Cancellations and noshows

121, private and corporate teaching share a common difficulty. What is it you may ask? Well, it is that they have a higher chance of cancellations and noshows.

Now, if you have some kind of cancellation policy then you should get paid, unless the cancellation is just before it kicks in i.e. an hour. For no shows it should be no question about getting paid if there is a signed contract with a clause mentioning such a situation.

It’s in these situations that us teachers have to put our business hats on. Personally, I like to keep my teacher hat on but it seems that the more freelancing I do, the more I need to get into the business side if I want to get paid. It’s definitely a plus working for a school which pays you a flat fee, cancellation or not but I don’t think the majority of us are in that situation.

Enforcing the cancellation and noshow policy can be uncomfortable but if it’s in a signed contract then it should be followed, in theory. I mean, we block out the time, plan etc. In the case of working at a school, there are more costs incurred.

I know several students who are professional and are fine to pay for cancellations and noshows but I’m pretty sure I know others who wouldn’t be. the same as I know people and organisations who don’t seem pleased to pay for their training at the end of the course. For independent freelancers who take on one big in-house contract this can be terrible. I had a friend whose company was in this situation too. Letters were sent and lawyers were mentioned. Maybe he got paid in the end but how can you survive for months with no pay, even worse, how can you fay the costs of your business?

I’ve come to trust my instincts now. When you meet new or potential clients you do get a sense of if they understand the rules and will follow them. After all, I think most of us live up to our end of turning up and delivering quality so why should we have to enter conversations about getting paid for our work. One reason may be the opinions some clients have of the service we deliver. Here are some I have heard:

“They’re only English classes, it’s not serious”

“I thought it would be OK”

“Why should I pay for a class I didn’t have?”

On my end, I tend to dress and behave professionally. It’s a job and when you’re working with business people you have to look and be the part. 


9 thoughts on “Cancellations and noshows

  1. The company I work for has a 24-hour notice policy, be it cancellation or changes. Less than that they get charged. I’d always assumed they charged the companies in advance but perhaps I assume wrongly, I don’t know. In practice, if they ask me for a change and I can accommodate them (the clients liaise with me directly), even if it’s on short notice, I’ll do it.
    When I used to do private, it was quite a nightmare, which is one reason I don’t like doing them anymore, if I can help it.
    The ideal situation if if you can charge in advance with a 24-hour notice agreement.

    • Hi Chiew,

      Thanks for the comment. That’s a good step by schools. It should be the norm but I just don’t know why some clients agree to it then get fussy. I had one who just didn’t show so we called her and she didn’t answer. I then got an email 2 days later with some reason or other. That’s just unprofessional. I don’t think that would happen in China, well, not with uni students. They see teachers are very important. I’ve had opposite in others countries though where people said “you are my employee, I pay you so you do what I want”. Hmmmm. Now that’s a whole other issue.

  2. where I work it’s more or less the same – I think my dentist in the UK also has a cancellation policy – after all at the end of the day, it is a business as is language teaching.
    Where I worked before it was 48 hours in advance to cancel without penalty – maybe that was a bit too far in advance but it was clearly stated in all the information to the client company and student when booking and starting a course.
    As a freelancer it must be harder to enforce rules – advance payment is one way and making it clear how it all works at the beginning, I guess.

    • Hi Cathy,

      Thanks for the info. 48 hours sounds great. I had a situation not long ago where 4 classes were cancelled a few days before. That meant I lost the money those classes would have made, I couldn’t take anything else as it was too late and I had arranged/rearranged other students so I could fit these ones in. Not to mention child care when that’s an issue. A real pain!

  3. So true! I teach French, so imagine how “unimportant” or frivolous some people think it is. Yet for me it is a living, like for any other business person. A written contract is necessary. 24hr notice is the norm. Still, with this, some clients will do noshows. Too bad, the rules are clear, and they must pay. I make exceptions for people who are obviously sick, or some extraordinary circumstance. That’s why working for or with a school is helpful, as you have them backing you up. But on our own, putting the “business” hat on is absolutely necessary. Signing a contract also helps avoiding noshows, because it makes the client more responsible.

    After all, if you take an appointment with any professional, like a health professional, or a lawyer, and don’t show, do you think you don’t need to pay?

    • Hi Marie,

      Good points. Yes, I have seen those signs in some doctors surgeries but have never seen them enforced. I wonder if the doctor would do it as it risks losing a patient, potentially.

  4. “It’s definitely a plus working for a school which pays you a flat fee, cancellation or not but I don’t think the majority of us are in that situation.” Who is the audience of your blog?

    • Yep. Everyone I know, in whatever country, says FT contracts are rare. I really think they should make that point clear when people apply for the CELTA. I remember that a lot of the people on mine believed they were getting a new amazing career. 6 months later I was the only one with a UK FT job, half had gone back to what they were doing before,a few had got PT hours and the others did fly off to do random jobs wherever the school offered work.

      When I did a pre-CELTA course, they guaranteed FT work abroad as a ‘volunteer’ but you had to pay for the privilege

      Audience? Just me and whoever wants to read it. I’m not Tweeting or advtstg anymore as I’m doing it more as a traditional weblog.

      • I don’t think getting paid a flat fee regardless of cancellations is only a symptom of FT jobs. Most everyone I know, who are not private tutors, get paid hourly no matter how many students are in their classes. That doesn’t suggest that their work is guaranteed during the next month.

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