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How to Become a Tutor – Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Do you have a gift for teaching others a new skill? Are you patient, a good listener, and able to adapt quickly to change? If so, then you might be perfectly suited to become a tutor.

There is a growing need for tutors all over the country. Tutoring is also a great side business idea because it requires very little startup capital yet has the potential to provide a sizeable income. How much you can earn varies; some private tutors earn a six-figure income, but even part-time tutoring through a company like Education First can supplement your family’s income.

Here’s what you need to do to start a successful tutoring business.

What Does Tutoring Involve?

The tutoring industry is booming. Citing research conducted by Global Industry Analysts, Forbes reports that the global private tutoring market is expected to surpass $102.8 billion in 2018. Most of the money spent on tutoring comes from a handful of countries, including the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific countries such as China and Japan.

There are several reasons why private tutors are in increasingly high demand. First, our education system is struggling. Schools face frequent budget cuts, teacher shortages, and high enrollment, which often means that students don’t get the one-on-one attention they need to learn at their best. So, parents rely on tutors to fill the gap, from homeschooling their children full-time to helping with homework after school. Some tutors are hired through the summer so that, come fall, heading back to school isn’t such a disruptive transition for students.

Tutors are also helping meet the needs of wealthy families who like to travel and don’t want to be tied down to one location throughout the school year. These families hire a full-time tutor to travel with them. As you might imagine, these tutors are very well-compensated for their time, and they often get other perks such as first-class travel, free meals and lodging, and even a car and driver.

Last, tutors are also hired to help children with special needs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 14% of all students in the United States are considered “special needs” – a nearly 16% increase from just a decade ago, according to NPR. The biggest rise in special needs kids comes from affluent families, who report increased cases of neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions including ADD, ADHD, autism, and learning disabilities.

How Much Can You Earn?

Tutoring can be very lucrative. However, like most businesses, the income potential depends on a number of factors, including your location, your education level, whether you tutor part-time or full-time, and your marketing finesse. According to CNBC, the typical salary for a full-time private tutor is $70,000 to $120,000, while PayScale lists an income range of $20,000 to $82,000.

Benefits & Drawbacks

One of the biggest benefits of being a private tutor is that you can make an enormous difference in the life of a child. For example, test prep tutors help their students achieve higher scores, which can help them get into the colleges of their dreams. Grade-school-level tutors help build reading skills and turn struggling readers into lifelong passionate readers. Just like teachers, a great tutor can change someone’s life forever.

Many kids have been struggling for months, or even years, in a subject before they receive tutoring. Others have trouble with particular concepts and feel ashamed when they have to ask “stupid” questions in school. Working with a tutor in a safe environment can deepen their understanding and help them overcome these challenges. This, in turn, can dramatically boost their self-confidence and eliminate the stress they feel about learning.

However, while tutoring can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be challenging. You must have patience, as you’ll often need to explain a concept over and over, in different ways, to help students understand. You’ll also answer directly to parents, who might have unrealistic expectations for what you – and their child – can accomplish.


How to Become a Tutor

If you have patience and a talent for explaining challenging concepts to young minds, then tutoring might be a great way to earn a healthy side or full-time income. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Identify Which Type of Tutor You Want to Be

A tutor is a tutor, right? Not really. There are several different types of tutoring you can offer.

Remediation

Remediation tutors help struggling students learn or practice a specific skill (such as reading) or subject (such as English or math) to help them catch up at school or meet the requirements set for their grade level.

Maintenance

Maintenance tutors help students who are already working at their grade level stay on track and meet their learning goals.

Support

Support tutoring is a combination of remediation and maintenance tutoring. These tutors typically help with one specific area, such as reading or math, while also teaching learning and organization strategies to help the student continue to do well in other areas.

Test Prep

A test prep tutor helps students study for a specific test, such as the ACT, SAT, or GMAT. These tutors focus on testable material as well as teaching good study strategies, and they’re especially helpful to students who experience test anxiety.

Test prep tutors typically charge a higher hourly rate than other types of tutors. Many charge $80 per hour or more for their services, and plenty charge $150 per hour or more.

Enrichment

Enrichment tutors provide a deeper set of skills or knowledge to students who already have a foundation and interest in a specific area. For example, an enrichment tutor might teach high-level math skills to a gifted child who shows a talent for complex math. Or, an enrichment tutor might teach programming to a student interested in learning to code if their school doesn’t offer programming classes.

Grade-Level-Specific Tutors

There are also tutors who specialize in specific grade levels. For example, Pre-K tutors help young children get ready for kindergarten, while elementary tutors help kids aged 6 to 10 cope with the increasing complexity of subjects and may also prepare them for standardized tests.

Homework Helper

Some parents need a tutor simply to help with their children’s homework after school. This might be because parents don’t have time to do this themselves, aren’t confident in their teaching ability, or their child is in an AP-level class and parents don’t have enough knowledge or experience in the subject to help.

Special Needs Tutors

Some tutors specialize in working with kids with special needs, such as those with ADHD, dyslexia, learning disabilities, speech or language issues, autism, or physical disabilities that make it difficult for them to attend school. Special needs tutors typically have a degree in special education or extensive experience working with special needs children.

Online Tutors

Online tutoring has its benefits and drawbacks. One of the biggest benefits for tutors is that an online environment is frequently easier than tutoring one-on-one. The curriculum is often developed by someone else, and your job is to coach children through each lesson. The downside to online tutoring is that you typically earn a lot less – usually around $20 per hour – and it’s harder to develop a personal relationship with students using an online platform.

That said, starting out as an online tutor can be a great way to hone your tutoring skills and build your credentials. Consider the following websites:

  • Education First: Boost your rate when you teach early weekday mornings or in the evening on weekends.
  • VIPKid: Focuses exclusively on teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Tutor.com: Part of The Princeton Review; offers tutoring in most subjects as well as AP-level classes, test prep, and foreign languages
  • Chegg: Covers all subjects, including college- and professional-level classes
  • Brainfuse: Offers tutoring for elementary- to college-aged students.

Keep in mind that each company has its own requirements for tutors. Some only require a high school diploma, while others want a bachelor’s degree or higher, as well as previous experience teaching or working in a classroom.

Academic Coach

As you look into tutoring, you might come across the term “academic coach” or “learning coach.” On the surface, these may seem to be the same as tutoring, but in practice, these tutors focus on two distinct areas: building a specific set of skills or teaching a specific subject. Academic or learning coaches teach learning and study strategies, organization skills, and time management tactics to help students succeed in an academic environment.

Tutor Online Laptop Desk

Step 2: Find Your Niche

Your niche is your unique selling proposition, or USP. A USP allows you to hone in on a specific set of clients with a specific set of needs. It also helps you stand out from your competitors. Consider the difference between these two descriptions:

  • Tutor 1: I specialize in helping children who are struggling with reading.
  • Tutor 2: I help elementary-aged children with ADHD learn to read by using strategies specifically designed for their unique learning needs.

If your child has ADHD, then you’re going with Tutor #2, hands down. That’s the power of having a niche; you can promote yourself in a specific way to a specific group of people, instead of trying to be everything to everybody.

So, what grade levels do you want to focus on? What subjects? What type of client do you want to work for? Choose the age groups and subject matter you’re most comfortable working with.

If you don’t have much experience working directly with children, it’s crucial to learn more about age-specific child development. Understanding where a child is, intellectually and emotionally, at any given age is essential in planning lessons that will excite and engage them. The book “Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom” by Christi Crosby Bergin and David Allen Bergin is a great resource for future teachers. Also familiarize yourself with the Common Core standards taught in today’s classroom.

Another option is to take some Early Childhood Education or Teacher Education classes at your local community college.

Step 3: Build a Website

Every tutor needs a website, even if it’s just a basic one. A website allows you to turn visitors into potential clients. Your website should display:

  • Your experience and past results
  • Your teaching philosophy
  • Your credentials (education, national affiliations)
  • Testimonials
  • Logistical information (location, contact information, rates)
  • Social media information (links to Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts and Yelp reviews)

You can set up your website with Bluehost, which allows you to easily create a professional website within minutes. As your business starts to grow you can add different features that allow you to create a more complex site giving clients the ability to pay online or make online appointments.

Step 4: Join a Tutoring Association

There are several tutoring associations in the United States, and joining one, or all, of them will help you build credibility.

The National Tutoring Association (NTA) is the oldest and largest association for tutors. Membership is $35 per year, and once you’re a member, you have access to live and prerecorded webinars that will prepare you for tutoring certification, teach you how to market your tutoring business, and much more. Prices for these webinars range from $30 to $70 each.

You can also join the Association for the Coaching and Tutoring Profession (ACTP). Membership to the ACTP is $30 per year.

Step 5: Get Certified

You can apply to become a Certified Tutor through the NTA. To become certified, you must:

  • Be a current NTA member
  • Complete the application form
  • Submit documentation proving you have at least 10 hours of tutoring experience
  • Complete a background check form and submit the required fees for this check
  • Submit the required fees for certification, which range from $25 to $55, depending on the type of certification you seek
  • Complete an approved NTA training class for the level of certification you’re seeking

You can get certified as a tutor on several different levels, depending on factors such as your level of education and the number of hours you’ve logged as a tutor. Certifications range from Basic Tutor all the way up to Master Tutor.

The ACTP also offers certification options. As with the NTA, there are different requirements and prices for each level, ranging from Associate Tutor to Master Tutor.

Step 6: Find Your Clients

The hardest part of starting a business, no matter what industry you’re in, is getting your first sale. After all, how do you get people – especially parents – to trust you when you don’t have any testimonials or reviews?

One strategy is to start tutoring online. It’s a great way to get your feet wet, learn the ropes, and build your credentials so that, eventually, you can go out on your own and earn much more.

You could also offer your services for free. Working for free isn’t fun or easy, but it’s a great way to get some much-needed experience and heartfelt testimonials. Remember, positive word of mouth is essential to building your business, and you won’t get clients if you don’t have recommendations from other parents. So, ask your family friends, local teachers, colleagues, or neighbors if they have a child, or know of one, who might benefit from tutoring. Offer a set number of tutoring hours in exchange for a testimonial and a letter of recommendation.

Next, check Care.com’s Tutoring Jobs board for opportunities in your area or consider working for a tutoring center, such as Sylvan Learning or Kumon. Most tutoring centers ask you to sign a non-competition agreement, which means you can’t do any private tutoring or solicit your services while you’re working for them. However, working for an established center can be a great way to gain experience and build your credibility.

Finally, consider advertising to find prospective clients. While Google Ads are often the most effective, you can also try placing ads in student newspapers, giving out flyers at student events, or running Facebook or Yelp ads.

Tutor Boy Reading Talking Together Desk

Step 7: Organize Your Sales Process

Before you work with your first paid client, you need to have a structured sales format to follow. This will help you deliver consistent service to everyone, ensure you get paid promptly, and make you look more professional. Consider the following questions:

  • Will you interview prospective clients at your office, through video chat, or in their homes?
  • What questions will you ask to determine if you’re a good fit for their needs and goals?
  • Will you require a deposit or ask them to pay for several hours upfront before your first session?
  • Will you invoice clients weekly or monthly for your services? (We recommend using Quickbooks to handle invoicing and bookkeeping for your business.)
  • How will you collect payment?
  • Will you offer any discounts for referrals or repeat clients?
  • How often will you meet with students?
  • If you accept credit cards, what payment processing platform will you use?
  • Will clients be able to make payments online through your website?
  • What platform will you use to monitor each child’s progress and performance?
  • How will you keep parents up to date with their child’s progress?
  • How will you measure success? How will parents measure success? (Sometimes, these two answers are dramatically different.)

Final Word

If you enjoy working with kids and have a gift for teaching, tutoring could be a lucrative way to earn extra money for your family or even start a new career. One teacher profiled by CNBC makes an astonishing $400,000 per year as a private tutor. While this is the exception rather than the norm, you can still make a great living as a private tutor if you have the patience and perseverance needed in this field.

Are you interested in earning money as a private tutor? What sort of tutor would you like to be?

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.

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