Guest of our show is John Voltaire Castellano. John is Yelps number one writing tutor in New York and he has consented graciously to guide us through his process and how he marketed himself on a budget and got to the top of the list in Yelp. So he obviously knows a lot about marketing. So, john, we are eager to learn about your journey and how you got started.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself your background and experience and how you got it got started in this in this field off to bring?
Thank you Well, I’m a high school English teacher. I’ve been teaching for 18 and a half years. I have a family of three kids. And I’m trying to obviously make as much money as I can to support my family and me and what happened was, there came a point where I was working so much overtime, I said, you know this, I need to my god. I can’t do there’s only so many hours in a day. So I knew that the tutors made more money than the teachers and the SEC tutors made more money than the teachers and I did very badly on the SAT. I got like an 850 the highest score 1600, getting a 850, it’s like, you know, you don’t belong in a two year college. So anyway, I got decent grades. I had gotten to a decent college, I became a teacher. And I, I worked overtime, my school but I tried to become an S at twitter. But no one who hired me, no one would hire me because they always asked, Well, what score Did you get on the SEC? And I just said I didn’t do very well. So there came a point where I said, Okay, I have to have I’ve had enough? Um, what do I have to do to get a higher score in the sec? So I bought an SEC book, I studied it, I took the sat again at 33 years old. Wow. And even though I was a teacher with two masters degrees teaching 10 years or so, I couldn’t. I did poorly on the sat still. And what I did was I use the technique that I use throughout high school and college that I took a practice test, I read it by myself, and I aim to improve the next day. So I kept improving my practice tests. I took that SAT again, at the age of 30. I did pretty well, it was good enough to get me a job as an ICT tutor. At a Korean school, the Koreans, they open up their own schools, they’re old, they’re called hot ones. And that’s part of the reason that Korean students are so successful. They go from school to school, to violin practice, to sleep, and just to repeat it all for years and years. So I got this job, I’m tutoring I’m teaching SAT to students. And what happens when you teach something, you also learn it. So as I taught the essay I got better at it. Needless to say, the students could probably do better than I did on the SEC. But I had the job. I worked there for a year. And it was great. There came a time when the principal of the school says, Hey, you know, I kept my full time and never let go my full time. But my principal, my part-time job said, hey, look, you know, we might have to let you go. There’s low enrollment. And I said, Okay, well, you know, I understand. And they let me go I say it again. And at that time, there were three sections there was reading, writing, and math. And I did very, very well in the writing, like Tom 99%. And at that point, I said, you know, what, if they’re charging X amount, and I tutor the kid and they get half, why don’t I just tutor find the kids myself and just charge them, you know, whatever the school is charging. So I went out to market myself I’ve been reading business books for a long time. And I said, I learned about a niche market. And if you’re good at everything, you’re good at nothing. So I said okay, I am going to set out to be the number one writing tutor in New York City. So I googled writing tutor in New York City, and there wasn’t that many. Then I went on yelp.com, which many people around the world go they trust for restaurant reviews and tutor reviews and plumbing. And I googled writing tutor in New York City. And I think the top one was like some test prep place that had like three five star reviews. So I set up a website Mr. Writing Twitter, com. And it’s I set up on this to print once I fixed it up twice. I switched it over to Squarespace one size, which is over the fourth time. So this just goes to show with for you listening out there that you’re always constantly improving. You’re always trying to show that you’re more valuable than the other person. Sometimes you go to a restaurant website, they haven’t updated and the prices are wrong since you know three years ago. So I’m constantly updating my website. I’m My writing tutor dot com. And then what happened after I got that is I went on yelp. com and I applied Now let me tell you how I got on Yelp. I made some mistakes. I know some of your listeners want to learn about setbacks. One mistake I made was paying for advertising. Because I was writing to it. I said okay if I advertise everybody will see me. So I went to a local parent magazine, I pay about $250 a month to have my name up there My Writing tutor dot com my face, number one writing tutor. And I got zero people from it.
The whole year. Running the advertising, I got zero people. I did the same thing this year. And in a school newspaper. I got zero people from that. But the first time I applied to that my I applied to advertise magazine, the woman who called me said, Look, when we run this ad, you better set up your website, you better set up your Yelp site. And I said Yelp I can have a Yelp site. She’s like, yeah, you’re going to be in business. And once people see your name and advertising, they cheque your website and they cheque your Yelp site. So I checked I created a Yelp site, in addition to my website, and I told all my former students and anybody who I told in the past, I said, Hey, I advertise on Facebook. I said if I helped you in the past, if I did anything, please leave me a good review on Yelp. And about 20 people left it and Yelp found five of them as a credible because if you if a person writes a five-star review one time on Yelp, they’re they’re very suspicious because I was saying, okay, it’s only your friend. But if someone’s a Yelp, or as they call it, and someone is always leaving reviews on Yelp, there, they tend to trust that person. So like I said, I got like 21 reviews. yelp probably includes like four. But I’m now ranked as the number one writing tutor in New York City. And, you know, just between you and your speakers, it’s one of the reasons is, I’m the only writing tutor in New York City, or at least the only writing tutor who knows how to market himself as a writing tutor. I hopefully I cornered that niche in New York City.
That’s awesome. That’s a great story. So did you know anything about, you know, you said that you’ve been reading a lot of business books, but seems like you know, through a lot of experimentation, you arrived at this juncture. But did you know any anything specific about marketing? Or did you get any training in marketing?
Before the only training, I got is books. My whole life story is reading books and learning because look, I’m very frugal. I like to save my money. That’s why, you know that advertising, you know, it kills me sometimes. But whenever I want to learn something, getting a personal coach is very, very expensive. So to learn all I could about sales. I read a bunch of books on sales. I can I have another name. My other name is Enrique Voltaire. It all started with one day I was 23 years old. Like many other young guys, I was looking for a girl debate. I couldn’t beat up to that point. You know, I’m a short guy. I’m Filipino living in America, and couldn’t find the girl. I said, What can I do to change my life? And the next thought was, what am I good at? I said I’m good at school. Why am I good at school? Well, they give me a book. I read it. I just follow whatever’s in the book. So I said, What if I just read a bunch of books on how to talk to women? And I did that. I dated, I got married, have three kids. And then my next thought is Oh my God, I’m married. I gotta support my family. What do I do now? Now going back to books. So I read books on how to make money like the Millionaire Next Door and Robert Kiyosaki books and the Millionaire Mind by TR Becker. And that just kept branching out into Okay, what do I do now start a business, how do I start a business, I read up on sales, I read up on marketing, I read up on advertisements, I just gobbled as much information as I can on books. And like I said, I use some information. And some worked in some didn’t. And now I’m telling you what works. And that a book is the best investment you can make. If you are very frugal if you don’t have a lot of money. And you’re struggling with sales or marketing, advertising, just read some books on it, and try it and see what happens. And I like I told you, I spent a lot of money on advertising, I got nothing out of it. I didn’t spend a lot of money on books, and I got a Yelp site and business out of it.
Yeah, I mean, I completely agree with you reading, provide you so much value in very little time, and obviously very cost-effective. And I will say, you know, it doesn’t even mean you don’t even need to be frugal, or you don’t need to be, you know, a money saver, like even I know, very, very rich people, wealthy people, they read a lot like, you know, probably read one book a day. So reading is a very good habit, in my opinion. And it definitely brings in results as it has done for you. And I can attribute my success to reading as well. Because, you know, I was sort of in a similar board and I had to acquire some skill. And that was only through reading and learning.
yes, yeah. And I’ve transitioned from reading books, I read so many books, I said, I could write a book. So how do you start with how to write a book, when you don’t know how to write a book, I read a bunch of books on how to write a book, I took some courses, how to write a book, and eventually, and I’m a teacher. So I saw that a former student, from my high school, he’s on my Facebook, I can add them after they graduate. So I saw that a former student from high school published a book on poetry. His name is Kevin Anglade. And I messaged him on LinkedIn, I said, Hey, you publish the book, I want to publish a book. So he was so kind to meet me over lunch, and I paid for his lunch. Because when you ever you meet somebody, and they give you advice, you pay for them because what they’re giving you is more valuable than, you know your lunch money for them. And he said, you want to write a book is very easy go to create space.com, which is not there anymore. But it’s like kdpAmazon dot com. And with the courses and the books I read and his advice, I was able to write a book called How to attract women if you’re not that attractive. And I published it under an author name Enrique Voltaire because I don’t want to mix it with my, with my school name. That’s something that another entrepreneur taught me said, Look, these are different brands. So I publish that book. And after I got that fun book out of my way, which is like a biography, I continue to work on tutoring. And I told myself, actually, a very good friend told me said, you know, you need to write a book for your writing to the business. So instead of saying, you know, kid says, How do I write instead of showing them a Kaplan’s book or a barons book, you know, I show my book, and it’s worked out 11 that have kid says, I don’t know how to use a comma, I just take on my book, and I throw it on there. It’s called 50 grammar rules, everybody should know. So now I just take out my book with my examples and my teachings. And that contributes a lot to your success. And it doesn’t cost it costs, it takes a lot of time writing a book, I’ll say that, but it doesn’t cost a lot of money in terms of producing the book, and you can earn some great passive income that way.
Awesome. That’s great. Alright, so now let’s talk about what kind of advice you will give to the entrepreneurs and professionals in the audience. So you know, many people want to start their own business, or many have already started their business, but you know, that they may be at the beginning stages, or, you know, they may be looking for their first client, so what kind of advice you can give to them.
Um, it’s hard work. And you can say, you don’t have enough time. None of us have enough time, we all have 24 hours in a day. As I said, I have my wife, I have my three kids. I’m a brother, I’m a son. I’m a teacher, a lot of teachers talk about the workload that they have in terms of students. I’m a tutor on the side. And, and I wrote two books, and, and I try to stay in fairly decent shape. And how do I do it, uh, many mornings, I wake up at 4 am, I have to wake up at 4 am. And some mornings, I even wake up at three at 3:30 am or 3 am. And the reason is that once my family wakes up at 6:30 am, my day is done. You know, I pay attention to my kids, I pay attention to my wife, I pay attention to my day job. I go all the way till three o’clock, maybe I’ll tutor when I get home, I’m tired. But I know that when I wake up at 4 am, the world is mine. I can do anything, everybody’s asleep, I can do whatever I want. So that’s when I worked on my dream. That’s when I worked on that’s when I study for my SAT. That’s when I did. That’s when I prepped for my tutoring. That’s when I read my books. That’s when I exercise. And how Elrod has a great book called The Miracle Morning. And that’s exactly what he preaches. He said, you know, the secret to success is the morning in that everybody’s asleep. And it’s your time to do whatever you want. And so that’s my biggest advice to future entrepreneurs, you want to be successful. You gotta wake up in the morning, how early 3 am 4 am. But if I wake up at 6 am, I feel like my, my day is done already. Because the kids wake up at 630 I get I got nothing done, I worked for my family, I worked for my kids, I worked for my work. And by that time, as I said, I’m already tired. But if you wake up at four o’clock every morning, you go to 630, that’s two and a half minutes to two and a half hours every day. That’s about 12 hours a week. And you can just imagine what your life would be like, if you dedicated 12 hours a week, 48 hours a month to your business, you can you know, you’ll go places.
Awesome. But how do you counterbalance that with lack of sleep? Because, you know, if you’re waking up early, you’re losing that, that resting period. So how do you balance that?
Um, my wife is excellent. I have a stay at home wife. Her name is Sharon. She’s a beautiful woman. I used to be upset with her early in our marriage, I used to say why don’t you work, I need to work. I need to double the income. You know, we need to help the family.
And then I learned that if it’s to be, it’s up to me. She’s a great housewife. She’s great, she’s a great mom. And she takes such great care of the kids. I got my kids asleep. And she got the girls, I got two girls, they were asleep at 6:30 pm. Today, I got the boy asleep at 7 pm. Today, he was in bed. And so now I’m here with you. You can see it’s quiet. She’s in bed, she guys she is she’s with the twins. And you know, my mother in law. God bless my mother in law, I got her in my house to take care of my children. So that’s my counterbalance, get a good woman, get your mother in law and have them take care of your kids and you do what you do best. I’ve met a lot of people that I used to think to make it in America, you need a double income. I’ve seen many people that they’ve made it on a single income. I even meet men who say, women just stay home, I’ll take care of everything. All right. And I and I met a guy who said I told my wife just to stay home, I’ll take care of the money. And I was like, wow, that’s what I had. And I was angry about. So, you know, we keep the traditional 1960 point of point of view, we don’t have that that will that’s just the way it worked out. But to answer your question, I have a good woman, she takes care of everything else. And because of that, I can focus on the business and my work on my books and everything else.,
I mean, family support is, is very important. And I think that’s what you’re highlighting. And so I guess, you know, just as a cheeky joke, um, maybe people need to buy your book to attract a fine woman, and then they can launch. All right. So the other aspect that you know, you were really successful at was increasing your value in the marketplace. So how does one like, you know, let’s say if somebody wants to start a start-up, or there’s a professional wants a promotion in their job, how does one go about increasing their value in the marketplace or in the organization?
Be open to change. Um, what I would say is, leverage what you have, and use it to your advantage. For example, I’m an English teacher, how can I use that, to increase my value as an essay to sec tutor, in addition to reading books, I have a lot of professional development, my school, instead of complaining about professional development, you know, it’s you work hard, then then you’re forced to sit in the classroom and learn, take that as a great opportunity, what you’re learning there is increasing your value. So I take what I learned at school, and I apply it to my business, and I tell students, hey, you know, you’re having problems writing, I just learned this in school, try to use this, sometimes your work will even pay you the profession to develop yourself, your work will say, okay, on a, during this week, we’ll send you away, you get to learn this information, you come back, and you teach everybody else in the workplace, and we’ll pay you for that. So I’m thinking, we don’t go to work. And I get paid. And I learned, and a lot of people don’t like change. So a lot of people will say, look, leave me alone, I’ll just do my job, and I’m going to go home, but welcome any opportunity for education. Always be err on the side of education that if you have a choice between doing something or learning something, always choose to learn something. So I’ve been to many professional developments that were paid for or that I got paid for that I’ve used that to leverage and increase my value. And I’m, like I said, Be open to change. A lot of times, I’m in bed field, you’ll hear teachers say, Look, I’ve been teaching for 30 years, I know what I’m doing Leave me alone, every field changes, doctors have to keep up with technology, technology with medical technology. lawyers have to keep up with changing the law. And believing that education actually changes the way you teach kids 2010, five years ago isn’t the same as you teach kids now. So you got to be open to new ways to teach and new ways to change. So that’s just the that’s To sum up, be open to change, always improve yourself. Reading, as I mentioned before, and you know, this is America, people say, Well, I’m in America, people pay you to learn. And that’s such a blessing, take that opportunity, get paid, and learn and use that, you know, in your business.
Sure. Sure. That’s awesome. That’s very well said. Now, you earlier mentioned that you tried advertising and you know, you waited for it to work for about a year. How do you measure that? Like, do you have any advice on what to do when things are not working? because inevitably, these things happen? Right? Like, you try something doesn’t work. So what is your advice on how long should you wait? How long you should invest? How soon you should realize that this is not working?
How long do you um, well, why don’t you just share with us your experience? Like, at what point you said, okay, you know, this is not working, I need to try something else.
Um, well, what I did in terms of advertisement, is every client who would call potential client, I would say, how did you hear about me, and they would say, and a lot of them said Yelp, or a lot of them were referred from somebody. So once you hear that, you know, where to put your money into. And so I knew advertising wasn’t working. And I knew Yelp was. So that’s what I continued to do. I used it’s a lot of it is trial and error. I have, I’ve experimented with my fees, some some fees don’t work, then you find the sweet spot that works. So it’s called a B testing. Some things work. Some things don’t and you throw out what works. And what are you doing, you’re struggling, we all have struggles. I’m just never stopped working. There’s always, every day I asked myself, every minute, I asked myself, What can I be doing to better my life in the future? And sometimes, you know, I’m going to go to the Philippines over the summer, I was telling my son earlier, we’re going to spend about 17 hours on a plane ride. I don’t mind the 17 hours, I’ll take some books, all right. But I’m always taking advantage. But that time, I mean, 17 hours on a plane is not the greatest time in the world. But to consider that i’m not I’m going to be focused, I’m going to be in a chair. So take advantage of any situation. If you’re on a long line. If you’re in if you’re in if you take a look commutes the world, listen to audiobooks, but taking advantage of your time that when things aren’t working, constantly learn constantly read, and things will pick up, it’s it’s inevitable that you do what’s working, you drop what’s not working, and you try new things. You know, you’re not gonna stay flatlined, you’re gonna go up, you’re gonna go down. But on the whole, if you keep adapting to change, and trying to improve, you’re going to get better. And you’re gonna have success.
Yeah. very inspirational words. Well, thanks a lot for that. Now, are there any tools any, any websites, any apps that you use for your business that you can recommend to others?
I’ve been experimenting with a just this app recently sharper? I believe it’s a shipper, is it? Yeah, shpr, I’ve been using that. Um, I’ve connected with a lot of people.
It hasn’t really brought me much. I’ve had some consultations with some business coaches. That’s been great. In the end, of course, they’re always trying to sell you on their product. I met one business coach that I know if I want a business coach, you know, he’ll be great.
That’s one app. And No, I don’t really have any other apps. Well, just from a teacher’s point of view. Yeah. I’m constantly working on vocab, my vocabulary. I had a point where I was playing a Temple Run the whole time, I was swiping a guy left and right the whole time. And, you know, I told myself, wait, you know, what, if I keep playing this game, are there any vocabulary games out there that will help me and I just know looked up vocabulary. And I found pulled some vocabulary games, and I played them for fun. And that’s how I got my that’s how one of the reasons I improved my vocabulary. Some students, they use flashcards, I didn’t really like that. Some people just say Read, read read. But I found a vocabulary game that actually liked. And that country, that country attributed immensely to my value. So whatever it is that you’re doing, whether you’re doing cars, or whether you’re doing website design, there’s always an app that will teach you. And instead of going on social media or playing a game, you can always go into the app and learn something. So I got my networking apps sharper, which is the jury’s still out. And I got my personal education apps, which keeps me sharp in terms of what I do. And I heard that studies, I read something recently, that luminosity actually makes you smarter in terms of keeping your brain fresh. So that’s something you might want to use too.
Awesome. That’s good. Okay, so we’ll add those resources in the show notes so that people can cheque it out. Now, is there anything else that you may want to share in terms of how entrepreneurs or professionals can increase their value in the marketplace that I may not have asked already?
Let me see my notes. Yes, um, you have to like what you do. Um, I thought I work overtime for money. But what made me the number one writing tutor on paper in New York City, was that I actually, like what I do, um, I wasn’t a great writer, in high school or college. But what I had to do is that I had to learn myself how to become a great writer. And, and in terms of dealing with my students, I actually, like working with other students, I take an interest in people. I told my son the other day since I read a lot, I know a lot of quotes, but I tell my son, treat everybody as if they were the most important person in the world. Because to someone, whether it’s their mother or their husband or wife, they are the most important person in the world. So I get, I try to get to know people, I have a good rapport with my studio, and part of that is just I have a natural curiosity about people and getting to know them. And, you know, looking for the best than everybody. So I guess you you put that together with an entrepreneurial mindset that are you Indian? Yes. I drew all so uh, so have you read the story of Siddhartha? Yeah, yeah, yes. So there’s the storey where he goes out into the material world. And he goes out on a business trip. And he goes on his business trip, he comes back, like a weekend later. And the boss comma Swami is like, what did you accomplish there? And he’s like, oh, I went there, but they already got business done. So I spent two days there talking to them, I came back and the boss like, what are you doing? Did you waste time? This is like two days. And he said, No, I met a lot of people. So if they need business, and you know, down the road, they’ll know about me. And I teach that book. And I, you know, that’s, it’s a great analogy for in terms of business that, you know, it’s all about people, people do business with people that they like, so, like, people and people will like you back. And, you know, like, Ziegler says, you can have anything you want, if you give people anything they want. So, that’s what it all comes down to. That’s awesome.
I believe Siddhartha was he literally became Buddha Buddha, right? The Buddha? Yes, he became the Buddha, just for people who do not get that reference. So he was the prince who became Buddha later on. All right, great. Thank you so much. For all that insight. JOHN, I’m sure everyone in the audience got a lot of value out of it. So now, before I let you go, can you just let us know once again, what’s your website and how people can reach you?
Mr. Writing tutor dot com have a contact sheet over there. I also wrote the book 15 grammar rules everybody should know. And under, under a ghost name I wrote, how to attract women if you’re not that attractive, but don’t tell anybody. That’s me.
Thank you so much, john. It was an enjoyable interview. John
Thank you very much. much. Appreciate it. Take care.