One of the main problems of being a private tutor is a last-minute cancellation, or even the student simply not turning up. Fortunately, this is quite rare, but it can be a financial risk if a client has a one-off session, so strict payment in advance is advisable on occasion.
Of course, any situations like these can be avoided by setting out a commitment initially, so that you can gain a mutual understanding and establish whether they're likely to be trustworthy. It may be worth offering a consultation lesson at a reduced fee, or free.
After this, ask for advance payments, then the student is committed. This can be for a whole term’s lessons or for a block of lessons. Ask them to pay online a week in advance for each lesson, or for payment by cheque, PayPal, bank transfer or through an online payment system on your website, but make sure you leave enough time before the lessons start. Of course, another option is to offer incentives for block booking, such as a 10% discount.
State your terms and conditions in writing to new clients before lessons begin, either as an email or letter, but as part of a tutoring agreement document. Private tutoring has become more popular as more and more students strive to better their grades. During this boom, there's a need for tutoring services, and private tutors have to focus on the legal part of this trade to ensure a seamless operation of their business.
It’s vital to let clients know why you have such a policy, avoiding both loss of income and a cancellation wasting a valuable slot for someone else. Terms commonly state that full (or 50%) tuition fees are payable, unless the lesson is cancelled at least 24 hours in advance; at the tutor’s discretion, there may be the possibility of rescheduling the lesson, in recognition of extenuating circumstances such as illness..
In running your service, don’t be afraid to be firm with clients, as it demonstrates your commitment and professionalism. Having said that, a certain level of understanding and flexibility goes down well, so maybe allow for a late cancellation or turn-out on the first occasion, but the student should respect you for that. It's important that you stick to your guns, so if a student does turn up late, you don’t make up for a lost time by adding it on at the end of the session.
Finally, dealing with cancellations needs you to be clear about what is acceptable and what isn’t, so have the confidence to get across your terms in a firm, professional but friendly manner. Otherwise, you may find that either the client or circumstances will dictate the terms in the future, rather than you.
Remember, most students are a pleasure. The odd one, however, may require a bit more managing!