There is lots of excellent advice on the interwebs about being paid properly. Some of it is polite; some quite frank. Whether you want to carefully document the reasons why you deserve a raise or boldly start adding zeroes to your hourly rates, it’s important to be paid fairly. I know. You know. We all know. Why then, dear readers, am I so adept at taking one step forward and one step back? The Step Forward
I recently landed a new tutoring gig. The day of our first lesson, I pushed through the revolving door of the library and posted myself on the bench, eager to greet the family. After a swift handshake, I started to scope out a table and directed the daughter to it. The mother casually said, “I figured my son could join too. He’s great with this so it’s almost like they’re in the same grade.” Hold up. You thought what?
My first instinct was to smile, nod, and comply. The customer is always right. Except in this case when this client clearly wasn’t. It’s not that I can’t handle teaching two kids at once. Please. On any given school day, between 70 and 90 students pass through my room. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve got this teaching thing down. Toot, toot!
What I didn’t have were extra copies of the diagnostic assessments or even a plan to simultaneously enrich and remediate a lesson. I also didn’t have a pay rate that was reflective of that extra work. In my usual awkward fashion, I stumbled over my words, nervously held up a fistful of papers, and something magic happened. I spoke up for myself.
I calmly explained that while I do tutor multiple students at a time for a discount off my regular hourly rate for one child, but it wasn’t possible for me to tutor two students who had different needs for the same hourly rate as one child. I waited. I got a puzzled look followed by a glance at the other tutors in the library. It was as if she was weighing her options. Then, she looked at me and said, “You’re right. That wouldn’t be fair.”
The Step Back
A long time ago in a place far away, I wrote about a less than stellar tutoring situation. By the end of it, this family actually convinced me that no side hustle was better than that side hustle. And it was. Until it wasn’t.
Two weeks ago, I found out that I would be making considerably less money through my side hustling than I had hoped, mostly due the fact that kids have a knack for convincing their parents they no longer need help right before school starts. Now, I know I’ll get frantic emails from some. I’ll also probably scoop up more clients. But that’s rational. And I am not.
With hundreds of dollars less on the horizon, I was getting desperate. Remember, panicking is basically my home-run swing in life. I ramped up my listings on Poshmark. I posted a fall tutoring listing on our neighborhood forum. I agreed to start working for THAT family again. You knew that was coming, right?
Here’s the thing. It was just a temporary stint to help outline a scholarship essay. We were supposed to meet a handful of times. I knew what an unfortunate ending our first run had, but I also knew how terrible it felt to lose out on income. So we met. The son canceled. We met again. The payment got left at home. The father canceled. And I flipped my lid. Not only did I refuse to meet with his son again or even look at the essay until I received payment, I stopped answering emails. The check magically appeared the next day. Aha!
Gloating, I sent an email acknowledging the payment and acquiescing to another session to finish the essay. The reply I received was almost instant. Fireworks sounded. The heavens opened. A chorus of angels sang out. I stuck to my guns, I stood my ground, and I finally showed him who was boss. Victory!
Then, I actually read the email. More precisely, I looked at it. A brand new hot tub sat proudly on a deck in front of a multi-million dollar lake house. Turns out, this is exactly what people mean when they talk about winning a battle and losing the war.
So Tell Me…What’s the best worst client or boss story you’ve heard? Do you think I’ll ever truly grow a spine?