Why I don’t charge by the hour.

When I decided to become a self-employed tutor as my full-time occupation, I started out doing what I’d always done when I did a bit of tuition “on the side” alongside employment – I charged for the hour I worked with the child, and based this on the going rate for my area.  In 2020 for my area this was £25/h, so that’s what I charged. 

In a matter of weeks, it was clear this was not enough.  I realised that if I lived 20 miles away in Cheltenham I could easily charge another £10+ per hour.  My rate of pay was lower because of where I lived, even though I work online and location is irrelevant.  This seemed unfair!  After a few months I upped my price to £30/hour, nobody batted an eyelid and I rumbled on for 6 months or so.

Tutor working online with a child

Why charging by the hour didn’t work

During this time, I became fully booked.  I was tutoring every evening from 3.30pm until 7.30pm Monday to Thursday and until 5.30pm on Friday.  I was spending all my mornings planning sessions.  Once I took off money for the tax pot (just in case I owed any), business expenses and my own “personal survival budget” – my essential living bills – I had nothing left to pay myself with.  I was literally working to pay the bills.  Nothing more. 

This was not the plan.

Tutor working at the ccomputer with a child

I felt like I was back in teaching, working all hours (not as many as a teacher, but more than I was getting paid for and more than I wanted to), doing most of the work for free.  All the session prep and planning was not covered by my hourly rate – that was literally for the time I am working with the child. Add on all the time I spent on running a professional, proper business such as social media, training, marketing, networking, and more than half my working week was totally unpaid. 

When I left the teaching profession in summer 2020, broken, with chronic stress and depression, I promised I would prioritise my own wellbeing going forward.  No more working to burn out, no more not being valued for the work I do, no more working for free.  I wanted:

-flexibility to work when I want, how I want.

– to make a good income, at least equivalent to my part-time M6 teacher salary to start with.

– To look after my wellbeing.  I come first.  I value myself.

Tutoring for 15 hours a week, with at least that again on top for free, with no time to nurture and grow my business at £30 an hour was not sustainable in meeting these goals.

Charge for skills not time

By summer 2021 I was seriously frustrated and wanted to change up how I did things.  I’d been tutoring full-time for a year, and was not even earning the equivalent of an ECT.  I knew it would take time to reach a salary level on par with what I earned as a teacher, but equally, I didn’t see why it would have to take years.  I’ve been working in primary education for 20 years – I’ve put in a lot of graft already.  My business might be new, but my skills in doing it are expert and advanced.

I began to notice what other service providers were charging: 

My hairdresser – £40 for a cut and blow dry; a local copy writer, £90 for a power hour, or £250 a month for a done-for-you package; a beauty therapist – £40+ for most treatments; coaches – double my rate at the bottom end. 

At the time, I was having hypnotherapy to help with a phobia.  I was paying her (very happily) £50 for my hour long sessions.  She had a sliding scale, the lowest being £40/hour.  A few years earlier I had seen a counsellor and paid her £40 for 50 minutes. 

It struck me that what these people were providing was not all that different to what I do.  Highly skilled professionals who have trained and worked hard to develop their expertise.  They move people from point A to point B using this skill and expertise. And they were charging a lot more than the average hourly rate for a qualified and experienced tutor.

I also became interested in how many service providers didn’t charge per hour.  They sold packages for a fixed price.  They weren’t selling their time, they were selling their skills.  I came across this more and more – selling your time is unstainable and outdated.  It’s based on Victorian “clocking in and out” systems, being paid for the time you stood at your “machine”. 

This is not the world we live in.  We live in the 21st century, not the 19th. People choose me as their child’s tutor because I have excellent knowledge of primary learning and know how to encourage children, build their confidence and help them understand the foundations of concepts that will hold them in good stead for the rest of their life – my skills and experience.  They aren’t paying me to sit with their child for an hour – my time.

My money mindset journey begins

In June 2021 I began working with a mindset coach who put me on my money mindset journey.  I discovered Denise Duffield Thomas and other amazing business women changing the old, patriarchal narrative.  I went through a huge shift:

Key money mindset shifts

  • Money is a tool that helps women take care of themselves and have the energy to help others.
  • You deserve to get paid (and not with the scraps.)
  • Charging appropriately is an act of self-care and self-love.
  • It is not greedy or unethical to charge well for what you do.
  • You serve, you deserve.
  • Work doesn’t have to be hard.
  • Making money doesn’t have to be hard.

My coach helped me realised all these things.

I threw the concepts of charging by the hour, charging based on my location,  charging based on the “going rate” and charging based on the age of the child and subject taught out of the window and moved to a fixed monthly fee that recognised my qualifications, experience and skills. 

No sibling discounts, no refunds, the same amount every month paid in advance.

It is now 11 months since my full-price monthly package came into being.  I’m fully-booked and earning the equivalent of my M6 full-time salary. I am paid appropriately for all the work I do. I work fewer hours, have time to invest in growing my business and am earning more as a result.

It wasn’t all plain sailing.  It was difficult and I’ve had doubts I did the right thing at times, but in less than a year I’m where I wanted to be financially and personally and looking forward to growing even more. 

Summary

  • Charging by the hour is unsustainable, outdated and makes you work for free.
  • Charging by location is an anomaly in our modern “Zoom” community.  It doesn’t matter where I am.  Why should my postcode influence what I charge?  I’ve lived all over the country and whilst some places are cheaper to live than others, the differences in cost of living outside of London and the South East are not that pronounced.
  • Charging “the going rate” creates limiting beliefs about what you “should” charge.  Ignore it and charge appropriately for your qualifications, skills, experience and the results you get.
  • Parents happily pay my rate, and understand what the fee includes.  The fixed amount each month helps them budget and they value me and my service even more because they see excellent outcomes for their investment.

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