I am reminded daily that success in business -- as in life -- hinges on relationships with people. If you can connect to the right people and nurture those connections, you can find success. This is true whether you are working with a single student or a large corporation. It is especially true when you make the jump from working with individual students to large companies. People matter.
The secret to making money teaching for yourself is to have lots of students to teach. Everyone knows that. What most people don't know is how to find those students.
Almost every teacher I meet who is interested in teaching or tutoring as a business asks me how we find our students. It's a fair question; however, I think it is the wrong question. Here is my best advice: Stop looking for "students" and start looking for "a student."
For our first 2 years in business, we could trace almost every one of our students back to one individual. He was our first student. He liked our teaching style. He told his friends. His friends told their friends, and so on. Today, we still have students we can trace back to him. More importantly, however, we have learned that this is the rule, not the exception. A very large percentage of our business still comes from referrals from other customers. This is word-of-mouth marketing. It is the best -- and the cheapest -- way to grow your business.
There are ways to improve your word-of-mouth marketing. There are ways to encourage your students to refer their friends. Down the road, I will give you some suggestions for doing this. When you are starting out, however, your focus should be on finding just one student. This is easier than you think. Tell everyone you know what you are teaching and what kind of students you are looking for. Don't push. Don't talk too much. Just mention it. Let all of your friends, family, and other contacts know what you are doing. If they ask you questions, answer them. Be polite. Be helpful. Be visible. You will be surprised how quickly you find your first student.
Students want to know what they are buying and what they will get for their money. If you tell them that you charge $25/hour, they will understand what they must pay you but nothing else. How many hours will they need? How often will they meet you? What happens after the first hour?
If sell your services for $25/hour, you will get $25. If you want another $25, you will need to sell your services again, either to the same student or to a new student. That's a lot of work for $25.
You can turn your service into a product by creating a package. Instead of charging $25/hour for "tutoring," charge $200 for an "eight-week learning program that includes eight 60-minute, one-to-one, weekly tutoring sessions."
If you make your service into a product, you will make more money, spend less time on planning, and grow your business more quickly. More importantly, your students will know exactly what they are getting for their money. They will be willing to pay you more because you are offering something of value that they can clearly understand. They will also be more willing to pay you in advance, which will keep them committed to learning and attending sessions.