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Need a bit of support or advice

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by dark star, Mar 24, 2019.

  1. dark star

    dark star New commenter

    I’ve been tutoring English for 13 years. I have good qualifications, good results, a good reputation and a decent waiting list. I’ve never had to advertise but have always gone by word of mouth. I charged £25 per lesson, paid after the lesson in cash for the last 10 years.

    Anyway, I ended up having a very bad patch last summer where several families with multiple children all took three months off ( private school holidays plus a bit at either end) and expected me to just keep the spaces vacant until they came back. The loss was huge when combined with people taking as many as one in four lessons off when it suited them over the year. I had a very bad summer. I was skint and couldn’t afford to do anything with my own kids while these families were off in Dubai all summer.

    So, I decided to change my policy. £110 per month for 48 lessons per year with me having four weeks off. And you pay whether you take the lesson or not.

    Now all hell has broken loose. Some parents, under a dominant very wealthy one, formed a secret WhatsApp group with the intention of swapping lessons so that they didn’t miss what they paid for if they wanted to go away for the weekend. People were rearranging lessons via the dominant mother and not telling me or asking permission. I found out about the group, got rid of the ringleader ( who is now bitching about me to the other clients I know) and so far all my other clients are still sticking with me. Unfortunately now everyone is now asking for a different time in the week if they have to miss their lesson. People want different times during the day in the holidays and someone was arguing with me today that I should give them a lesson on Friday or Saturday evening ( my only evenings off) because they can’t make their normal time.

    I’m starting to feel really exhausted and depressed by it all. I’ve got IBS and it has flared up with stress. I’m losing any space between my work life and my free time ( I have very little as I have kids). Would I be unreasonable just to say - look I am cheap already. If you miss the lesson, suck it up. Or am I being greedy by holding on to the money and refusing an alternative time slot.

    To be honest, I feel like jacking it all in. It’s ridiculous. I’m successful and have a decent waiting list but it is dragging me down and I have terrible anxiety about people thinking I am greedy for money. Any suggestions?
  2. dark star

    dark star New commenter

    Sorry, I didn’t make it clear. That is £110 per month for the same one hour slot to be kept exclusively for that child.
  3. phatsals

    phatsals Established commenter

    Increase your charge to £30ph, have a cancellation policy of 48hrs, any less charge for. I have a policy of 3 cancellations and out. Likewise, if a parent causes problems let them go.

    Could I suggest you go through your current tutee/parent list and decide if you really want to keep them. If you have a waiting list you know you can fill the slots easily.

    As far as being seen as 'greedy', if your clients are mostly in indy's, you are probably seen as cheap. You haven't raised your charges for 10 years - why? School feels will have gone up every year during that time, conservatively by 20% to 25%.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
    Mrsmumbles and dodie102 like this.
  4. phatsals

    phatsals Established commenter

    You decide your timetable, no one else. Keep to Monday to Thursday, during set hours. When I let things run away with me some years ago, I found myself working over 6 days a week. I was worn out and completely mithered by the whole thing, I used to agree to all rearranged sessions, and agreed to any timeslot. Likewise, I didn't want to be seen as 'greedy' so didn't raise my charges for years.

    I had a word with myself about it, decided to get a grip and put down some rules. Guess what, rearranged sessions became rare, weekend sessions stopped. My waiting list went up and so did my charges.
  5. dark star

    dark star New commenter

    Thanks, that is helpful. A lot of the trouble will come again this summer with a huge amount of clients wanting to cancel. They will give me notice but that still wouldn’t give me any money. That’s why I said £110 in advance whether the lesson is taken or not. Is it ok to refuse to rearrange the lesson even if notice is given?
  6. phatsals

    phatsals Established commenter

    I think I would look a t this a little differently. You know you need to earn more money, there are two ways of going about it, increase your charges or tutor more hours. Clearly there is an issue with tutees attending for 11 months of the year, state schools have 13 weeks holiday a year, indys more. I don't think you are going to get the full turnout you need, my tutees, particulary in indy's, have a lot of holidays abroad each year, far more than 4 weeks. The problem you are going to have is them wanting to double up on weeks they are around - after all, they paid for it, they would rightly see it an an entitlement.

    You will be far better off increasing your fee and letting the summer holidays go, at least in part. If you raise your charge you will earn more, reduce the pressure on yourself and keep everyone happy.

    48 weeks per year @ £110 pm = £1210, £25.20 ph
    46 weeks per year @ £30 = £1380
    saluki, dodie102 and phlogiston like this.
  7. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    Fully agree with what's been said. Increase your charge. Maybe the fact that they consider you to be cheap means they feel they can mess you round more!
    If you have a waiting list then when they want the break for the summer have you considered charging to keep the space open? Not sure how this would go down as I teach a lot of adults so I don't see the drop in income quite so much over the summer.
    phlogiston likes this.
  8. briancant

    briancant Occasional commenter

    I read this with great interest because I'm also thinking of ways to make money through the summer. At the moment I'm working 7 days a week to save for that period. Most of my students will sit their GCSEs or A levels in June, I then do three weeks marking GCSE papers, then I'll have just one or two students a week until well into October. I have thought about putting on an accelerated A level maths course through the summer but the new linear A levels don't lend themselves to this flexibility.
    This is of course the downside of tutoring. I think your solution of getting students to pay monthly is an interesting but without proper contracts it could be fraught. I would say you would need to get a solicitor to prepare a contract that goes through all the terms and responsibilities and has to be signed by both parties.
    I prefer to role up with a white board chat about the subject for an hour and get paid. The informality suits. If you are taking money in advance you have certain responsibilities as well as the client.
    Good luck
    langteacher likes this.
  9. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    As above, put your prices up.

    You're effectively saying "I'm skint and I can't afford to do anything" in one sentence and "I charge peanuts" in another!
    phlogiston likes this.
  10. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    You have "immovable bookings" on Friday or Saturday evenings / whenever you need off. They don't need to know it's your sofa or the local or wherever.
    If they're away, they're away and they'll resent paying for tuition they don't use. If they value your tuition, then they'll pay £30 per hour and you make more money.
    You have to balance goodwill against regular income and being taken seriously.
    langteacher likes this.
  11. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Firstly, it is your business, and you can set whatever rules you like provided that they are clear and enforceable. That can create issues with current students, but you can replace any who leave from your waiting list.

    For what it is worth, I can understand why parents would be aggrieved by the idea of having to pay for lessons during the school holidays if they are away. I would be. But your fees are quite low, so could you charge more per lesson, term time only, with the option of arranging extra lessons in the holidays? Lessons payable in advance at the start of term. That is how a lot of music teachers work.

    By the way, would there be a problem with parents arranging lesson swaps if you were given enough notice? As an adult learner, I did this occasionally for piano lessons, with the blessing of my teacher.
  12. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    Swaps wouldn't bother me. Makes no difference to me if Joe comes at four and Jane comes at half five or whatever
  13. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    Put fees up a little - if you have a waiting list, that should be fine.
    I don't think expecting 48 weeks a year is going to work - almost everything kids do is termtime only. Not only will parents resent paying for lessons in the holidays when they're away, but the kids may resent having to go to tuition when everything else is stopped for the holidays. As Piranha says, you could still offer lessons in the holidays as a separate thing - in some ways, that would give you the option of doing holiday time teaching earlier in the day rather than the booked slots, and you could perhaps do special offers - second half-term lesson at reduced price.
    Paying for a term or half-term in advance is not unreasonable. A policy that lessons are paid for whether or not taken is okay - and that occasionally a swap may be possible but that this must be arranged in advance with you. One of my daughter's music teachers had a "pay whether or not" policy, but in fact was quite willing to waive that if we told him at the start of term of a school trip, or if she was ill. It would no doubt be a different matter if we had been doing that frequently - the contract gave him the protection against those who messed him around.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  14. treeickle

    treeickle New commenter

    Definitely charge more. I tutor A level, after mid June I rarely have more than a small handful of kids until September, August is usually empty unless a degree student needs resit help. Christmas is usually a quiet week or two.

    Having thought about the model I was comfortable with, I have a cap of 15 students. Every week there's a cancellation, but I've got enough coming in to cover basic income and buffer for the summer. In the summer I mark exams and read Stephen King in the garden.

    Decide what you are most comfortable with, you're obviously a good tutor to have a waiting list, so a price hike is reasonable, for your own sanity I'd keep it simple.
  15. Kateray1

    Kateray1 Occasional commenter

    The cheek of some people!

    Yes I agree put your prices up !

    I personally would not like anyone to swop between each other, it’s my business I decide when I see people.

    I don’t have an issue with the summer break thing, it is what it is but am asking my current clients if they intend to start back in September and I don’t charge for holding their slot.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  16. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Now might be a good time to split up all the parents who compare notes and know each other by saying to the ones who have caused you the most stress that their slots will end at the close of summer term and would they like to be now added to your waiting list? Then rejig the entire slot system for the next term in a way that suits you. A lot of tutors ask for prepaid lessons and give parents terms and conditions...main ones concern punctuality, 48 hours of notice, behaviour etc. That really helps. Nobody wants to lose cash because they were disorganised or late...it’s like being fined for an overdue library book! So if you stick to your new rules, you regain control. The kids seem to be putting numerous activities or holidays before your devoted tuition time, so it undervalues your true worth. Talking of worth...you could also be charging over £40 an hour for a core subject, you know, earning more for less work.
    lynden7 likes this.

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