When I started my studio I didn’t bother with a contract for my instructors. As a result, I was usually disappointed. When I finally did start to use a contract it was only one page. It has grown. Because, yes, you really do have to say the things that you think should be obvious.
It’s hard to manage people. It’s much easier to manage agreements. Put an agreement in place with your instructors that you can fall back on if they are not living up to your expectations and standards.
Here are some key points to consider including when building your instructor agreement.
First and foremost, you want new instructors to understand that you are hiring them to do a JOB. I have had too many people want to teach classes for fun or to pay for classes for their kids. NOPE. Your studio families are using hard earned money to pay for something that should have incredible value. When instructors want to teach “for fun”, they never mind leaving you in the lurch so they can take a vacation in the middle of recital season or trying to rearrange your class schedule to suit themselves instead of being profitable, or just disappearing without notice. Be clear about the level of professionalism that you expect, how many days of absence you will accept, and if there are certain dates that you will not accept absence.
Make sure that your contract clearly communicates the vision and culture of your studio. You work hard to create a place with just the right vibe. Not all newcomers are going to get that. You must spell it out for them. Not that you don’t appreciate having lots of personalities in the mix, but your studio families may be choosing your studio because there are some very specific things that your studio does or does not do. Talk to new hires about what your studio families expect, what you expect, and what your students expect, and be sure to write it in your contract. Be sure that new hires understand how you expect them to represent your studio on and off the clock. This includes what they speak about at your studio, how they speak about your studio, studio families, other instructors, or students outside of the studio, and how they present themselves on social media.
Inform your teachers that you expect them to know your studio’s mission statement and work in a way that reflects it and upholds it.
Be clear about how you expect your instructors to dress and groom themselves when teaching for you.
Compensation details should be clearly laid out. Will your instructor be an employee or a subcontractor? Will they receive a W-2 or a 1099 tax form? How much will they be paid? When will they be paid? By what method will they be paid?
Include detailed expectations around the actual teaching of the classes like how early you expect them to arrive, how they are supposed to take attendance, and the actual material that you expect them to teach. Do you have a syllabus that you expect them to follow, or do you expect them to write one and present it to you?
Let them know how recitals and dress rehearsals will work. Will they be compensated for being there? If so, at what rate?
Be clear about how you will communicate with them and how you expect them to communicate with you. Do you use an app like Asana or Slack? Do you text or email? Do you have specific times that you make yourself available for communication? Do you have a schedule of meetings that will be mandatory for them to attend?
And here’s a big sticky wicket… the non-compete clause. Raise your hand if you have had an instructor take some of your students and go start a studio down the street or double time, teaching for your direct competitor. NOT COOL. Buuuuuut, if we didn’t get an agreement in writing, they may be the jerk, but you are the dum dum. (I know because I’ve been the dum dum.)
Finally, all good contacts should give both parties a peaceable way out if things don’t work. How much notice will you require if they wish to terminate their time as an instructor at your studio? What will happen if they don’t give you the amount of notice that you have requested.
If you are not having your instructors sign some sort of agreement yet, start this year! Save yourself some headaches and heartaches by having a written document with your expectations and promises spelled out plainly. Then, if there is an issue, the agreement can be the focal point of the conversation. This takes emotion and personal feelings out of the equation.
Here is a free template for a detailed instructor contract.