If I wanted to be a “Businesswoman,” I wouldn’t have become a teacher
Working for myself as a tutor required a big shift in thinking. I had always worked for big companies and institutions before I started working for myself. One of the most important things for me when I started out was finding a way to get paid automatically for online tutoring. I didn’t want to have to do the “running a business” stuff that seemed awful and scary. I loved the idea of the freedom of working for myself, but I dreaded chasing down payments, sending invoices, and *gulp*, worst of all, actually having to ask people to pay me. When I figured out I could get paid automatically for online tutoring, I was sold!
Person-to-person payment services
You may already be using one or more of these methods in your everyday life. People have become pretty used to just clicking a link or opening an app and sending money. Parents of tutoring students are no exception. When they ask about payments, PayPal and Venmo are the two my clients ask about the most.
- PayPal – A business account is free to set up and it lets you create invoices, recurring invoices (sent out on a schedule), and subscriptions, which are recurring, automatic, payments.
- Venmo – These days, Venmo is owned by PayPal, but the services work a little differently. Your Venmo account is tied to your cell phone number. It’s designed more for people to do things like split the check or chip in for a group gift. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for tutoring payments. Venmo also has a big social component, including letting other people see what payments you send, so check your privacy settings to keep things confidential. Be especially careful if you’re using it for both business and personal expenses.
- Zelle – Zelle is a service that allows one person to send money directly from their bank account to another person’s, using email or cell phone information as the identifier. You can enroll if your bank participates in Zelle, which many do, and Zelle itself does not charge any fees to use the service, which is a nice perk.
Credit card processing
If you want to accept credit and debit cards from your clients, which many appreciate, you will need to sign up with a credit card processor.
- Stripe – Stripe is the credit card processing service I use. They charge a fee of 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction. For that reason, I save a bit of money doing monthly, rather than weekly, charges. They do offer the option of recurring automatic payments. I ended up choosing Stripe because they had more options for non-U.S. customers, which is something I needed to accommodate.
- Square – Square is another popular credit card processor. They seem a little more user-friendly than Stripe, which may make them easier to set up. Their fees are comparable. When I checked them out, they were offering a discount on fees to new users, so you may be able to get a promotional rate at first.
- PayPal – PayPal also offers credit card processing, with fees similar to those of Stripe and Square. If you’re already using Paypal, you might want to apply for this option and keep all your payments in one account. One less place to look when you are totalling up your income and expenses at tax time!
- QuickBooks – If you are a QuickBooks user, you can send invoices and receive bank or credit card payments directly from QB. They don’t seem to support a monthly recurring payment option. Their fees are no different than the other options.
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Invoice vs. recurring
OK, there are all kinds of ways to get paid, but how do you get paid automatically for your online tutoring? It’s all in how you set up the payments. My clients pay the same amount every month. I calculate what their sessions would cost in a four-week month. If they work with me twice a week, they pay 2 sessions x 4 weeks x my rate every month. I get paid on a regular schedule at the beginning of the month, and they know exactly how much they will owe every time. There are a few different, simple, ways of setting up these payments:
- PayPal subscriptions – You set the amount, the frequency, and the stop date if needed. Your client clicks on a link from you to sign up, and you get paid every week or month (I recommend monthly). You can also create a PayPal subscription button for your website, but I find that all my tutoring packages are a little different (pricing, hours per week) so I create an individual link almost every time. Subscriptions can be paused and restarted by either party, so if my students take a break for the summer or we need to cancel some sessions, I pause the subscription and restart it later.
- Stripe or Square subscription or “automatically charge card on file” – Either of these services supports recurring charges.
- Make sure you get clear permission – This should go without saying. Make sure when you are setting up any kind of payment plan that you have written permission to charge the credit card or payment method you are using. PayPal is the one that feels easiest to me because the client clicks the link and authorizes the payment. If you are doing recurring payments from Stripe or Square, make sure you have written authorization from parents to charge their cards. It’s also good to have a written policy about when and how you use that information. Here is the information Square offers on best practices for recurring charges.
Automatic payments make things simpler
Online tutoring is a great service to offer your clients and it can make your business simpler, too. No getting stuck in traffic or kids sneezing on your table. By setting up automatic payments with your clients, you can also save yourself the headache of weekly invoices and tracking payments. No more wondering how much you’ll get paid this month. It lets you put your focus back on teaching, and isn’t that why we got into tutoring?
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