Vicki Marie Venn tells us how she’s taken control of her working life to work round her family
Tell us about your background: are you a trained teacher?
Yes; after my first undergraduate degree (Sociology and Social Policy) I completed a PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education) at Cardiff University. I then completed a part-time Masters degree in Education followed by a second undergraduate degree in Psychology whilst teaching full time at a school.
It’s safe to say that I love learning as much as I love tutoring! Whilst I don’t think that having Qualified Teacher Status is essential for all tutors, I have had several parents ask whether I am fully qualified.
How did you come to tutor online?
I started tutoring a couple of local students after school and used to travel to them – I realised that this wasn’t as profitable as tutoring from my own home so I built my own website and started advertising for students online or from my own home. However, after I had my two children I decided that teaching in a school all day followed by tuition in the evenings and weekends was just not family friendly.
I also realised that online tuition was just as effective as face-to-face and also allowed me to work with students from around the world rather than being restricted to my local area of South Devon. So I stopped teaching and became an online tutor. It was a great decision!
Do you consider yourself primarily a teacher or primarily an entrepreneur?
A teacher, definitely. I’ve always wanted to teach and I love talking about Sociology and Psychology so it’s the ideal vocation for me. Having said that, though, I’ve had to learn to be much more business-minded over the last few years – by learning about SEO, asking for advance payments to avoid last-minute cancellations and raising my fees to a level that reflects my skills and qualifications.
What are some ways that you have carved out your niche in the marketplace?
Firstly, I am more qualified than many tutors – most of my students are studying A levels, and I got AAA in mine, which is a good selling point. My First Class degree and Distinction at Masters level help too! Secondly, I am fortunate to tutor a lot of home educated students at GCSE and A level, both here in the UK and around the world. This means I can tutor between the morning and afternoon school run but still spend time with my children in the afternoons and early evenings.
How tech savvy were you when you started?
I was fine with basic IT skills such as Word and email, and then I taught myself how to build a website and use Skype and Google Docs.
How do you find your students? (Or how do they find you?)
Have you encountered any resistance to the online format, either from students or parents?
Yes, sadly. Several local students and parents have said they are not prepared to try online lessons. However, the Home Ed community are generally very open to the idea and I find that most students are more happy to try it because they already use online video to communicate with friends and family.
Do you use social media to market your business?
Yes, I have a Facebook page, which I use to advertise but also to share interesting news and sites related to the Social Sciences.
What are your thoughts on pricing for your services?
I was pricing myself too low at first which was actually deterring some families from choosing me, so I have raised my fees to above average, although not as high as some Maths or Science tutors can charge because my subjects do not have so much demand.
The main area where I’ve had to raise my fees is university students – I now charge £45 per hour to reflect the extra planning and reading I need to do beforehand.
How do you run the administrative side of your business especially the part that involves getting paid?
Parents pay me directly into my bank account at least 24 hours before the lesson, although several prefer to pay for blocks of lessons in advance which is even better! I keep a spreadsheet of all payments and expenses.
Any tips for those thinking of taking the plunge into the world of online tutoring?
Go for it! It really is rewarding to connect with students from different cities, countries and even continents. However, be sure to fully research and study the syllabus before taking on a new client. For example, I only teach AQA GCSE and A level specifications; I wouldn’t, for example, take on a US high school student as I simply don’t know the syllabus.
Are there any drawbacks that you’ve found to online tutoring?
When the internet goes down… very annoying! Luckily it doesn’t happen often and I always make up any missed time so the student does not lose out.
How has teaching online changed your lifestyle?
It’s changed my lifestyle in a really great way! I drop my kids to school, come home, and start tutoring. I keep a few sessions free each week to go to the gym. I can still earn money even if I’m not physically at home – I just need my laptop and wifi.
Leaving my job as a teacher means no Ofsted inspections, no open evenings and no report writing. I no longer come home from school with a pile of papers to mark. If parents want me to mark past exam papers, I now charge them my standard hourly rate.
I now feel that I have a healthy, happy balance between growing my own business and watching my own children grow.