Interview with RED driving instructor Emma Davies

Freelancing or becoming a franchisee is an increasingly popular choice for women wanting to change career and become their own boss – and find work that fits around their family.

For one mum, this journey led her to becoming a franchisee for RED Driving School. Emma Davies tells us why she loves being a driving instructor, and what an average work day looks like for her.

Why did you decide to become a driving instructor?

When I was looking for work, I turned on the computer and typed in ‘jobs’, and the second one on the search was ‘driving instructor’. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to investigate that’. I’m a believer in things happening for a reason.

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What made you choose to join RED Driving School?

When I spoke to the lady on the phone, I liked the way that she spoke about the company, and the information she gave me was very clear and concise.

I could bullet point the notes that I wanted to write, and I was quite sure about what I was getting into. I didn’t feel she’d hidden anything from me. The clincher was the deal they gave me – she told me to think about it, but it was reasonable compared with the rest.

What does an average day look like for you?

My days normally last six hours. Today, my first pick-up was at 8am, so I left the house at 7.45am to get to her house by 8am. I picked her up, took her on a two-hour lesson, then did the same with my next pupil who lived on the same street (yes, I arranged this on purpose!). After seeing her, I popped home for a bit as it was on the way to my next learner, took her out for two hours, then came back home.

One of the things I’m quite well known for is taking people to Swansea Airport. It’s quite a way – a good 40-minute drive – that way they get to drive up the coastline and through lanes and round tight bends. Then, when we get to the airport, they get out the car and I take a photograph of them of them standing with the plane in the background. They love it!

How do you fit being a parent around your new driving job?

To begin with, life does become manic, because you take all the work you can get. But I decided that I wanted to start early and finish early so I could be home when my son arrived back from school.

I normally get in between three and half three, and then he arrives seconds before or seconds after so we’re coming in together. So that’s really good, and then I can just turn into mum, make tea and do everything I need to do.

I also take Saturday off so I can spend two days with my 12-year-old and husband. We always do something together on that day.

What are the main skills anyone thinking about becoming a driving instructor will need?

Enthusiasm – 100 percent. If you’re not enthusiastic, it’s going nowhere. You’ll just be that grumpy old driving instructor who sits there going, ‘Turn left, turn right’.

You also need to be a people person – you have to be able to cope with all sorts of people, and realise that everybody is different and has different learning needs and learning speeds. You also need to have sales skills, and be able to sell yourself and believe in yourself. And organisational skills – because if you’re not organised, you’ve had it!

Remember to be organised with your holidays. They need to go in way in advance. My diary is full for the next six weeks! But there’s only one person in control: you. Sometimes the girls and I have a laugh – they say, ‘That boss of yours!’ But if it’s a job you love and feel passionate about, you’re more willing to be flexible.

What are your favourite things about the job?

Meeting so many different characters – they’ve all got a story, and I love that. I enjoy the variety, too – I get pupils who are novice, which is great because I like taking on people from the start, but I also like picking up other people’s pupils.

And, obviously, I love the passes. I really love it when people have struggled so long to get something, and then the penny drops, and then it happens for them. I get really excited. Sometimes I even well up because I’m so chuffed!

My husband says that when I come in after a pass, I’m bouncing. When my son passed, that was a real highlight. I told him when I got my PDI licence that I wanted him to be the first person I took on test and passed. And he passed first time!

Do you have any other examples of particularly special or rewarding moments you’ve experienced during your career as a driving instructor so far?

My son was the highlight, but there have been quite a few. There was a guy who wasn’t test-ready, and he had a lot of bad habits. But I would keep on and on at him and when he took his test, he passed.

Then there was a lady who rang me and said she had her test booked for two days later, and would I take her on short notice? Now, everybody steps back at that point. I asked her what had happened, and basically her instructor had said he wouldn’t take her anymore because he couldn’t fit her in.

I’d already worked six hours that day and was going to finish, but I told her I’d be at her house in two hours’ time to take her out for an assessment drive.

We drove around, I asked her to do the five manoeuvres, and she got one out of five. She said, ‘I’m not ready, am I?’ But I booked her in for 10 hours’ worth of lessons and we rebooked her test on that day. When she eventually took her test, she passed first time!

And finally, if you could teach any celeb how to drive, who would it be?

It’s got to be Dec from Ant and Dec. I love Dec!

You can find out more about becoming a driving instructor on RED’s website.