Today we’d like to introduce you to Nived Ravikumar.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Nived. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have a filmmaking background, and all of my early writing experiences revolved around that. In film school, I became known for my unique and inventive scripts. As I tried to establish myself as a screenwriter, I ended up getting day jobs. I was usually lucky to find ones that utilized my writing ability in some way.
To my co-workers, I was That Writer Guy, which initially, had no particular significance… then, a couple such co-workers decided to apply to grad school. The personal statements they had to write scared them, so who do they turn to? Sure, I was a good writer, but had zero admissions experience—I wouldn’t even claim that my own personal statements were any good. But I was curious. Maybe all that storytelling know-how I had accumulated had some value here. Without any other alternative plan in mind, I had them think of their essays as mini movies. Instead of boring expositional diatribes, I found ways of helping them create compelling narratives. I was the Pixar of personal statements!
My first client “paid” me with nice dinner. My second client insisted on giving me $20 an hour. My third client was my sister. I did that one for free. She saw how good I was at this essay racket and suggested I go pro, with a website and everything. You can imagine the rest. From those humble beginnings, here I am seven years later. I started Statement Guru to help others tell their stories, but in the process, Statement Guru has become my story.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I wouldn’t say there have been many ups and downs, so the road has been on the smoother side of the smooth-bumpy continuum. But I would also say it has been a slow road. Once I put my website up, it took a good 4 years before I started seeing any web traffic. Even then, I found it hard to capitalize on the apparent surge in interest. I wasted a good bit of money on Google and Facebook Ads. I wasted even more money on a digital marketing agency.
I realized that you can’t be the best if no one knows you’re the best. And the only way to let them know that is through a marketing strategy. I was always someone who shunned business, thinking of it as the antithesis of art. But now that I had something to hawk, suddenly, business and marketing were wonderful! I absorbed everything I could about running a business, especially what is most effective in the digital age.
There were no quick fixes. No “How to be Successful with Statement Guru” manuals floating around out there. But through my hard work, I was finally building something real in the form of blog articles, podcast interviews and a self-published book.
If you build the right way, you get noticed; and when you get noticed, you get featured on other sites. For someone like me, the more third-party validation I can get, the better. After all, I’m not selling a product, but a service of a somewhat abstract nature. And I’m doing it on the internet! For large sums of money! Yelp has been huge for me; 21 reviews, all of them 5-stars. I don’t need to sell myself anymore. Yelp does it for me. Phone calls with the general vibe of “Shut up and take my money!” are commonplace these days.
But really, the main struggle has always been the same—how to go from being great in your own mind to being just great? You have to put yourself out there. You also have to be smart about it. Trust me, you don’t get any credit for working really hard in really dumb ways.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Statement Guru story. Tell us more about the business.
It is the online representation of my admissions essay tutoring services. In essence, I help make your essays better, much better. This will dramatically increase your odds of getting into selective universities. My ability to help applicants can take different forms depending on their needs. Some are happy to read my many blog articles on the subject of admissions essay writing. Others order my book “50 Questions for Your Admissions Essay Draft” from Amazon to get a deeper level perspective.
But the real core of what I do is the one-on-one tutoring. I work with students applying to every conceivable field, with med school, law school, engineering masters, business school and undergrad being the most popular. Most of my clientele is in the L.A. area, but I work with applicants across the country and around the world via Skype.
I truly feel like I’m the best at what I do. I listen intently to my client’s ideas and worldview, and I filter those raw thoughts through my finely-tuned storytelling sensibility. There are no templates or recycled material. Every client, every essay is a hard-fought act of creation. It goes beyond the document though. Every client changes me for the better in some way, and I’d like to think I do the same for them. Former clients tell me all the time how they’ve become much better at writing, more confident, more assertive, more self-assured.
The thing is, you can’t write a really good personal statement without some soul searching. My job is to be right there with you, flashlight in hand.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck as much as I believe in actively creating the conditions in which good fortune can prosper. Sometimes, these conditions can exist inadvertently, sometimes, we have to work so hard to form them.
Having said that, I consider myself “lucky” to have been raised in Southern California by parents who value education. That has made me a deeply curious person in an environment where one’s curiosity can never be satiated. I could never imagine a lifestyle that didn’t present new challenges and new ideas to consider every day, and I get that in spades thanks to my job.
I do feel “unlucky” in some ways. My Hollywood dreams have dimmed, until Spielberg calls and says he wants to do a Statement Guru biopic.
- Start-to-Finish comprehensive essay tutoring package ($1241 per essay)
- Essay Edit deep edit package ($597 per essay)
- Polish surface-level edit package ($199 per essay)
- A la carte tutoring/brainstorming/editing/polishing ($100 per hour/negotiable)
- Website: statementguru.com
- Phone: 3107176213
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/statementguru
- Facebook: facebook.com/statementguru
- Twitter: twitter.com/statementguru
- Yelp: www.yelp.com/biz/statement-guru-santa-monica