This week I thought I would share my experience with running a tutoring agency when I was at university.
The business started when I was doing a side gig tutoring Korean working holiday makers English conversation at a cafe in town.
Somehow somebody heard that I was doing tutoring and asked me if I could offer lessons about accounting. I replied that I didn't know any accounting myself, but I could introduce them to somebody who is a great accounting student at university who would be able to tutor someone much junior to them.
I'm not sure exactly when I learned about it, but probably a year before, I heard about a tutoring model in Korea where agencies will introduce students to teachers and then take 50% of their earnings for a certain period of time. So I took this idea and suggested it to my friend who was keen. I managed to negotiate a rate that was pretty favorable to him for his time, and also to the student.
After this worked out quite well, I realized I had a lot of friends who were doing great academically and could probably want a couple more students for some part-time work tutoring. I started with language tutoring, as I had lots of friends who were bilingual and wanted to teach, and came across Gumtree in Australia where you could advertise language tutoring services. As a marketing channel, it worked out well and it was a consistent marketing channel for me. So by adding more tutors and doing more ads on Gumtree, I was able to scale up the business to 6 tutors where I was making more than my part-time job at the time which was fixing shelves at the local supermarket. So I quit the supermarket job and focused on doing this instead.
It's kind of funny in hindsight. I remember the local bank, ANZ, was giving free financial planning sessions so I took them up on one of these. And when they heard how much I was making from the business they really encouraged me to keep working at it and grow it because they thought it could be big one day. I hadn't even thought of it as being a business that could grow into something big and give me a real full-time income. It was somehow in my mind still a casual thing.
And that was something led to the lowest experience with that particular business. One day I got a call from an angry parent who demanded something around the full stop when I mentioned that it wasn't really a business and this was something I'm doing as a hobby in on the side, they got even madder because they felt that I had not given it the two attention legally as I should have. Looking back, they were completely right.
Looking back now, I don't know exactly why I stopped doing this business. I think I may have slowed down at some point by traveling back and forth between Korea for holidays and university. I probably just let it go at some point and stopped advertising to get new students.
In hindsight, I now I realize I got really lucky.
I seem to have hit upon a need in the market, which could be filled by somebody like myself, but also the marketing channel which was scalable and dependable enough to promote the tutors that I was representing at the time.
Better yet, the business model I picked was completely random. I had just heard about it but I hadn't even interviewed any people who followed that system as a tutor, or business owners who were using it. I just made a guess that it might work. Thankfully it did. And just so you know, all the tutors I had were pretty honest, so I didn't worry about taking payment myself. They paid me the 50% share.
What would I do differently?
One issue that came up in the business was poor fit students. In one strange case, I was convinced by a person who was still in school via email that they were interested in learning a second language with one of the tutors. They were very surprised when they turned up at the first lesson. Had I been doing this business now, I should have had an intake sheet of some kind to make sure there were no hidden surprises like this.
Another thing I would have done is to treat it more like a business, quite seriously from the beginning. I should have registered more protections and separated finances etc. I probably at some point should have gotten some legal feedback on proper tutor arrangements and student agreements too.
In the same vein, I could have implemented more processes overall. Such as having an induction for new tutors, developing processes internally to ensure quality results for the students every time, as well as smooth operations.
If I look to expand the business, even more, it would have been great to develop my own intellectual property by having a particular tutoring method or program that students follow that led to repeatable results.
Finally, I would have looked to diversify away from that one classified website advertising channel. I could have experimented with Google ads for SEO to try and get more students that way.