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How to deal with non-payment

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by MarianH, Feb 26, 2017.

  1. MarianH

    MarianH New commenter

    A parent bought my details from Tutor Hunt for A Level. This has been a big job as I need to read a lot of texts (typically the student is studying things I haven't taught or read) and resource it all from scratch. She's the only parent to book me by paying a fee for my details, the others have been via my advertisements.

    Anyway, first session went well. I was paid in cash, but the mother asked if she could have my bank details to pay me online as it was easier.

    I went during the day for the second session. I text her my details as she wasn't at home. She's never responded. I left my details with the student and I emailed her a summary of the session with my details again. This was three days ago and I still haven't had an acknowledgement to my text or email and I haven't been paid yet.

    I'm due to go again in a few days and I'm not sure what to do. I don't think there's any problem with what I'm doing, I think she's very busy (from what I gather, a demanding professional job) and has probably not thought about it.

    However, this is my only source of income and I can't afford to put all this time into a student with no guarantee of payment.

    I'd really appreciate any suggestions about how to deal with this. Thanks.
     
  2. cwilson1983

    cwilson1983 Occasional commenter

    Whatever you do, I'd advise you do not carry out any further lessons until you are paid for the previous lesson.

    Busy or not, the parent cannot treat a tutor like this and expect the service to continue. It is at best, an oversight, and at worst, simply rude and disrespectful behaviour.

    Do you have a phone number to contact the parent? Being more direct might speed up the process compared to email.

    If you do decide to go to the next session, speak to the parent directly and explain your concerns over the late payment and the amount of preparation work you have already committed to.

    If the parent accepts responsibility, it might be a good idea to draw up a contract to ensure there are no future "misunderstandings" about missed payments.

    If, on the other hand, the parent is evasive or even rude, withdraw your services immediately and report them to the tuition site.

    It may seem like you have to be direct and firm, but as you said, tuition is your main source of income and you have to protect yourself first and foremost.
     
    phlogiston and tsarina like this.
  3. cwilson1983

    cwilson1983 Occasional commenter

    Also, be mindful of accepting students where you have to carry a lot of (unpaid) preparation work such as creating resources, reading up on exam specifications or reading texts. Just in case you find yourself in a similar situation in the future.
     
  4. MarianH

    MarianH New commenter

    Thank you.

    I've only got a mobile that tends to go to voicemail. I wondered about posting out an invoice. I'll leave it until tomorrow and try calling, so she will have had 4 days at that point.

    I agreed to take it on as the specification that is being taught, and the text choices, seem common options locally - my own child is studying the same. I decided to go ahead as it will stand me in good stead for future clients.
     
  5. cwilson1983

    cwilson1983 Occasional commenter


    Fair point regarding the texts. You could also charge your own child from their pocket money for "revision" with you . ;)
     
  6. phatsals

    phatsals Occasional commenter

    I had one very similar situation. Paid cash once then it was all supposed to be bank transfer. This was two children being home educated so several hours per week.

    This went on until there was a debt of over £450 with excuse after excuse including 'I am at the bank', 'must have put one digit wrong'.

    They eventually left, still owing a debt. With hindsight I could see that it was a pattern and that there was no intention of ever paying in full. The larger debt was paid as they couldn't get the children into a full time school and had to continue with me, this was paid by cheque. As soon as places were secured in new schools they were off. It transpired that they had left several preps owing thousands.

    Now I don't give more than one weeks grace. Once bitten and so on.
     
  7. MarianH

    MarianH New commenter

    No payment has materialised today.

    I think it's the fact that all messages have been ignored. I would reply to a text or an email, even if I was late to see it.

    I'm starting to think I should cut my losses. I don't fancy this mess about every week, not when I have the potential to take on other students at that time.
     
    phlogiston likes this.
  8. MarianH

    MarianH New commenter

    I was thinking of getting her to do the work for me :D.
     
    cwilson1983 likes this.
  9. cwilson1983

    cwilson1983 Occasional commenter

    Cut your losses.

    Try to see it as a learning experience not to be repeated in future - as I advised, consider contracts or an upfront payment method. Also, be glad it wasn't a bigger bill that hadn't been unpaid (like phatsals above).
     
  10. tsarina

    tsarina Occasional commenter

    Perhaps go to the lesson with the invoice and explain to the student gently that you are going to have to drop them and why. Its not their fault the mother is either totally disorganised or a thief. Then leave. Dont teach the lesson. You are right about saving space for better clients. I have 1 that i picked up early who i would gladly swop for someone who didnt cancel as often especially as i gave them far too generous sibling discounts.
     
  11. phatsals

    phatsals Occasional commenter

    Don't go. If you receive payment today you can reconsider, but I have realised that once payment difficulties start they never get better. The above was an extreme example, but there have been others.

    I look at it this way, I'm paid for an hour of my time plus prep. If a client takes up more time than that, ie chasing up payment or being concerned about turning up etc, then that is more than the 1 hour paid for, drop them and go with someone reliable and consistent.

    I've been tutoring for over 10 years - keep it simple; no payment, no tutoring.
     
    frangipani123 likes this.
  12. MarianH

    MarianH New commenter

    Thanks all.

    I've left a voicemail today - it didn't even ring. As I said, a very busy parent. I don't think any of this is malicious or that they don't intend to pay me.

    I'm going to see if I get paid today. If I do, I will probably go to the next session but make it clear I need paying on the day. Any further delays and I will just stop.

    If I don't get paid today, I will email the student and the mother explain that I can't work in a situation where I am unable to make contact with the parent or get paid on the day for my work. (Since beginning a fortnight ago, I have emailed her twice, phoned her twice leaving messages and text her twice about different things with no answer to any of it.) They know I'm busy - I told them I had turned away students, but was happy to work with this student as it was an opportunity to do A Level. I enjoy teaching it and the work would be helpful for future students.

    I've just been offered another 1-2 jobs, so it's really not worth the hassle for me.
     
  13. doctoryes

    doctoryes Occasional commenter

    Most parents are usually very apologetic about missing a payment and would make some effort to contact you back and make amends. I would usually send a message to the effect that I am unable to offer further tuition until payment is made for all lessons received. I do this after the first missed payment! Most parents do respond straight away to this sort of request by paying online, sending a cheque in the post or being there at the START of the lesson with payment for 2 weeks. You could try suggesting that they pay you for a block of lessons in advance, if they are too busy to pay weekly. But if you have plenty of other work it probably isn't worth continuing with a parent who treats you this way.
     
    notable likes this.
  14. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    If they don't pay - a small claims court action might get you the payment.
     
    notable likes this.
  15. MarianH

    MarianH New commenter

    All paid - I've certainly learned from this. I will be continuing and it should all be okay now.

    Thank you again for all the advice and support.
     
    notable and frangipani123 like this.
  16. MarianH

    MarianH New commenter

    Repetitive - guess who's just finished a very long evening's work :D.
     
  17. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    I insist on payment up front and a month in advance. Any cancelled sessions can be carried over to the next month if the reason for cancelling was reasonable (e.g. illness).

    I've had one parent that hasn't paid me promptly for the past few months. They are a long-standing client - I've been tutoring their son for over a year - but I'm getting cross with payment always being 7-10 days late.

    This month, I've issued my invoices as usual on 22nd of the month. This gives parents the chance to check the calendar and check that the planning sessions don't clash with anything. Once the 1st of the month arrives, payment must be made for the full month ahead. Anyway, I've emailed out the invoice and been very clear that payment must be made on or before the 1st of each month.

    If I'm not paid on time this month, I will not continue with tutoring until I'm paid.
     
    notable likes this.
  18. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Has anybody tried resorting to the Small Claims Court, or at least threatened it? Obviously, this would be the end of the relationship, but it could help recover any large sums that would otherwise be unpaid.

    I am about to take on a new student where communication with the parent has not been easy, so I am a bit concerend. I only tutor a little for extra cash on top of my pension, so don't insist on a regular time each week, and I ask for payment within 7 days of the lesson. I have made this, and my cancellation policy, clear in my terms and conditions, which the new parent has agreed to, Fingers crossed.
     
  19. Georginalouise

    Georginalouise New commenter

    With regards to the small claims court, I did once threaten and was promptly paid, but an accountant friend advises against this unless the debt is several hundred pounds. She says that although you will get the satisfaction of being paid, the costs, time involved and stress caused isn't worth the monetary value of the payment at the end, especially if you end up going as far as the bailiffs and getting goods instead.

    To overcome this very issue, I now outsource all of my invoicing and payment chasing to a lovely VA. She sends me a spreadsheet and I punch in who I am seeing and when, for the upcoming month. She transforms this to invoices, which she emails with a 14 day payment term. At the 14 day point, I email her to say who hasn't paid and she phones them, saying if payment isn't made, the next scheduled session will not go ahead. It costs me about £50 a month, and means that I never, ever have to discuss money with the clients themselves. Initially, it seemed a bit of an extravagance, but the system works very well and I wouldn't be without her now as it saves me time, effort, and those embarrassing conversations.
     
    M8x, sparkleghirl and cwilson1983 like this.
  20. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Yes, I can see that. Hopwever, the threat of being taken to court moght be enough assuming that the parent can pay. I guess it is a judgement call based on the amount owed and ability to pay.
     

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