“After working for other people for so long, I wanted something that I could call my own.”

Image of James
From Teaching to Own Business

James Alger had a working lifestyle that many would envy. But all the perks in the world couldn't satisfy the growing urge he had to create something of his own. Here's how he took a chance on building something new, and how he sought out the help he needed to make it happen.

What work were you doing previously?

About eight years ago, I began working as an English teacher in Moscow.

I specialised in working with children and worked exclusively with wealthy 'VIP' Russian families. I worked for three families over the next six years.

In each family my duties were the same – to spend as much time as possible with the children after school and at the weekends teaching them English. I used to read with them, give them conversation practice and engage them in sports and other activities in order to bring their level up towards fluency as quickly as possible.

What are you doing now?

For the last two years, I've been running my own job site.

The website specialises in advertising tutor, nanny, governor and governess jobs from a variety of agencies offering VIP work, similar to the positions I held myself.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?

I was certainly feeling ready for something new – an adventure.

After working for other people for so long, I wanted something that I could call my own. Whilst I loved my job, the urge to build something for myself became stronger.

Why did you change?

Whilst I loved my previous job, working full-time in families was high-energy work and after six years I felt ready for a change.

I still wanted to enjoy the lifestyle that working as a high-profile English tutor offered, with travel, nice restaurants and comfortable transport, but I was certainly ready to be independent, have my own space and 'do my own thing.'

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

When I completed my final contract working in Moscow.

The weather was cold and the days were dark. It's hard to pinpoint a specific day, but my general mood moved away from tutoring and towards being free to travel and to set my own schedule.

How did you choose your new career?

Having worked as an English tutor / governor, I felt that I understood the business extremely well.

I also recognised that others would surely want to take the same path as I'd taken, and that I'd be happy to be part of the process.

Working with VIP families offers unparalleled perks, such as yacht trips, private jet travel, five-star hotels and fantastic cuisine. It's equally extremely rewarding to be able to teach a child to the level of fluency in your native language and then watch them grow up to enter a prestigious international school.

I was convinced that whilst this was a business I understood very well, it was also one where I'd be able to make a difference to other people's careers.

Are you happy with the change?

Of course! The freedom I have now is exhilarating.

It's wonderful to plan my own schedule, travel at will and know that the success of my job site depends on me.

I love the creativity I have now, and the feeling that I may be able to build something big that thousands of others can benefit from.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

Naturally I miss the fantastic food, the luxury trips to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and the Instagram photo opportunities!

But I don't miss having to adhere to a schedule that I didn't set myself.

How did you go about making the shift?

As per my tutor / governor contract, I was required to give one month of working notice.

I was spending the summer working with my boss's kids in the south of France, so I simply told them that I felt my time was up, and that at the end of the summer I'd be returning to the UK to work on my own business. I wished them all the best and offered to find a replacement English teacher for the family.

It went quite smoothly – my boss and my students were sad to see me go but understood my reasons.

What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?

It's never easy to set up your own business.

I certainly could have planned the marketing side of the website a little better, and written a more detailed business plan.

However, all in all, I weighed up the risks and I'm happy with my decision.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

My English tutor / governor role was extremely well paid, so I'd been able to save a large amount of money over my stint working in Moscow.

I stayed at my parents' home upon returning to the UK to save money on rent and used my savings to kick-start the business and continue to pay for my lifestyle.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Of course, it was a bit of a blow to no longer have the large salary landing in my bank account every month, and I missed my workmates – the other household staff, including the kids' nannies and the family drivers.

But the freedom I feel now has made me feel better about it all!

What help did you get?

I asked various friends for help getting the website up and running.

I took paid consultations on how best to run my job site. Friends helped me with the structure and photos for the site, while I wrote most of the site content myself.

And of course my parents were supportive in terms of offering me a place to live (and a full fridge!)

What resources would you recommend to others?

It's tough to name a specific resource for those wanting to change career.

I would simply recommend doing as much research as possible – both online and offline.

Think about who you know who may be able to advise you on your situation. Often your parents' friends (or indeed your friends' parents), have the life experience to advise you, as well as some great connections.

What have you learnt in the process?

Although it's clichéd, during this process I've learnt that you need to follow your heart.

If you feel deep down that you want to do something different, then you really have no choice but to go for it.

What's life for if not for doing the things you love?

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

I advise a sensible approach to knowing when is the right time to save money, when it's OK to spend money, and to always be planning for the future.

Any money that you can make in a high salary position I'd always recommend to be 'investing' – either in an account that brings you returns, or in a business that can one day provide you with passive or residual income.

I would advise other people to save as much as they can and then think wisely how they can put that money into something that can benefit them for many years to come, instead of splashing out on a car or holidays and having little to show for it at the end of the day.

To find out more about James's business, visit www.jobsinchildcare.com.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.