Whether you’re a former teacher or just like helping others, tutoring can be an interesting and profitable home business that requires little investment beyond your time.
Qualifications and Credentials
Ultimately, there are no official tutoring licenses or degrees. Personal qualities like patience, a positive attitude and a desire to help others learn are more important to the success of a tutoring relationship.
However, your prior experiences and relevant education are an important marketing point. Teaching certification, majors or minors, and parenting skills are all qualifications that should be highlighted in your promotional materials.
You could declare yourself a tutor for all ages and subjects, but are you really equally comfortable with helping a first grader learn to read and helping a senior decipher calculus?
Think in terms of both what subjects you’re familiar with and what age group you feel most comfortable tutoring. At the same time, don’t shy away from a subject just because it’s been a few years since you’ve dealt with it. You’ll be surprised what you can remember if you use the student’s textbook and work through the ideas again.
Don’t limit yourself to the standard school subjects. If you have taken any certification tests for a former job, then you could tutor adults looking to enter the same field. You could also offer test preparation tutoring for standardized tests like the SAT. If there’s a college or university nearby, you have an additional pool of potential customers.
You can also offer your tutoring services online where you will be connected with a student and provide assistance through chat rooms and e-mail.
Before you look for customers, you should decide what to charge for your services. An hourly rate is best for tutoring situations. Your rate should strike a balance between what your time is worth to you and what the local economy will allow.
While you shouldn’t undersell yourself, you should also think about deals and discounts to draw customers in. You could offer a free trial session for all new customers, or a family discount for multiple children.
Getting the Word Out
Tutoring is a business that can really thrive on word of mouth. If one high school student is thrilled with her progress in math, she’ll tell her friends who may want your services, and when she explains her improvement to her teacher, the teacher just might ask for your number to pass on to other struggling students.
To get your first customers and start the talk about your great services, though, you’ll need to do some groundwork. A simple yet attractive flyer or brochure will be fine. Community bulletin boards are good places to post, but you’ll want to concentrate on areas where you know your target customers travel. The library or chamber of commerce may have a rack for brochures. Check with the counseling office of your local school to see if they’ll let you leave some information for their students.
Advertising in the local newspaper is another option. Depending on your budget, you could get a small classified or a larger display ad. If the paper has a feature profiling local businesses, submit your new tutoring service for some free publicity.
Make sure to consider the timing of your advertisements. If you plan to tutor college students, and you put up your flyers in May, most will already be done for the semester. But if you take out an ad offering your test prep services a month or two before the next GRE testing date, you’ll hit potential customers when they’re starting to feel nervous.
The public library is usually a good neutral meeting location and may even have special study rooms available. If you and your clients are comfortable with the idea, you may eventually have students come to your house for their sessions. If you work from home, a separate designated study area will help the students focus and will give you a more professional appearance than if you were sitting around the kitchen table.
You set your own schedule when tutoring, but you should commit set blocks of time to the business each week. After school and weekends will be the best time for elementary through high school, adults will most likely want to work after dinner and perhaps on the weekends, and college students can be available almost any time.
Divide your available blocks of time into 45 minute or hour-long chunks and start filling in client names as they schedule tutoring times. Allow for short breaks between tutoring sessions in your scheduling so that you’re not rushed. A calendar or planner will be invaluable in keeping track of all of your tutoring appointments.
Planning the tutoring session
Some students use a tutoring session as a chance to get help with their homework. There is little prior planning that can be done for a session like this beyond having reference materials handy.
If you are helping someone prepare for a test, your local library or bookstore should have a number of test guides with useful practice tests, and you can spend your time working through the questions together.
If you are helping a student build general skills in a subject area, then these sessions will require careful planning. As much as possible, keep the learning fun and individualized.