Meet Joshua, the man behind Oakley Tutors, an online teaching service that offers bespoke education courses. Oakley offers maths, English and science tuition up to A level. All lessons are offered online for individuals or for groups for students aged 6 to 18.
With more than 6 years’ experience with students, Joshua started the business in 2019 because he was after more independence. “With one-to-one classes, you can achieve so much more”.
With a maths degree and PGCE from Exeter University and his passion for teaching, he believed he could execute his plans. So he created a website, put together a network of colleagues and got the business up and running himself.
“I’ve really enjoyed the challenge...And what started as a face-to-face venture recently transitioned into remote working because of COVID. Thankfully, the technology was there to facilitate that”.
His vision was to expand the business through a network of teachers and colleagues, the idea being that they would be able to take on far more students.
He started to use social media and Google Ads as well as his contacts to network the business. Students had also arrived through private websites where he’d list himself as a tutor.
A typical day...
A typical day for Joshua depends on the number of students he has. Sometimes, it starts with a couple of hours of tutoring or it could start with developing lesson plans for his students. And most evenings, he’ll work on the company website.
“When first taking on a student, I work with them to develop personalised lesson plans and ways of working. Depending on their age, I’ll discuss the plan with their parents so the plan allows them the time to work alongside other schoolwork or a curriculum of home school or summer school.”
Other times, when Joshua takes on a student, he may reach out to his network, which right now is made up of five people, to execute the teaching across English, maths and sciences.
At the moment, he takes on most of the work himself, but he’s on the cusp of getting a wider network of other tutors with different specialities set up. He is looking to build up to a network of roughly 10 teachers or more to deliver high-quality education that will be available online.
“A lot of my students use Google Classrooms now so I thought I could teach smaller class sizes and try and make it a real online school or tuition centre. International students like the idea of getting into British institutions so it could potentially work as a global business.”
Up to 20% of Joshua’s overseas students have all come because they want a British education – so he believes the market is quite big.
The pricing varies for different customers – so if for instance he’s been recommended, he may charge a different price.
He’s created a structure for private sessions and group sessions and charges on a weekly basis. He’s tried to be competitive but has not completely undercut the market.
Given the network of teachers, the breadth of knowledge and what Oakley Tutors offers, Joshua believes that the proposition is unique to the market – he’s just getting started.
Joshua’s biggest challenge is figuring out what to do with the time that’s not scheduled. “It’s something you have to deal with when you run a business like this. At a school, you rock up and do a good job, you’re guaranteed students will be there, staff will support you, all these things, but with private businesses, someone could just cancel out of the blue, you have to get used to that.”
Not being paid for lessons has never been an issue for Joshua, but he does find that some students can miss up to one out of every four meetings they have scheduled. Joshua’s schedule also gets booked up quickly so sometimes has to take the hard decision to ask them to find someone else.
Building long term relationships with students was a challenge for Joshua from the start. He found it difficult to find students that would stick around and see out the program.
One of the proudest moments for any tutor or teacher is seeing their students grow. Joshua agrees with this and says that watching the students progress and ‘when they listen and trust me’ is when he really begins to enjoy the teaching process.
Joshua points out that one of his students had been kicked out of two schools but was a smart teenager. They’ve been working together for about a year now and it’s a different story – the student is about to get himself a good GCSE grade. It’s seeing these turnarounds and the joy of the students that made Joshua get into teaching in the first place.
He’s also managed to see some high Google traffic to his website, despite only launching Oakley Tutors around a year ago. That’s some good SEO (search engine optimisation).
‘I like it all, the notifications, it comes through straight away’
Since joining Mettle, Joshua has found that some of our features have really helped him with the business. The ability to be paid straight away after the lesson has finished is a great way of making sure students aren’t falling behind on their payments. He does however currently batch-invoice for lessons but is thinking of moving to a weekly schedule.
Working through lockdown and COVID was never going to be ideal but teaching all his students online allowed Joshua to continue his work and adapt his way of doing things to best meet the needs of his students.
Joshua really enjoys the freedom and challenges of running his own business and constantly having to upskill himself means it’s not just his students who are learning.
Want to find out more about Oakley Tutors? Check out their website here.