I am not a quitter. At least, I wasn’t. Not until about two weeks ago. A combination of factors collided in such a way that I realized walking away from $400 a month was the smartest decision I could make. So I quit my highest paying tutoring gig.
As a tutor, I deal primarily with students. That’s where my passion is. And I’d like to think that after nearly a decade in the classroom, there really isn’t a parent or guardian that I can’t handle. But in this case, I met my match.
The first few years that I worked with this family were great. The student made progress and the family seemed genuinely grateful. Sure, there were last-minute cancellations or miscommunications on occasion, but that’s what happens when you deal with kiddos. They get sick, they forget, they even make excuses. That’s to be expected. Really, things were great.
Then, about a year ago, I started dealing with more cancellations. One time, I reached out to the parents and the father wrote back, “Managing million dollar acct at work. Can’t be bothered with this.” That’s one of the lengthier responses I’d ever received from him. Most of the time, the husband blamed the wife and the wife blamed the husband. I have no idea what it is like to be married with children, so who am I to judge? I didn’t like it, but I let it go.
Not soon after the cancellations started, I would also get random emails sent from a cell phone that were full of home renovations or vacation home pictures. The comments ranged from “Maybe one day you’ll have one” to “If you and your husband want to borrow the keys, just let me know.” I was awash with every emotion, oscillating from insulted to disturbed. He even took the time to caption one “WIP”. That merited a follow-up email to make sure I understood: “Forgot your [sic] not in business. Means work in progress.” Still, I tried to laugh it off. The student was a pleasure to work with and was really struggling. I didn’t want to give up now, not after four years of working together.
Finally, last month, the family asked that I rearrange my schedule to accommodate two additional tutoring sessions per week — the SAT and ACT were on the horizon. After juggling around some other commitments, I made it work. Then, a whole string of cancellations happened; one not more than 30 minutes before the student was set to arrive at the library. I replied to the family and said, “If this session is cancelled, I expect to be paid. We agreed upon a 24-hour notice policy.” The student showed, and I got paid. All was well until the next week when the father emailed, “I’m cancelling our next session and I most certainly will not be paying.” That was 12 hours before we were supposed to meet.
With a few swift keystrokes, I replied that I would no longer be making myself available for these sessions due to the frequent cancellations. I did not mention any of the subtle digs or shoddy attitude. After all, tigers don’t change their stripes. There was no objection, no apology, only a half-hearted attempt to blame their child.
If I run the math and realize that I let almost $5,000 a year slip through my fingers, I feel pretty terrible. But if I look back in my tutoring folder in my Gmail account and see all the abuse and disrespect I tolerated for four years, I feel ever worse. Side hustling is great. But it isn’t worth your self-respect.