We Built A $1.2M/Year App For Tutors
Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Samuel Colvin, and I am the Co-founder of TutorCruncher. We are a Tutor Management Software company who enjoy helping agency owners worldwide run their business more efficiently.
Due to the complexities of the tutoring process, lots of business owners will find themselves swamped by admin work. This is where our business can help. We pride ourselves on taking boring tasks such as organizing lessons, schedules, and billing clients, and automate them. This means agency owners can focus on providing a better service and growing their business.
We pride ourselves on providing premium tools to all agencies regardless of size or location. Our team is also very dedicated to making owning a tutoring business accessible to all. Whether we are sharing simple tips with a small business just starting or discussing custom software building with a corporation, our team will always give 100%!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea of Tutorcruncher?
The TutorCruncher system was created as an in-house project, as a part of an existing UK-based tutoring agency called Bright Young Things. The business’ co-founders, Malachy and Samuel worked within the agency trying to figure out a way to simplify the knitty-gritty parts of running operations.
Be realistic about how much time is needed when taking on a new venture or product; work hard but don't overwork yourself
From trying to find a software solution to the admin issues of tutoring, it became incredibly clear that this product did not exist! Therefore, an in-house system was created to help a small number of UK tutoring agencies run their business better.
Building the initial TutorCruncher system took lots of hard development work and strategizing. Many of the processes within the day-to-day running of a tutoring business are complex and unique. Therefore creating a system that simplified this was a challenge. As the process went on it became increasingly clear that for many smaller or less tech-savvy businesses it would be impossible to create a custom system. Without high-quality tools readily available to many tutoring agencies, it was clear that businesses must waste hours a day sorting through basic admin work. Unintentionally, through creating a tutor management system, Samuel and Malachy had found and filled a gap in the market. In 2013, the TutorCruncher system officially became an independent product separate from the tutoring agency where it first began.
Today, TutorCruncher is the leading tutor management software in the UK, and is trusted by over one million users worldwide.
Take us through the process of building the MVP for TutorCruncher.
A system that was built by 4 different companies, funded and designed by those same four. Built in close partnership with tutoring companies - even chatting to them during the research process for creating a system that would serve these customers best. Our prototype has come a long way since then; we've stuck closely to our strategy of remaining ever-present at customer's sides from start to finish. Working closely with our customers allows us to use their feedback to constantly improve our product.
The TutorCruncher system was created as an in-house management tool for 4 UK-based tutoring agencies. The building and development of the company were funded by these organizations, who have used it to their advantage ever since!
The creation of the product as an in-house system meant the prototyping and design process was incredibly unique. Simultaneously as the system was being developed, it was also being tested by working tutoring agencies. Tutors and agency owners were able to give direct feedback to the developers from the foundations of the system, all the way through to the final product. This means the management tools are truly created by tutors and for tutors!
The first working version of the system contained the main foundational features of what you can access today. The features included simple user profiles for tutors, clients, and students, lesson scheduling tools, and invoicing tools. While the system has evolved far past this original prototype, we continue to focus on improving, and upgrading these core features, as for many tutoring business owners there will always be the most essential!
Describe the process of launching TutorCruncher.
The TutorCruncher launch story is one of hard work, perseverance, and innovation. Officially, the software was launched in June 2013 with a small team working to create the best possible tutoring software solution with limited resources. We had humble beginnings with only 8 customers at this point.
We pride ourselves on collaborating and solving problems as a collective, with each member of the team invested in the growth and success of the business.
Not happy with the foundations of the project, our team started rebuilding the tutor management software in 2014 to be released in July 2015. With the new system fully polished and out of beta, they were able to take TutorCruncher to the market.
There were a lot of lessons learned from this launch. Ultimately, yes, we didn’t get it right the first time but we had the initiative to put pride to the side and start rebuilding a platform that we could really be proud of.
Screenshots of the early website:
Since the website launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
There are a few key reasons why we believe TutorCruncher continues to attract new customers and grow as a business.
- Team - At present, we have a relatively small, innovative team of 8 individuals, primarily from development backgrounds, and we are very ‘hands-on. We are unique because we have vast expertise in the tutoring industry (from our humble beginnings as in-house software). We have expertise in effective administration and business management, and we have expertise in the technological tools available to offer the most sophisticated system on the market.
- Digital marketing - Taking the form of SEO, content creation (blogs, external), paid advertising, email marketing, and social media - we always believed that digital marketing is integral to our business growth. This is why we employ experts in these fields and use their experience to craft strategies that drive sustained growth.
- Search Engine Optimisation - We have always understood the importance of SEO for driving new customers from the search. We used keyword research from the early to determine what search queries were the most commercially relevant to TutorCruncher and our wider industry.
In addition to this, we used keyword research and tools to determine what questions our customers were asking. By providing a helpful, thought-out answer to these questions we could give value back to our community and this formed the basis of our blog strategy.
- Support - Since we launched in 2013, we have always included free support as part of our monthly service, which has been imperative to retaining our customer base. We strongly believe that customer satisfaction is integral to our success as a platform, and we frequently use feedback and surveys to innovate. As an example, we used customer feedback to adjust our client booking feature.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Monthly Traffic: 80,000-100,000
Breakdown of sales: We sell all of our products through digital marketing. Around 50% of people who talk with our sales team end up signing up. Our main sources of traffic and sign-ups are organic traffic via our website and google ads PPC advertising.
Today the TutorCruncher team is a small, lean, dynamic team of 8. The business has grown throughout Covid-19 and is continuing on the same trajectory even as we head out of the pandemic. The growth of the company comes down to successful teamwork. We pride ourselves on collaborating and solving problems as a collective, with each member of the team invested in the growth and success of the business. This is what we think is our secret sauce.
We are about to launch a new and exciting product with TutorCruncher which will allow us to expand our market to freelance tutors and give our existing clients easier mobile access. The TutorCruncher Tutor App (launching Autumn 2021) will allow tutors to do many of the tasks they did via the web app through an easy-to-access app. What’s more, the app will open the TutorCruncher system to freelance tutors who want a simple way to schedule their lessons, invoice their clients and take payment! The new Tutor App will be the biggest update to the TutorCruncher system since its original launch in 2013!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Some of the best investments made by us have been into people. Again, we chose the right team of individuals to fully commit to our software development and it has worked wonders. In addition to this, we reward commitment by investing back into our human resources offering certifications and other incentives.
Stay ahead of the game, work hard and enjoy yourself along the way.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Intercom - Intercom, our customer relationship management tool, is likely the most important tool for our team. Since we work very closely with our clients and provide personalized customer support, having a tool that just works is very important! On average we send and receive 500+ messages per month.
HubSpot - The HubSpot Sales App analyzes our data to show the sales reps which leads are "hot" and most likely to convert into an opportunity. This allows reps to prioritize their time accordingly and provides a less hectic, more productive workflow.
Google Analytics - Google Analytics is key in guiding our marketing and sales activity and is central to future venture planning. Our team is currently working on restructuring parts of our website to make customer journeys more simple. Monitoring metrics such as Time on Site, Bounce Rate, and Conversions via a page give us concrete insight into whether our improvements are working. Also, we can gain insights in terms of technology used on our website such as the device splits - using this data we can determine the best device category to optimize for. As an example, our device splits for a few months have been 61% desktop and 37% mobile.
GitHub - Being on GitHub is an open door to infinite potential and it’s a place where you can create or find nearly any type of code repository imaginable so we’re happy to be using this to its fullest potential.
Ahrefs - This is an SEO tool that helps us understand things like our backlink profile, organic keywords, explore other ranking content and see how we are fair versus the competition. Using the overview section as an illustrative example, you can see that our backlink profile has been steadily growing since 2013.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Qualified Tutor - We love QT because it’s essentially by tutors, for tutors and provides a lot of helpful content to the industry. The Qualified Tutor (QT) is a grassroots movement led by tutors and school leaders to raise standards in the tutoring profession with this flexible yet comprehensive qualification and quality mark.
Also, generally speaking, we tend to observe big players in SAAS and software spaces because they tend to lead the way. Even if we use HubSpot as an example, some of the features and marketing advice that they provide are excellent places to start.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Start with a problem that you've personally experienced and find the smallest component of that issue to solve. That’s essentially how TutorCruncher was born. We identified a problem and solution from working within the tutoring industry.
Apart from that, here’s 6 more miscellaneous pieces of advice from us:
- Learn how to sell your product
- Have at least one person on your team with great social skills (public relations, communications, media)
- Create a strong connection between the customer's WIIFM (what's in it for me?) and what you are trying to do with your business - this will help them feel secure in both their decision to purchase and invest time/money into the company
- Be realistic about how much time is needed when taking on a new venture or product; work hard but don't overwork yourself
- Take care of your personal life and needs outside of the business so that you're motivated internally and externally
- Don't be scared!
Hope this helps and feel free to reach out if you require clarity on any of them.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, we have no open positions but that is not to say that we are not open to opportunities. If you feel a strong alignment with TutorCruncher’s values and want to learn more about opportunities, feel free to connect with us on social media and send a CV to our email address [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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