8: Interview with German teacher Angelika Davey

Today’s interviewee is Angelika Davey who teaches German. She lives in the UK and has contributed to LearnWithOliver.com, a language site I’m running. I’ve asked her if she would like to be part of this interview series and she agreed as you can see! 

Angelika's German Tuition & Translation big

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Angelika Davey. I was born and brought up in Germany but have lived in the UK since 1982.

What kind of business do you run? When did you start it?

I started Angelika’s German Tuition & Translation in 2006, which means in July this year I will have been self-employed for 10 years teaching German and helping clients with their translation needs.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?

The feedback! It feels great when students, no matter how old they are, tell me how much they enjoyed their lessons or when clients are happy with their translations.

Also, I am learning so much myself. I never saw myself as a writer but started a blog five years ago and from that moved to writing books. Seeing that people are buying my books is a great feeling. Since last year I also offer online courses on Udemy, which was another learning curve for me as I have never thought of making videos of my lessons. There is still so much to learn and do and it is a great feeling when I have achieved something new!

How much time do you spend running your business per day?

How long is a piece of string? This is a very difficult question to answer. I love my work and I often don’t know when work finishes and leisure starts as my work is also my hobby. For example, I love walking and I always have my phone with me to take pictures, but often they are taken with blog posts or lessons in mind. I might wind down at the end of the day with reading things on Facebook and find useful posts for German learners which I they pass on. I watch some videos on YouTube and find useful information for teaching or learning German.

Of course, it can also be the other way round: I’m supposed to work on marketing, translating, lesson planning … and I find a great YouTube video that needs watching or a Facebook meme that needs sharing.

What is your daily routine of running your business?

One of the great things about my work is that no two days are the same. Some days I spend nearly all day teaching, other days I don’t teach at all and spend the day with lesson planning, translating, writing or making new online courses. Some days I teach early in the mornings (although I try to avoid that), on other days I teach in the evening. The variety is wonderful, but it is probably also another reason why it is difficult for me to say how much time I spend running my business.

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Does your business generate enough money to support you?

It does now. Before I started I saved up enough money to keep me going while I got my first clients. I was also very lucky to get work as a supply teacher for an agency, gradually decreasing the days I was available until about three years ago when I stopped completely.

My business generates enough to pay all the bills and some extra. I might never earn as much as I did when I taught full-time but I am having a lot more fun doing the things I love doing.

What tools do you use to run your business?

I rely heavily on my computer and the internet. I have several students that I teach via Skype and as I offer those online courses I need to be able to check if anybody has asked any questions that need answering. I also still work with pen and paper, especially when I teach face-to-face as I don’t always have access to the internet.

My most important tool is my smartphone, especially my google calendar. I have a lots of students who don’t have weekly lessons, so every day is different. When I don’t teach I work on new lessons or translate and can easily get carried away. If google didn’t warn me that I need to go and teach I’d be late a lot of times!

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?

The best part is the enjoyment I get when I see that my students enjoy themselves or, even more importantly, when they have their ‘lightbulb’ moment, when something they struggled with has become clear or when they tell me about their holidays in Germany and how they were able to have conversations in German.

The worst part is not having paid holidays and having to decide when to go and how many lessons need to be cancelled. Oh, and I’m not too fond of tax returns either.

Do you read any discussion forums about business?

When I started my business, none of my friends were working for themselves, so nobody was able to help me with running a business. All I knew was how to teach German or translate, I didn’t know anything about setting up a website, marketing, social media etc …

But I quickly found a site where self-employed people met, Ecademy. It doesn’t exist anymore but I have met many people who have small businesses and have helped me initially. Since then I have also met quite a few of them ‘for real’. Nowadays I am a member in a few business groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, although I have to say that the Facebook groups would always be my first port of call.

What was your experience setting up your company website?

When I started my business I had one client and no money. I could not afford a website designer who would design a site for me. Luckily, I was able to use the services of Business Link (which was closed in 2012) and learned how to set up a very simple website and only had to pay for the domain name. After a few years that site was far too basic for what I wanted and I transferred it to another server. When that wasn’t enough I made the move to wordpress.org.

Can you recommend a company or designer who helped you build the website?

Although I have learned a lot over the years about setting up and maintaining a website, the last one had grown so much I didn’t dare transferring it on my own.

Barbara Saul of Blogmistress.com did a beautiful job transferring everything for me. I still do everything on my own on my website, but Babs keeps it all ticking over and comes to the rescue when I mess things up … which, unfortunately, I still do on occasions.

If you are curious to learn more about Angelika please go to her website.

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