Join My Free Trial Lesson
I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about this persistent problem of no-shows for free (or even paid/low-cost) trial lessons. I have to admit that in the 6+ years of teaching 1:1 students I have had very few no-show instances, and so this phenomenon piqued my interest.
When I began sharing my free trial system on forums I realized that perhaps there’re a lot of other online teachers out there who might experience no-shows, so today’s post is all about setting up a free trial lesson system.
Note: I will be showing some of the tools I’ve used in the past, but you can use tools you’re more familiar with. What you do need is the system that works and doesn’t fail (most of the time).
You might be frustrated because you’re working with this specific clientele segment that just enjoy not showing up for classes, but you can change that tendency just by creating a system.
What’s a system?
In business, a system is a set up process that allows you to streamline tedious and repetitive parts of your work (like scheduling a free session) in a way that is effective and less time-consuming for you.
A lot of things have changed since I wrote this post initially in 2016. Now in 2021 there are many scheduling software services that allow you to schedule seamlessly. The one I use is called Acuity Scheduling. Every part of the process that I’m describing below can be set up and automated with Acuity once and you will not need to do anything manually.
Please use this post as a checklist for when you decide to set up your own scheduling software so you know what to include in your automated emails.
What are your main assumptions?
If you’re just starting to teach online, or if you’re starting to teach per se, and if you happened to be an A-student or an A-personality or somebody whose plan always works then you will find a lot of surprises in your job! One of the reasons is – you have too many assumptions.
When you begin teaching online here’s what you might usually assume:
1. Your potential clients know all about online learning. Otherwise, why are they signing up?
2. They know what a free trial lesson is. Of course it’s a lesson via skype or Zoom, but what should they expect?
3. They know how to navigate through different the time zones.
4. They people know how to use skype/zoom.
5. They know they need to have a confirmation email with the link to the meeting.
6. They know how to look for the confirmation email in case it doesn’t show up.
7. They’re familiar with payment system(s).
8. They know that using a stationary computer or a laptop is preferable to using a phone, especially in a situation of a free trial lesson.
9. They know that if they need to reschedule they should let me know 24 hours ahead of time.
10. If these people are under 18 they know they should inform their parents about this lesson as the parents will be the ones making the payments.
The more we assume, the more we set ourselves up for no-shows or unsuccessful trial lessons. It’s always best to keep all the points in mind when you build your free trial system so you avoid unnecessary back-and-forth before each lesson.
When people sign up for your free trial (or response form), be sure to include the following questions into it:
Depending on your budget, here are the forms you can use:
- Google form (free) but it doesn’t have an automated response.
- Jotform and Formsite are paid and they have automated responses and other add-ons.
- You can use plugins on WordPress site but be sure to test them because they’re notorious for landing in your junk folder.
Whether you’re using a simple form or a more elaborate scheduling system, be sure to include the following questions into your contact form:
Name: first AND last
In many languages a “name” means just the first name so if you want to have full information please state it.
Skype name (if available)
The reason why I used skype is because it’s the easiest of all programs for many people with little exposure to online education. You can ask for their WhatsApp number if that’s what you want to use or you can ask if people are familiar with Zoom if you plan to send them the link.
City/country of residence
It helps to know where the person is from so you have some point of connection.
If you want to work with adults you need to specify that you won’t be responding to anyone under a certain age.
How did you find out?
This is great for marketing because you might want to put more effort into what’s working.
It’s good to thank the person who referred a new person to you, especially when the free trial turns into a paid package!
The best time for the lesson
This is optional if the person is using a built-in scheduler. Still it might help to note in the sort description that they need to choose their time zone and add a World Time Buddy link for reference.
Ask the person if they want to be on your email list, that will give you an opportunity to stay connected if they don’t buy a package right away.
In your terms and conditions, mention your cancellation policy, what happens if a person wants to reschedule, how to reach to you and what to expect from the trial session.
Note: your future client does all the thinking, and all you do is just receive and review the form. When a form arrives in my inbox I look at the person’s availability, check it against mine and decide on the time for the free trial lesson.
Then I open my “free trial response template” copy and paste it into the new message, change the dates and time, re-read it and click send (!) All this takes 2 minutes max. Also note that if you are using a scheduling software, you will need to write an automated response only once. Check out my video tutorial on Facebook for more details.
PRO tip: You can forgo free trial lessons, here’s a post with examples.
What do you include in your initial free trial scheduling email?
My Email Template:
Thank you for signing up for a free trial lesson with me. Your trial is scheduled for 7 PM (Moscow time) on Thursday, May 10, 2015.Please check my google calendar on my website to see your lesson up there (link). Please confirm by May 9, 1 PM by responding to this email with the words “I confirm.” If the lesson isn’t confirmed it will be canceled. (in the case with automated booking you can refer people to click the button below to cancel).
Please be aware that you only have 1 chance to take your free trial, and if you do not show up you will have to pay the standard fee.
The lesson will be 20 minutes long, please prepare a talk about yourself and your hobbies.
The lesson will be conducted on skype, and you need to set it up (a link on how to do it is here) and add me to your contacts (my skype name is …).
To ensure the best quality of your lesson, use your headset and your laptop or desktop (not the mobile phone). The use of your web camera is optional.
In the meantime I invite you to sign up to my newsletter to receive weekly tips on learning English.
***Greeting (introduce yourself or your company)
***State the date, time, day of the week and time zone of the lesson.
***Add the link to a worldtimebuddy to check the time zone.
***Remind them to add the appointment to their calendar.
***Explain what application you’re using for the lesson (skype/Zoom).
***Tell them to add you on skype.
***Add the link on skype where they can learn how to do that in case they don’t know.
***Tell them what you expect to cover in the class and how long the class is going to be.
***Tell them what equipment they should have ready and why (some never bother about the headset, but then you have echoing issue and it destroys the first impression).
***Invite them to join you on social media or to sign up for the newsletter (the latter is a better option).
If your lesson is confirmed – most likely you’ll have the lesson. If not you take it off your schedule and forget about it.
Why do I use a form? Because it communicates to the student that I’m serious about my time and if you’re not serious enough to fill out the form and check your calendar then we won’t be working together.
What happens after the free trial? Ideally, a sale. And again, it helps to set up a file system with a follow-up template, a terms-and-conditions template, a price chart and a time slots available.
If you spend too much time sending emails to schedule a lesson, this post on how to onboard your clients efficiently might be of great help.
What are your experiences with a free trial lesson?