The Grasshopper and the Ants... and the Test Prep Tutors

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The next time you're tired of binge-watching Netflix, you may want to revisit some of the Disney classics. Not Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid. The cartoons from way back in Disney's early years.  

In particular, the Walt Disney's Silly Symphony Series, which ran from 1929 through 1939, featured a number of great cartoons. Many of these animated shorts were essentially morality plays for children. One in particular, The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934), holds a particularly important lesson for test prep tutors.    

If you're unfamiliar with The Grasshopper and the Ants, you can watch it for free on youtube. Essentially, it's an 8-minute version of Aesop's Fable: The Ant and the Grasshopper.

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At around the one minute mark, you can guess exactly how it's going to end. A happy-go-lucky grasshopper, Hop, begins taunting an army of hard-working ants as they prepare for winter by stuffing a tree full of vegetables.

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Hop plays his fiddle and invites the ants to stop working and join him in leisure. He sings a catchy tune called "The World Owes Me a Living" and a few ants join him. Then the Ant Queen shows up and scolds the grasshopper for failing to prepare for winter. 

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Predictably, the grasshopper fails to heed her warning. 

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Later, in the dead of winter, we see the grasshopper struggle to find food. Out of options, he goes to the ants and pleads with them to help him survive the winter.

I won't spoil the ending, but it's worth noting that the story deviates from the grim ending of  the Aesop's Fable version. In any event, the lesson is obvious. Make hay while the sun shines. Stuff your tree with veggies whenever you get the chance. Winter is coming, etc. 

That's all well and good, but tutors don't need hay. They can grocery shop anytime they'd like more veggies. And this year's winter is practically here. So what can we glean from this 82-year-old fable?  

Well, grasshoppers need food. Tutors need students. And while the comparison is not perfectly analogous, it is perfectly serviceable for our purposes. Because the larger point is this: just as there are easy and hard times to gather food, there are easy and hard times to generate leads and referrals for tutoring.

The challenge for tutors is spotting the right time to begin preparing. There's no change in the weather to help you identify these opportunities. As a result, you'll need to pay close attention to your day-to-day business, while keeping an eye on the season ahead. For many independent tutors, that's easier said than done.

There are the hectic times when business is cranking, tutors are all booked up, and they're so overworked that they can't begin to think about preparing for the the next test prep season.  

Then there are the idle times, when business is slow and cash is tight. Think August, for example.

Try not to think of these times as "the bad months." Because if you use it right, a slow December in 2016 can be the most important month of 2017. That's hardly a bad month!

So what's the lesson? What's a grasshopper... err... tutor to do? 

Simple. Use what you've got when you've got it.

When you've got the time, use it to plan out everything you need to do in preparation for the next test prep season. This is the time for big picture planning:

Review and implement new curriculum.

Consider other ways to improve your test prep tutoring.

Add group courses for SAT and ACT prep.

Optimize your pricing model.

Formalize workflows for hiring and training tutors.

Schedule free practice SAT tests.

Leverage social media to promote free practice SAT tests.

Establish lines of communication with local schools and youth organizations.

Research live events and and add them to your company calendar. 

Later, during those busy months when you've got more cash and less time, act decisively. Quickly implement the plans you developed during the slower times. 

There are always good reasons not to prepare for the future. For the Grasshopper, it was the irresistible appeal of singing and dancing. For you, it may be the perceived necessity of "putting out fires" or "waiting for the right time."

The moral of the Grasshopper and the Ants isn't just that you shouldn't be a lazy, hedonistic insect. It's that you should always be looking for ways to make good use of your time -- all the time.  

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To help you make the best use of your time, we've put together a great new ebook: How to Generate and Convert Leads by Hosting Free Practice SAT Tests. A while back, we gave away Chapter 3 for free. If you haven't already checked that out, then click here to get your free copy. 

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Now, we're getting ready to release the full ebook, which includes more than 50 pages of content to help you leverage free practice SAT tests to grow your tutoring business. Click the link below to sign up for your free copy.  

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