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Running A Tutoring Business: A Guide To Values-Driven Outcomes & Operational Efficiency

Education & Running A Business

Student success is priority one. 

Helping students build the capacity to approach learning with a curious mind is one of the most powerful and important things you can do – tutoring is crucial in the learning process.

(Beat).

You are also responsible for running and operating a profitable business.

Taking time to evaluate your day to day operations will save you resources and energy – allowing you to focus on higher priority activities that drive real student outcomes.

In this post, you will find tips & best practices for:

  1. Scheduling & Time Management 
  2. Tutor Payments & Invoicing
  3. Relationship Building
  4. Growing & Advertising Your Tutoring Business

Download How To Tutor: A Guide To Running An Efficient & Compassionate Tutoring Business

Terms to Know

  • ROI
    • Return on Investment (ROI) is a performance measure you can use to best assess and allocate your time and resources. A high return on investment is what businesses strive for (although it is not everything). 
  • Support-Circle Of Learning
    • The student is considered an active partner, the tutor is a facilitator, and parents are passive-active partners.
  • Administrative Debt
    • Administrative Debt is attributed to implementing a manual solution with low capital costs, but high labour hour costs. Manual solutions are limited in their ability to scale or operate smoothly without constant oversight. 
  • Sales Funnel
    • A Sales Funnel is a multi-step process that helps marketers and sales teams attract potential customers and convert them into paying customers. There are many steps and decisions that occur between when a potential customer becomes aware of your product, when they enter your funnel, to the time they complete a purchase, and when you secure them on a recurring contract (in this case week to week lessons).
  • On-Boarding Process
    • Customer onboarding is the process of welcoming new parents and students, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand what is available to them. For students, this is getting to know their tutors, the tutoring process, and what to expect. For parents, it is providing resources, check-ins, and access to online tools.
  • Customer Success
    • Customer success is a proactive strategy for understanding and supporting your customers’ desired business outcomes. Not to be confused with customer service, which is a reactive tactic that focuses on fixing problems to keep customers satisfied. 

Why Running A Tutoring Business Is Complex

Tutoring As A Business

Education is the foundation of a strong, resilient, and forward-thinking society. It shapes the minds of youth from the earliest of years. 

As such, educators (and those in the business of educating) are held to a higher standard than most. 

Multiple stakeholders and institutions must attempt to work together to ensure students feel supported throughout their learning journey.

Your tutoring business is an increasingly essential piece of infrastructure in this journey, helping learners of all abilities reach their educational potential.

From classroom performance and grades to building confidence and resilience in learning, you are responsible for helping learners succeed in and out of the classroom. 

No pressure!

Finding The Balance

All of the work you do outside of ‘the classroom’ is essential to helping students succeed inside.

You have tutors to hire, resources to develop, parents to onboard, payments to send, invoices to collect, schedules to keep track of, reports to generate, and fires to put out!

Because there are so many moving pieces, it is no surprise that most tutoring business owner-operators find themselves stretched for time.

The best tutoring businesses develop a sustainable business model driven by their values. It feels like a cliche, but purpose must meet profitability in tutoring – you need a healthy ROI. 

Ultimately, if you lead with your values, back it up by helping students succeed, and think like a modern-day entrepreneur, you are well on your way to being a leader in the educational space.

Learning From Others & Your Operational History

No matter where you are located or what grades or subjects you service, you likely know:  

  • Running a tutoring business is hard, whether or not you consider yourself a business person.
  • Tutoring is about more than just student grades.
  • Excessive time spent managing people and resources can drain your admin team.
  • Tutoring is a referral-based business – great client experiences and outcomes go a long way.

Unfortunately, many tutoring companies and owner-operators:

  • Have some form of administrative debt.  
  • Are spending more time acting as a ‘middleman’ rather than a facilitator.
  • Do not have the capacity or resources to spend time on higher-value activities.
  • Are not sure how to effectively advertise their tutoring business.

Questions To Reflect On

When evaluating your current operations, start with:

  • How are you allocating your time?
  • How are you managing changing schedules? 
  • How much of your admin time goes towards acting as a ‘middleman’?
  • Are you efficiently collecting payments and getting your tutors the money they need?
  • What kind of relationships are you building with parents? Tutors? Students? Your team?
  • Do you have the capacity to grow your business if you choose too? 
  • What approaches and tools do you use for sales and parent onboarding?

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the critical pain points most owner-operators are facing.

This includes how scheduling and payment management can affect resources, the importance of nurturing customer success, and whether or not growing your business is an option for you!

Scheduling & Time Management 

Schedules will change. 

Students will fall sick. Parents will have emergencies. Tutors will have other commitments. 

You have to be able to adapt and accommodate – this is the nature of the tutoring business.

However, handling changing schedules can put a significant strain on your day-to-day.  

What Is Your Approach To  Scheduling?

To establish your baseline, start by asking yourself:

  • How are your tutors notified of scheduling changes? How many points of contact are there?
  • What happens when there is a last-minute cancellation? 
  • Does your admin team have a verification process to confirm the changes or cancellations with the tutor, student, or parent? 
  • How (or) do your tutors log adjustments to their schedules? Who facilitates the process? 
  • Where do you keep an accurate record of these changes for invoicing?

How to Manage Tutor Scheduling & Cancellations: 

Try to mitigate the amount of time everyone spends going back and forth. Have a process, use a tool if needed, and be clear on your policies with tutors and parents.

Whatever you are using to keep track of scheduling changes (i.e. SMS messages, tutor scheduling software, or email), consider adopting these 3 best practices:

1. Set Cancellation & Scheduling Expectations After The First Successful Tutoring Session.

Onboarding parents and prepping for new students is a big part of successfully growing (or maintaining) your customer base and sales funnel.

Your discovery call should always focus on the student and their needs. Your goal is to achieve initial parent buy-in and gather as much information as possible. 

(Beat)

A quick parent follow-up after the first lesson goes a long way. 

It is the perfect time to help parents feel heard and lay down your flexible but firm scheduling policies – don’t be afraid to make exceptions (compassion is customer success).

2. Help Your Tutors Own The Parent Relationship.

Your energy should go towards helping tutors and parents feel comfortable enough to sort out week to week scheduling and learning activities between themselves. 

Tutors Need:

  • To be systematically involved in the parent and student onboarding process. 
  • To be trained on relevant tutor management software (if applicable).
  • To be provided training resources for client management.
  • To have a formalized process for addressing serious student or parental issues.
  • To feel supported by your administration team. 

3. Handle Fires, Not Sparks.

You need to choose where your attention and energy are going. 

Emails, texts, different excel sheets, and various phone calls can become a poorly scattered set of bread crumbs you are trying to make sense of when managing schedules.

You want to be the default point of contact for any ongoing or severe issues. However, a more formalized and delegated workflow goes a long way. 

Tutor Payments & Invoice Management:

Managing payments and collecting money can take up a lot of admin time and drain your energy. 

If you find yourself spending a lot of time answering emails and messages about payments and invoices, you already know it can be a pain in the neck keeping track of:

  • Who has paid you.
  • Who still needs to pay you.
  • Who you need to pay.
  • When you need to pay it by.
  • How you are going to pay.
  • How much it will cost you.

Organizing payments and invoicing in a google sheet (or something similar) can work when you are small, but it can lead to an ongoing headache as you repeat the process month after month. 

Tutoring management software, or similar payment tools, make a big difference in your ability to manage tutor payments and customer invoicing – but they are not a silver bullet. 

Your tutoring business needs to develop an approach to payment management and invoicing that is software agnostic.


How To Approach Tutor Payments & Invoice Management  

1. Set Billing Expectations With Parents After The First Successful Tutoring Session

Payment and cash management is about policies and setting expectations. 

On top of asking about how a lesson went, be sure to:

  • Provide any supporting documents and payment schedules.
  • Review fees and policies for scheduling and last-minute cancellations.
  • On-board parents with any tutor management software or payment tools you are using (if you have not already done so).

Be flexible but firm.

2. Create A Process To Easily Track Hours & Pay Tutors

You need to establish:

  • A consistent, trackable way for your tutors to invoice you.
  • A standardized payment receivable timeframe (an acceptable amount of time in which you will pay tutors).
  • A workflow process for how you are going to pay them (there is nothing worse than e-transfer limits and fees).

Consider taking the following steps:

  • Use an official contractor invoice template. 
  • Pay within 15 days if tutors’ tracking sheets are complete and accurate.
  • Use a tutoring management software platform or CRM to keep documents centralized.

3. Schedule A Time Each Week & Pick The Right Tool To Help 

The time you spend manually invoicing each client, collecting payments, and sending transfers can add up. 

Be sure you set aside a designated time each week to keep up with your bookkeeping – there is nothing worse than having to do it all at the end of the month. 

Administrative debt can become difficult to manage as you grow, or look to reduce your time spent on administrative tasks – payment management can help reduce this burden.

Invoicing Software To Check Out


Relationship Building With Parents & Tutors 

A healthy and open tutor-parent-admin relationship is vital in the support-circle-of-learning.

Building trust with parents and tutors will help students reach their goals and help your tutoring business thrive in the long term.

Building Trust With Parents

Parents are a partner on a student’s learning journey (particularly in the early grades). 

It is your responsibility to establish a foundation of trust before the student completes their first lesson (online or in-person).

Developing a strong relationship during the onboarding process is that much more important when you have demanding parents, complex home environments, or learners facing other challenges. 

Everyone wins when you build trust. 

Tips For Trust Building With Parents As Tutoring Business

  1. Have an in-depth discovery call about the student before the first lesson.
    1. Review student’s emotional, social and learning needs.
    2. Establish high-level parent-tutor-admin expectations.
    3. Train parents on tutor management software (if applicable) and send any supporting resources.
  2. Follow up within 3 days of the first tutoring lesson via phone or email.
    1. Review how the session went.
    2. Review the supporting resources and the role you encourage parents to take in the partnership.
    3. Share a digital recording of the lesson and notes from the tutor (if applicable).
  3. Create an on-going check-in process.
    1. Set a time at the end of the first month for a member of your team to speak with the parent and tutor. 
    2. Establish a way for parents to provide on-going feedback moving forward.

Building Trust With Tutors

Tutors, like teachers, can make or break a student’s learning experience. 

Tutors work week in and week out, helping students build the knowledge and confidence to succeed. 

If you want to build relationships with students, invest in your tutors. 

  1. Involve tutors in the student onboarding process.
  2. Host training sessions and supply ongoing tutoring resources, including any feedback from clients.
  3. Provide tutors with the tools and training to manage 85% of the parent relationship.
  4. Ensure tutors know you have their back.

Spend Time Nurturing Relationships

As your business grows (or life gets busy), it becomes more challenging to connect with every new parent, tutor and student. 

Take the time to craft an operational approach that allows you to stay connected. 

Finding a way to collect feedback from students, parents, tutors, and your team will only make your business better.

There is nothing more valuable than building relationships with the people who make running your tutoring business possible.

Deciding Whether To Grow Your Tutoring Business

A successful tutoring business:

  • Fosters excellent student outcomes (in and out of the classroom).
  • Finds operational efficiencies.
  • Attracts new clients and builds strong relationships with current ones.

You should only look to grow your business after it is running efficiently at its current size.

If you have mastered your day to day operations, it is a matter of deciding your next steps.

Decisions, Decisions

Do you want to grow your business or kick back and enjoy your new-found operational efficiency?

Your decision depends on your capacity, resources and long term goals. 

If you decide to grow your business, it is time to start looking at ways to market it!

How To Advertise Tutoring Services

Word of mouth is by far and away the most influential form of advertising you have at your disposal.

A satisfied parent is the best advocate you can have at schoolyard pickups and wine nights.

However, word of mouth can be slow to reach a bigger audience. 

You should consider utilizing the digital world to reach a broader set of potential clients. It will improve your chances of onboarding new clients – particularly as school boards, governments, and parents are encouraged to adapt.

There are various channels, partnerships, and marketing tactics you can employ to grow your business. However, you need to start with the basics.

Top Tips For Growing Your Tutoring Business

  1. Create A Sales Process, Not Just An Onboarding Process
  2. Reward Referrals 
  3. Utilize Your Tutoring Management Software
  4. Focus On Child Outcomes & Ensure Parents Feel Heard 
  5. Build Partnerships With Educational Institutions 

Think About The Future While Still Enjoying The Present

There is nothing more rewarding than having your business thrive while seeing students’ grades increase and their confidence shoot through the roof.

The Pros Of Running A Tutoring Business

  • Building A Community Of Learning Based Strong Values
  • Working With People Who Love To Educate 
  • Seeing Students Grow & Succeed
  • Feeling Ownership Over What You Do Everyday
  • Leading A Growing Industry

As you know, there are also some challenges:

The Challenges of Running A Tutoring Business

  • Spending Too Much Time On Administration 
  • Acting As Middleperson Instead Of Facilitator
  • Maintenance vs Management vs Growth
  • Managing Client Expectations

Outdated administrative approaches or tools will pull you further away from the high-value activities of running your tutoring business. 

It might take a bit of investment and a mental shift, but putting the time in now will pay off sooner than you think – just like for your students. 

Think about how your tutoring business might be able to adopt some of the best practices into your everyday.

Whether you are actively growing your business or not, be sure to enjoy the present while planning for the future!