A+ Resources For Tutors
In the following series, Philip White, a Maths tutor for over 15 years, offers tips on how to start and run a successful private tutoring practice.
4.1 Where to Advertise
Be careful not to cast your net too wide when trying to obtain pupils. However, I have often been surprised at just how far parents are willing to bring their sons and daughters for the benefits of my tuition.
I have found that it pays to advertise within about a fifteen or twenty mile radius, but no further.
The best place to advertise is in the local newspapers. This does not necessarily mean the local evening newspaper. It could be best (and cheapest) to advertise in one of the local free newspapers.
In my case, I found that the Hinckley Journal (a local free newspaper published every Thursday) was by far the best advertising source, rather than the much higher circulation (and consequently more expensive) local daily evening newspaper, the Leicester Mercury.
There is always an element of trial and error in advertising. You will have to experiment to find which is the best source for you.
The secret of good advertising is to make sure that you keep your costs down to a minimum until you have found the best advertising source, whilst ensuring that the quality of the adverts themselves is top class.
4.2 Yellow Pages
It might be worth advertising in the Yellow Pages. You can obtain an insertion for about £150 upwards (free if you rent a business telephone line).
I have no experience of such advertising, so I cannot comment regarding its effectiveness. It would be a good idea to contact a few tutors who do advertise to ascertain their views.
My biggest reservation is whether or not potential pupils think of looking in the Yellow Pages for tutors. It is not the first place I would look.
A local newspaper advertising campaign at the right times of the year will probably prove to be cheaper, and more effective.
4.3 Classified versus Display Advertising
I was once talked into placing a 3 cm display ad in a "Back to School" feature run by a local free newspaper. It was by far the most expensive ad I have ever placed for my tuition services, yet I had absolutely no response whatsoever.
Stick to the classified "Tuition" sections, contrary to what advertising salesmen (and women) may tell you. Classified advertising is much cheaper than display advertising, and is far more appropriate for your needs.
Besides, display advertising can look rather "brash". The tone of your advertising will say much about the kind of tutor you are, and the quality of the service you are giving.
4.4 Your Advertising Budget
This is a difficult figure to determine, and obviously depends on your projected tuition income. You should be looking to place a series of cheap, but effective, classified ads at the right times, in the right places.
It is possible to place very cheap classified ads, and still obtain an excellent response rate. Let us look at an example from my own experience.
When I used to advertise, the cost of placing a classified advertisement under the "Education & Tuition" section of the Hinckley Journal is 20p per word, including V.A.T.
There is a minimum number of 15 words per ad, so it is possible to place an ad for as little as £3.00. I have often placed classified adverts for the minimum number of words, and still obtained a very good response.
Indeed, when advertising in the Hinckley Journal, I have always recruited at least one new pupil from every classified advert I have placed. Not a bad return for a £3.00 investment.
It is far better to place a series of cheap classified ads in a number of publications than occasional display ads in a few publications.
4.5 When to Advertise
If you are tutoring school exam subjects, the best times to advertise are:
- end of August/early September
- just after Christmas (as the exams start to loom).
Indeed, I would go as far as to say that if you orchestrate your advertising campaign effectively at these times, you may not need to advertise during the rest of the school year.
When I first started tutoring, I was sure that if I advertised during April and May I would be inundated with enquiries from pupils who wanted to "brush up" on their knowledge before the exams.
The perfect time, one would have thought, to offer exam tuition.
However, I was wrong. I actually received very few enquiries. The reason is probably that those pupils who are in the market for private tuition have long since fixed themselves up with a private tutor i.e. at the start of the school year, or after Christmas.
Tread cautiously. Things are not always what you expect in the world of advertising. Learn by experience.
4.6 How to write cheap but effective classified ads
There is a very simple rule to follow when advertising. The same rule applies to all forms of business advertising. It is as known as the A.I.D.A. principle.
Gain the attention of the reader by telling them immediately what it is you are offering. Stimulate their interest and desire for your service by emphasising how your product or service will benefit them.
Finally, tell them what to do next.
Avoid wasting words. For example, I have seen so many ads which include the words "reasonable rates." This is a waste of two words, and thus a waste of money.
After all, if your prices are more than what your potential customers are willing to pay, you will not survive for very long in business. Let your customers decide whether or not you are charging "reasonable rates."
The K.I.S.S. Principle
KEEP IT SHORT & SIMPLE
A good classified advert is both short and "punchy."
Below is a classified ad. I once ran in the Hinckley Journal under the Education & Tuition section.
MATHS. EXPERIENCED, popular private/college tutor offers excellent exam preparation. G.C.S.E. A Level. Call Philip White, B.Sc.(Hons). Hinckley 635261.
Notice that I did not simply describe myself as a maths tutor. By emphasising that I offer excellent exam preparation, I was trying to paint a picture of professional competence and expertise in the mind of the interested reader.
I always include my name in my tuition adverts because I feel that it demonstrates self-confidence in the service I am offering.
Furthermore, it is to your advantage if you can get your name known, rather than hide behind a faceless telephone number.
I have had a number of enquirers call me several weeks after an advertisement has been placed. If a potential customer is impressed by the quality of your advert, they will either cut it out, or make a note. They will then contact you when they are ready.
I also use the letters B.Sc.(Hons) after my name. If you have a relevant qualification that will lend an extra degree of authority to your tuition service, use it.
Avoid sounding "gimmicky" in your ads. Think about the market you are trying to reach. If you are tutoring schoolchildren, remember that parents are highly conservative when it comes to educating their offspring. They will not respond to advertising that smacks of insincerity.
This is not to say that your ads should be dull. Do not be frightened to innovate.
However, make sure that you strike the right professional tone. You should be looking to generate enquiries, not sell your tuition directly off the page. The more professional you sound, the better your advertising response will be.
Notice also the brevity of my advertisement. This serves two purposes:
- Keeps costs down
- Invites enquiries requesting further details
4.7 Avoid using box numbers
I have seen tuition adverts in which the advertiser requests the reader to apply in writing to a box number for further details. If you have access to a telephone, there is no need to hide behind a box number.
I wonder how many potential pupils are put off by such a laborious procedure. In fact, I have often thought of replying just to find out exactly what the advertisers are offering. I have never got around to it. Neither will your prospective pupils.
4.8 Why you should not include your fees in your ads
I have never included my tuition fees in my ads. There are several very good reasons for this.
Firstly, you should not try to sell your services on price. If you are offering a quality service required by other people, your potential customers will take many factors other than price into consideration before choosing a tutor.
Secondly, if you publish a price in your ad, you are tying your hands behind your back.
As I mentioned earlier, many people will make a note of your advert. They may not require your services now, but could do so in a few months time. If they call you at that time, and quote your advert, you might find that you have sold yourself short. Afterall, you may have put up your prices, or found that your previous rate was not economically viable.
This applies particularly if you are new to private tuition, and you are still experimenting with your fees.