In the following paragraphs I will walk you through the reasons I started Starr Tutoring and the steps that I have taken to get us to where we are today. A company I started in 2012 to earn a bit of extra cash, to a company which is now a small team of tutors across Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire.
I hope you find this helpful.
In February, 2012 I knocked on the door of the very first person I would ever tutor.
To say I was terrified was an understatement. Things were already off to a bad start. The mum had told me that it was the cottage at the end of the lane, I thought I’d come to the end of the lane, parked up, walked to the door, plucked up all my courage and knocked. The lady who answered clearly wasn’t expecting me and sent me on my way.
I climbed back in the car, contemplated driving home and quitting before I made a bigger foul of myself and drove off… to the house at the end of the lane.
A couple of months previously I had been on a course at a local college to qualify to teach adults in a college classroom situation. Following the recent separation from my husband I had taken a job that didn’t inspire me and I was miserable at work. I needed a change and this course, I hoped would provide that.
It did, but not in a way I ever imaged.
A couple of weeks into the course, a lady who I sat near suggested I had a go at tutoring. It wasn’t something I’d ever considered and although my degree and much of my working life had been spent working in and learning about childcare and education, I wasn’t a qualified teacher. I didn’t think I would ever be able to make a go of it.
But the power of persuasion (on her part) and my need of a change gave me the kick into gear that I needed.
One Sunday evening when my children were at their dad’s house I sat down at the computer and went onto one of the national tutoring websites and entered my details. It went something like this:
Hi, my name is Dawn and I have a degree in childcare and education. For the past 16 years I have worked in educational settings; both mainstream and with special needs children…
That was my first mistake. My profile was identical to everyone else’s. There was nothing there to make me stand out.
With the benefit of hindsight this is something I feel quite strongly about, that it should be done properly. It’s no good just telling people about yourself .You need to state how your qualities will help to support the person you tutor.
I write more on this in the “Tutor’s Group” My online platform to support people in becoming successful tutors.
My next mistake was that I only charged £10/hour. Rightly or wrongly people presume they will get what they pay for, by charging just £10/hour I was unintentionally saying that I lacked the ability or the right to charge more.
As soon as I started to increase my rates (which I have continued to do ever since) the work started to flow in.
As a company we are valued much more by the parents and I believe we value ourselves much more.
That national website was effective in getting me started. However, it quickly became apparent that my own website would be hugely beneficial.
The national website I had first registered on was free for tutors but expensive for parents to contact the tutors, putting many parents off getting in touch. I was losing valuable prospective families.
The next step on my tutoring journey had to be to create my own website: it needed to be somewhere that the parents could contact me for free.
It was basic, but I hastily filled it with testimonials from the families that I had supported. This created trust.
I also made sure it was SEO friendly so that if anyone was looking for a tutor in the local area, they stood a good chance of finding me.
At this stage I wasn’t on Facebook and I had no idea about Google Adwords,
Immediately the phone started ringing, not with potential parents; that came slightly later. These initial phone calls were from companies offering me a page 1 slot on Google.
If you take nothing else away from this please take this one thing:
Don’t say yes to these. If you do, read the small print very, very carefully.
This is my reason why:
I was phoned by a company one morning offering me a first page place on Google. He walked me through all the advantages and stated for the first 6 months it would have an introductory price of £200 (approx.). In my eagerness to get the company up and running I agreed to proceed.
6 months later they were back on the phone. Because I hadn’t cancelled the contract I was now obliged to pay £15k upfront for the next year’s subscription. I explained I wasn’t in a situation to hand that money over, but agreed that if I was legally obliged to pay it, I would do it in monthly instalments of £300.
They proceeded to take the first instalment then from my credit card. At this point Barclaycard phoned to check I had authorised this payment. Yes, I had authorised 1 payment of £300. That afternoon the company proceeded to repeatedly take individual instalments until they had taken over £12 thousand pound from my card!
I did get the money back but it took over a year.
I had to chase them through the small claims court but when the bailiffs went round, the company had gone, and there was nothing more they could do.
It was Barclaycard which finally reimbursed me, not because they had allowed the company to take repeated payments from my card but because the company had mentioned they would provide me with a website (which I didn’t need) they never provided. This meant they had breached their contract and I was entitled to a full refund.
I’ve learned my lesson since then.
Over the coming years I have become dedicated to learning: how to grow a business and how to improve the support we offer to the people we tutor.
I listen to audio books when I’m in the car, I read obsessively on the subject.
The number 1 thing you will need to consider is why should a parent choose you over any one else? What makes you special? What is it that will make your business grow and help you to grow an amazing reputation as the go to tutor in your subject and local area?
My aim is to continue to take Starr Tutoring on its voyage of success across the country. Becoming the number one company to go to when looking for a tutor, who build confidence and knowledge through a wide range of teaching resources.
Whilst taking Starr Tutoring on this journey, I want to support other tutors in building successful tutoring businesses of their own through “The Tutor’s Group ” or through joining us at Starr Tutoring.
I have been told I ought to expand on this and support others in the pages of a book, so I will, until then if you want more help why not join us in “The Tutor’s Group” Facebook page or find out more about what we offer in the Starr Tutoring Association