Benefits of Offering a Trial Tutoring Session
As a tutor, the process of finding clients that are a good fit for your teaching style and professional expectations is often an underappreciated step in growing a tutoring business. Just as a client deserves the right to evaluate your potential effectiveness, so too a tutor deserves the opportunity to evaluate the working relationship with the client. One of the most beneficial ways you can help ensure a good fit for both the tutor and the client is to start a new tutoring relationship by offering a trial tutoring session.
Does a Free Trial Session Make Sense?
The decision to charge or not for a trial tutoring session is yours to make. One popular approach is to charge for the session only if the tutoring relationship continues; the trial session would, therefore, be free for the client if they are not satisfied or do not wish to continue utilizing your services.
Some tutors offer the first session at no cost whether the client continues the relationship or not. The rationale behind such a decision is that a successful trial session generates a much greater earning potential in the long term and could entice more prospective clients to give your tutoring a try. This can be especially beneficial if you are located in competitive area for tutoring jobs.
What to Offer in a Trial Tutoring Session?
A successful trial tutoring session needs accomplish a few different things and thus may look somewhat different than your typical session. To start with, plan to spend 10-15 minutes (assuming an hour-long session) speaking with the student and/or the student’s parent about the academic goals they are seeking to accomplish. This consult will allow you to evaluate whether the goals are realistic and can be accomplished with your help. Signing on for support you can’t effectively deliver could be a problem down the road.
The remainder of the session should be spent working directly with the student on those target areas discussed earlier in the session. This is your opportunity as the tutor to demonstrate your teaching techniques as well as your ability to relate to the student personally and professionally. Often, it is a good idea to start from work that student has brought from school (homework or correcting returned work). The student is likely more familiar with the material that they have been exposed to in class than they would be with something you produced prior to your first meeting. That being said, be prepared to adapt on the fly; if something isn’t working or is proving to be frustrating to the student, don’t hesitate to try a different approach. This is your only chance at a first impression, and you want to have a positive launching point from which to build a continuing relationship. Show that you can help the child learn.
What to Look for While Conducting a Trial Tutoring Session?
Just as your offerings as the tutor will be evaluated during a trial session, you, as the tutor, should be looking for a good fit as well. First and foremost, pay attention to how the client treats you and speaks to you. If, in a first meeting, the client is disrespectful or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, strongly consider not continuing the relationship (there is nothing wrong with excusing yourself and leaving the situation, especially if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe). It is fair to assume that if your first interactions on a personal level are negative, a pattern could emerge in the future. Conversely, when you hit it off with a client, it becomes that much easier to parlay the positive start into productive path forward.
Be realistic about your ability to reach the student. You want to be able to leave your first session with a clearly articulated plan for productive future sessions. Everything you try in a first session may not work, but you should hopefully find at least one potential in-road to build from. If at the end of a trial session you cannot give the client a feasible sales pitch for your abilities to fit their needs, the fit simply may not be there.
Moving Forward (…or Not)
When you feel like there is a potential for continuing with a trial client, be prepared with written information about your rate, availability, contact information, and cancellation policies. The client may not be prepared to give you an answer on the spot, so leaving the essential information with them allows them to weigh their options on their own. Presenting your professional expectations up front also helps limit the potential for any uncomfortable negotiations.
If, for whatever reason, you do not feel that the fit is there, be honest. Taking on a client you do not feel you can serve effectively can hurt your reputation in the long run and limit future opportunities down the road. Similarly, clients that cause you an undue amount of stress can negatively affect your ability to provide quality instruction to other clients.
In the end, it may seem counterproductive to ever offer your services for free (you are running a tutoring BUSINESS after all), but the benefits of a thoughtfully implemented trial tutoring session will likely outweigh the time investment.
To further increase your tutoring client list, consider registering with a tutoring database like The Knowledge Roundtable to put your tutoring business out there and start attracting more local clients!