Hi, my name is Ludo Millar, host of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. The podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education more widely, and hopefully, inspires in you the big change that each and every one of us is capable of. Today I’d like to welcome Joanne Kaminski.
As a brief introduction, Joanne is an advocate for independent tutors who are committed to making the most of their knowledge, and their experience, and their motivation as educators. One of the greatest problems that tutors have is finding a consistent stream of new, interested, suitable students. Now, Joanne has been helping students do just this and much more, as we’ll find out, since 2012. Which is, really, longer than most we have come across in the tutoring sector. Now, much like us here at QT, Joanne believes in the power of of community and collaborative learning. This is one of the main stays of Joanne’s courses that we’ll also be hearing about and we want to tap into that philosophy, that ethos, today. And, of course, Joanne has her own podcast, The Online Tutor Business Podcast, so once you’re done here, you know where to go next. Throughout 2020, Joanne released around thirty episodes, a great, kind of, bank of resources, helping tutors to understand what they can achieve as a business owner. It’s excellent material, so please do go and check it out after this, of course! Joanne, welcome to the QT Podcast.[Joanne]
Thank you for having me, I’m so excited to be here.[Ludo]
Yeah, it’s currently 5am where Joanne is, it’s just a pretty cool and relaxed 11am for me here in London. So thank you to Joanne for joining us at this hour, but we’d like to dive straight in with our first question. Which is, Joanne, what is your ‘why’ as a tutor?[Joanne]
I started off as a classroom teacher and I would say that one of the things that I really struggled with as a classroom teacher was classroom management, as a lot of us do. And it wasn’t until later on that I realised how much I loved working with kids one on one. But, you know, before that I ended up becoming a tutor because I started getting stuck in the politics. As I started tutoring online, as I started teaching in the teaching world I started rising up the ranks pretty quickly. So after two years of teaching in the classroom I ended up being asked to train our teachers in the reading programme, which is called the SFA Reading Programme, and I, after another year of that I was asked to train the teachers who train the teachers.
So I was a teacher trainer, I was like, training everybody in our reading programme. And then after that I got pregnant and I had my first baby, and I realised that being able to travel around the country, teach in my own classroom, was getting to be just a little bit too much, and maybe not the most ideal situation for family. And so I told the people at my school, you know, I’m looking for another job, I don’t think that this is gonna be a good fit for me anymore and they actually offered me the Reading Curriculums position. And I was like, Oh this is great, ‘cause then I can work a little less hours. I was working about thirty hours a week instead of full time, and it was like the most ideal situation. I worked there for, in that position, for about five years, and during that time I wanted to learn everything about teaching kids to read. The kids at our school, 30% of them were reading at, on grade level, I taught in the inner-city in Milwaukee, and it just broke my heart that so many kids were struggling with reading. And so I really made it my future, like, to just wanna think okay, how can I help these kids be able to read on grade level? It was just like one of those things that like, you go to bed at night and you can’t sleep because you’re just worried for these kids that are just struggling so much. And there are so many of them, it wasn’t like it was just 10% of the kids or 20% of the kids. It was 70% of the kids not reading on grade level, and so I read an hour a day. I decided, you know what, I wanna learn everything I can about teaching reading. I went off to get my Masters and, and then the politics started getting really crazy at our school. I decided to leave our school that I was at, went to another school, 90% of the kids aren’t reading on grade level and the politics was even worse at this school than at the school that I was at. And now I have three kids by this point and I’m just like, oh my gosh. What am I doing? I’m not happy with what I’m doing, I don’t get to work with kids anymore because I have risen up the ranks in the school system. And I decided, after getting sick and being in and out of the hospital for six months, this is just not the place for me.
So I left the school system having not a clue of what I was gonna do, I tried out five different businesses in the next year. I failed at all of them, and it wasn’t until the next- the next year that I really started to get real serious with myself and said, what do you wanna do? And I remembered picturing myself down here, right here, in this exact spot that I’m in right now, looking at a computer and tutoring students. And I was like, that’s it. That’s what I wanna do. I want to work with kids in reading online, and suddenly all the ways to make it happen. And when I started getting, diving deep into it, I started realising I could actually close the gap faster than I was ever able to do in the classroom. You know, in the classroom I had all of these different programmes, curriculums, I even trained these programmes and curriculums, right? And they just didn’t get results fast enough for kids. And so I started taking the best teaching practices for kids, when it comes to teaching kids reading, and found ways to be able to close the gap a full year with eight to twelve hours of instruction. Which, I mean, if you ask any other reading person out there, they’ll be like, yeah, no that’s not possible. The only way to be able to catch kids up is for them to read, read and read some more. But with the right instruction, I have found they can really close that gap quickly. And when I started doing that, that became my why. I had tapped into something that I knew other people couldn’t do. I could do it well, and I could do it consistently. I felt like I had just found like, my purpose in life.[Ludo]
That is one of the most complete answers that we’ve had to that question. So, wow, yeah. I’m gonna be listening back to that several times over, Joanne, and now also, you’ve already sold your reading programmes to me. [LAUGHS] I’d love to know, you won’t reveal that here and now and that’s okay! So, that’s that’s a kind of, background of how you’ve come to one of the areas that you work on today. But there are other areas, there are other jobs, kind of hats that you wear. And one of them is as a tutor coach.[Joanne]
I’d like to ask, almost probably quite a blunt question Joanne. But that question is, in the realms of tutor coaching, why does a tutor need a coach?[Joanne]
You know, I think in the beginning, a lot of us are not coming from a business mind set. We are coming from the mindset of, we know how to teach. We know how to teach really well. We’re passionate about what it is that we do. We love those aha moments and we wanna have more of them. And we wanna be able to reach out to more students. But a lot of us have no idea on the whole business side of things, how to run our business effectively and smoothly. In the past, the old model was to travel to different kids’ houses and to just kind of accept what people wanted to pay us. Sometimes it would be under the table. It wasn’t rea lly run as a legit business until recently. We moved online, right? And we started realising, wait, we can be so much more effective online because we can collect payments right online, we can even collect payments earlier than before our tutoring sessions. We can save so much time, we can schedule our students back to back to back. You know. There’s so many things that- that we can do that- that allow us to run our business in a legit way and in a more effective way. But we don’t know what we don’t know, right? And so when you take a look at people who have already kind of gotten where it is that you want to be, you get to skip the line. So, if you want, I’ve noticed that every single tutor that I’ve worked with. They start with the same beginning mindset and the same kind of systems, they think okay, do I need to have contracts? Do I need to have people signing these contracts? Do I need an LOC? Do I need sole proprietorship? You know, they start with the wrong questions. And so, when you start working with a coach, you learn what are the right things, the right questions to ask, the right pieces to put in place in your business, and you get to skip that line.[Ludo]
Yeah, that’s such a wonderful angle for looking at that, isn’t it? You know. Skip that line. Being able to get ahead, that seems to be the most powerful reason for having a coach, really in whatever sector you’re in. You don’t know the next steps if you haven’t done it before. And there are people who do know those next steps, including yourself. Now that kind of leads me on to the next point that I wanted to touch on here, and you briefly mentioned it before. You know, before going from a teacher to a tutor you had this year with those five businesses. Now, can you tell us a little bit more about what you’ve learnt about your own businesses along the way?[Joanne]
Oh absolutely. And that’s one of the things I think, I just, I love. There was nothing about any of the businesses that I went through that I don’t appreciate today. So actually, I got kind of reeled on into a network marketing thing by a really close friend. And it was very scammy, didn’t feel right. It was a weird position, but I learned everything I needed to know about search engine optimisation. And I remember as I kind of went through that process, like, holy cow! Being able to get found online, so when people talk about search en- search engine optimisation, one of those pieces, not all of it. But one of those pieces is that people are gonna type words into the URL, into that little space, you know, at the top of your screen. And I can tap into that by creating content on those words and that can help people be able to find me. And that was really, really huge when I got started because I came in with that knowledge which allowed me to start tapping into getting clients from all over the world.
The next thing that I think I’ve learned, which is really, really critical, is failure isn’t failure. Nobody reaches success without experiencing failure. So, those five businesses, those failures all gave me that- that next piece of information that I needed to be successful. And so I was exactly where I was at, when I was supposed to be there. A lot of people start thinking about this whole idea, I just wish I needed everything I needed to know right now. But there’s so much that we have to learn and process that you would be completely overwhelmed if that happened. You know, learning takes place over time. It takes place over making mistakes. It comes from, you know, having problems, finding solutions, and then finally, tidying up your systems. So it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. It’s what you do with those mistakes and how you overcome them that really is going to lead to the success that you want in your life.[Ludo]
Okay, so if you could back in time, Joanne, would you start that process again? Would you go through those five businesses, failure or not, would you go through that again to get where you are?[Joanne]
100%. Yeah. Absolutely. I wouldn’t change one thing, because I needed those experiences in order to be where I’m at today. One of the big things that I learned, I started my own brilliant idea off the top of my head. I was like, you know what would be cool? And I thought it was a cool idea, right? I thought it was so cool, at that point in time I had a little kid, so at that point in time my husband and I didn’t get a lot of time together. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if like families could take vacations to exotic places. Like what if we went to Alaska, and you go there with these other families and the kids get to read books all about the different places that they’re visiting. The parents could have some me time and then you know, you get to experience. You get to experience the dogs, the sled dogs and you know, experience all of those things. Wouldn’t that be awesome? So I created this business called Bright Idea Vacations. The only problem is, nobody is searching for that idea. So things aren’t a bright idea and things don’t work unless people are actually surfacing, like looking for it. And so that was one of the things I had learned over time. You need to know what people are looking for and be able to provide services that meet their needs. And when you do that it’s a lot easier to be able to start your business.[Ludo]
Luckily for tutors, there do seem to be people looking for tutoring and education pretty much all over the world. And one would hope, you know all 365 days of the year. So, there’s a message of hope for tutors, is there?[Joanne]
Oh there is, there is. There are so many kids that are struggling, especially after the pandemic. And they need, they need people that are caring, loving, patient, and knowledgable in order to take them to that next level.[Ludo]
A bit like a coach, exactly. A bit like a coach for a tutor. Now, I’m amazed at how well these questions are tying together. That leads me, again, on to to this point that I mentioned at the start of the podcast about about one of the most pressing points for a tutor, one of their biggest problems as a tutor is finding this constant stream of new students or retaining old students effectively. Now, I know people would normally have to pay hundreds of dollars to find this answer from you Joanne, but this is the the real million dollar question. This is the real gold dust. What is, Joanne, your number one tip for getting more students as a tutor?[Joanne]
Don’t rely on just one way of being able to get students. Every single thing that you can possibly think of, write it down and begin exploring, and start doing it. A lot of people, if you take a look at business practices, there’s this thing called Guerrilla Marketing. And Guerrilla Marketing is where you just try every single tactic you can possibly think of, and then from there, if you’re still not getting experience. It’s time to start really taking a look at how are you going about marketing? So a lot of people- tutors, make the same mistake over and over and over again. They think that tutoring is about them, the experience that they have, the the schools that they have gone to, the years that they have taught. They think that that is the most important thing that a parent is looking for. And it’s not. A parent is looking for somebody that gets their kid, likes working with kids like theirs and can get results with their kid. So when you start coming at your marketing from the point of view of the parent instead of your point of you. You can flip the script, almost. That’s when you’ll start getting more success, you’ll start getting more students.[Ludo]
I think that’s just such a well put, such a simply put strategy and certainly, when I started out as a tutor, you know. I didn’t think like that at all. So the question really then is what you’ve just said there does not seem difficult to implement. So the question is why do tutors not seemingly know these practi ces, and how can we teach tutors that this is, kind of, the approach that they need to take with their marketing?[Joanne]
I think the big thing is, we don’t know what we don’t know, right? And so, we think the most important thing is our education, our degrees, all of that kind of stuff, and at the end of the day you can be a great tutor and not have all of those degrees. I mean, I’ve seen it in the school system over and over again. I’ve seen terrible teachers in charge of classrooms and- and- and teaching kids, and it doesn’t matter how many degrees you have. It all depends on what kind of results can you get from your students and I think really that’s that business mindset. It kind of comes from a business mindset. What can you do for your ideal client? And I think that that’s something that a lot of people struggle with. And it’s the same thing over and over again. Every single tutor that I work with, it starts from that. And so one of the biggest things that they can do, I teach what’s called the empathy map. And this is where you just ask a couple of simple questions. It’s what is your ideal client seeing, feeling, thinking, hearing, doing? What are their fears? What are their dreams? Once you can take those pieces and you can start talking from the perspective of your ideal client, your marketing changes forever. But it’s not easy, I do think it is something that needs to be taught because we don’t know how to flip the script on our own. And so a lot of times I will go through with people one and one, okay let’s just start from the beginning here and that’s how they start to flip the script. They start seeing it. As I start adding more information to the things, I’ll say, they’re also hearing or they’re also seeing. Because sometimes we don’t know! We don’t know what they’re thinking, right? So they’ll get stuck. They’ll say, I don’t know what the parent is thinking or I don’t know what they’re seeing. And so I’ll say, they might be seeing their child getting frustrated easily. They might see their child, you know, slamming their door, because, you know, they’re so frustrated. They might see their child walk away. And and all of a sudden that spawns more information, and they might be seeing, so it’s kind of that- that back and forth of now they can get into that perspective of the parent. And, it does kind of, take a little bit of that guidance in order to get there.[Ludo]
Yeah. Certainly reduces that, kind of, distance between provider and client. Tutor and parent, if you can put yourself in their shoes. Difficult to do sometimes, for sure, but that, if there’s one takeaway from this podcast listeners then let it be that. Putting yourself in the shoes of your client, your parents (ie. the parents you work with) I always say your parents, I don’t mean your parents![Joanne]
Yes, yes, yes.[Ludo]
Then that’s a really effective strategy. Now, I imagine that what you’ve just been, a large part of what you’ve been discussing, the tips and tricks that you have are part of the courses you run, Joanne? Can you tell us a little bit more about your Jumpstart course?[Joanne]
Absolutely, you know. One of the things I started realising was that people need this thing called group synergy. That we get better results when we have accountability, we have people supporting us and we know what steps and actions to take. I was working with a lot of people one on one and sometimes it would get results and sometimes it wouldn’t. And then I started putting into practice this group synergy and really creating this group experience. So, that’s exactly what we do inside of the Jumpstart Course. Not do, you don’t just learn all of the aspects of the tutoring business, like how do I take payments? How do I get students? You know, how do I get my website? You learn those basic things, but I think the biggest thing that people take out of the Jumpstart Programme is consistency and support. So I’ve actually hired other coaches that help guide the tutors as well, they join teams, we make it a game and it’s fun. So that they can all leave, our goal is to get a hundred percent of the people that join our programme to get at least one student for a whole lot more. Because we have this feeling that if you can get at least one student, you’ll be able to repeat that process over and over and over again but now you’ll also have all of the systems in place so that you can run your business efficiently.[Ludo]
Where do I sign up?[Joanne][LAUGHS] Well, our doors are closed right now.[Ludo]
Oh no, I’m too late.[Joanne]
But what I do, what I do offer is, people go to onlinetutorcoach.com/jump-in-100 you’ll be able to learn more about the programme, you can get on the waitlist. And the people that get on the wait list even get a discount. So if you start that process, take a look and see if it will be something that will be a good fit for you. That will help you know when the doors do open, if that’s something that you wanna do.[Ludo]
Great yeah, that will be in the show notes below so you don’t have to scroll back to listen to that URL. [LAUGHS] And yeah, you can check out Joanne’s Jumpstart Course. Just quickly, when do the doors open for the next cohort, do you know?[Joanne]
The next cohort will open in October. So we are in the end of Week 2 right now, its a ten-week programme. And we used to do it in eight weeks and people were like, that’s not enough time, that’s not enough time. People were telling me that they felt like this course was similar to getting a business degree, oh gosh, I hope it’s not that bad! But people do get so much information and they- they learn so much, they just needed more time to be able to process and work it through, So we did extend being able to get that content over two more weeks. And we spread the content a little bit thinner so it’s not so intense for people. Because you do, you have assignments that you’re turning out and you’re trying to stay on task and you’re, you know, at the same time, all trying to get students at the same time.[Ludo]
Excellent, so yeah you can find that course in the show notes below and we, you know, we highly recommend taking that if you are looking to grow that business of yours and to join that community of other participants who have taken that course. Who have gone on to find their one student, or more. Now, our final question Joanne, I’d like you to provide a one-word answer to this. And that question is, do we really like the word tutorpreneur?[Joanne]
I came up with it, so I like it! [LAUGHS][Ludo]
Well, then we like it too! That’s the correct answer, I said one word answer. No I like, I think it explains pretty fully what your approach is. And also it changes the narrative of a tutor because previously, as you talked about the start, it was under the table. It was, come in through the back door of the house, you know, it was, you know, not be respected as a professional. And by creating this idea of a tutorpreneur you are validating, legitimising, formalising the work that a tutor does. And actually, on that note, just before we bring this conversation to a close, you can find Joanne speaking on Mike Bergin and Amy Seeley’s Tests and the Rest Podcast, where Joanne talks about professionalism in tutoring and the importance of that. So, you’ve now got two places to go after this conversation ends, dear listeners. You’ve got the Tests and the Rest Podcast with Joanne and you’ve got Joanne’s own The O nline Tutor Business Podcast. So, those are you two places to go and your third place to go, which is not a podcast in and of itself, but whether you’re regular listeners of this podcast. We invite you to join The Qualified Tutor Podcast Group within our Qualified Tutor Community. This is a new space for listeners of this podcast to stay up to date with our news, offers, workshops and really just to meet other listeners, other tutors like you. So that’s in the QT Community, the link will be in the show notes below. The link to Joanne’s podcast will be in the show notes below. The link to Joanne’s courses will be in the show notes below. Basically, if you’re not going into the show notes after this, then you’re missing out on a great deal. So, thank you so much, Joanne, for joining us. It was really very, very kind and we would love to invite you back on.[Joanne]
Well I would love to come any time.[Ludo]
Thank you so much, okay we will see you guys next week. Bye then. Bye.