SAT tutor Anthony-James Green wrote an essay for Vox about why his $1,000-per-hour students did better without him, leading him to make a career change. Below, he explains to Business Insider what it was like giving up such a lucrative job.
In the spring, summer, and fall of 2014, I had a full roster of SAT tutoring clients paying me $850-$1,000 an hour.
I’d been doing well beforehand, but this was an entirely different level of success for me.
For a little while, the influx of cash was incredibly exciting. Money was always an issue when I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of New York. We were never desperate, but financial stress was always present, so the sudden realization that I had more than enough was exhilarating.
Within months, however, I simply got used to the new level of income. You always hear it said that people aren’t any happier above ~$75,000 a year, but when you’re not wealthy, you’re tempted to call BS.
Suddenly, making much more, I realized how true it really was. I’d already been paying my bills before the influx, so I was just saving most of the money. The few lavish purchases I made “because I could” — an expensive watch, some designer-label clothes, all the stuff that we’re sold as a sign that “you’ve finally made it” — just made me feel self-conscious and stupid.
My online SAT prep program had already been out for a year, and I was actively encouraging people to sign up for the program for $597 instead of for my one-on-one sessions. My online students were doing just as well paying a fraction as much, but I wasn’t going to turn down such high fees from clients who weren’t just happy to pay — they insisted on working with me rather than enrolling online. But the money wasn’t making me any happier, and the work was making me miserable.
The majority of my students were very pleasant to work with. You’d think that some of the less-pleasant students might have been my reason for quitting my own practice, but it was actually one of my best students that finally got me to pull the plug.
I was sitting in my apartment Skype-chatting with a 16-year-old at 10 p.m. on a Friday evening, telling her stuff for $1,000 an hour that I’d already documented in my online program, and that she was supposed to have read already. She asked me to explain the answer to a question she’d gotten wrong over the course of the week, and I said:
“Listen: You already know how to find this information. It’s in the back of the book, and I’ve already taught you how to explain these things to yourself without my help. Why didn’t you look it up before we met?”
Without pausing, she said: “I know I could have found it on my own, but I just wanted to wait until I met with you.”
This was a totally capable, hard-working girl. It was at the moment that I realized just how unhealthy my own role in the process had become.
I had thousands of kids using my program to study on their own, to answer their own questions, and to put the power in their own hands. And here I was charging literally 100 times as much to act as a crutch — to hamstring this girl’s ability to learn. I felt completely sickened.
Over the next few months, I stopped taking on any new clients, mailed back the deposits that my clients had sent me (some as far in advance as 2020), and focused all of my energies on promoting my online program. The extra money was doing nothing to improve my quality of life, so it was just a matter of choosing between a fulfilling, promising lifestyle of spreading helpful, affordable information versus charging enormous sums to a small group of kids who were becoming less capable as a result of my one-on-one instruction. The decision was easy to make.
I’m paying myself a salary that meets my own needs, and not a dollar more. The rest of the money gets reinvested back into promoting and improving Green Test Prep. I’m making less money than I was before, but the extra money wasn’t making me a happier person. My lifestyle has changed drastically: I spend eight hours a day working on something I believe in wholeheartedly, and I spend the rest of the day with my friends and pursuing creative projects, which I couldn’t do when I was tutoring all night and all weekend.
Now that I can spend all day interacting with my online students, dissecting data, and making constant alterations to the program. The students enrolling in Green Test Prep continue to do better and better. We’re experiencing exponential growth, mostly through word of mouth, and for the first time in years, I feel like I’m really making a difference. I’m helping thousands of kids to excel on their own terms, rather than acting as a custodian to ~40 kids a year.
My goal is to make Green Test Prep a household name. Our average student is improving by over 345 points on the SAT and 4.66 points on the ACT — these are life-altering improvements, but we’re competing against larger, less-effective companies with almost unlimited money to spend on marketing and sales staff. It’s an uphill battle, but we’re winning it, and I wake up every morning with a mission and a purpose that I never had in my own life.
I love what I do now, and I’ve been fortunate enough to learn a lesson that a lot of people learn way too late: Happiness comes from the things you do every day, and not from the balance in your bank account.
originally posted @ Business Insider
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