Learning What I’m Worth

Worth (1)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?


Learning What I’m Worth

31 thoughts on “Learning What I’m Worth

  1. Barb says:

    I’m confused. Did your new (old) client write anything in the email or just send you a picture of his latest item(s) of conspicuous consumption? If it is the later…and I suspect it is…you just got the finger. It was a colossal FU; look how successful I am and you are not. It is worth noting that he defines success by buying toys and you don’t fall for that nonsense.

    So what to do? Depends on how badly you need the money and I can’t sit in judgement of what direction you go. My first instinct would be to return the check without comment and never communicate with them again. But, in the real world you have specific financial goals and only you can decide how much you can tolerate. I feel badly for the kid with these parents as role models.

    1. Oh, I’m definitely not replying. And you’re definitely right. He signed off by saying his son was out relaxing. Previously, he quite enjoyed telling me that one day maybe I, too, would be able to afford a lake house. I feel so badly for his son. That’s why it was so hard quitting the first time.

  2. “But that’s rational. And I am not.” An entire field of economics (and a couple Nobel Prizes) are built around this one thought. I’ve definitely been there before. It’s tough to give a value to your own time and effort. I don’t have any answers other than just to keep working at it.

  3. I’d call that a step forward (good for you!) and maybe half a step back. The way I see it, you made a conscious decision based on all the factors, including your own feelings, and hoped that things might be different with this client (I’m going to politely call him that although I can think of some other choice terms that seem more appropriate!). And you held your ground when it didn’t work out that way. Who cares about his hot tub or his intentions in that e-mail? Just because he thinks he won doesn’t mean that he did. It simply means that you’re closer to your goals and he’s closer to owning a bunch of toys to try to impress other people.

    1. You’re the best, Gary! That’s such a wonderful way to frame it. I didn’t even reply to the last email. Not worth it! Though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I considered taking a photo of the biggest house on the lake near my parents’ cottage 😉

  4. Way to go standing up for yourself! It’s way better than just going with the flow, then being mad and resentful afterwords. (my specialty!)

    I worked in commissioned sales for a few years, and while it seems odd, there really is no more entitled group than the very wealthy. Where 10% of the general population is difficult and rude to deal with, the very wealthy is closer to 50%. I like having more financial independence, but I never want to be THAT guy.

    1. It terrifies me that people are rude like that. Sometimes I wonder if that kind of affluence makes people feel like they have a free pass. But really, sometimes I think people are just like that regardless of money!

  5. Standing up for yourself, particularly in a situation such as this (involving children), is really difficult. I think it’s great you did it! (I only hope I would be able to do it too!)

    But that email! Oh my goodness. Even though you know he’s just a jacka**, it’s frustrating. I always tell my daughter – when someone is trying to prove how much better they are than you, it’s important to realize that they feel insecure and bad about themselves.

    1. Yup! All of those emails are insecurities. It’s just hard not to let them scratch away at my confidence. It’s definitely not worth $40 a week!

  6. Way to go on your response to the two-kid tutoring session! I hate having to break bad news like that on the fly — without any time to rehearse my words or, even better, being able to put them in writing. But like you, I’ve gotten better at recognizing that the outcome when I don’t say no is far worse than the awkwardness of just being forward about it.

    It really is time to drop “that” family for good, though. But you already knew that 😉

    1. I couldn’t believe it. Usually, I’m much better at emailing. In fact, my first thought was to just suck it up for the first session and then send an email saying it wouldn’t work. I’m not sure what came over me…but I like it!

  7. Your nightmare dad reminds me of 2 Dumbledore quotes
    “As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”


    “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike …We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.”

    Don’t let the man get you down.

  8. Good for you on standing your ground with the mom who wanted 2 for the price of 1.

    I swear, Penny, I’m feeling my heart rate go up just thinking about that a@@/father. I’d send him back a photo of some business man behind bars (just Google it and images come up) AND an image of hell – because eventually he’s going to both places!

  9. Wow, that is quite the entitled parent.

    I haven’t had an experience close to this, but Mrs AE took a summer job as a nanny where the son would randomly start chucking golf balls at her. When she told the father she got the “yea, he sometimes does that” then asked her if she could go grocery shopping for them

  10. What a rat’s puddle of you know what that guy is. You think success is defined by that stuff you have? Pretty sure you’re going to find yourself old and despised by that same kid you gloat on behalf of, down the road. Letting your life be defined by the acquisition and flaunting of money tends to do that.

    A spine you have, you just have to learn to let it shine 🙂

  11. Wow – that was great that you stood up to that mom. I have a horrible time saying no to things. And that dad is just an ass for sure – but you have the heart of a teacher and understand that “the problem is the problem” and in this case, the kid is really not the problem. But it certainly seems the line’s been crossed this time. My spine is much more “flimsy” than yours and that’s why my administrative career was never meant to move forward (as in taking a principal position). Even though I am filling in now, when the conflicts start arising – I’ll be wishing I was back in front of my students 🙂

    1. Everyone keeps asking why I’m not pursuing principalship for my second Master’s. This is exactly the reason. Everything that is good about education has to do with kids and coworkers. The red tape and politics? Not even a little bit! 😉 I am sure you are exceptional at what you do, and I know that school is lucky to have you.

  12. People who need to be chased to pay for what they’ve consumed are frustrating. People who then try to rub your nose in their material wealth are just silly. I’d much rather be a person known for paying my debts than a person who can have multiple properties to take care of. What a jerkwad.

  13. That guy sounds like such a piece of work. Wow! Sorry you have to deal with it but I always remind myself (and my kids) that feeling the need of that much approval from others is pure insecurity and lack of self worth. And the best response?

    It’s not a non response and not a comment. It’s more like “I saw” type comment. I often will respond with a

    “Great. Now about my missed payments…. I will no longer be available but here are my owed amounts” << great with a period is alway a nice passive aggressive way to say "whatever" without people really knowing what you mean. haha!

    Because if you DO respond he knows he impressed or bugged you. (not sure WHY that is his goal but I guess he needs to impress/bug everyone? Sad little man). If you ignore, he will THINK he impressed/bugged you. But if you respond and just move on? That's the killer.

    Good luck!!

  14. That sounds like an awful human being. I think you DID grow a spine and will be slowly be more assertive and stand your ground. I’m trying to be more assertive with everything as well to make sure that I don’t get taken advantage of. Assertive beats every other characteristic in this wheel! (Dominant, passive, or passive aggressive).

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