What, how, why

The most common question I’m asked when I tell people that I’m a tutor is ‘But why aren’t you a teacher?’ — a valid question, the answer to which I’m here to explain. Tutoring is often seen as a part-time profession, something you do to bridge gaps between ‘real’, full-time jobs, a lesser teacher — in general, not a career. As I’m sure we all know, this is far from the truth, and tutors are some of the hardest working professionals I know. With that in mind, I’d like to tell you a little story about how I took this hard work and turned it into a company.

I fell into tutoring almost by accident. Having studied languages at university, and for most of my life, I was left with my degree in my hand, and no clear idea of what I wanted to do in my mind. Languages open up so many job opportunities, that there are almost too many to choose from — which aspect of languages was I truly passionate about? What could I see myself doing every day? I could translate — but for a full-time job I would need to go back to university for my masters. I could interpret — same story. I could teach — but I don’t have the confidence to stand in front of a group of children who can sense nervousness from a mile away. I was stuck.

After a few translation and journalistic internships, and still fairly lost on my route into the working world, a friend suggested that I tutor French and Spanish, even if only for a short time whilst I figured out my next move.

Hmmm.

The idea stumped me. I’d never seen myself as a teacher, but perhaps tutoring could be different? It eliminates the scary ‘group of children’ scenario, and also means that I could teach people of all ages and abilities — now THAT was appealing. Within a few lessons, I was hooked. Within a few months, I knew that this was going to be my career. I’d begun teaching a head of BA cabin crew, a jeweller, a 10 year old and a 70 year old — the variety of people I was meeting, and topics I was teaching was astounding, and gripping. No two days were the same, which kept my mind active and my teaching fresh. I was elated.

 

At this point I was working through a tutoring website, and it was great — I set my own rate, had a great influx of students and most importantly, it allowed me to work my own hours and work on other projects on the side. The biggest draw of tutoring has always been the ability to work for myself, and it was with that in mind that I decided to truly become my own boss by setting up my own tutoring company. I wanted to be in charge of every step in the tutoring process — from finding the clients, to eventually hiring other great tutors to work with me. Moreover, I wanted to create a tutoring experience where the students are also involved in every step from the word ‘go’; be that setting learning goals, creating a learning plan, or choosing the tools they learn with. I wanted an interactive educational experience. The additional founding idea behind NMS Tuition was that I wanted to create an agency where people of all ages felt comfortable and welcomed, as I realised that most tutoring companies were geared towards children and teenagers. Of course, that is the largest market, but even so I’d learnt from personal experience that there was a plethora of adults who were just as eager to learn.

Starting a business was daunting to say the least — what was the first step? How do I find clients on my own? Don’t get me started on finding accountants and registering a business on HMRC…So I started small. A name. What my business would do. How it would do it. Having worked in tutoring for a while already, these first steps were fairly simple, and if I could give any advice to people looking to start their own business it would be this — small, simple steps. I took inspiration from other, smaller tutoring agencies and made my website, and began to spread the word through my current clients, whilst gaining help from local start-up clinics. A business was born.

The toughest part of setting up a tutoring company, especially where I am based in Surrey, is having the ability to make noise in a crowded market. There are so many tutoring services and independent tutors, so having a clear marketing strategy is key, as is having a target market. As I mentioned above, my focus was on ‘all ages, all abilities’ and on an interactive experience, and so far it seems to have worked. If you hone in on your key selling points as a tutor — be that fun-focused lessons for children, or A-Level success for teenagers — you’ll find that even in a busy marketplace there’ll be a niche for you. In addition, remember that there is help out there for you should you need it — many local councils will provide help or 1–1 clinics for startups, and your bank will be able to aid you with the financial side of things, and finding accountants. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, after all if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

So when people ask me why I’m not a teacher, I tell them this — tutoring is exciting, challenging and different every day. I wake up excited to see all my students, and I feel privileged that I get to share my love of languages with them on a daily basis. I was scared to dream bigger than just working for myself and to truly become a ‘boss’, and a ‘businesswoman’, but if I’ve learnt one thing from this process it’s this — if you jump into your fear, most of the time you’ll find there’s nothing to be afraid of after all.