How can I make money with my website?

I Grade Your Paper

Basically, I’m a college writing tutor.

I present myself as helping customers by “grading” their papers before they have to turn them in–in other words, by giving the same kind of feedback their professor would give them, but giving it to them before they turn it in, so they can do better, and get a better grade than they would have otherwise.

I feel certain I’ve got a good idea here. Several of the people I’ve done business with have become repeat customers. And I’ve had no negative feedback whatsoever.

But I have to advertise, and I can not make my revenues come out to be more than my advertising.

Now, I’ve only tried two methods of advertising. One is papering campuses and hangouts with flyers and cards. The other is online advertising through Google Adwords and through Facebook. (Also I have a facebook page for the website.)

On Facebook, I ended up getting a lot of people to become “fans” of my site–but not a single one ever submitted a paper for me to grade.

Papering campusses and hangouts has resulted in no submitted papers.

Adwords did better, but not enough to make up for the cost even of adwords, much less the facebook and flyer costs.

So… ideas? Is there some way I can make this work?

There are a couple of improvements I’d like to make on the site itself. The submissions process needs to be streamlined. Ideally, I’d like people to be able to just upload their paper directly through the site. Even more ideally, I’d like the payment process to be integrated into this. Even more ideally still, I’d be interested in letting people set up accounts. But the three ideals I just listed are in increasing order of me-not-knowing-how-the-hell-to-do-any-of-that-in-html-or-whatever-language-I-should-use.

Also I need to clean up the “testimonials” page for readability.

Other suggestions about the site itself are welcome too. The general theme of my question, though, is how to make the business work. How do I get people to let me grade their papers for a small fee?

You may have problems with schools that have an honor code. Hiring a pro to improve the student’s work may violate an independent work requirement.

Cute cats with macros on them.

Ask yourself are you offering a “necessary” service or a “nice” service.

Times are really bad out there. People aren’t going to use a service unless they need to.

For example, I can fly first class or coach. Yes first class is nice, IF you can afford it, but the back of the plane gets there the same time as the front.

Students tend to be strapped, and jobs are hard to come by.

Finally ask yourself are you offering a service that they can get for free?

I looked at your site and you thought of most things. The only thing I’d change is make the sight float, I had to right scroll to read it. But that’s a minor thing about design.

Finally adsense costs NOTHING. So why not use it. You could put it beneath the menu on the left or at the bottom.

Maybe you won’t make much but maybe you’d make enough to cover the cost of your domain name per year.

And if it doesn’t work or you think putting “ads” on your site would be inappropirate it’s easy to take off.

I actually LIKE the idea of your service, but in truth, times are too tough for most people, especially college kids, my gut feeling is this is sort of a “luxury service.” And people cut back on luxuries in tough economic times.

Unfortunately, the ideal marketing would seem to be word-of-mouth from previous customers. One way to facilitate this would be to use “promotional” deals. Do a substantial number for free (at no risk to the customer) or reduced price, for first-time customers. You’ll get a lot more business. Then, after the word has gotten out, charge full price.

I did this as a math tutor in college and after. I did many sessions for free, knowing that college students don’t have much extra cash. All those “free” sessions were valuable to me, as I gained experience in how different people learn, making me a better teacher. Eventually, I became the most popular and most requested math tutor at my university.

But I don’t improve their work. I don’t make any changes, with the exception of adding footnotes asking the students questions, and making remarks, designed to help them understand how to improve their own work.

You can look at the samples on the website to get an idea what I do. It’s like a writing workshop sort of.

The services offered seem to be no different from the services provided by a university’s writing center, which could also be a problem (many universities already offer such a service for free).

Yes, there is that. I admit I’ve kind of just ignored that fact, hoping it would still work–because honestly, this is work that I enjoy!–but perhaps this really is the problem.

Kids would rather pay fifty bucks for someone to write a paper for them than go get help on their own paper for free. So it does seem odd, I admit, that I would hope they’d pay ten bucks or so for something they won’t even do for free.

This is a pipe dream. Darn.

Well, bear in mind that I was in school when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Could be that my understandings of such things are out of touch with modern practice.

Kids do still chisel their work into stone tablets, right?

How much money have you put into building this online business? Website construction and advertising, I mean.

It’s true that you gotta spend money to make money. If you want the site to “do more” and think that’ll attract more people, you have to put that money into the site. If you need more Internet advertising because you think that’s going to draw more people in, you have to put more money into Internet advertising.

You’ve tried with a small budget but that’s not working for you. Ramp up the budget, and know that you’ll be in the red for a while until you’re in the black. Money don’t grow on trees! :slight_smile:

I grade your paper! I grade it up!

Not only that, but in my experience many university teachers are also willing to read student drafts and help the students make improvements.

I tell all my students, from the beginning of the semester, that i am willing to read drafts of their papers, and that i will make substantive comments on general writing and grammar, as well as on the intellectual content of the paper. I do for my students exactly what Frylock’s service offers, and i do it for free.

You know what the biggest barrier is to students taking advantage of this service? It’s not money, obviously, because i don’t charge. It’s the fact that very few undergrads are organized enough to have their first draft completed in time for me to read it and offer comments. If a paper is due at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, you can be sure that most students are putting the finishing touches on that paper somewhere around 9:45.

This semester, i had two classes of 50 students each, for a total of 100 students. There were four written assignments in each class over the course of the semester. On average, for each assignment, about 3 students per class took me up on my offer to read drafts. That’s about 6 percent. If this is the sort of numbers that take advantage of the service when it’s offered completely free of charge, by the very person who’s going to be grading their papers, it strikes me that the market for a similar paid service might not be especially large.

Maybe I’m missing something on your Examples page, but do you actually “grade” the papers? I mean, with an actual letter grade? Or do you just make comments?

I think this is a fabulous idea, and it’s something I would have taken advantage of in college. One suggestion I have is to perhaps make yourself seem more experienced and more versatile. Your website focuses on the fact that you are a philosophy graduate student – maybe change the focus to an experienced, professional grader.

To be perfectly honest anybody who cared that much about turning in a good paper would ask their teacher or use any of the free help available to them already.

(That actually is where the name comes from!)

You guys may be right about this. Though in my experience most profs aren’t willing to look at drafts, or don’t publicize their willingness. Also, students seem to tend to have this irrational fear of their professors and even their TAs.

The writing center thing never came to the forefront of my mind because while I guess we have one on my campus, and I’ve mentioned it to students before, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone actually using it. Which doesn’t mean they’re not using it, it’s just that that’s the reason writing centers didn’t come to the front of my mind when I thought about whether this website can work.

IME, though, writing centers mostly employ volunteer student tutors. So I could, I think, say something plausible about why I’m a better option. Not pretending that gives me much hope though.

So what are the chances this is the kind of thing where the people who are going to do it are going to do it even at a much highe price? In other words, not many people will go for it at any price, but the ones who will go for it at some price will go for it at a high price. Are there such commodities out there? Could this be one of them? Should I be charging a bunch more maybe?

Perhaps I’ll try it as a last ditch effort.