How to have “that conversation” with your students and clients
As a rule of thumb, educators tend to be shy about asking for money. Even when you’re running your own online education or coaching business, the love for sharing knowledge tends to get in the way of having “that conversation”. This is unfortunate, as being comfortable charging a fair price and ensuring that you get paid is a key skill that will help you continue doing what you love — teaching. If you want to consistently get paid for online tutoring without dreading the conversation, try these approaches to make the payment process easier for yourself and your client.
While having this conversation may never be easy for you, these tips can help you ease the awkwardness and make yourself appear more organized and professional.
Separate Business and Education
You love the teaching part of your work, so allow yourself to embrace it fully. Don’t discuss business while teaching, and definitely not while you’re on the clock. The better your student’s experience with the actual learning portion of your work, the more likely they are to keep working with you. Bringing up the uncomfortable topic of payment during actual learning time is likely to be seen as an enormous faux pas.
By separating your administrative business responsibilities and teaching, you can get your mind in the exact right place for the conversation. Set aside time every week to handle all the administrative stuff that comes with teaching online like scheduling, payment follow-ups, and new student prospecting. By being in the right state of mind to handle these issues, you can approach the discomfort of “the money conversation” much better psychologically prepared.
You are also sure to score points with your students, even if they forget to pay for their lessons on-time, by showing yourself as a kind and professional educator. Handling this question tactfully without letting it interfere with your work with your client will help you build a stronger relationship, and can result in lucrative referrals as well.
Create a Standard Email
If you find yourself dreading the “when are you going to pay me” conversation, you can avoid the conversation at all. By creating a standard message to send out when your client is past-due on their bill, you don’t have to feel awkward all the while making yourself look more professional. Having a standard process for finding, onboarding, and dealing with the administrative hassle of tutoring, you can actually get these tasks done faster, and project a sense of efficiency and professionalism.
Take and indirect approach and send a less personal, standardized message. This way you can take the pressure off yourself AND the client. We all forget, so having a friendly reminder appear in their inbox can be a lot less stressful for your student than having to have a conversation about payment.
Creating a set of templates for emails and messages is also a good practice that helps you understand your tutoring more as a service. Figure out where your students start, what do they need to know? You could create a simple onboarding message for them, showing useful resources and sharing how you work and think about the subject you’re teaching. What are the high and low points of a student’s journey with you? Is there a destination in mind? Multiple ones?
By creating this map of experience for your student, you can prepare yourself to help them navigate their learning journey better. What’s more, you can easily track whether they are staying on the right path, or veering off-course. And, of course, you can track whether they’re paying you on time.
Automate Your Payment Schedule
An even more powerful solution (and more convenient for your student) can be achieved with a simple shared calendar. Whether you’re using Google Calendar, Outlook, or the native Apple app to keep track of your schedule, you can share events with your students digitally.
If you are planning on working with your student for a long time, make sharing a class schedule a part of your student onboarding routine. When you first decide on when and how you will be holding your sessions, put them in a digital calendar, and share it with your client. Make sure to mark the payment due dates, along with your meeting times.
If you have a set program for a student, adding the topics to the calendar events will help you stay more organized and your student to get excited about the next session. By creating a calendar with a clear payment period, you eliminate the sense of pressure from yourself and give the student a standing reminder about payment. With a regular schedule, you will make getting paid for tutoring online a standard, predictable process for both sides of the interaction.
Package Your Lessons
A popular entrepreneurial strategy for building and marketing successful service businesses is to “productize” the service. By taking your service and attaching it to specific, discrete goals and packages, you can it easier for your potential students to understand the value of working with you. Instead of thinking along the lines of “get better at X”, try positioning your service as a way to achieve specific, useful results.
By creating a package out of your lessons, you can also help your tutoring service stand out. If you offer specialized training packs to prep for a test, for example, or get ready to accomplish a specific task, you can dominate in this specific niche. The more times you teach this specialized package, the more likely a student of yours will recommend the offer to someone else. Boom, you’ve just created a niche for yourself that a more general tutor can’t fill.
By selling your services in a bundled way, you can also create a simpler buying dynamic with the client. They pay for a package, they understand the idea of paying up-front. Even if all you sell is a pre-set bundle of your time, say 3 hours, you can give a small price break compared to buying your tutoring hour-by-hour. Also, you can get paid tutoring online immediately, leaving it on the student to arrange their schedule, which they are now very motivated to do promptly.
If you’ve noticed, this little trick also helps the “dawdlers” organize themselves. Some students will spend your time with endless questions, following that with scheduling a time, only to cancel last-minute. Selling a package creates a sense of investment in the learning enterprise. Of course, it’s good practice to courteously remind the student if they still have hours they’ve paid for and haven’t scheduled them yet.