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?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Scary fractions

On a social forum, an acquaintance related a story about the meat counter.

She had a conversation with the man about what the smallest amount of meat she could buy.

The guy points to the digital scale and says, "It has to read 0.12 on here."

She says, "Ok, that's about an eighth of a pound."

Counter guy says, "No, it's half of a quarter-pound."

She says, "Yes, an eighth of a pound."

At this point, my acquaintance was very frustrated and stopped arguing.

So, who's right?




Let's start with the counter guy's assertion that, "It's half of a quarter-pound."

$$1/2 * 1/4 = (1*1)/(2*4)$$ $$=1/8$$ So, half of a quarter pound is one-eighth of a pound. How does that come out on a digital scale? Well, 1 divided by 8 is 0.125. So, both the counter guy and my aquaintence were correct.


 She made a general complaint for math teachers to make certain that students know half of one-quarter is one-eighth.

The problem is, in our digital world, students are becoming more isolated from fractions. People who sew, cook or do carpentry still deal with fractions quite often, but many other people are just using calculators and computers to do digital computations.

When I work with students, I find that many of them try to just completely skip over problems with fractions.

It's as though they think, "OMG! It's a FRACTION! I can't DO fractions!"

The problem is, there are skills you learn when manipulating fractions that come into play later in math. If you didn't learn it when it used numbers and was fairly easy like $$1/3 + 1/2$$, how are you going to deal with $$(x+3)/(x-3) + x^2/(x+2)$$ towards the end of an algebra course?

This relies on knowing the skills of adding fractions with different denominators and extrapolating that out to something more abstract. Knowing the skill that is concrete, that is the one with numbers, will help you see the connection to the more abstract problem. If you do NOT have the concrete skill, learning the abstract one is much more difficult.

This is yet another area where math teachers are making you do stuff so you can apply the information later on. There really is a reason for most of what we do.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back from a break

I had taken a break from tutoring for a time, not accepting new clients while I did my student teaching and resting afterward. I'm starting up again, beginning to advertise again. At the moment, my calendar is almost completely free for Fall 2012. There are new rates for Fall 2012!