There are two types of tutors — those who work for tutoring agencies and those who work for themselves as an independent tutoring business. The former don't have to worry about working out their rates; the latter definitely do.
If you fall into the latter category, that is, you are considering working for yourself as a tutor offering accounting courses and lessons on a private basis, then this article is for you because one of the first things you need to do is work out how much to charge your students. We will be talking specifically about accounting courses and tutors but the advice is applicable to every subject that people want to study.
Do Your Research
In Australia, tutoring is an unregulated industry. What this boils down to is that anyone can work as a freelance tutor — you don't need a teaching qualification or a university diploma. This also applies to people who create and post online courses and lessons, particularly on YouTube but on other platforms as well. Being an unregulated industry means that there is likely to be a lot of competition, especially if you live in one of the densely populated areas, such as Sydney or Melbourne, and definitely online where you will compete with international courses and lessons as well.
Before you start setting your fees, the first thing to check is how many other tutors are near you and offer the same thing. Be sure not to just check for 'accounting tutors' but delve into exactly what they offer: what student level they cater for, their qualifications, their level of experience, concepts and skills they cover and so on. When you find tutors who are comparable to what you offer, then check their fees.
It also pays to check any online accounting lessons and courses available, particularly those produced in Australia but international ones as well. Again, delve into these to see if they cover similar concepts or provide the same level of service as your proposed accounting lessons or online classes and then set your fees accordingly.
Keywords and trends
It pays to check what is trending at any particular time. That is, what concepts are students interested in learning and what are they more likely to want to study?
Checking for keywords such as bookkeeping, financial advice, accounting courses, business management skills and accounting basics (or whatever keywords are relevant to your course or lessons) will help you ascertain the demand for particular concepts. From there, you can find other available accounting courses and compare fees.
Online sites like Google Trends and Answer the Public are free and perfect for gaining an understanding of current demand.
Make a Business Plan
If you're planning to run your own business, whether it's private accounting tutoring or services that provide online classes or accounting courses, it makes sense to have a business plan.
What is a business plan?
Good question. A business plan is a document that details different aspects of your business. It can include:
- objectives and principles
- analysis of demand
- description of services you provide
- marketing and promotion
- management plan
- finance plan (fees and expenses).
Your plan is not only about financial matters, however, every other aspect feeds into the finance component and will help you gain an overall understanding of how your business is going and changes that need to be made to improve and grow.
Your business plan is a living document, which means it changes as your business grows. The plan will help keep everything on track, including your bookkeeping, accounts and overall management and day-to-day running of the business. A business coach can help you create the plan, or you can download a free template and examples off the internet.
Online Classes versus In-Person Lessons
Another factor to consider is whether you are going to provide online classes, pre-recorded lessons or in-person tutoring. Each of these services has a different price point and the fee you charge for each one should take into account elements such as:
- time taken to prepare each of the services
- equipment needed for each option (laptop, editing software, microphone etc.)
- travel expenses (e.g. an in-person lesson may require you to travel to your student; a pre-recorded lesson may require travel to a recording studio or other location).
Traditionally, an online class or online private lesson is the cheapest when it comes to live presentations as there are no travel costs to consider. However, if you are doing pre-recorded lessons to upload to YouTube or your website, these should, ideally, be cheaper unless you offer consultation and feedback after each lesson, in which case, you need to factor your time into the fee.
Again, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of weighing up the following two factors before you set and advertise your fees:
- your overall expenses (including your time) in producing and providing your services
- whether or not you are being competitive and fair with other providers of similar services.
Both of these factors speak to value.
It's All About Value
There are two components we should be considering when we think about value: the value for our students and the value of our time, expertise and effort with lesson planning and class or course preparation and follow-up.
Both should equally weigh into your process as you set your fees.
Value for money (students)
What do I get for that?
What else do you provide as part of the cost?
In today's economy, it's all about getting value for your money, whether consumers are looking for products or services.
You would know yourself that there's nothing worse than paying the dollars for a course that doesn't live up to its promises or your expectations.
University students in particular need to be careful with their money but, these days so does the career professional. And, with so many accounting courses on offer, yours will need to stand out as providing exceptional value for money in terms of the relevance of your content and the way in which you deliver it.
This is not to say that you should undercharge because not only does undercharging make no financial sense, it can actually have the opposite effect on students who assume the course is not very good or that there's some sort of catch.
The other downside to undercharging is that deep down you know you are not valuing yourself as a professional with skills and knowledge to offer students. It's a tough industry with lots of competition but it is worth it to stay strong and committed — students recognise quality and are happy to pay if they feel you provide it.
With this in mind, the areas where you need to show you value yourself, and charge accordingly, include:
- your expertise — you may have a teaching qualification or a bachelor of accounting (or a diploma or certificate level qualification) or both
- your experience — perhaps you have long-term accounting industry experience (including practical experience in bookkeeping, financial management, small business management etc.) or tutoring and course provision experience
- your time — everything takes time: preparation, liaising with students, marketing and promotion, editing of video content, course enrolment management and communication ...
Remember to incorporate other expenses and relevant financial overheads as well: room or equipment hire, courses to improve your recording (or other) skills, hardware and software purchase and maintenance, subscription fees (for online platforms such as Zoom).
Generally, students won't ask you to give details regarding your expenses but if they do, it's perfectly legitimate to tell them that your course fee is inclusive of the materials, preparation time and overheads, such as equipment.
Value yourself so your students value you.
Other Points to Consider Before Promoting Your Accounting Lessons
Once you have the financial side sorted, and you're happy with it, you've completed half the battle but don't sit back and get complacent because a successful business does not run on good financial management alone.
Where are your students?
You may have the best value for money accounting course but if you don't have any customers then it won't get you far. You need to know how and where to find students to fill those seats in your course or slot them into your tutoring schedule.
Plan, plan, plan ...
You may know all the principles of accounting, or the ins and outs of bookkeeping, accounts and finance or small business management like the back of your hand but even the most professional and proficient tutor or course presenter can make themselves look anything but professional if (when) students realise they are ad-libbing. The time you spend researching and planning your lessons will make or break your business.
Yes, it all sounds like a lot of hard work — fees, planning, advertising, finding (and keeping) students — but the benefits of being a tutor definitely outweigh the negatives (and effort) of the setup.
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