TutorBird: An Industry-Leading All-in-One Management Software for Tutors, with Communications Specialist, Erin Ross: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?

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Ludo Millar 0:51
Hello and welcome to this special episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast.

Erin and I, my guest here today who I’ll introduce in just a second, we’re talking about how this time of year is a strange one for everyone. No one’s quite sure what day it is and no one’s quite sure what will be happening the next day or the day after. So I’m really glad that Erin has agreed to do a podcast with us today in this crazy time between the traditional Christmas holiday period, for those who celebrate it, and the New Year just as we look ahead to 2022.

Now there was some big news just before Christmas. I can’t believe you would have missed it, but if you have, the big news is that TutorBird, of which Erin Ross, our guest today, is the Communications Specialist, and we’ll get into a little bit more about who TutorBird are and what they do but TutorBird were announced as the Sponsors of Day 5 at the Love Tutoring Festival 2 this coming January. So that’s Friday the 28th of January. And the theme of Day 5 is World Tutoring. And I don’t think there could be a better fit for the sponsors of that day. And if you’re wondering why, then you’ll have to stay tuned for the next 25 minutes or so to find out. But welcome Erin, thank you so much for joining us.

Erin Ross 2:59
Thank you Ludo for having me here today. I’m really excited to be here to talk to you a little bit about TutorBird, talk to you about my role a bit as the Communications Specialist at TutorBird. And of course, to talk about the Love Tutoring Festival that we are so excited to be a sponsor of.

Ludo Millar 3:15
Yeah, we’re really really delighted that Erin and her team reached out because Day 5 is a really important day for us. It’s one of the reasons why an online festival means so much to us is because of this global element, this World Tutoring element. And for those of you who were with us for Love Tutoring Festival 1 back in June, you’ll know that the Friday there was World Tutors’ Day, this new global awareness day that we’ve established to celebrate the work of tutors across the world in this this new state of tutoring and in 2021 and 2022. So there are going to be yeah, as I alluded to there, we’re going to start off by talking a little bit about Erin’s background and about TutorBird, how the platform works. And then in the second half, we’ll be talking a little bit about the Love Tutoring Festival. So without further ado, Erin, our first question is, what is your why?

Erin Ross 4:12
Well, for me personally, and honestly, I think I can speak on behalf of the team at TutorBird, we are a very, very passionate team. We are not a huge company. We’re a relatively small team. Unlike a lot of other software companies, a lot of them work remotely and are spread out all over the world. We actually all work together in the same office. We’re huge on collaboration and one thing that really, really drives me is helping to fuel other people’s passion so we try to divert our goals to eliminate a lot of the administrative stress and the administrative tasks that private tutors and tutoring businesses have to worry about in order to get their business running. And what is so fulfilling about working with the tutoring community is seeing their own passion for working with their students. There are tutors and so many different subjects, so many different industries, there’s a lot of really niche tutoring groups we’ve been able to talk to over the past couple of years. And I personally have been able to connect with a lot of them on Facebook, and other groups. We have a whole onboarding team who runs group demos. And we found all of these little niche groups where there’s math tutors, or there’s English tutors, or there’s reading tutors, or reading and specific subjects like dyslexia.

And while all of these tutors are teaching a number of different things, and the actual content that they’re tutoring can vary from region to region, and from subject to subject, there’s this thread of passion that just connects all of them. So when we’re able to go in and we’re able to say, hey, you know, the boring invoicing stuff, the stuff that takes up your time, chasing down the payments and getting those, you know, the parents of the students to hand in the cheque, we can get rid of all of that, so that you can just focus on the passion of connecting with your students. And it’s that connection that really, really drives me and, you know, when I get up in the morning, and I’m on my way into work, I’m thinking about, okay, as the Communications Specialist, who do I get to connect with today. Am I connecting with the private tutor that maybe was a public school educator for years, and during the pandemic decided, you know, “I think it’s time to maybe take an early retirement and just focus on teaching this one subject to students”. Am I going to be connecting with someone who started doing tutoring years ago, just as a side hustle, and as time has grown and time has gone on, they’ve been able to grow their business, they’ve been able to hire other tutors, they’ve been able to introduce more subjects, and now they’re running this business that they never thought was possible, all because we were able to help provide the tools. Am I going to be connecting with someone like you today, Ludo, where we’re two people in the same space, where we are here to support tutors, we’re here to help the industry grow, we’re here to learn from other tutors as well. And it’s just it’s great that every day I know, there’s that thread of connection, that my passion of helping others fuel their passion is going to keep growing, keep continuing and help us as a company.

Ludo Millar 7:08
I think that connection is so powerful, and it’s what you’re able to do as a platform, as a tutor management software is you’re able to, just as you say, speak to hundreds, 1000s of tutors. And so in that first point you made those was brilliant, just being in the same office, you know, when Erin and I had our first meeting and the TutorBird head of growth, Dasa, was there as well. And they were sitting in the same office, you know, and I was being beamed in on the big screen, it felt very, very not like the last few years when everyone’s just been working from their own home or that kind of thing. So I really love that you are able to get into the office together. And I think that will help create such good collaboration within your team, which I’m sure absolutely really shows to those tutors.

Now. I’ve had a good look around the the platform and, you know, there is an enormous amount of, as I was saying to you earlier, TutorBird have clearly thought about every little detail that takes up a tutor or teacher’s life. So could you tell us a little bit more about how the platform works?

Erin Ross 8:22
Absolutely. So we launched TutorBird about seven years ago actually under a different name called My Schoolbooks, we’ve rebranded it to TutorBird towards the end of 2019, just to really drive home who our target demographic is for this product. It’s not you know, classroom teachers. It’s not selling textbooks, it’s specifically for tutors. And the majority of our members are actually just a single private tutor often working out of their own home working online. We do have a number of multi-tutor businesses as well. Every decision we’ve made, every feature that we implement, there’s a lot of intention behind it. We really, really take the feedback of our members and of the tutoring community to heart and we use that to build more features. We use that to improve on the features. At the end of the day, our core four kind of features are the student management, the scheduling, the attendance, recording, and the invoicing and billing all of the finances. And the the main foundation that TutorBird works on is calendar-based billing. So what that means is the student’s management talks to the calendar which talks to the attendance statuses which talks to the invoicing and billing.

So at the end of the day, you’re doing an initial setup to get things going. And then you’ve completely streamlined the entire process. So you add your students, you can add the parents or if they’re an adult student, they would just have their own account. You’d set up your scheduling, you can have a number of different billing options. We really pride ourselves on providing as much flexibility within the platform as possible. Our aim is to support tutors and how they run their business, not to set up a platform that tutors have to then adapt their own policies to make work. So we’re really, really flexible. There’s a number of different settings you can implement to make it work for you. And if there’s something that the tutor finds maybe isn’t exactly the way their own business is set up, we want to hear it. We love hearing the feedback from our members in order to help us shape how we make the changes as we go.

It is a cloud-based application, which means as long as you have connection to the internet, you can access it, which is great for tutoring on the go. How many times do you get a text from a parent saying, “Something came up, we need to change this. Can you have a look at the schedule and see if there’s an opening?”. Well, you don’t need to open up your computer and sign into a million different places to find it, you can just easily pull it up on your phone and find what you need to find. One of the top fan favourite features from our member base is the automatic features we have within the billing. So you can really, really streamline how you’re getting paid. At the end of the day, there’s automatic invoicing, you can automatically send the invoices, we do integrate with Stripe and PayPal to collect online payments. Automatic payments can be set up as well. So really, with just an initial setup of maybe 20 minutes, a half hour getting a student completely set up with their schedule and billing information, you no longer need to do any manual entry to stay on top of that and collect the payments on time.

Ludo Millar 11:30
No more chasing up or not being sure when that month’s work, payment is going to come. So, you mentioned there just before that, that you have tutors from across the range of subjects all together on this one platform: is the platform different for different subjects, how does that work across the range?

Erin Ross 11:55
So it is the same platform just for everyone. The only difference would be if you are just a single tutor working on your own, you would have the single tutor account. If you do have other tutors in your business or other tutors that you’re working alongside with, there is a multi-tutor option that just adds a bit more features with regards to who’s the administrator, what different user privileges the other tutors would have. But because we cater to tutors, of all industries, all subjects all over the world, we’ve intentionally left it so that it’s up to you as the tutor for how you want to use it. Like I said, there’s so much flexibility built into the platform.

We have an online resources area. So you can upload any resources that you need to provide to your students and share them directly in the app, which allows a reading coach to be able to make use of the features exactly in the way that they would need to use it versus, you know, an LSAT prep instructor who would need to upload their own set of resources. But it also allows for that growth and expansion. So you’re not completely locked into you know, when I started this, I was a single tutor, I was only teaching, you know, geometry and then perhaps your business grows, you bring another tutor on board or you start to expand, there’s more subjects being offered, you start offering a different way of doing things, some alternate policies, you don’t have to start from scratch because the platform is already so flexible, that it’s so easy, and just a few clicks to make these changes.

Ludo Millar 13:24
That sounds like a real lifesaver for many tutors, the tutoring community. We have a Qualified Tutor Community, there’s all of these little paths that you’ve built into the platform. Those are the kinds of questions we’re getting, you know, how do you deal with this? How do you manage this? What’s your policy for this? So I think you know, and I saw as well, when I was investigating TutorBird a little bit more, you know, you’ve got these templates for cancellation policies and that kind of thing and draft messages that you can send out. And I just think that that’s amazing to save that kind of time and to always be two steps ahead of what the next problems are for any tutors. What’s the secret, Erin? How do you stay two steps ahead?

Erin Ross 14:09
You know, like I mentioned before, we really, really take member feedback to heart. So when we launched about seven years ago, the platform was a lot simpler, there was a lot of features that we hadn’t added yet and over time as we’ve heard from the tutors in the community about what they want to see, we’re able to add that which then in turn allows other tutors who may not have thought about that policy or who may not have thought about that feature can now see it and use that in their business and we really do everything with intention to support growth of most of our members are the private tutors or the small businesses who maybe have a background in education but not a background in business. So you know they don’t know what they don’t know if we can provide these templates if we can set up these these policies in place where okay, you don’t have to be the bad guy and tell them they are still being charged for this missed lesson because of the 24-hour policy, we can bake this into the product. So now that’s one less thing that you have to worry about. It’s one less thing that you have to spend your time as a tutor researching these business aspects, we can now support your growth in allowing you to focus on that connection again, back to connection, the connection with your students and sharing your knowledge with them. We continue to grow, I know we’ve got a number of features we’re excited to take a look at in the coming years. We’ve got things that mean, I mentioned the core features, but we already have in place the online resources section, we’ve got a lending library feature where if you have physical resources that you hand out that you want to keep track of, you can keep track of that within there.

We do have a website builder, it’s a fairly simple website builder. But again, for the tutor who started just kind of tutoring as a side gig and is now trying to expand into a full-time or professional looking business. If you’re not a web developer, you don’t know where to start with that. Here, we’ve got a simple website builder in there. So you can quickly create a website, you can attract new students, you can get them signed up. We also have a student portal, which is a fantastic feature for tutors, where one of our biggest competitors is pen and paper. You have a lot of tutors, who will scribble down notes at the end of a session, hand it home, have a student write something down in their notebook, take it with them. And then you get those follow up texts of, “When’s my next lesson? Can we cancel this?”. With the student portal, it gives the students and their parent the ability to just log in on their own, see past lesson feedback, see their own schedule, make changes, register for an open lesson slot view those online resources, it just creates sort of a one-stop shop for that parent student tutor relationship to be fully online.

Ludo Millar 16:56
I think that’s key as well, isn’t it, as we’re talking about and to tutors here, of course. But for the parent, it has to be streamlined as well. And it has to be safe, and it has to be effective. And it has to save them time because pen and paper is obviously a tried and trusted method. It’s worked quite well for a number of years. So yeah, I mean, I loved your point earlier about, you know, you’re introducing people who perhaps are very good pedagogues, very good teachers, but who don’t necessarily know so much about the business side. If you were just to look at the surface at TutorBird, you might think it’s just exactly that, yeah, it’s just a management software, it’s just a little software that maybe can save you some time. But actually, what you’re doing is you’re raising standards, because you’re showing people that you should have a cancellation policy, and here’s a good way to do it, it’s not the way to do it. So it’s not the only way to do it, but it’s a good way of doing it or you’re showing people that you know that they can invoice you know weekly, if it if they need to a monthly rather than being at the behest of the parent you know, and always asking, you know, please can you pay at this time please can you pay at this time you’re showing them that actually they can implement a system where the parent is forced to pay at this time because that is what’s required for that tutor’s business and I think that’s a really important extra advantage to something like this is you’re actually showing tutors what good tutoring looks like, what good business looks like. And as you say, if tutors on the platform can show each other that and you get good feedback from a tutor who says, “Please can you add this feature?” and then that feature is integrated and it shows other tutors about that particular area, then you’re creating this community-led progress, community-led development which I think is wonderful. So yeah, if you’re not convinced by that now and you’re listening then I don’t know what could ever convince you because that was a fairly in-depth, fairly detailed and obviously completely thorough look at what TutorBird can do for you as a tutor. And now TutorBird can do something else for you. I’d like to tell a little bit about the Festival, Erin. Why are you guys so excited to be to be partnering on the Love Tutoring Festival 2?

Erin Ross 19:18
Well, one thing that we’ve loved about the tutoring community over the past couple of years, especially again is building that sense of community and connection. When we first launched TutorBird, we didn’t really see that, we didn’t see a larger group of of tutors coming together. There was a lot of small little pockets, there were these niche groups with, you know, a few 100 people here, maybe less than that and as time has gone on and the tutoring community has really, really grown I think especially with a lot of tutors having to adapt to tutoring online during the pandemic and therefore being able to expand the reach of students and also expand the reach to other tutors around the world, this community has really, really, really started to grow. We are sponsoring the Friday, which is the World Tutoring day. And we’re based in Canada, you’re in the UK right now. And while we are a Canadian company, we’re located just a little bit outside of Toronto, we have members all over the world. We have I think I mentioned earlier, our team of onboarding specialists who do one-to-one calls to help members get set up and small group demos. And those group demos can have up to six people in there. And there have been groups where those six people are all from a completely different country. And it’s been so amazing to see that reach and to see, you know, the differences from region to region, when someone in a call or someone on an onboarding call mentions, “Oh, well over here, we actually call it this”. And it’s something that we wouldn’t have known without being able to have this connection with them.

When you have a small group of tutors who are all in different countries, who are suddenly realising something that one of them had a problem with, could be solved by TutorBird and something that someone else has already solved, they can now share their resources together. So being able to sponsor the day specifically focused on tutoring all around the world, really just aligns with what our passion and mission is as a company, which is supporting the growth of tutors everywhere.

Ludo Millar 21:16
Yeah, and there are some very high-quality speakers on the Friday. There’s, to take you through just a little bit, Lucy Spencer is the Founder of Education Boutique, who’ll be talking about the concept of decentralised education is looking at, you know, the need or not necessarily the need but the vision for the future of schools without walls without having to go to a physical location and being able to tap into the worldwide educated market. Then Gavin McCormack is delivering a keynote at 11am UK time. Gavin is the Founder of Education Influence, they recently ran a huge worldwide conference where he asked teachers from around the world to deliver an hour of, of teaching, just one hour teaching and I think you know, he gathered together 1000s of parents and students from around the world and hundreds of teachers. And then 12pm, we’ve got the Co-Founder of Tutors in China, a guy called John Woodberry who’s going to be talking to us a little bit about some of the developments in the Chinese market. And then the final event of the entire Festival is this huge, huge event, this International Tutoring Roundtable. For the Festival in June, we had nine panelists from I think four continents around the world, chaired by the CEO of LearnCube, Alex Asher. So that’s a huge moment for connection. Going back to that word again, you know, that is a place for tutors with completely different world experiences and cultures to come together and share what they know. So we’re so so glad that you guys have joined us for that. You guys are delivering day 5 because that’s really what it means. And I guess a good place to finish and something you were alluding to just then I thought no, no, Erin’s going to jump ahead of the questions that I had lined up. But you just refrained from it just enough, what is the TutorBird vision? What’s coming next? What does 2022 hold for TutorBird?

Erin Ross 23:24
Well, on the more technical side of things, the team has been working really, really hard for the better part of the last couple of years to actually completely revamp the entire platform on new technology. So they have been painstakingly and very carefully rebuilding every feature on newer technology that allows it to load faster, we’ve got a bit more of a focus on the mobile experience to help with the the tutors on the go. But more of a modern UI, we’re really, really excited to release that, hopefully in the coming months. And then just more from the connection side of things where we’re hoping maybe as the world kind of slowly opens up that some more in-person conferences and trade shows may happen. It’s been something we’ve really missed over the pandemic being able to have that in person connection, which is why we’re so excited about things like the LTF, the Love Tutoring Festival being online and allowing us to connect with everyone. If anyone is interested in TutorBird at all, our fabulous support team is always available so we find we do get our connection that way give us a call send us an email we’re happy to hear your feedback, we’re happy to help you walk through a problem that can be solved by the platform. But we really just want to  keep connecting with the tutors, keep doing what we can do to support the growth of tutors throughout and see a lot of tutors continue tutoring online if there’s more we can help with in that area as well.

Ludo Millar 24:50
Yeah, absolutely. Well this is a big step. Obviously for that because you know you this may be the first time that the tutors, our audience for the LTF may have heard of TutorBird, it may not be I’m sure many of them are on the platform as well, which is a really good moment to dive in, to be part of it, because you’ve got a combination of people who have obviously definitely heard of it, who use it, who love it, and introducing new people to it. And if you’re in that second category of not having heard of TutorBird before, then, of course, you can go to tutorbird.com today, as soon as you’ve finished this and make an account. There are plenty of very, very good pricing options there. And of course, as Erin has been saying, they take care of everything. And if not, if you’re not ready to jump in just yet, you can find out much more about to TutorBird at the Discovery sessions, which will be happening happening Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 4pm GMT or 4pm UK time, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at the Festival, you will be able to drop in, book in and have a chat with with one of the TutorBird team. I’m sure Erin, but perhaps someone else.

Erin Ross 25:59
I will be there. Come on by, ask any questions. I think I’ll be giving a bit of a demo just to show kind of TutorBird in action. So you can see a bit how some of the features work together, and exactly how you can kind of get rolling and get things started.

Ludo Millar 26:13
Awesome. So that’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at the Festival from 4pm till 6pm UK time. Erin, thank you so much for coming on, for dropping in on today, Thursday, the 30th of December, a big day happening tomorrow, obviously. But yeah, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. And we are so so excited about the Festival.

Erin Ross 26:35
Thank you for having me. Again, we are so excited as well, really looking forward to connecting with tutors from all around the world during those Discovery sessions. In the meantime, if anyone does have questions, is interested in, you know, having a poke around TutorBird, you can sign up for a free trial at tutorbird.com. We do have group demos, we do have our support team whether you’re you’ve been a member for five years or you’re in a trial or you don’t even have a trial and you’re just interested in exploring. Reach out to us support@tutorbird.com, we really pride ourselves on having a great support team who is always happy to help so we hope to hear from some of you.

Ludo Millar 27:13
There we go. That’s your next step. Okay, well have a wonderful end to the year everyone, listeners today. And we’re looking very much looking forward to the start of the new year 2022. They’re all over again. So thank you very much listeners. See you next time.

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Ludo Millar

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