Free tutoring management software - can it work?

 Sam Jenkins
Business Management Small business Startup Tutoring

For those of you who aren’t already aware, TutorCruncher offers business management software specialised to the needs of the tutoring industry. We’re pretty confident that our pricing offers great value to our users. However, a conversation in the office got us thinking: Is there such a thing as free tutoring management software?

The premise of TutorCruncher is to combine and streamline lots of individual systems. With that in mind, we set about creating a system workflow which would allow us to manage the esteemed company Dinotutors at zero cost (besides the cost of electricity, an internet connection, a computer, snack-based sustenance etc). Let me tell you how I would hypothetically run my hypothetical business!

The spreadsheet database

Spreadsheets in general are tremendously versatile ways of storing data. You can do an enormous amount with them, and assuming you’re not working with reams and reams of data, they will more than likely prove sufficient for the purposes of managing a database. For our free tutoring management software, we’re going to use Google Sheets as it doesn’t cost a penny.

First and foremost, it’s all accessible via the cloud which is great. I’m not limited to a specific workstation if I need to access my files which is handy as I’m often on the move as I like to put in a lot of face time with my clients. It’s pretty easy to use too, I’ve got a different file for each one of my clients in my ‘Client’ folder for all of their relevant contact details. I’ve got files within my ‘Tutor’ folder too and copying and pasting the layout of the document isn’t too tricky. I do find that I quite quickly end up with lots of windows open at the same time so that I can quickly and easily open the various files I need to access people’s contact details and send them emails and update their payment history and add notes so I remember to email their secretary too and check in after their first lesson… But hey, it does the job and it keeps me busy!

Let me just bring up your file...

The sales funnel

What’s wrong with pen and paper? Not too much in a way, and having a good old fashioned notebook/planner isn’t necessarily inelegant to keep on top of managing and converting your leads. You might even have a whiteboard where you pop everybody’s details in.

But do you know what? I’m bringing things into the 21st century and managing my sales funnel with, you guessed it, a spreadsheet. I’ve got a big list of all of my clients and a dropdown next to their names to show what ‘stage’ they are in, whether I’ve arranged a free consultation, whether they’ve already paid upfront, and whether they’ve left me an online review. It’s a little tricky to remember to copy and paste the information across and update things on both my sales funnel and my client database spreadsheet, and I may well end up having a bit of a clearout once a month to ensure everything on there is accurate, but it’s a handy thing to have!

A Beautiful Mind is a classic, but managing your sales pipeline this way could be tricky

The scheduling

I’m going to ditch the Swiss-army spreadsheet and mix things up with a bit of Google Calendar. It’s quite simple really, I add all of my tutors to the same Google calendar so that they can see the lessons I have scheduled for them. I ask them as well to add details of the lessons that they conduct just so I am aware of who is with whom and at what time. It’s a little painstaking to get through as there can be quite a number of lessons on there at any given time - and I would rather not give my clients direct access as I don’t want them seeing all of the other lessons going on.

Additionally, I have a phone contract with unlimited SMS so I tend to give every client a text message one day before their lesson takes place. I’m always on my phone anyway, so why not use it for something productive and it really lines up with the personal service I like to provide.

The invoicing and payments

This is a two stage process:

  1. My tutors send me a timesheet of the hours they have worked
  2. I take these hours and plug the numbers into my invoice template (a document, spreadsheet, or PDF generator does just fine)

Step 1 is a little tricky as my tutors tend to not use the template timesheet spreadsheet (try saying that after a day of full-on admin) I’ve already sent them, so I often need to do a bit of fiddling with the information they do send over and fill it in myself. Either way, I can get a reasonably accurate record of what the tutors have taught so that I can go through these timesheets and prepare an invoice to my clients.

For Step 2 I’ve got a template file to which I plug in the numbers, then I ‘Save As’ a new invoice each time. I then send it over email to the parent and have instructions on the document for them to make a manual bank transfer.

I then return to the original client spreadsheet to pop in the invoice reference and the payment status. I’ll then just keep an eye on my bank statement and wait for the client to pay me - I hope they quote the correct reference number so I know which invoice I need to write down has been paid and I hope they remember to pay me and I hope when they do pay me they pay me the correct amount.

Now, I just need to pay my tutors! I’ll tally up everything on the timesheet they sent over and just pop a bank transfer into their account. All I need to do is remember to check my online banking if I haven’t already written down that I have done the transfer on my tutor’s spreadsheet file…

I might even smoothen this by using a free banking tool like Monzo. I can include a link for my clients to pay me when I send them over their invoice, I'll get a notification on my phone whenever the invoice is paid, and tutors can transfer into my Monzo account too. I'll just need to make sure I keep all of my other records of payment updated!

We use Monzo all the time to get paid so why not get my clients to pay this way?

And, voila! Simple, no?

Well, there are two things we’d like to highlight here in ascending order of importance:

  1. How many times have I used the word spreadsheet? (10, including this sentence)
  2. How on earth can this process be an effective use of my time?!?!

The nightmare

In our quest to do everything at zero cost, we’ve lost sight of what actually matters. It takes me literally an entire day a month to do all of my invoicing, and then I feel like I spend the rest of the month just chasing up payments and making sure everything has been done correctly before I do it all again. The other side of this coin is that I quite simply don’t have the time to offer a quality service to my clients because I’m just getting snowed under in administration.

And what about my ambitions to expand my offering and take on more tutors to work with more clients? I can’t see that happening in a million years. Maybe I could hire an administrator to help me out? Even if I paid them a living wage of £10.20 an hour, taking someone on full-time would cost me upwards of £20k a year…

The solution

This scenario reflects an amalgamation of real conversations we have had with our companies who are just trying to provide a simple, but important service, to their clients. Very quickly, a ‘free’ management system can become a bit like Frankenstein’s monster!

Now the point isn’t that you can get tools for a little bit more money which do slightly better individual tasks. The point is that you need something which integrates these key components of your day to day operations and is designed with the needs of your business in mind.

That’s where TutorCruncher comes in. We can give you the tools to massively decrease the amount of time you spend on administration whilst increasing the quality of service you offer your clients.

Having problems getting paid on time? Use our integrated payment services.

Struggling to keep on top of who is having lessons and when? We’ve got automated lesson reminders to email and SMS.

Wondering how you can afford to grow? Our price plans take into account the amount of revenue you make, so you don’t have to pay a premium to have the same tools that a big company would also use every day.

If you want to unlock your company’s growth, then TutorCruncher is for you. You can save time and money whilst improving the quality of service that you offer your clients. Sign up today and you’ll never look back!