SelfInformed

September 2013


Collective Success

Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Collective Success

Julie Yoder has forged a path to collaborative success with her company, 
The English Teacher Collective.

Tell us about your business.
We provide customized English language courses for international professionals and families living, working, or studying in the Washington, D.C. metro area. We specialize in private tutorials for adults, young adults and children in need of extra support and an individualized approach to language learning.

How did you get started?
I started developing the concept for the service in 2006 when I was working in the public school system. I had already been teaching English as a Second Language since 1996. I had a long-standing hunch that self-employment was the best fit for me and was forced into finding a way to support myself after suffering burnout. 

What’s your favorite thing about your business?
Our close relationships with our clients. Since we work primarily with people one-on-one, we get to know them really well, which helps us tremendously when creating a specialized language improvement plan for them.

What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
The flexibility, by far. When I was teaching public school I had 
some degree of autonomy and flexibility in how I performed 
my job, but it doesn’t even approach the flexibility I have now.

How do you market your business?
We have been around long enough to generate business from referrals, but we also pay close attention to our web presence. We have a blog on our web site that we update periodically to drive web traffic, and the web site is linked to the company Facebook page, which is updated daily. I’d say almost all of the non-referral clients we get come through the contact form on our web site, although we have occasionally gained clients from putting up flyers in coffee shops near universities. 

What advice would you offer to your fellow NASE Members?
Listen carefully to your intuition and let it guide you. Some outside advice is helpful, particularly things like the technical steps of setting up a business. But in terms of your personal vision, most of the time the “experts” don’t fully understand your unique situation or motivation for working for yourself. In our case, we want to maintain our close relationships with clients and preserve our flexibility while pursuing smart and sustainable growth. Moreover, we hold work-life balance as a high priority, so we don’t want to jump into any new ventures that will take up all of our time.

What NASE benefits have you used?
Having dental and vision insurance again was very exciting! 
I’ve also had success with the prescription drug discount card. We are still exploring the NASE benefits for businesses, but we plan to utilize LegalZoom to update our contracts and other documents, and the printing services for our next round 
of promotional materials.

What challenges have you faced in your business?
Perhaps the biggest challenge was learning how the business cycle would play out and using the cyclical down times to focus on other parts of the business. We now know that our slow months are January and August and we can plan accordingly, going on vacation while our clients are also away, but saving for it in advance. But in the beginning it was nerve wracking and we spent a lot of energy worrying about whether or not the work would come again, and that was energy we could have put into other areas. Another challenge is how to set both fair and profitable pricing. Now that we are established, we no longer allow ourselves to be negotiated down in price, but it took a 
few instances of working for far too low a price to get there.

What’s the coolest thing about your business?
The collaborative, collective nature of it. I believe in bringing in quality people and giving them the freedom to make decisions and influence the shaping of the business. I would much rather have this structure than to be the boss all the time.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?
Choosing the people you work with. I hear horror stories from so many friends who work in organizations about office politics and people they have to work with who cause a lot of stress. If we get a sense that someone is going to be a stressful client or just not a good fit, we can choose not to work with them. I feel very fortunate that so many interesting and accomplished people are attracted to our service, and it is a joy to work with them.




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