As you build your tutoring business, create a system for everything that matters. By creating a system, you eliminate the “brain space” needed to track the hundreds of details that keep your business running smoothly. Good systems mean less time spent worrying about scheduling, receipts, invoices, cancellations, and planning and more time spent on teaching quality lessons and growing your student base.
Below are several systems you should have in place followed by a quick description of the system that we use. You need systems for:
Tracking payments received — We use a plastic inbox to file our copy of the receipts from student payments. Once a month, we enter these payments into our bookkeeping system. Initially, this was an Excel spreadsheet. Now we use Quickbooks.
Recording your expenses and filing your expense receipts — We use a plastic inbox to file copies of any receipts from purchases or payments. Once a month, we print any receipts we have received by email for Web hosting and other Online services and then enter all expenses into our bookkeeping system. We paste loose cash-register receipts onto blank, letter-sized pages. These are organized by date, hole-punched, and added to a 3-ring binder. This makes reconciling bank and credit card statements really simple. Also, these letter-sized pages can be easily scanned and electronically archived at the end of the year.
Processing student cancellation requests — We require students to send cancellations by email, so we have written proof of their cancellation request. We record the cancellation request date, the reschedule date (if appropriate), and whether the student was given a credit for the cancellation on a cancellation tracking sheet. There is an “added to calendar?” checkbox on the sheet. When we update our calendar/schedule to reflect the cancellation, we check this box.
Tracking and reporting student progress — We keep a file on each student. Each student file has an “instructor notes” page. We make notes on the student following each lesson. This helps with planning and allows us to informally track learning progress.
Logging credits for paid lessons not yet taught — We have found that the easiest way to track lesson credits is to have the student sign and date a log sheet at the end of each lesson. If a student buys a package of lessons and pays in advance, we mark the payment date on the log sheet and highlight the number of lessons purchased. As the student completes and signs for the lessons, the highlighted portion of the log is filled up. When there are no more highlighted lessons without signatures, we know that the student needs to pay again.
Scheduling regular marketing activities, such as email newsletters, blog postings, etc. — We track all of this using an Online calendar system. Many Online calendar systems allow you to set alerts and reminders for upcoming tasks.
Archiving materials from former students — We scan, electronically archive, and then shred all former student materials. Using a high-speed scanner can make this easy to do. Also, many office supply stores offer bulk shredding. It is inexpensive and much, much easier than shredding documents one at a time.
Organizing instructional materials — This may be as simple as buying a bookshelf or a file cabinet. We create almost all of our own materials, so (in my spare time…) I built an Online system for organizing our lesson content.
Tell me about your systems. What have you tried? What worked and what didn’t?
These are helpful suggestions, especially with tracking receipts.
When it comes to employees, do you use 3-ring binders and hard copies, computer files, or both?
Since employee data includes sensitive info such as social security numbers, we typically keep this information in paper files and in a locked and secure location. I also typically avoid scanning this information for the same reason. If you do scan the employee information, be sure that it is, at minimum, password protected. Also, make sure that you know where it is. Data has a nasty way of getting moved around and set free, especially if you use external drives for your backups.
Thanks for the information. I’m curious to know what kind of rates you charge for your students? Thanks.
Brett, the question of pricing is largely dependent on your market and your product, so my pricing is probably largely irrelevant to your situation. I will be adding an additional blog post on how to set your prices, which I hope will be helpful. If you are still curious about our pricing, you can check out our Website at http://www.ovient.com. We post our prices for our individual lessons and public classes.
One important aspect this does not cover is the use of specifically made school management systems – many of which are now based on cloud platforms. These can significantly reduce the time you spend designing systems and they protect your data far better. They will also give you basic statistics on your data suchas showing you how your revenue / student numbers are changing over time. Maybe a little complex for self employed teachers – invaluable for small schools. There are basic systems which are now available free of charge or for a small monthly fee. I will not specifically recommend any as I dont want you to think I am advertising for them! a simple google search for ‘language school management systems’ should work fine.