What a Start-Up Tutoring Business Taught Me About Email Marketing

Six years ago I launched a small tutoring business that helped pay for my late-teen finances.

Much like blogging, the name of the game was networking, and I arrived home each day so tired I often collapsed on top of my cat on the couch.

By my third summer, “Vamonos Tutoring Services” had 14 steady clients. I was doing much better than my corporate-minded peers and loved the flexibility of an entrepreneurial life. That was then.

Nowadays, I run a few email campaigns with Aweber.

It’s a bit more laid-back living and one I love. But when I think back on those college summers, I realize I was building skills I now use to grow a healthy mailing list.

In this post I’ll explain the story and tell you exactly what I learned.

What do you stand to gain?

What can a lousy ol’ tutoring business teach you about your budding email campaign? A whole lot more than you may think. Read on and I’ll show you how to:

  • Appear largely successful when you’re just starting out
  • Differentiate yourself
  • Prove you’re WAY more than average
  • Access a traffic hub
  • Create a professional image
  • Identify a specific problem, then solve it
  • Snowball your business into more business!
  • Secure confidence and success

Go grab some cocoa or coffee and settled in. As usual, if you have a question just drop it in the comments and me or someone else will respond.

A Gold medal student

On day 1, I had no clients, no phone numbers, zero previous experience.

“Why would anyone ever listen to me?” I thought.

I thought for a minute, then realized I had earned a gold medal back in 11th grade, in a statewide Spanish test. I had even traveled to different high schools competing, and winning with my childhood learned Costa Rican Spanish.

So I slapped “Make Your Child a Gold Medal Spanish Student” on my fliers and posted them everywhere.

When you kick off your Aweber email list, you have things to teach people too.

You know about blogging, cooking, personal finance, whatever. But before you start attracting subscribers, it’s important to search for what makes you attractive.

What makes your list standout? Find that, and you’ll have your first 10 subscribers.

Nobody is average. A good idea is to create a whole landing page talking about why you’re not average. Level with people, then tell them of all the ground-breaking information you’ll get them once they subscribe my email.

Here’s the example I show people before they get free updates.

This landing page creation is easy than highschool Spanish itself! Just like a tutoring flyer, it should win people over then clearly let them know how to join in.

Flirting with the master

As a new tutor I needed clients and I needed them fast. Otherwise I’d actually be eating beef Ramen all college.

The problem was, sitting back on my haunches got me exactly zero new students. They weren’t just flocking to me.

So I called up my former Spanish teacher from ninth grade and sort of half spoke Spanish/half flirted my way to her heart. She told me this: several students had failed her recent test. She was pissed too! Why, because parents were attacked her saying it was her fault for not teaching the subject matter!

Can you imagine her happiness when I announced I’d take on all these students?!

Go right to the source, the hub, because you’ve got nothing to lose at first. For my tutoring business, calling up the teacher was just the “launch” I need to get started. But that wasn’t all. The personal recommendation that teacher gave to parents over the phone was an ideal presell to my product, tutoring.

As a email list builder, the best way to access a hub is by writing lots of guest posts. It’s hard, you often have a small window to introduce yourself and get accepted, but once you’re on the inside you literally have access to thousands of new readers.

“Guest posting is the opening act. The audience has already showed up, and it’s your job to deliver.” Tweet this quote!

TIP: Insert a small plug for your email list in the byline of your guest posts. See what I’ve done here.

Find a Common Problem, Be the Solution

Remember that dilemma my teacher had above? Well, I was the solution.

On the other side of the sea of angry parents laid a nifty business opportunity. Being the only tutor that summer, the opportunity was all mine.

“Your fastest way to 10 new subscribers is to solve an urgent problem.” Tweet this quote!

Give them something they really want and need. Sounds easy huh? Well, it’s not. Why? Because bloggers nowadays are savvy, even the newbies know a ton. If you’re not solving a problem and helping people “do” you’re going to get forgotten quickly.

Bottomline? Offer your expertise.

In my case, I wrote an eBook that helps readers reduce bounce rate. Having actually developed the methods myself, pitching it is easy. I believe in it.

So what’s your jam? What’s your bread n’ butter? Put that in an eBook!

Of course, you shouldn’t give away an eBook on cute cat costumes to an audience of cooking fanatics. Be relevant, and most importantly be specific.

Gym shorts or khakis?

As a tutor I was judged my every new client I met.

Showing up to a new house and ringing the doorbell for the first time was awkward, even more so when I wore gym shorts. Good thing BASEketball taught me that khakis get you a job, ha ha. I soon upped my look, then shortly after upped my rates.

Regarding your email list, the slightest slip up in non-professionalism could send a subscriber away.

Seriously, a typo or messy border will send your new subscriber running.

With Aweber forms, it’s hard to mess this up. Even the simplest design work wonders and get those impressions that turn to clicks that lead to an opt-in.

Professionalism is about planning. It’s about covering all the bases. But it’s just about suit and tie – it’s about being respected. How do you earn this? Two words: Social proof. Check out my sidebar form and find the social proof…

It works, if you’ve worked with anyone respectable or well-known, talk about it.

Love success and never look back

My final point deals with believing in yourself and building enhanced confidence after each of your successes.

Before I make this point, let’s do a quick recap of my tutoring lessons translated into improving your email list:

  • Appear big: Make sure readers see your unique strengths right away
  • Access a hub: Go to the source of your customers. Guest post!
  • Solve a problem: People are picky but everyone needs some answer. Identify then solve.
  • Be professional: Cover every base, show you’re accomplished. Social proof is key!

That’s four pretty hefty tasks for you to work on, but if you’d like one more then here you go. The final point is that once you’re off and running, waking up to 10s or even 100s of new subscribers each day, don’t look back. Don’t log in to your blog and change methods that are already working just because you’re bored or have ADD.

Don’t question yourself very much. If you’re getting subscribers, if your Aweber S/UD ratios are good, let it be. Worry about driving more traffic to your blog. Write with some heightened confidence and understand if your subscriber numbers are starting to look good then you may just have a knack for this stuff!

Can you do it too?

Building an email list is one of those fun responsibilities.

Like managing a handful of students with different needs, you’ll have to communicate regularly and not just vanish into the distance for weeks. Always avoid bad email marketing practices, and shoot for steady goals using white-hat practices.

By my second summer of tutoring, I had raised rates from $16/hr to $25, and by my third summer I was a $40/hr commodity in high demand. Make your email list look more valuable every day with the methods I listed above, and I’m sure you’ll find ways to scale your business too.

Heck, you may even find ways to make a living from it all too.

Good luck and post your comments below.

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13 Responses to "What a Start-Up Tutoring Business Taught Me About Email Marketing"

  1. Hey Greg,
    Excellent post. You have given nice tips and i guess Email marketing all depends on your loyal subscribers, If you have good subscribers which are reading Emails then you can have good Email Marketing.
    How ever the things which you have explained here, I am already following them.
    Thank you

  2. You’re right Greg: I think One of the most important advices is “go directly to the hub”!
    And I suggest to give gift and resources for free too, even without let the readers fill in the aweber form: sometimes the users read your free resources and just after they are happy to give you their email:)
    What do u think about Greg?

    1. Ago,
      Awesome to see you back.
      You need a Gravatar!
      Definitely, you’ve got to give a TON at first, use teasers, freebies, guest posts, videos, etc!
      How are you “gating” your best content for subscribers only?

      1. Yeah, I used Ago instead of Agostino 😀

        For my subscribers I thinked to give an ebook about “how to play piano having fun” whether they subscribe.

        As free resources I give away around 50 mp3 of piano covers I did on Youtube.

        This will work? I’ll know it just in a few days, when I’ll go live:D

        Ohhh and I applayed your suggestion about the landing page! 🙂 Thank you buddy!


    1. Is everything working?
      That’s really nice of you to say George 🙂
      Copywriting is tricky business to learn, but definitely get’s easier and even more fun with practice.


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