As some teachers are turning to tutoring to supplement or replace their pay, many are looking for ways to format their new businesses and establish norms for how they would like to run things. Here are a few of the important decisions you’ll need to make if you choose to open a tutoring business.
If you read part one, you’ll already know that we’re focusing on in-person tutoring sessions rather than online tutoring unless otherwise specified.
Tardiness, Rescheduling, and Cancellations
Although scheduling is a little different these days due to the pandemic, it’s important to establish rules about how to handle things like absence, tardiness, rescheduling sessions, or canceling sessions. The best thing to do is to establish a fairly strict policy on each of these topics initially. If you choose to go easier on clients, you can always do that.
Just as in classroom management, if you start with rules that are more strict, you can always loosen or relax your stance. Once you’ve established more lax rules, though, it’s a lot harder to enforce something more strict.
If you are meeting clients somewhere other than their home, these rules are important. The shorter your tutoring time, the more attention must be paid to students arriving promptly and on time. If a student shows up 15 minutes late to a 45-minute tutoring session, you’ve lost a significant amount of time.
Occasionally the student will be lucky and you’ll have nothing scheduled immediately after so you can keep them late if you must; however, it’s best not to make this a habit - or even acceptable once. In tutoring, if you work it out for them to stay late once, they will assume you can find a way to do it anytime and won’t bother coming on time.
Another important note is the early arrival. Some parents want to bring their children 20 minutes early to ensure they are not tardy. However, this creates a problem when you are tutoring another student before them. Sometimes, there is no other student, but you are gathering supplies for your sessions throughout the day.
It’s important to establish rules on prompt arrival. Don’t deviate from those standards.
Many tutors create a policy in which if the student is more than 10 minutes late, they will not be able to stay for tutoring. Parents are still required to pay at least half for the session and should be invited to reschedule and get their child to the next appointment on time.
When you are creating your schedule, leave one or two sessions times free for rescheduling.
Things happen, and we’re all late sometimes. Some tutors allow one “free” tardy per 6 weeks as a grace, but just be careful not to let it happen much because unfortunately, people may begin taking advantage of you.
As far as cancellations go, most tutors require a 24-hour notice. The only exception to this rule is illness.
It’s probably more important now to create a policy that demands safety in times of illness. This is why you may want to create a backup plan to switch to online sessions if there is any sign of illness.
And as mentioned above, create “rescheduling pockets” of time so if students are experiencing symptoms can recover, or prove it’s not contagious, and come to tutoring another day. Or, if you have a backup option of teaching online, ask ill students to meet you there for their lessons.
If you aren’t teaching online, you’ll need to decide on a location in which to tutor.
Some tutors travel to their student’s homes. Other tutors welcome students into their own homes. Another option is to meet in a public place - a park, a coffee shop, or a library. Unfortunately, there are many places that are closed to the public, or with very limited space due to the pandemic. Because of this, meeting in a public space may not be a very dependable option.
Meeting in a student’s home can work, but you’ll want to see the home before committing. If there are younger siblings, if parents are noisy, or if there’s no place to study, you’ll have to find an alternative.
When tutors open their homes, they have much more control over who is present, their environment, the noise level, and a whole host of other issues.
One thing you do need to consider, though, is safety - both from illness and liability issues.
We are taught as teachers never to be alone with a student, yet most parents are eager to leave their child at tutoring and go run errands, go to work, or simply get a few moments without their children.
Investing in a camera system parents can access while their students are working with you is one way to assure both their safety, their peace of mind, and yours. Even if parents don’t access it, you need to be able to offer them that option for your own accountability.
One other possible consideration that would be useful is if there are other tutors in your geographic area, you might be able to rent a small space to share.
If you do, be sure you research what is best for marketing and locational resources. A CPA may be able to help with some of this information as well.
Another thing you may want to consult a CPA about is business insurance. If you do rent a location, you’ll need coverage in case someone slips and falls coming in the door. A CPA can definitely help you navigate your way through this as well. They may also have contacts for someone offering just the kind of insurance you’ll need.
Business insurance for things like this is generally fairly inexpensive.
Just be careful to speak to a trusted CPA.
Contracts/ Commitment Forms
When you have a new student and family, you’ll need to outline your prices, your schedule, and any policies you’ve formed. You’ll need an agreement or contract, in writing, to establish that you and the family have agreed to the terms you set out.
This may seem silly at first, but a contract comes in very handy when you have issues with tardiness or late pay. All you have to say is, “Well, in the contract we both agreed to, it says this.” It’s very helpful.