One of the things that teacherpreneurs do at the end of the calendar year is revising their products, services, and pricing, as well as vision-casting for the upcoming year. Among many others, price revision can be quite torturous.
- Should I raise my fees or keep them the same?
- Should I raise them for everybody or just for the new clients this year?
In this post I will share some of my experience at setting your fees (including the mistakes, yikes!) and outline some vital principles that have worked for me through the years of teaching English online.
“Why are you charging more than any other language teacher I know?” asked one of my private students a few years ago. “Is that because your rent is high?”
“No, it’s because I value my time and experience so much that I don’t want to just give it away for nothing.”
Pricing: Too Low or Too High?
If you’re only beginning to teach English online, you will find the issue of setting your tuition fees rather challenging. If you go too low, you will most likely recruit a large crowd of people from different walks of life that will quickly fill up your schedule and bring in the revenue you may have originally intended.
However, there will be a huge cost for you to pay, too: high volumes of work, demanding clients (trust me: those who pay little demand more), little time for professional development, little time for preparation and polishing up the quality of your services, almost no time for blogging/writing/designing new materials, and the list goes on.
If you set your fees higher than expected, the thoughts that will bug you are whether or not you are going to make it, whether or not the students will find you and want to buy what you’ve got to offer at your listed price, and will people think that you’re unreasonable?
It is ironic perhaps that in the case of setting your prices too low you tend to please the others and then find yourself in a predicament.
In the case with setting your prices above the average market price, you overcome the fear of negative consequences, but if your sales do go through you will be in a much better shape as a professional language teacher (lots of time on professional development, the energy to design new courses/projects, etc.)
I am not going to advocate for setting your prices too low (lower than the market average) for the reasons I’ve listed in a case study of an online language school in Ukraine.
Why undervaluing your services online will ruin your #brand and desire to #teach #online.Click To Tweet
What happens when you set your fees too low?
I will share though these three main things that setting my fees too low at the beginning of my language tutoring career did for me:
#1: Lots of different students.
I didn’t like that particular group that was demanding, demeaning and disrespectful. They didn’t trust my authority and always argued that there were better ways to teach them. I suffered through that stoically because I somehow told myself that I needed them more than they needed me.
What that situation brought about (apart from lots of unnecessary stress) is I couldn’t focus much on helping the students I did like, giving them the best of my expertise and helping them in their learning process.
#2: Lack of time.
It might surprise you how the students that pay the least will make you slave for the little they’ve paid to get the results that they wouldn’t get anyway (and they will never get the results because they’re actually lazy – there, I said it).
But as you’re trying to dance to their tune and create a pleasant experience for people that can never be pleased with anything, you’re losing one of your most precious assets – your time. You can make more money and you can recruit students, but you will never be able to get back the time that’s been wasted.
#3: Loss of passion.
That’s something everyone goes through, but nothing will help you arrive at this destination sooner and faster than (even a small) bunch of ungrateful students.
When you lose your passion for teaching it’s best to find some time for yourself, but with a whole crowd you’re teaching that is highly unlikely.
Work smarter, not harder. Join my Smart Teacher’s Library.
5 Value-Based Strategies to Determine Pricing
I may have painted a really gloomy picture for you, but this situation doesn’t hit you hard until you’ve been in it for at least a year or so!
Now think about this for a moment: none of this would have happened, had you set your prices a bit higher and let those demanding students go and find free resources online (or somebody to chat with on social networks for $10 an hour).
So what if we get out of the box and decide to double the average going rate? Unconventional? Maybe. Risky? Sure. Feeling greater responsibility? Wonderful! After all, we probably shouldn’t be teaching unless we’re absolutely sure we’re delivering the best we can. [Speaking of unconventional pricing, check out this post on how Tesla does it]
So, why not? After all, most of us have gadgets that cost us a lot of money, we eat out at expensive restaurants (and pay about 10 times more than the food actually costs at the store), plan some fantastic vacations or even small getaways that are not cheap at all.
Yet we always want to find ways to undervalue ourselves (according to this excellent article I read just a few days ago women tend to undervalue themselves and so one of the tips that the author gives that if you’re a woman entrepreneur make sure you add 30% to the price you want to charge so you’re not too cheap), whether consciously or unconsciously, so here’re some principles I’ve adopted to help me set my tutoring fees.
Struggling to determine pricing of online services? Check out these 5 value-based strategiesClick To Tweet
Write down all your achievements (set aside your University degree) that make you more competitive than others. Reviewing your resume or putting together a competitive LinkedIn profile might be a great start.
Remember that each achievement speaks of your outstanding personality, your time and money investment. I don’t want to be taught by somebody who hasn’t done any professional development since they graduated from College. Do you? So make sure you list your achievements and know how they make you better than your competition.
Write down your personality traits that make 1-on-1 learning with you more fun. Your success in business starts with getting to know yourself.
- What makes you different?
- What does your personality give to the student?
- Are you fun and easy-going?
- Are you more on a stricter side, disciplined, and very business-like?
Either set of traits will attract specific kinds of clients to you, as long as you know what it is in you that sets you apart.
Bonus: Veronika Palovska wrote this excellent post on finding your dream client (spoiler alert: for Jane Austen’s fans only).
Ask yourself: would I like to be taught by somebody like me? Why? List the reasons. One of the reasons I became a teacher (apart from “there’s nothing I can do – it’s in my genes”) is I’ve had good and bad examples in front of me.
I wanted to be like some of my teachers, and I definitely did not want to emulate others. Sometimes a negative example is a strong push for us to form our teaching philosophy (although once formed, it better not be negative!).
Once you look at a teacher through the eyes of a student, you learn to avoid the mistakes that your most negative examples made, and you want to be somebody else, so much so that you even want to be your own teacher. So, it’s a good and honest question: would I want to be taught by me? Then follow up by “Why” and give reasons.
Ask your favorite students why they chose you over other teachers. Note their answers. I wrote more about this very topic in my post on finding your niche, so make sure you do this enlightening exercise!
Write down how much you are willing to invest into your own professional development annually. Include the courses you’ve taken and how much time and money you’ve put into them.
As a part of my job, I sometimes interview teachers who would like to work for me (incidentally I’ve been running an online language learning platform for Russian speakers – all in Russian).
The first question I ask them is: “Could you list the things you have done in the area of your professional development?” I’ve gotten a number of peculiar answers throughout the years, starting from “I watch movies and read books in English” (or really? So do I! and so do my students!) to “I don’t know what professional development is.”
Granted, those particular teachers I interviewed may have never been trained to think about ongoing professional development (including paid courses) as an integral part of a language teacher’s career.
So, find ways to boost your marketability through ongoing professional development efforts: writing, doing a relevant research, attending conferences and classes.
It’s ironic that the majority of teachers struggle with prices because they don’t know the actual value of the services they offer. So before you put a price tag on your product/service take the time to discover your value. Click the image below to download your FREE printable cheat-sheet to help you. No opt-in required.
Take your time to finalize your prices and know exactly what you’re offering in return. One of the downsides in the professional pitch of many language teachers is that we don’t quite know what we offer, that is, we might say that we offer language lessons or a language learning software or a book, but we can’t present it as a package.
What do the students pay us for? Is it just the private lessons? How about lesson plans? Worksheets and other materials that you create? Any support that you give outside of your classes? Know what is involved in your providing the learning experience, other than just giving lesson and craft all these experiences into a package.
Learn to summarize what’s in the package in a clear, concise manner so your clients know exactly that what you’re selling is much more than a 45-minute slot.
I hope this information was helpful. I’m sure there are quite a few questions/comments by now. I’d love to hear from you, drop me a line in the comments section or connect with me through other social networks!