Should Freelance Teachers Advertise Their Prices? (Part 4)
Once Your Prices Are Made Public…
(Part 4 of 4)
Remember the Aesop’s fable The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf’?
A shepherd-boy, who was guarding a flock of sheep, kept playing a joke on the nearby village inhabitants by crying out, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ in the middle of the night. He did this three or four times, laughing each time when his neighbours came in vain to help him.
One night, however, the wolf really did come and began slaughtering the sheep. The shepherd-boy cried out in terror ‘Wolf! Wolf’ but to no avail. Nobody listened to his cries for help and nobody came to help. The wolf killed his whole flock of sheep.
The moral of the story is that no one believes a liar, even when he tells the truth. Would a similar situation develop once your prices are made public? For example:
- What happens if you choose to make your teaching prices public? Can you change your prices? Increase them?
- What happens if you realise your prices are too high (price resistance is too high) and you want to lower the prices — but have students already paying the higher price? Wouldn’t they feel upset and complain when they learn this? Perhaps even feel cheated?
A lot more work is involved…
…If your prices are made public and you increase the basic prices. It’s a lot of work to change every place they’ve been advertised (website, brochures, pamphlets, etc.) and to keep track of what teaching area and when the changes take place.
Of course, your prices will change and preferably go up. No customer likes price increases, but life progresses and yes, the education market changes, too. And to be contrary, yes prices can also go up AND down.
Let me explain:
Thirty years ago, when the personal computer had its boom day, I was earning the equivalent of 100 Euros per lesson in local German evening classes (VHS Volkshochschule). EDP teachers were rare… Today, in the same evening class I would be lucky to earn 15 Euros for the same computer tuition. Life and technology has changed over the years. Customers of today are children who have grown up with computer technology and people of my age have learnt meanwhile to cope with the media. The environment of teaching people how to use a computer has changed and with it, and the prices have changed, too: downwards. The earning scope for teachers as well as the tuition price paid by learners has dropped.
An ideal pricing market
In an ideal freelance teaching situation prices should move up — not down. However, what happens if you’ve misjudged your teaching market from the start and set your prices too high only to realise your price resistance factor is far too high and you’re losing customers before they even contact you?
How can you drop your prices without your current students becoming annoyed and feeling they’ve made a bad decision in choosing you? What real danger lurks when good students turn nasty and disguise their complaints by putting out ‘bad recommendations’?
This is a real problem because nobody likes to feel tricked — although the price was agreed at that time. Going back to the Aesop’s story earlier of the boy who cried ‘Wolf,’ such situations are best avoided from the start.
However, to err is only human yet how does a beginner freelance teacher prevent antagonised students turning nasty?
When students turn nasty
If a student does turn nasty, there’s not much you can do other than learn from your experience.
However, you can try to avoid antagonised students, by first screening them through a detailed form filling exercise. True, it’s a form of obstacle that they have to overcome, but it does sort the wheat from the chaff. Briefly:
- Qualify your students by letting them fill out a detailed contact form or have them answer the questions in a detailed e-mail enquiry/response.
- Inform potential students right from the first contact that they must fill in a detailed form so you can understand their business and their aims for which they would like to receive tuition. Most people are prepared to fill out a fairly detailed form when they know the details in the form are going to help make the first meeting better. It also helps you in the first meeting by providing facts and information on issues bothering the potential student.
- During the first interview, educate/remind them of the benefits they receive plus confirm the values they will achieve by attending your course.
- Genuine students are prepared to give the details because they are serious about their future. Such students are less likely to complain audibly when they learn you are correcting your prices to fit the current market.
There is no explicit yes or no answer. Each situation must resolve its own decision-making process. Every area in teaching has its own pros and cons and points for consideration. The final decision, however, remains with the freelance teacher.
In the first section we talked about:
- Publicising prices may help to raise prices in the education market generally if every teacher advertised their prices.
- This would simplify the process for beginner freelance teachers to find out market prices.
- Competition is proof of a market for your teaching service. However, you will need to specialise to stand out from your colleagues.
- I described the three reasons why I removed the prices from my website:
- To see if my offer was attracting students
- Potential students would have to contact me to find out my prices, giving me an opportunity to talk to them
- To sift out students only interested in tuition based on low prices rather than quality teaching
We then discussed the specialised issues of disclosing or not disclosing prices depending on the form of work involved with the differing types of students from the private, commercial and industrial sectors: (second section)
- Small business and private students
- Seminars, workshops, training programmes.
- Courses and programmes for educational institutes
In the third section we discussed the pros and cons of disclosing pricing in teacher partnerships, where teachers shared offices and classrooms.
And finally, we discussed what problems could occur when prices are disclosed.
Source of this series is a chapter taken out of my new book: Pricing Matters