How can I make my socially responsible business more profitable?

I’m tired of working two jobs, but my tutoring business is still not making enough to support me. My dream is to be able to help any family, regardless of how much they can pay me. I know you’ll tell me that’s not feasible. Right now I tutor lots of kids and I don’t turn away anyone, no matter how much they can pay. How can I keep helping families who need me and still make enough money to pay my mortgage?

4 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I think you might be trying to do something impossible. If you run a non-profit then donors pay your salary and you don’t need to charge people a fee when you help them. But then you work for the nonprofit and you don’t get to make your own decisions about who to help and how to help them.

    On the other hand, if you run your own business you can make all the decisions. And you can help whoever you want. But if you help people who don’t have much money then you won’t earn much money. So it might be best for you to separate the way you make money and the way you help people who do not have money.

    A way to think about this issue is that each of us has about 16 hours in a day to do whatever we want (we eat and sleep the rest of the time) Most people prioritize this way:
    1. close relationships
    2. food and shelter
    3. one more thing

    If you make number 3 helping poor people, that’s fine. You will decide how you want to do that. You will define who is poor. And what that help looks like, and you will do it. These aren’t easy questions. Like, kids who are really poor probably do not need someone to tutor them. They are probably in survival mode. And parents who earn $70K/year probably are too paycheck-to-paycheck to hire tutors. You’d probably have to give those kids tutoring for free if you want to tutor them. You need to decide where your volunteer work will make the most impact.

    But before you can use your time to help people, you need to make a plan for your business. And how you’re going to make money. And you get stable. And then once you decide you are making enough money to feel stable, then you can make a plan for who you are going to help with your extra time. Most people who are building their own business work very hard to get it off the ground and don’t have extra time to do volunteer work. But you will find out what’s true for you.

    Don’t forget about number 1 in that list. I mean, what is the point of work and planning and education? I think it is so people can create meaningful, enduring relationships. For most people that is a spouse. And most people who are committed to each other are stable want to have children together. If that is you, then you need to leave room for that. There’s a reason that most people who do volunteer work do not take care of young children and do not work fulltime earning money.

    There are no wrong answers to these questions. But if you choose something that is impossible, because you don’t want to give anything up, then it’s tantamount to giving up your ability to choose.


  2. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    You say – “Right now I tutor lots of kids and I don’t turn away anyone, no matter how much they can pay.” That’s not sustainable when you say – “How can I keep helping families who need me and still make enough money to pay my mortgage?” If you said – “How can I keep helping families who need me and still make enough money to pay for my discretionary expenses? – that is a totally different scenario. You can’t afford to tutor kids regardless of how much they can pay. Period. What you can do and I would recommend is to find a way that’s most impactful for you and the kid based on a kid’s need for a tutor and their need for assistance based on their economic status. You need some proof of the necessity of the kid’s economic assistance. I don’t pretend to know how to do that. What you do want to avoid is someone asking for your assistance while their family is spending money on cable tv with extra packages as an example. As for the kid’s need for tutoring, because they’re having difficulty with learning something, I would recommend having the parents establish proof and then you make your own assessment. These will be hard decisions on your part no doubt. However, they need to be made based on the information you’ve provided.

  3. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    If your goal is to help people you need to make more money. You can’t help anyone if you burn out.

    You should work on getting more wealthy clients and increase your prices and then offer scholarships to students that cannot pay the full price. You could even create new options that cater to wealthy families who need help while their kids are not in school. It will cut down on the time you have to help lower income families in the short term but focus on the long term. If you make more money you can open tutoring centers, hire more staff and help more people.

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