What you should include in your cancellation policy and how to avoid time wasters


Nobody Likes Cancellations

This post is going to look at the tricky area of creating a cancellation policy and ensuring that you are paid for the lessons that you arrange.

At the moment, I have a great set of students who always turn up on time, hardly ever cancel, and when they do, give me lots of advanced notice. In the past, however, I have had students who sounded incredibly enthusiastic about booking lessons, but when it came time to take the lesson, just went missing.

It is incredibly frustrating when you are ready for a lesson and your student doesn’t show. It is even worse when you haven’t been paid beforehand and need to chase them for payment.

Minimizing cancellations and making sure that you are paid for every hour that you arrange makes a big difference to your bottom line at the end of the year. As teachers, we want to fill our schedules, teach those hours, and get paid for them.

This post will go into some of the things that you can do to limit cancellations and time wasters.

Geting the right students

It all starts with getting the right students. This is usually determined by a few key factors, and one of the most important ones is marketing to students that can afford your lessons. It is no use getting a trial lesson and then scaring away the student with your prices. Additionally, it isn’t a good long-term strategy to convert someone if in the long-run, they won’t be able to pay for them. So, always market to students that fit into your pricing structure.

Also, different students have different attitudes to English lessons. Some feel that it is normal to just not turn up without notification and payment. Others will apologize profusely if they turn up to the lesson even just a few minutes late.

The latter category of student type is what we want. It is sometimes difficult to judge which category the student is going to fall into.  Differences between cultures can make a big difference, along with the motivation of the student, and their personality.

The reason why your student wants to learn English can make a difference: having an exam for visa purposes gives the learner much more focus and reason to take lessons. I have definitely noticed that when teaching exam preparation lessons that my students hardly ever cancel and are always on time.

When thinking your niche, you should think about which students are likely to cause you least amount of problems with cancellations.

Setting out and enforcing your cancellation policy

Having a strong and clear cancellation policy is vital. You should go through this policy with your students before you start and make sure they completely understand the different scenarios at play.

So, what is the best policy to have? I have seen some teachers being very lax about no shows, while others will cancel the lesson (no refund) if their student is ten minutes late.

The following is what I have found to be fair for both parties:

  • If the lesson is cancelled with 24 hours (or more) notice, then a full refund is given.
  • If the lesson is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice, no refund is given.
  • If the student doesn’t show for whatever reason, no refund is given.

Having the student understand this policy and that you are strict about it will negate most potential problems. It is much more difficult to try and get strict with students if you have been lax about them canceling in the past.

Rearranging lessons with advanced notice is a tricky area. It is usually fine if your schedule is flexible, but if you are fully booked and don’t have any open slots, you will be less flexible to change lesson times.

You also don’t want your students to get in the habit of rearranging lessons all the time, as when they do, this is usually at a time that you haven’t planned for.

In this case, it is best to take it on a case by case and student by student basis.

Lesson Packages

Getting your student to sign up for five, ten, or twenty lesson packages at a discounted rate greatly reduces the number of cancellations and also does away with those who don’t show and don’t pay.

Having to invest in a number of lessons changes the attitude of the learner as it commits them to you for a period of time. And, if they miss a lesson, they usually don’t complain about it being counted as one of the lessons out of their package.

A package can also be used for problem students. If you are having problems with a particular student (for example, arranging lessons and then canceling often), then let them know that you can only go ahead teaching them if they commit to a time and a package. Otherwise, it is not worth all the problems and wasted energy.

Student-Teacher relationship

One of the most important factors when it comes to your students canceling is the relationship that you have. Having a mutual understanding will definitely make your student think twice about canceling.

Communicating and sticking to your policy clearly, having a strong relationship with the right students, and offering lesson packages, will ensure that your time isn’t wasted and that you get paid for the lessons that you and your students have arranged.

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