Taking the leap of faith from being a full time teacher into tutoring was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly, but with the benefit of hindsight probably wasn’t done in the most graceful way. I was incredibly lucky that my background in IT meant that I was familiar with many of the tools for online tutoring and I was able to find enough students via agencies within my first year. However, the learning curve from employed to self-employed was steep enough to nearly put me off at the start.
After meeting with members of TLN, I’ve discovered that my journey into tutoring isn’t that dissimilar from others and that we have an opportunity to pass on this knowledge and make the path to professional tuition smoother for others.
It sometimes is ‘who’ you know…
Finding students away from the big agencies is daunting and it does take time. With an established reputation, other tutors will feel comfortable recommending you (this is one of the foundations of TLN after all), but the holy grail of referrals is the parent recommendation.
It took me some time to feel brave enough to ask for recommendations from parents and older students, but I can’t stress strongly enough how much of an impact being brave and getting reviews will help. Every term, I send a mildly apologetic email to our parents asking for their support by writing a review or recommending us via their social media channels.
Be Seen…. Consistently
It’s no use having a social media channel where you post a flurry of engaging content then disappear because ‘real’ work has taken over. You need to be seen consistently.
This doesn’t mean that you need to assign hours each day to creating new content and chatting with people on Facebook – therein lies the source of all procrastination! Instead, during a quieter time, assign yourself some time to create a set of re-usable posts that you can put out on a regular basis.
A great example of this is an Instagram/Facebook image with a key term & definition for your subject. Create enough of these to post out regularly throughout the academic year.
There’s a really good reason why toddlers repeat your name half a million times… eventually, you’re going to respond!
If it’s boring, Automate
Once you start getting a fuller timetable or your business begins to grow, you’ll want to find systems to automate some of your more mundane tasks. Many repetitive tasks can be taken over by having a robust IT system in place.
I’m not suggesting that you spend millions on a bespoke IT package (please don’t!), but there are certain services out there for sole traders and micro-businesses that will make you more productive and reduce your stress levels. These are some of my favourites:
- Online payment systems
- Accounting software (ok, “favourite” might be pushing it here…)
- Membership Portals
- Project Management software
- Team Management software
We’re Going To Need A Bigger Website…
Like many tutors, I started off with a Wix website thinking that it was just a portal for people to find me. As a Computer Science specialist, I have offended the deities of programming and regularly pay penance for this. I’ve now seen the error of my ways and the vast majority of my sites are built around WordPress which gives me more flexibility and a lot less messy code that Google dislikes.
If I could give anyone the advice I should have taken myself it would be to plan ahead with your website – plan for the website you want to have in a year (or two), not for the one you want right now because starting from scratch is painful!
Timetables aren’t just for teachers
When you first start tutoring (and for a fair bit beyond) you’re going to want to say yes to any potential work that comes your way for fear of having nothing. This is entirely reasonable, and almost all of us go through it at some point – and often more than once. But there comes a point where you’re going to be technically full and yet your brain will convince you that you could just squeeze one more in… new students are like jaffa cakes – they fool you into thinking there’s room for more, but eventually you’re going to make yourself sick.
One way I’ve avoided that this year is to draw up a timetable with built-in rest breaks. My main problem was trying to fit in too many students back to back and suddenly realising the biologically related error of my ways*. So, this year I drew up a timetable mapping out how many hours I wanted to work and blocking them in groups of no more than 2 hours at a time. When all those hours were full, I was really tough on myself and passed the query onto other tutors.
*a tutor who’s desparate to pee is not a great tutor!
I’ve certainly not perfected the technique of not being a workaholic, but I absolutely feel better for learning to say no and showing the kind of respect for my personal / family life that I want others to.
To adapt a phrase from the fabulous RuPaul…
If you can’t respect your own working time, how the hell you gonna get respect from someone else? Can I get an amen up in here?… Not quite RuPaul, but close
Holly is a founder of TLN and Director of TeachAllAboutIt Private Tuition where she is lead tutor for Computer Science, supporting students from 8-18 in addition to teacher training & adult IT courses.