calendar

I’m assuming you have a Google account (either for Gmail, Google+, or Gmail). If you don’t have a Google account, take 1 minute to make one.

2. On the left side of the page, click My calendars and select “New Calendar”

Create New Calendar

Give your calendar a name…. and voila. Calendar Created!

So, now you have an empty calendar.

What next?

Well, we actually need to populate it with your schedule.

But, we also need to change a few settings so that other people can see it (i.e., your students).

3. Let’s start with the settings first:
Calendar Settings

This will bring you into the settings menu.

There are a number of settings that we need to change on this page. I have marked them on this handy (but long) graphic!

Calendar Settings Annotated

4. After changing those settings, there is one more settings menu we need to visit. This is the most important setting, actually. It’s what makes your calendar visible to your students!

Do this:

Click here:

How To Make It Visible

And then select this box.
Check This Box To Make Your Makeup Calendar Visible

Do not worry about the ominous warning that your calendar will become public.

I am not a privacy nut, but I do take a reasonable number of privacy precautions in my business and personal life.

I have tried to find my own calendar in public Google searches. Even when I type in the exact name of the calendar, I have never been able to find it in a public search.

Why?  Because no one cares.

And, even if they did, all they would see is a bunch of information that has no context. It doesn’t even include the names of the students involved. Are you still concerned? There is still a way to use this tactic.

Go down here to this part of the Calendar sharing screen:
Keep Your Privacy By Entering Student Emails One by One

Enter in the email addresses of all your students one by one. Only these people will be able to see your calendar. It’s a bit tedious, but you will be assured that your calendar is completely private.

5. Finally, we need to share this calendar!

Click on this tab now:

Click On This Tab

And scroll down to calendar address.

Get Your Calendar Address

Click on HTML.

A popup box should appear with a long, ugly link.

Click the link.

Your Calendar’s unique, identifying link will pop up in a new window. It will look like this:
Ugly Link

You will notice it looks different than the “admin” version of the calendar. This is what others will see. They will not be able to edit the calendar. That’s good!

6. Take that link and go to

Enter your link into this box and enter an alias below:
Use TinyURL for Your Piano Makeup Lessons

For instance, you could call your link “StudioCalendar” or some other friendly name.

You could include your studio name or the initials of your studio.

Once you’ve done that, click “Make TinyURL!” You now have a pretty version of that link!

7. Last step. This will save you a bunch of time in the future.

Create a new bookmark on your bookmarks bar and enter your new “Custom Alias” in the bookmark.

In the future, when you need to send the link to a parent, you can just go to the bookmarks bar, right click with your mouse, and hit copy.

Simply paste into your email to the parents. It’s very handy!

Introducing the Calendar to Your Studio

When you introduce something valuable to your studio, you should release it with fanfare.

Remember, most people are really inside their own world. They can’t see the perspectives of others. You actually have to show them the value that you bring to them. You have to spell it out.

No, I’m not talking about hype or sleazy self-promotional emails.

I’m just saying you should never miss an opportunity to show that your value is more than just as a music teacher. You aren’t just providing a great education. You are making mom and dad’s lives easier by offering convenient and stress-free customer service.

This is just great business. Here’s my recommendation:

  1. On the last day of your teaching week, send out an email explaining the change in how the makeup lesson will be rescheduled. Emphasize that things will be easier now and that you are doing this to make everyone’s lives more convenient. Also point out that it will be easier than ever to reschedule a lesson. Go into great detail.
  2. The first time that someone contacts you, send them this email:

To make scheduling a makeup as easy as possible, here is a link to my entire makeup schedule. There are many available makeups each week, as indicated by the terms “1 spot” or “2 spots.”

Simply look at all the available days and times and tell me which one you would like to take:



* This calendar is updated frequently – if you wait to reply to this email, do check the calendar again to make sure that the spot is still available.

* If you cannot do the makeup the week that you miss the lesson, you could double up on a future week. Even scheduling lessons on back to back days is perfectly fine for the student.


  1. BONUS TIP: Are your policies too lax?

The makeup lesson policy I’m recommending here is fairly loose.

However, I do recommend one restriction. I have this restriction in place only to make the calendar system work better.

I do require people contact me the day before to reschedule a lesson.

I don’t allow makeups for “no call / no shows”.

You could use this change as an opportunity to tighten up your piano studio policy at the same time.

You could frame it in such a way that the calendar won’t work as well if you do not have adequate time to fill empty time slots. Therefore, this benefits everyone.

Of course, people are going to complain… you are taking away a benefit that you previously offered.

People might even quit. That can be a scary prospect.

My best recommendation for having a spine of steel is to be great at attracting new students. It is easier to take a firm stand if you have a predictable number of new calls each month. I gave 14 heavy-duty tactics for increasing your lessons requests in my Facebook guide.


Implementing this entire system will take less than an hour.

By using my makeup lesson system, you will decrease your stress, while increasing customer happiness.

You will increase your free time, and decrease the amount of lessons that you have to reschedule into family or personal time.

And, I think that this will even cause a few teachers to reconsider their “no reschedules”  policy.

The truly great thing about this system is that it will work no matter what your policy is.

Do you do group lessons for makeups? This will work!

Do you have a swap list? You can scrap it and use this much more efficient system.

The following two tabs change content below.
Daniel Patterson is a private teacher, writer, and marketing consultant for music schools. He began teaching in 2004. He co-founded and led marketing operations for a summer music camp that sees over 200 children each summer.

How Do You Want to Grow Your Studio?

Get More Students

Bring in $1000s in new revenue with a studio funnel

Begin Group Lessons

Start a high-quality group program that parents say “Yes!” to

Free Up Time

Scale your studio, make more, and in less time

  1. Mindy

    This is interesting…. Although sadly I don’t think it would work for my situation because I have 20 teachers schedules in which they will schedule their time here at the studio. I have some teachers that are only able to be here on one day. :-/

    Thanks for showing us this makeup lesson solution.

    • Daniel

      Mindy, I might have a custom solution for you. I can very easily see how to modify this for a larger music academy.

      I’ll email you if you would like or shoot me a message to the email I sent you this morning.

    • Denae

      I use this exact method, and actually started out with Google Calendar about 4 years ago too. But, I’ve taken it even one step easier on my end by using, and internet-based music studio software program. So, when a student cancels a lesson, they hop online to cancel it themselves, the program creates the open spot automatically, and it appears on the calendar of every student in the studio as an available make-up lesson to register for. We have 17 teachers now, and it works like a charm! 🙂 I agree so much with Daniel about the positive effects this system has for client loyalty and morale. They no longer feel the loss for missing lessons, and I don’t really have to do much to keep it running smoothly.

      • Rhyalle Everhart

        Hi guys, question.
        Say parents can’t find an ideal time for rescheduling on there and they contact you asking you to make it work somehow, what would you do? Take it or leave it so they learn to deal with it themselves and not cancel so easily? “Hey there’s no spot I can do!”

      • Daniel Patterson

        In my experience, this didn’t happen very often.

        If it did happen, I would just tell them to look again in a future week.

        If they said: “I’ve been looking every week for a month!” or something like that (indicating that they had been trying)…

        I would ask them: “What days and times are you looking for?”

        If they had very little availability, I would tell them that we do have a lot of available times (which was true), and you might have to rearrange your schedule to make the times that we do have available.

        Ultimately, I made it their problem, not mine.

  2. Maria Peterson

    First I want to thank you for your new blogs. Love them!!! I also am so excited to know that I am right in line with your thinking! I have actually tried to implement just this solution this year and didn’t follow my own implementation for a number of reasons that I am hoping you can answer for me! Here goes:

    1) I have 70 students as well – the overwhelming majority of my cancellations occur ON THE DAY OF THE LESSON due to weather or illness. Having said that, I was finding I just didn’t have enough open spots for all of the people who wanted them! Maybe I would have one or two people who would cancel in advance. I am amazed that you get people to cancel in advance! What do I do about this issue? Because while I do have sympathy for everyone’s reasons for cancellation, I have a soft spot when someone just has the rotten luck of getting sick or having a major snowstorm on their lesson day. I like to give them first dibs at my open spots and this leads to my other HUGE problem with implementing this:

    2)There are some families/students who are just JOYS to work with and teach! They practice all the time and NEVER dream of cancelling on me. This policy treats everyone equally which I have a teeny bit of problem with because truly it is those families that I truly like to show my appreciation to. What better way than to accommodate them? Well….your policy really works well for the families that are joined at the hip to their smart phones and tablets, etc. Others who have jobs that don’t allow them to get on line or answer texts at a heartbeat wind up losing the open spots because they aren’t quick enough! I have one parent who must have an alert for everything! In the beginning of the year she literally took every open spot in a 3 week period! Some people just don’t use technology as much . Having said that I also have families with legitimate cancellation requests and I am preparing their students for festivals and I REALLY NEED TO SEE THEM!!!!!! If they don’t get on that computer fast enough I won’t see their children to prepare them. These are all REAL issues that were happening to me – I am not making up arbitrary issues…….I NEED solutions to these problems that were happening at the beginning of the year that caused me to abandon this plan.

    3)Just curious….I have music teachers helper and was putting the open slots on that calendar so the parents could register. When they would text or call with a cancellation, I would just tell them to log on to my website. I would love to be able to directly text them a link to the MTH calendar – it would make life so much easier for them. And might even help alleviate some of the issues I was having with having them have to log on themselves. I am sure I will have to email MTH to ask them how to do this or even if it’s possible, but thought I would see if you had experience with that.

    I truly hope you could help me with these issues. I spend way too much time trying to reschedule everything. It is driving me crazy!!! And I know my parents appreciate it, but at this point, I might as well just teach during my own time off because I am spending that time texting and calling as it is! I want to be able to implement this again next Fall. HELP!

    Thanks for everything!

    Maria Peterson

    • Daniel

      Maria, perhaps we should talk by phone or email, but I have some initial thoughts:

      1. It sounds like you might need to move to a group lesson makeup policy. This is how I do makeups. It makes it much easier to fit five kids into one hour than just two kids.

      2. I do allow a reschedule for same day cancellations in the event of sickness or poor weather. My “makeup list” explodes in February where I live because it seems like we have horrific snowstorms every year at that time. Or during cold and flu season.

      I have come up with several solutions to this:

      a. I look at attendance records and proactively email them my calendar link at the beginning of each week. This not only reminds them to take an open spot… it is constantly reminding them to contact me sooner (even though I don’t explicitly state it)

      b. Yes, it is difficult to fill “last minute cancellations”. However, I have about a 50% success rate with even a few hours notice. I currently have 90 students and I have every parent’s phone number in my phone. I will begin texting like a madman until I find someone who can fill it.

      Here’s the important thing… Don’t text them and ask them if they can come at “such and such” time!!!!! Text them the link to the calendar and ask if they can make the time that is available “later today.” This way you can text 20 people at once and don’t have to wait for one person to say “NO” before you can text the next person.

      c. The fact that I am so proactive about it contributes to the sense of service that parents get from me. I think this is why they are so forgiving of a few missed lessons. They know I’m giving 110% in getting them in the studio. Plus, they know that I really want to see their kids.

      3. I don’t use Music Teacher’s Helper, though I’ve heard it’s a great tool (similarly, My Music Staff). I prefer the lighter weight Google Calendar.

      I know this answer is brief, but I’m happy to discuss further by email or phone!

      • Maria Peterson

        Thank you!!!! Your answers do clarify a lot for me! Especially the part about updating daily! For some reason I did not think you were updating on a daily basis as cancellations came in. I read your post as a “call the night before ONLY”. I can be proactive with whom I send the texts to when I have advanced notice and a little more time to play with. For the same day cancellations as long as I create an open spot – I can do a group text and let them all work it out on their own! It still might create a scenario where the person glued to their phone always gets the spot – but if that is the case, the others might catch on a bit and check a little more often. I do have 3 groups lessons a year that I offer as makeups so I will definitely keep that option! I will email you with other questions if I have any. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING! I truly love your blog and get so much from your advice and experience.

      • Daniel

        That sounds good.

        The group text wouldn’t work for me. I have 90+ students. Parents might get annoyed to be CC’ed on that many texts!

      • Maria

        I am confused as to how you send a group text if you don’t want to annoy parents.

      • Daniel

        Sorry, I wasn’t being clear.

        What I mean is that I wouldn’t send an actual group text. I would send individual texts to everyone who I thought could make it to that particular lesson.

        If I send a group text, that exposes everyone’s phone number. Rather, I would copy and paste the same generic text offering a makeup to maybe 10 or 20 people. It only takes a minute.

  3. R Leverton

    Thanks for the blog post! I love your attention to detail when it comes to explaining how to setup a Google calendar and update the settings. I have two comments.

    1) When a parent requests a time slot for a make-up lesson, do I (as the owner of the calendar) see their name on the calendar, whereas the public view just says “Unavailable”? I didn’t really understand this part. Or do I just get a notification from Google saying that so-and-so is now booked into a certain time? I would hope not, since I’d like to be able to look at a calendar at 2pm or so to see, at a glance, who is actually coming to lessons that afternoon.

    2) I have implemented the “3 free lessons per year” policy, a policy which I had heard about on a piano teachers FB group. I figure out the total number of lessons for the year, and subtract the cost of three lessons. No makeups allowed, unless it is extenuating circumstances (long-term illness or something serious). Parents have to commit to a year’s worth of lessons. I like this approach because I can offer something for free which usually ends up turning into a canceled lesson anyway. It is a nice offer to make to new students, and it makes life simple: no rescheduling required. I have kept track in the past of who showed up and who didn’t, and I only had a few students who either made it to every lesson or just missed 1 or 2 lessons. Everyone else missed 3 or 4 lessons (with a few over-scheduled kids missing 7 or more!). You could say that I am under-valuing my lessons, but I make sure that my rate is competitive with other teachers in the area. That way, I have an edge: 3 free lessons with me (if you never cancel).

    • Daniel

      Parents email me back and I change it on the calendar.

      I like to insert myself in the process that way. That’s where the “10 minutes of admin per week” comes in.

      So I email them the calendar link. They look at what’s available. They email me back.

      I then go and change it to unavailable (“0 open”).

      I didn’t want parents to be able to edit the calendar. I was afraid they might delete things or change it wrong.

  4. Jacqueline

    I’m interested in your Group Make-up lessons. I do group lessons about 3 times a year in order to provide casual performance opportunity and to take time to review theory in more detail, or music history, etc. But I can’t wrap my mind around a make- up lesson in a group setting…. I assume then that you are not covering the material that you would have covered at their normal lesson… correct? And you could end up with an entry level student and an intermediate student in the same shared lesson time. How do you handle that? I give 45 minute lessons, so the group lesson would also be 45 minutes long? (in relation to that, in the description re: google calendar, is it possible to set the time slots to 45 minutes, or just 30 or 60 minutes? Without a 45 minute time slot, it would be difficult to indicate the actual times available. Thanks. I love this Blog. Has been very interesting so far.

    • Daniel

      Thanks Jacqueline!

      I only mentioned the group makeup because some teachers do that. Some teachers will have kids in for special activities in a group setting.

      This could include a “mini-recital”, review games, special activities, a workshop where students play and then the teacher teaches concepts based on the performance… the possibilities are endless.

      So, what you would do is schedule a makeup group or two each month, and for people who can’t fit into your regular schedule… it’s understood that they come to a special time.

      If you “market it” the right way… parents could see it as a special activity and actually value it more!

  5. MJ

    Love your thoughts and ideas. The first part of this two part describing motivations and triangulation is thought provoking. The description of parents concerns is helpful and the solution you suggest may prove helpful to many, but not all. I know very few piano teachers that fall into the catagory of instructor you describe as average. Most I know don’t have large studios but have limited teaching time available 2-3 days a week. Yet most families want a 4 pm lesson except during the 2-3 months of (enter sport name) season. Then they want a different day, but only after 6:30. I haven’t found a good solution for those of us who are limited to smaller blocks of teaching time or small studios. You raise some good points.

    • Daniel

      MJ, when you say what I describe as the “average”… are you talking studio size?

  6. lynn kiesewetter

    I feel that having a compassionate reschedule policy means that my students are willing to reschedule when I am the one who needs to make a change. Yes, even piano teachers have root canals…….

  7. Doreen Hall

    Hi Daniel,

    I just want to say one thing BRILLIANT! Thanks so much.

    Doreen Hall

  8. Marcy Davis

    This may seem obvious, but where do you keep track for yourself of which student is coming at which time? In a completely separate calendar? Or is there a way in Google to hide the details from other but not the admin?

    • Daniel

      Great great question.

      When you click on the individual “appointments” on the calendar… you can attach a note to the calendar. I use initials or nicknames for reminders.

  9. Liz

    Thank you vey much for all that. I think this may rescue me! However having got all the way through and created a TinyURL I just get redirected to Google sign in. Does that mean that all of my families must have a Google account?

    • Daniel

      Hmmmmmmmmm. That shouldn’t be the case.

      Did you put the PUBLIC link in or did you just take the link from your navigation bar? If you took it from the navigation bar, then it won’t show up right.

      The navigation bar link is actually the private admin link.

      • Lizzie

        Sorted. Thank you!

  10. Luke

    Very nice Daniel! Thanks so much for sharing.

    Quick question: I notice your Google Calendar sometimes says “2 open” and that your makeup lesson slots are 60 minutes on the calendar. Am I correct in assuming that allows you to decide whether a student is taking up the first or second half-hour so as to book yourself more efficiently? Or is it something I’m missing?

    • Daniel

      Those are group lessons. I have room for multiple children in those slots.

  11. Peggy Johnson

    Hi Daniel,
    Great suggestions all around….you are giving us so many great ideas and concrete directions!

    Regarding how to see your own schedule with specific students’ names, I simply created another Google calendar for myself (titled with my own name) and inserted the names of the students. You can hide or show either of your studio calendars. Both bits of information (my cal plus the studio one) will show on the calendar…..I even chose different colors for the two cal’s so it would be easy to see.

    My studio calendar is embedded in my website so families can easily see the schedule there.

    Thanks again,

    • Daniel

      Peggy, that sounds great. So many good ideas!

      I keep my master schedule in an Excel spreadsheet. That’s another idea for people. It could be done just as easily in a Google Sheet (on Google Docs).

  12. Rebecca

    I’ve been doing this (almost exactly) for several years with Music Teachers Helper calendar. And if works beautifully. It puts the ball in the parents court to login to their account on MTH and view the Open Spots and from their schedule their lesson.

    • Daniel

      And that really is the beauty of it.

      I really can’t overemphasize how that simple psychological shift changes the balance of power.

  13. Laura

    Thank you for posting this. I have been looking at changing how I do make up lessons and I like the idea of using something like this.
    My current policy is as long as I get 24hrs notice then I will reschedule. However this year it has just been too much work as I already work 6 days a week and so only have about 1hr free on a Sunday, as I only have a few hours scheduled lessons, to do make ups. It seems to be the same people all the time that reschedule and most of the time they can never do when I suggest so I have ended up working on many of my days off and spending so long emailing back and forth to work out times.

    I was thinking about doing maybe 2 makeup days a month and I could use this calendar to send to parents, I love the idea of them being able to pick a time and I think they would really likethat.
    I’m also very interested in group make up lessons. I run a mix of group and individual classes. I will need to try this out and see how I get on. Thanks.

    • Daniel

      Glad that this helps!

  14. Tiffany


    Thank you SO MUCH for this! I have been teaching piano lessons as a teacher in large studios with multiple teachers for about 6 years, but as I have just purchased my first home I am ready to start my own private studio. I have been wanting to do this for years and I have been doing lots of research, so I’m excited that the timing is finally right!

    Make up lessons are definitely one of the most challenging things I have encountered as a private piano teacher, and this is the best solution I have come across in all my reading and conversations with other teachers. I will DEFINITELY be implementing your wonderful policy when I open my studio in the Fall.

    I’m so glad I discovered your blog!

  15. Tara

    Thanks Daniel and to all your followers. Some great tips.

    I have recently started to use My Music Staff and this is doing all of what you do on google calendar just a little bit more. It does cost me $12.99 a month but I put this against my tax. This skips the emailing back and forth. It also accommodates and keeps track of money and I have it set up to send out monthly invoices automatically.

    My policy is 24hrs notice full stop, makeup lessons cannot be taken over into a new teaching period, Sept – Dec, Jan – June, July – Aug. I don’t do group lessons at the moment but only have one piano. Is it possible with one piano Daniel? Most of my parents are very understanding and don’t seem to abuse the system I have. Some try however. I have found while I am a very understanding and flexible person, the more strict I have become over the years the more people respect me.

    Thanks again to everyone for your thoughts.

    • Daniel

      It is possible if you are proactive about emailing everyone who needs a makeup lesson when one comes open. You should be able to fill those slots.

      Also, with this system, the “not carrying over” policy actually harms you. By not carrying over, you are putting yourself in a position where a parent might feel miffed by the fact that they are losing their lesson.

      Honestly? Most parents forget after a few months. There are families in my studio who I owe something like 10 or 12 lessons.

      They never ask me about them. Why?

      Because they have the link to my calendar 24 hours a day. All they have to do is email me and take one of the spots that are available on my schedule RIGHT NOW.

      The FEELING of control is actually more important to parents than actually getting their makeup lessons. That’s the beauty of the calendar. It gives them the feeling of control.

      It’s counter-intuitive… but by being looser with your policy, you actually are preventing more fights.

    • Daniel

      One last little thought.

      If you find you can’t fit all your lessons in, you might consider having a “makeup Saturday” once a quarter. Have people come in for a group lesson.

      It sounds like I need to do a post on potential ideas for group makeup lessons!

      • Tara

        Thanks Daniel. I can actually be flexible with the 24hr thing when I know the person is in a tricky situation. I am however stricter with the people who take advantage. The other way I look at things are with my own two kids, if they are sick or because of weather and they can’t make their swimming lesson (private or not), soccer practice, music lessons, summer camps…..I never expect a refund or a makeup and I am also never offered a makeup/$$ in return. 99% of my students realise this too and therefore accept my policy.

        Since Jan I have only had 8 lessons missed and I will be seeing them all during March Break with one or two exceptions.

        I am super busy with my own life along with 65 students I need to run a tight ship.

        More information on the group lessons however would be great.

        Again, Thanks so much for the post and your interest in helping others.

      • Daniel

        So, it sounds like you disagree with the very loose policies. I don’t expect that everyone would agree… best I can do is give a strong case for it!

      • Tara

        Thanks Daniel

      • Teresa Tullar

        Yes, PLEASE do a post on potential ideas for group makeup lessons! I’m very interested in what that could look like.

      • Teresa Tullar

        Yes, please do a post on potential ideas for group makeup lessons! I’d be VERY interested in that info!

  16. Isabel

    I really enjoyed this article. You inspired me to take another look at Google Calendars, thank you!

    • Daniel

      This thrills me to no end! As I mentioned in the article, this solution saved so much time.

  17. Jeff

    Hi Daniel – I’m reading this blog post just having cancelled my Monday and Tuesday lessons (and probably Wednesday) having come down with the flu! Any suggestions for making up 30 lessons – MY cancellations?
    Also, I oversee a studio of 10 private teachers, I’m interested in your solutions for larger schools. Won’t bore you here with our makeup policy. I don’t know how I navigated to your blog, but I really like your posts. Thanks

    • Daniel

      Jeff- thanks for the kind words.

      Sorry to hear about the flu. When I’m out of commission like that… I just have to bite the bullet. Sometimes you have to take the losses.


      I do billing in an interesting way. Sometimes it allows me to miss lessons (for sickness or vacation) and still not lose the income.

      Billing is flat for the month. However, every month (except February) has a few days that have 5 weeks (for instance, this month it is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday).

      If I ever have to miss lessons (I went on vacation a lot last year) or if I get sick… I will just point parents towards that “extra” day. Here’s what I mean:

      First off, I wouldn’t mention the missed lessons at all.

      Second, Everyone knows just to pay the flat amount. However, if a few parents would bring up the missed days due to my being ill, I would say something like:

      “Oh, you know what, I’m going to make those up on the next 5 day month.”

      Or (and what is more likely)… they probably already “owe” me a lesson due to a previous 5 week month. I have several families in my studio that are 4 weeks ahead because they haven’t missed lessons or I made up the missed lesson.

      I know that’s somewhat complicated, but it works. I have 95 students in my studio and I don’t have no problems with fulfilling makeup lessons, getting overscheduled… and I NEVER teach outside of teaching hours.

      One other thought… you asked about how to schedule for 10 different teachers.

      You can create multiple calendars within one calendar. I would recommend creating a unique calendar for each teacher. Perhaps even start a policy of having students be available to have a makeup lesson with a different teacher in the studio.

      I once worked in a private school (2800 students) and they had 5 piano teachers in their music department. If a teacher was out sick, it wasn’t “weird” at all for a teacher to pick up a makeup lesson for a different teacher.

      It wasn’t weird at all. It’s all about the expectation you set.

      I realize this might create some issues about who gets paid for what, etc. These problems can be easily solved using some basic “accounting”. And, for a school your size… I’m sure you have dedicated admin staff who keeps track of those kinds of records.

      • Jeff

        Thanks for the reply Daniel. Your tuition solution doesn’t work in my case. We charge a yearly tuition Sept – June based on 38 weekly lessons. That rate is divided into 10 monthly payments. So 5 week months, vacations and holidays are calculated into that. Bottom line – I owe them the lesson. Plus I’m salaried 🙂

        BUT – I am playing with the idea of putting up a Google calendar to give THEM the opportunity / responsibility to schedule their makeup.
        I really like the concept. It lets them see that I really AM booked!

        4 questions:
        When somebody cancels, do you require them to immediately reschedule from the makeup Calendar when they cancel? Or do you let the cancellation hang?

        A parents trying to cram in “owed” makeups at the end of the session / school year?

        Say you currently have an unsold weekly opening ex: Thursdays 6:00 – if a student schedules a makeup in that time spot three weeks hence, what do you do if you enroll a new student in that Thursday 6:00 spot?

        Sarah – Tuesdays 4:00 – has a school play rehearsal conflict for the entire month of April. Can she take that Thursday 6:00 opening for April? Can she have her Tuesday 4:00 spot back in May?

      • Daniel

        1. I will try immediately get them to reschedule. If they don’t or the situation doesn’t call for it, I will wait.

        2. Most parents forget about missed lessons after a month or two. I never get this cramming.

        3. Great question. I will delay the new kid until that spot has been taken up. However, most parents tend to try to schedule closer to the time.

        4. This will work a little bit differently in my studio because I have group classes. Sarah would just move to a group with an open slot. For a studio with single lessons only (like I used to do)… I would either make them tack on to the END of my schedule (since it was only for a month). If that didn’t work, I try to get them to switch with another family under the assumption that this would be a PERMANENT change (both families would be switching). If that didn’t work, I would switch with another family with the assumption that they would switch back after a month (parents don’t seem to mind this). Only then would I switch into that open spot – because they are effectively taking up two spots in my schedule now.

        If the open slot was an undesirable spot, I might even put pressure on the family and tell them that if they go ahead and make this change that it will be a permanent time switch and that they can switch back next semester which is only “eight weeks away”.

        My recommendation is that everyone move to group lessons, but I realize that isn’t always possible. However, group lessons solves tons of problems.

        I’m preparing a giant resource about group lessons for the Grow Your Studio community.

  18. Catherine

    So what happens if there are no cancellations? The student forfeits the lesson? Just trying to get clarified here. Thanks

    • Daniel

      If there are no empty slots in the calendar (which is rare), I will punt it forward to a future week.

      Alternatively, I will use a month with 5 weeks to squeeze in an extra lesson.

      If you charge by the semester or year, this might not “work”… but there are creative ways to fix this problem if you have a “can do” attitude.

      For instance, you could just build a “bonus week” into your schedule at the end where you make up any leftover lessons. Or, you could do a Saturday school once a semester. There are dozens of ways to overcome this problem.

  19. MM

    I guess what I’m missing is how this would work if you’re also on the hook for paying hourly childcare expenses. If I need a sitter while I teach and a student cancels, then that’s an expense that’s not being mitigated by earning income while they watch my children. If I have to engage a sitter for a time that’s open or not normally filled, then I’m paying extra, especially if I wouldn’t otherwise need a sitter. Do you just swallow the not inconsiderable cost and treat it like a fixed weekly expense?

    • Daniel Patterson

      M- that’s a great question, and that is actually part of the reason that I have the calendar.

      The calendar makes it more possible that I can get people into empty slots quickly.

      Because – just like you – I have to have babysitters for when I’m teaching, as well. I actually maintain a calendar just like this for my babysitters!

      When I schedule my babysitters the week before, I also take time to send out an email to everyone who needs a makeup to look at the schedule and fill up slots.

      That works very well.

      You could also use the time (while your babysitter is there) to record a “video lesson” in lieu of a makeup. There are actually quite a few teachers who read this blog that do the “video makeup lesson” option. That would be helpful if you have a last minute cancellation.

      Remember, I have an unrestricted makeup lesson policy – provided I have 24 hour advance notice. Even then, I often allow exceptions (if someone can make it last minute).

  20. Cheri Sykes

    Daniel: I’m intrigued! Does this work even if you are tightly scheduled in general? My goal is to have every slot filled, of course. Then, will this system work?

    • Daniel Patterson

      Yes! I’ve found that (over time) people anticipate their absences and report them to me sooner.

      This gives me time to squeeze people into makeup slots.

      Also, I will sometimes just keep an empty slot that is designated for makeups only.

  21. Teresa Tullar

    Hi Daniel, I’m finally sitting down to create my new re-scheduling Google calendar but am having huge difficulty in doing it!
    I can create the new calendar just fine, and then ‘save’ it but then the only option after saving it is to ‘return to calendar’ – which takes me back to my regular calendar!
    I’ve tried googling it to see what I’m missing but it tells me to do the very same. Maybe I have to clear my history and cookies from Google Chrome? For some reason, I can’t open up my newly created, EMPTY calendar to set up for re-scheduling!
    PLEASE HELP if you can! I truly want to implement this for my studio and have put it off – only to have finally found the time and now running into this glitch!! A student will be walking in any minute – but I will check back for your reply REAL SOON! I wanted to mark this off of my ‘to-do’ list for today!! THANK YOU!

    • Daniel Patterson

      It sounds like it might be very specific to your account settings in Google.

      Honestly, whenever I run into a problem like this, I just Google the problem and usually there is some help file there about the exact problem I’m searching for.

      Good luck!

  22. Joanne Faris

    Thanks for this innovative and unique idea! I have implemented it this summer and the parents are loving it. So am I. It has saved me a lot of time trying to find a time to reschedule students. Parents just have to inform me of the time that they want. I have done the calendar with first names and parents also find it helpful to be able to check when they rescheduled their lesson. Do you see any potential problems with having first names visible to everyone?

    I have a question – how do you keep track of those who have lessons to reschedule but have not yet rescheduled? You would need this information when you emailed them about a newly opened spot.

    Thanks for your great idea and being willing to share it. I love making my families happy and delivering a quality service and this has really helped.

    • Daniel Patterson


      That’s the beauty of it. I don’t really have to, because in this system it’s up to them to get in touch with ME.

      Now, I don’t want people to say that I owe them a lesson when I don’t owe them.

      So, at the end of each month, I just count up the number of lessons they have come in the month, and write it down on my attendance sheet (for me). That way I can PERSONALLY keep track.

  23. Zen

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for the detailed walk-thru! We have several teachers on our schedule that do different types of lessons for us. Would this still work for showing students/teachers general lesson schedules as well as showing open times where rescheduled make ups would be?

    • Daniel Patterson

      In that case, I would maintain a separate calendar for each individual teacher. It’s up to you whether or not you would show the full schedule… or just the individual slots that you want them to see.

      Does that help?

      • Zen

        Yes, thanks for all you do!

  24. Rachel

    Here’s a question. In reading many of your posts, I understand that you do many group lessons. If a student gives notice they won’t be able to attend a class, is their scheduled makeup lesson then a private lesson? Or are they invited to another group lesson?

    • Daniel Patterson

      Rachel, no they come to a group. If I were a teacher who did 1-on-1, then I would do 1-on-1.

  25. Retha

    Thank you so much, Daniel! This will help immensely. I can’t wait to implement the change and use this new approach to rescheduled lessons. Thank you!

  26. Emily

    Hi Daniel,
    I started my music school in Brisbane Australia in 2015, however, I have been teaching for around 7 years. In the last year, my school has grown and I now have 6 other tutors and two locations.

    When I first started out, I offered unlimited rescheduling with no cancelation policy, and it was bedlam! Since hiring tutors who are paid an hourly rate (rather than per lesson), I have had to implement a strict rescheduling policy to prevent tutors having continual lesson gaps throughout the week. The policy is each student can reschedule one lesson per term, no questions asked, granted they give 24 hours notice. We don’t provide rescheduling within 24 hours for any reason, eg. sickness, work, etc.
    Previously, I did allow sickness or family emergency to be the exception. However, from Facebook or from the student the following lesson, I would often find out that the supposed ‘sickness’ or ‘family emergency’ was a holiday, basketball game or friends birthday party.
    Your rescheduling policy sounds great, however, I have been working with Australian parents for over 7 years, and I fear they would still not be proactive in choosing a catch-up lesson time. Thus, leaving several lesson gaps for my tutors throughout the term and a bombardment of emails from parents asking what time we could squeeze their child in for their six catch-up classes.
    Since implementing the stricter policy, I have had parents who request multiple lessons off (usually for 3-week vacations) and complain about the policies and claim that our school now only cares about the money.
    Are my policies too strict? Am I doing something wrong? Despite your rescheduling policy, do you still have parents who don’t choose a rescheduled time and then expect you to find one for them?

    • Daniel Patterson

      If you are getting angry emails from parents about makeup lessons it means that they still feel as if it is YOUR problem to help them get their reschedules.

      What this means is that you might have a “technically” sufficient solution… but you don’t have an ACTUAL sufficient solution.

      The goal is to put the onus on parents. Psychologically, the ball has to be in their court. If it isn’t, there will be no end to the emails.

      I can do unlimited reschedules because parents know that at any time they can go online, look at the online scheduler, and reschedule their makeup lesson.

      In the case of multiple teachers… I’ve been involved in schools that have multiple teachers.

      This is even easier.

      We required teachers to deal with the parents directly. And we let the teachers know up front what our policy was.

      We didn’t hire people who wouldn’t do things the way we asked.

      And, we rarely got emails from over 250 parents… because they were dealing directly with the teachers.

      Our motto: “Trust people to figure it out”

  27. Becca

    I’m very thankful for this article. Just put together my Makeup calendar last night, and I already used it this morning! So much easier than offering times, waiting for a response, having to offer more times, etc. Thank you Daniel!

    • Daniel Patterson

      Excellent… I’ve only worked with you a short time, but I can already feel a huge momentum shift in your studio!

  28. April

    Hi Daniel. Thank you! I tried the google calendar thing with a few of my families this year. They love it! It’s just so easy. They look at my schedule and then email, text or call me to confirm if they can have that. They control their schedule at the same time, I only place the schedule I want to give for makeups. I am definitely pushing this to all families next year.

  29. Chantal Mazur

    This is a great solution to the perennial makeup problem! I’m so glad I found it online nearly two years ago and implemented it last September. I love it, the parents love it….but…yes there is a “but”. Some parents can’t access my calendar. The link sends them to their OWN Google calendar. I have no idea why. Approximately 3/4 of the parents have no issues with seeing my schedule, but several simply can’t make it work. It appears to be some sort of glitch. Perhaps their settings need to be changed? I’m just curious whether you’ve encountered a similar glitch/problem with any parents and how you would recommend fixing it.

    Other than that, thank you so much for sharing this great idea! It’s a time and life saver!

    • Daniel Patterson

      This is the first time someone has EVER mentioned this!

      My only guess is that you aren’t sharing the “read” only link? And that people who are NOT currently logged into Google are just seeing the calendar as you are intending it… but those who are logged in are actually being redirected to their own calendars.

      You can get the “read only” link in the settings… you CANNOT just copy the link from the address bar at the top of your browser.

      Hope this helps!

    • Jen

      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for explaining this so well! I have a question: What if your schedule is completely booked? When you start this policy, should you designate a few open spots for make-ups if all your regular spots are full? Or do you wait for someone to cancel and then update the schedule as an open spot for make-ups?


      • Daniel Patterson

        Jen- It’s a good question!

        Typically, if I’m that full… it means that there is a lot of money coming in.

        Which means that I am more likely to just credit the lessons back to them.

        For some people that might seem really distasteful… In which case, I have other suggestions:

        1. Have a dedicated makeup day
        2. Use the “5 week” system
        3. Switch to group lessons for your main lesson program and many of those issues go away
        4. Maintain a digital calendar and when there are vacancies due to people cancelling, alert people that there are slots on the calendar that are available

        Hope that helps!

  30. Kristal

    I use calendly! It is a life saver. It automatically syncs with my lesson calendar and I have a makeup link for students to book their time. My issue is that I am nearly at full capacity and I was actually considering hiring a vocal coach to handle my makeup’s. Then I thought of getting rid of makeup’s altogether. I have consultations on weekends so group classes won’t work for me. I teach adults. Any suggestions? When I am at full capacity (which is likely to occur soon) I won’t be able to offer makeup slots. Any solutions for this?

    • Daniel Patterson

      Are you willing to go to group lessons?

      Are you willing to raise your rates?

      If you do want to get rid of makeups… what’s stopping you from doing so?

  31. Max Noakes

    Hi Daniel,

    Great post!

    I am in the process of switching over to monthly autopay billing, so the above is quite relevant to me. I’m just wondering if this approach works well for a single-teachers who are giving private lessons? Obviously, in the case of group lessons, students have more spots to slot into, as they can attend a lesson alongside other students that are being taught, provided there is space. However, as I am offering private lessons only, the times available are more scarce as they are often already taken by students who ARE attending. Also, I offer lessons at different lengths (30, 45, 60 mins), so there’s no guarantee a person with a 60 min lesson length can attend for an hour, as there might be only 30 min and 40 min spots available.

    Is there a work-around that I’m not seeing here?


    • Daniel Patterson

      Max, it’s a good question. It is more difficult for a studio to offer this when you are seeing 1-on-1 students.

      This is why I recommend that all private studios convert to a group lesson format, as it improves the experience for EVERYONE: the student, the parent, and the teacher.

      An alternative for the teacher is that they use 5 week months as a built-in makeup. OR… they just schedule absences at the end of their workday. OR… they proactively fill slots on their schedule in advance with folks who have canceled their slot.

      All of this is a lot easier if you have a visual calendar of your ABSENCES (not your full schedule).

      Hope this helps!

  32. Daniel

    Thanks for the shout out, Brecklyn!

  33. Jess

    Great article…thanks! One question – you said that you only allow for make ups if families cancel 24 hours in advance. What about when a child wakes up sick that morning? I feel that illness is the biggest reason I want to allow make ups for. Illness is unavoidable whereas going on a vacation, to a bday party, to a different activity, etc. are all choices. Do you find that families bring children to a lesson when they are sick and really should have stayed home simply because they know they will not get a make up if they don’t come?

  34. Daniel Patterson

    Yes, that is the one exception to the rule. I don’t feel as if people abuse it.



  1. Five Things I'm Loving This Week-March 11, 2016 - Plucky Violin Teacher - […] Never Get Hassled About Make-Up Lessons Again (Part I)How to Permanently Solve Your Make Up Lesson Problem (Part II)…
  2. Why I Completely Changed My Music Lesson Make Up Policy... - […] Never Get Hassled About Make Up Lessons Again, Part I How to Solve Your Music Make Up Lesson Problem,…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This