Tuesday, June 30, 2020

No is a complete sentence

Last night, an odd thing happened.

Right as I was climbing into bed, I received a text from an unknown number asking about this site.  The area code appeared to be from the US east coast. I'm on the west coast. So, for me, it was 9:30 pm. For this person, if they are on the east coast, it's after midnight.

Who contacts a complete stranger in the middle of the night? Seriously? Who does that? I suppose I'm grateful they texted instead of called.

They wanted to buy the domain name.

I've held this domain name for. . .  8? 9? 10? years. Since I hired a friend who is a graphic designer to help me come up with the name and logo a long time ago. But before I changed my business' name, finalized the logo, and started using it, I made sure the domain name was available. (Hasn't this been Business 101 for the past 20 years?)

A few years ago, I almost lost it, because of an issue with my auto-renewal. I was surprised at my emotional reaction at the time. I got that straightened out and was able to get it back.

Since this is a micro-business (that is, just me), I didn't bother to try to trademark the name or anything. I was certain it probably wasn't unique.

I did not buy every variation of the name.

When the person who contacted me last night asked about purchasing the domain, because my site seemed dormant, I issued a clear, "No."

If this person had left it there, I might have reconsidered after a few days. I no longer get the majority of my income from this business. I am working full time and taking grad school classes. I don't have a lot of time to write, or even to tutor.

But I still do run the business. I still have clients. I still point people to my articles on studying.

So, my initial reaction was, "No."

But this person couldn't take the "No."

They said they were running a free enrichment program for elementary school students. That's great. Getting kids help with math, especially for free is fantastic. I totally support that.

Then they asked, "Will it be [up for sale] soon? A clean domain name would help these students find their resources."

Again, I said, "No." Clearly. Firmly. No.

As my friend Tina often reminds me, "No is a complete sentence."

One does not have to give a reason for a no. Saying no, especially without qualification, is a difficult thing for me (and, really, for many woman). It's taken me years to unlearn mitigating my negative responses with weasel words. Not now, maybe, other phrases that make it sound more like, "Convince me" than "I'm not going to."

I didn't do that this time, I clearly, firmly said, "No."

And this complete stranger asks me, "May I ask what the strong tie to the site is?"

For goodness' sakes, NO!  And WHY WOULD YOU? [Believe me, as a former sailor, I really, really want to use stronger words than that.]

You asked, I answered. And yes, at this point, I was testy. I told you I was in bed. I told you I didn't have to justify myself to you.

I do not have to sell you something I own just because you want it.

And now, of course, that person got upset as well. Because I just escalated. Really, I just wanted to firmly underline my NO. And to tell the person that I think the time of day they were trying to do this was inappropriate. "I'm in bed," I said.

So, now, it escalates. And they confirm they are on the east coast. I loved the lecture on acting more business-like from someone who contacted me IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. That was choice. Seriously. "I shouldn't have to assume your sleep schedule." Nice. How about conducting business during normal daylight/business hours? "I didn't think you'd respond." Why not?

Look, I applaud the desire to help kids get help, especially with math.

When I bought the name, the only suffixes that were really available were .com, .net, .edu, .org. But look, a quick search on name.com reveals the following domain names are available:

awesummath.org (which, really, if you're offering a free service, why wouldn't you want that one?)
awesummath.academy (ooo, that one's cool).

"No" is not a negotiating tactic. It's an answer. A final answer.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Long time, no see! New rates!

Obviously, I've been off the blog for awhile.

It's been an interesting 4 years.

I went through a period where I decided that being a teacher might not be the right course for me. It was not an easy decision, as I'd worked more than a decade to become a teacher. And I still love tutoring.

New Start

I sort of fell into a low-level IT job and realized that I missed working in technology. I hadn't done any real IT work since the late 1990s. I was surprised at how much I remembered and also by how much I needed to catch up on.

In 2015, I landed an IT help desk job with the USGS here in Sacramento.


Early in 2016, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. At that point, I stopped tutoring. I had surgery and 6 months of chemo. I continued working as much as I was capable of during that time. Now, my scans and tests indicate that I'm ok. As soon as chemo was over, I jumped into working on a Master's in IT. That didn't leave me a lot of time to tutor.

Over this past winter break, I decided to take a break from the degree to have more time to myself. Within a week, I was contacted by three different people about tutoring.

So, I'm tutoring again after a 2 year break!

Currently, I'm working with a grad student taking the CBEST, a high school AP Calculus student, and a college student in 2nd semester Integral Calculus. That means I'm spending quite a bit of time relearning Calc myself!

 The college student is located on the other side of the country, so we do our sessions via Skype. This is something I'd like to explore more, doing remote sessions. It seems to take away the worst of the problems with tutoring (fighting traffic, not getting home until late during the week, skipping meals or eating fast food. . . ).

New rates! 

My rates are now $50/hour.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thumbtack referrals

I don't often talk about the business side of tutoring, mostly because I fear I'm not very good at the business side.

  • I don't like self-promotion. In order to get new clients, I have to advertise, which means writing good stuff about myself. I find that very difficult.
  • Sometimes I don't like when I have a lot of business, because it cuts in on my "me time" and I have a hard time giving up my free time, even in exchange for money. This happens even though I do absolutely LOVE the one-on-one interaction with students and helping people.
  • Related to the first point, I sometimes feel like I'm asking for too much money. I know I'm not; I've only increased my prices as my qualifications and experiences have increased and that's appropriate. But sometimes, I'm not a good negotiator. I need to be strong about sticking to my prices, and I find that difficult.
When I first started tutoring, I had no idea what I was doing. I just put an ad up on craigslist and responded to every person who emailed me. I remember getting so frustrated that I put in my ad things like, "I'm sorry, but I do NOT work with elementary school children. Only Pre-Algebra and above." I would get three emails from parents of 7-10-year-olds. Seriously. How much more clear could I be? I realized that people didn't really READ the ads. It was frustrating to spend time trying to tweak the ad to be enticing, and realize that no one actually read it.

I was lucky, though, because after the first few students, I had referrals from them for more students that were friends or relatives of the first clients. Some of them had younger siblings. So, for a few years nearly all my clients were referrals from previous clients. That was wonderful! No advertising, and the new ones were already inclined to hire me because of their friends! Woot!

But now those clients are getting older and aging out of needing my help. I need new clients.

The craigslist ad wasn't working as well anymore. I think that's partly because my rate is now higher than a lot of other tutors on craigslist and partly because I don't write good ad copy.

Enter Thumbtack.

I honestly don't remember when I first signed up for this service, but I do remember that when I signed up, it was a very bare bones website. I also was turned off at first because you have to pay to receive contact information about the leads or for a subscription.

I promptly forgot all about it.

Suddenly, a few months ago, I started getting emails for leads from the site.

At first, I ignored them, but recently, I got several in a row and decided to check it out. The website is much more sophisticated now, and easy to navigate.

I paid for 2 leads. One was $2.99 and the other was $5.99. No, I'm not sure how the price was determined, but I figured even if I only got one session from one client it would make up for it. And one of them did turn into a client that I will be seeing for the foreseeable future.

When I got three more leads on the same day, I decided to pay the $19.99 for unlimited leads for at least one month. Again, only one session with one client would make up the cost. I have started with one more client who will be on-going, as well.

So, I'm expanding my client base for very little cost. I can cancel any time; there's no obligation to continue for a year or something. I may even cancel before the second month's charge goes through, as my schedule is filling up rapidly.

Thumbtack is good for all kinds of local small businesses: writers, personal trainers, public speakers, tutors/teachers, cleaners, etc. If you're a small business owner and think this might work for you, click here to sign up. I get "referral points" if you sign up through the link, but no money. The more "points" you have, the better ranking your post gets. I also ended up spending $7 for a background check to improve my ranking.

How do you increase your business?