Tutoring is a great way for teachers to make extra money while helping students who truly need an academic boost. I ran a successful tutoring business for three years, so I am writing this post from a place of experience. I am excited to share what worked (and what didn’t work) in the hopes that you will have an enjoyable tutoring experience.
Tip 1: Have a clear contract!
I started tutoring without a contract…rookie mistake! A contract makes your expectations and services crystal clear. When I started tutoring, I had several no-call, no-show situations and the parent would show up the next week and act like nothing happened. Just like everyone else, my time is valuable. Once I created a contract, this never happened again. These are the areas I covered in my signed contract:
- Cancelled sessions require a four hour notice. Sessions cancelled less than four hours before the beginning of the session require full payment.
- I stated that I would provide a written progress update after every five sessions.
- I left a blank space that would allow me to add the type of services requested by the parent. Examples: geometry tutoring, learning letters and numbers, etc.
- I stated that consistent attendance at tutoring was most beneficial to the success of the student. A total of three missed sessions may result in suspension of tutoring services.
Tip 2: Your services are valuable- charge accordingly!
You are a trained, educated professional giving your full attention to one student at a time! You must value your services accordingly. Think about prices in your area. In lower socioeconomic areas, your rate will naturally be lower than if you were working in a higher socioeconomic area. I am hesitant to write a dollar amount in this area because the cost of living varies greatly from one state/city to the next. So, ask around to other teachers who tutor to find out what they charge. If you think it’s fair, go with it. If you think they are charging too little, then raise your amount. Generally, once you choose a rate, you will need to be consistent. Because your business will rely so heavily on word of mouth, your incoming clients will have already asked their friends how much you charge and will expect to pay the same amount. With that being said, if you are tutoring more difficult subject matter, charge more. Any rational person would expect to pay more for geometry tutoring than for 2nd grade reading tutoring.
Tip 3: Choose your clients carefully and don’t be afraid to say “no”!
You don’t have to take every student who comes along. Ask questions to find out if you will be a good fit to tutor the student in question. Also, you will want to make sure that the students’ parents will be reliable and bring the student to tutoring regularly. When I think back to the beginning of my tutoring experience, I took a student who was in high school. He had some serious emotional issues that I was in no way prepared to handle. I knew this going in but I thought to myself, “It’s no big deal, we’re here to learn and we’ll just stick to the academics.” It was a terrible experience! We spent several long sessions in complete silence because he sometimes wouldn’t talk to me. I had the terribly uncomfortable task of telling his mother (who desperately wanted help for him) that we wouldn’t be able to work together anymore. She was paying for tutoring but he wasn’t getting anything out of it. I learned a hard lesson!
Before you take on a new client, ask the parent to describe the child’s academic weaknesses, strengths, and what they most want you to help with. Find out if the child has disabilities. Having a disability shouldn’t automatically exclude the child from your services but make sure it’s something you can handle. I am a trained Reading Specialist, so I worked with many confirmed or suspected Dyslexic students. Not every teacher can handle the challenges of a Dyslexic student, so be sure to find out what you are facing before you agree to accept a new student. This is only fair to you, the student, and the parents who are paying you.
Thanks to word of mouth, I had more parents calling me than I could possibly accept into my tutoring business. It is really hard to turn desperate parents away or put them on a waiting list. At one time, I was juggling twelve students per week and working as a full-time teacher. It was exhausting! Don’t do that to yourself. Decide the maximum number of students you will work with at a time and stick with it.
Tip 4: Tutor in a good location!
Please, please, please don’t tutor in your home! No offense to anyone who does home-based tutoring but if you are just starting out, avoid this. You need to be in a public location. My suggestion is to tutor at the public library. It’s free AND it’s usually quiet. You will avoid the liability that comes from having non-family members in your home and you won’t have to pay business premiums on your homeowners insurance that will protect you in the case of an accident or injury. I know of a teacher in my state who had students in her home and was accused of a terrible crime. It’s just safer to be in public at all times while tutoring!
Tip 5: Create a file for each student!
Charge $5 upfront when you take on a new student to purchase a notebook, folder, and other materials that you will use during each tutoring session. In a section of the notebook, keep a running record of the things you worked on each session, successes, and things you will work on next time. This will help you to see how far the student has come in the time you’ve been tutoring. A running record will also help you to give the parents progress updates. In the folder, keep learning materials, correspondence between you, the parent, and the child’s teacher.
Tip 6: Open lines of communication with the student’s classroom teacher!
Most parents are more than happy to put you in contact with their child’s classroom teacher. The teacher will be able to give you ideas of things to work on and weak areas for the student. Ask the parent to provide you with the teacher’s email address to set up that communication. I don’t recommend going directly to the teacher without the parent’s permission. That could cause some distrust on the part of the parent.
Tip 7: Use a variety of materials!
There is definitely a place for worksheets but don’t make your tutoring session all about pencil/paper work. Use technology. Create matching games or card sorts. Go to sites like www.teacherspayteachers.com to find creative and engaging materials that will hold the interest of your tutoring students.
Tip 8: Don’t spend much on advertising!
Word of mouth is your best friend when you run a tutoring business. Parents talk to other parents and if you do a great job tutoring their child, they are going to let everyone know about it. When I started my tutoring business and had no clients, I had a small amount of business cards printed. I handed those cards out to other teachers and let them know to send referrals my way. Before long, I had a waiting list of students hoping to get into my tutoring service. After that, I didn’t need to advertise anymore. I had more clients than I could handle.
I sincerely hope that these tips are helpful to you as you begin your tutoring journey! Please leave a comment if you have other suggestions that future readers may find helpful!