On starting a new business from scratch...

I’m in the process of setting myself up as a home tutor. I still teach at school as well, part-time, but I want to try working for myself too.

Thus far, I’ve set up the website zhenglishtuition.co.uk using SITE123, which I found really easy to use and I think it looks pretty decent. (Of course, if you disagree, you can let me know but please be gentle!!) My friends have been liking and sharing the webpage to help get it out there and I’ve had some interest already but no firm commitments.

The interest I’ve had came from someone whose child is still in primary school, so I’m not really qualified to deliver his curriculum. I explained what I could do for him while being very honest about my reservations. I hope that while I may not get any direct work from this particular woman, an honest approach might stay with her and encourage her to recommend me to someone else in the future. A tutoring business in particular, really needs to have integrity.

The other thing I’ve been busy doing is designing a business card. Unfortunately, I have also discovered that there is hardly anywhere left to display them these days. It’s made me really angry actually.

I remember a time when local supermarkets had a section for local ads and business cards. I remember the sense of pride in the community that I had as a child. We seemed to have so much to offer each other and we were in it together. I don’t think that’s a case of rose-tinted spectacles by the way; there’s really something in the idea of simple signs which allow a community to see itself and notice how productive people are being.

Of the three supermarkets I have visited so far, only Morrisons still has a place to display business cards (well done them!) The others have sacrificed that sense of local community and replaced it with more products and more advertising. Often, I’ve noticed, they’re using what would have been space for local people to tout their wares and all to just brag about how much charity fundraising the supermarket chain has been responsible for. 

I’m obviously pleased that charities are receiving money. I’m not so pleased that the supermarkets seem to do this only so they can brag about it on very large, shiny billboards that would be better served for other things.

I even struggled to find a place to put a business card in the town library. Eventually I had to lean over an inconveniently placed table in order to shove one on the partially concealed board behind it. It required some impressive balancing on one leg but I survived. Surely they should be doing more than this?

Or have we completely lost sight of real people around us? It seems that Facebook advertising is where it all happens these days and I’m probably going to be forced to succumb to giving them my money, which I would really rather not do, just to get noticed.

The good news is that I can at least target ads at FB users in my local area. It still feels rather soulless though, doesn’t it?

Which is why, I was grateful to my older brother for introducing me to a friend who wants tuition for his daughter. Word of mouth, the oldest advertising strategy in the book and still the most reliable, is definitely the way forward. 

Unfortunately, being woefully ill-prepared for this sudden encounter, I didn’t really maximise the opportunity. I am not particularly good at selling myself. In fact, I’m staggeringly awful at it. It makes me cross because I’m a very good teacher, I’m really experienced and I teach based on an understanding of solid education research. I deserve better from myself.

I’m going to give myself a stern talking to and see if I can do a better job of it next time. Wish me luck.

Thanks for reading and, if you’re starting up your own enterprise, let us know all about it.