Hi all! For those of you that don’t know, aside from maintaining my emotionally draining job, I’ve also been a tutor for the past twelve years. And even though I dislike my day job, tutoring is the best job I’ve ever had. It has been the most rewarding, flexible, highest paying (per hour), and fun job ever. Throughout the years, I’ve been asked constantly about how to become a tutor. At first, I was hesitant to share my secrets to success. After all, teaching others how to become a successful tutor would only give me competition.
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It’s not like I could tutor every student in the world… or even in my city!
So I decided to post this guide on how to become a tutor. Whether you’re a parent trying to make some extra income, or a student hoping to make some spending money, this guide will be one one-stop-shop for setting up your tutoring business.
I’m laying it all out on the table in the hopes of helping some of you, my readers, succeed with this amazing job, that could very well turn into a career.
So grab yourself a snack and mug of your favorite drink, because it’s going to be a looooooooong one!
And be sure to pin this post for later reference!
Since this guide on how to become a tutor is so long, here’s a table of content on what we’ll be covering. Feel free to click on any chapter to jump ahead.
Table of Contents
How to Become a Tutor: What to Teach?
The first step in becoming a tutor is, of course, deciding what you’re going to teach. There are tons of different ways you can go about this, and each have their pros and cons. You can choose to market yourself by the age group you specialize in (such as elementary school students), or choose a specific subject and go across multiple age levels (such as math from Algebra 1 to Calculus). I couldn’t possibly include every possibility, so I’ll cover my top recommendations.
Math is, without a doubt, the subject I’ve had the most students in, and as a specialty for tutoring, it definitely has it’s perks.
In my experience, math is the subject with the highest demand for tutors. By far. No matter who you talk to, it seems like most adults think back on their math classes with dread. And students make faces and groan when you bring up the subject. It is, single-handedly the subject that brings the most pain to students.
Don’t get me wrong. The sciences are difficult for students too. But no subject is quite like math in the sense that your college classes will still be building on the addition you learned in Kindergarten.
And parents know this, which is why they are more likely to reach out for help when their kiddo is falling behind in math, versus Earth and Space Science, for example.
Highest Longevity per Student
Math also has the highest longevity per student. Once a child is caught up to their age-appropriate reading level, chances are they’ll be able to stay on track moving forward.
This is not necessarily the case when it comes to math. Even if you give a child intensive tutoring and they build up the foundation they were missing, they may still struggle in upcoming years, since math courses only become more difficult. Therefore, math students in your client list are more likely to stay with you for multiple years than their reading or foreign language counterparts.
If you’re well rounded and have tested well in the past, potential clients are willing to pay more for exam prep than single-subject lessons. Nearly anything is fair game for marketing yourself as a Test Prep tutor:
- state-specific yearly exams,
- Advanced Placement (AP),
- International Baccalaureate (IB),
- Bar Exam
- Career-specific test prep
Hobbies and Foreign Languages
This area can be a bit tricky. There’s definitely less need (and parents have less budget) for hobby-type in-home lessons such as music, sports coaches, or foreign language.
Parents that do want to pay for these types of lessons for their children are typically willing to pay more per hour for it. Therefore, having these unique specialties in your arsenal means you can charge more.
Next, is the obvious question that even I struggle with sometimes: what do you charge?
How to Become a Tutor: What to Charge?
This is one of the biggest questions regarding how to become a tutor. It seems like this is every single tutor’s stress point: what in the world should I charge? And it’s an incredibly important question to ask, and ask again often. You don’t want to overcharge and get zero students, but you also don’t want to sell yourself short. Although there is no right or wrong answer to this question, there are definitely a few criteria you should keep in mind when pricing your lessons.
Your education level
Are you in high school?
Graduated and in the field?
It goes without saying that the more education you’ve obtained, the more you can charge for your services. That is because parents want what is best for their children. And typically, “best” often has several degrees hanging up on the wall.
It may not be fair, but it’s the mentality that many parents have.
So if you have higher education, be sure to mention it and you’ll see that parents see you as being more “valuable” once they know it.
Bear with me, because even though it sounds pretty similar to my previous point, it’s not what you’re thinking.
Higher education is definitely a good selling point. But what is an even better selling point is if your degree is somehow related to the subject you’re teaching, or teaching in general.
I have a college friend who is charging $80 per hour for his tutoring lessons, despite living in a less populated area and not having much experience in tutoring.
So how does he do it?
He’s a certified teacher!
I have a graduate degree and certification in Behavior Analysis, which is the science of understanding and modifying behavior.
This works perfectly for me because it allows me to target as clients students with unique learning needs such as Autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD.
Big city vs Suburbia
The bigger the city you tutor in, the more you can get away with charging. Smaller cities and towns however, tend to have a lower average income and therefore a lower cost of living, so it’s harder for parents to justify paying excessively high tutoring rates.
How long have you been tutoring?
I’ll keep this one short and sweet because it’s pretty straight forward. The longer you’ve been tutoring, the more you can charge. It means you have more experience in 1:1 teaching, and experience is worth paying a premium for.
In person vs online lessons
You can argue this one in either direction, depending on how you pitch it to families.
On one hand, in-person lessons cost more to you as the instructor. You can typically charge more since you have to account for commute time, and gas and wear on your vehicle (or paying for transportation).
On the other hand, providing online lessons can be pitched as a bonus for families, since the scheduling can be more flexible – sometimes even at a moment’s notice.
What you’re teaching
Parents are willing to pay more for some subjects than others. It’s just the truth.
The STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) will generally earn you bigger bucks, since students tend to do very poorly in them.
Sports and the arts, unfortunately, are typically not as valued by parents – or schools. This means that unless a family has the money for extra curricular activities, these won’t open you up to many high-paying clients.
Expanded empire vs WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
We’ll go more in-depth on expanded empires a bit later on in this article but just know that it’s a big deal for you as well as clients.
The more value you can offer your student and their family, the more easily you can justify charging them a premium per hour. Added resources through an expanded empire will help parents feel like they are truly getting their money’s worth, since they are getting you 1:1 for lessons, as well as all your knowledge even when you aren’t there.
And if a family is on the fence between hiring you or another tutor, sometimes the extra resources will help you earn a new student!
Niche vs General
This is a great category because it can work for you both ways–as long as you can explain the benefits to the family. 😉
The Pros to Being a Niche Tutor
Tutors with a very particular specialty have typically invested the time to truly become an expert in that subject.
If you only teach AP Calculus, parents will feel like they are getting someone who truly knows the subject inside and out. This will make them feel more comfortable in paying you a higher rate to tutor their child.
The Pros to Being a Generalist Tutor
The benefit to being a generalist tutor is that you can offer families help across all subjects. Great students who are only struggling in one subject are less common than kiddos with overall poor study habits struggling across the board.
If you are a niche tutor, the family would have to hire multiple tutors to meet their child’s academic needs. They might also cancel more lessons, since kids need differing levels of help in a single subject in any given week.
Being a generalist means that you can be the family’s one-stop-shop tutor. You can help the kiddo in their math lessons, reading, handwriting, and science experiement.
My personal process on choosing what to charge
At the end of the day, choosing what to charge is something that will be a bit (or a lot) of trial and error for everyone looking for tips on how to become a tutor. I have a very specific process I personally go through when pricing lessons.
How I Price My Lessons
When I was in high school, I started off charging $20 per hour. I bumped up my rate to $30-40 while I was in college and graduate school tutoring in the suburbs. Now I have students in the $60-70 range because I:
- tutor in the outskirts of Los Angeles,
- have a Master’s degree in a related field,
- am constantly expanding my empire,
- am a generalist,
- have been tutoring for 12+ years
Although all those points might suggest to you that I might be able to charge even more than $60-$70, a bit more goes into my process than just my strengths. After all, my skills and expertise don’t exist in a bubble!
Not only do I have that specific pricing method, but I also reassess my pricing constantly.
How I Reassess my Pricing
There are several key times when I will reassess what I am charging students:
- when I am contacted by a new student,
- if my schedule is full,
- or when my schedule is nearly empty.
Each time I am contacted by a new student, I will generally bump up my price by $10 to account for inflation and while finding the pricing sweet spot for my skills and the area.
When my schedule is nearly full, I bump up by $15 for new students. Like any other business, tutoring should take supply and demand into consideration. When demand for your expertise is high (and supply, i.e. your time, is low), your hourly rate should increase accordingly.
On the flip side, when my schedule is nearly empty and I want to give it a little boost, I’ll drop my rate $10 from my highest-paying student. I haven’t had to do this in several years, since I’ve long since found my sweet spot, but it is something that I do on occasion.
Now that you have your hourly rate, let’s discuss possible lesson venues.
How to Become a Tutor: Where to Hold Lessons?
There are so many options for places to hold lessons! As long as the parents are OK with it, feel free to switch it up with the changing seasons.
This will, more often than not, be your go-to lesson location. It’s most convenient for parents, since they can make dinner or get work done during the lesson. And, given your other options, it’s also most convenient for you, since you don’t have to hope for an empty table at Starbucks or the library.
However, some families won’t be comfortable with giving their address out to someone they don’t know, and they have a point! Therefore, sometimes the student’s home won’t be an option available to you. The more options you have to suggest to the family, the more comfortable they will feel.
Public libraries are hit or miss for many reasons, though they definitely come in handy when you’re in a pinch. If your student is easily distracted, this might not be the best option, unless study skills and focusing on work is something the parent specifically wants you to focus on.
They also might not be ideal when holidays come around, since they may reduce their hours of operation. However, it’s definitely a great option, and one I’ve used (and continue to use) with much success with several students at multiple different libraries.
I’ve never personally tutored at a park, but I imagine it could be quite nice! Scope out the park before your first session to make sure there are tables you can use to maintain a structure and posture conducive to learning. As long as the parents are ok with it, it might be a great option for the spring and summer months.
Local college campus
Back in 2011, I had one student, C, who’s mom was willing to drive her to my college campus 30 minutes away from their home so I could tutor her between my classes.
It was a time in my life when my schedule was full to the brim:
- I had an 18 credit undergraduate courseload,
- multiple extracurricular activities,
- and 10 tutoring students weekly.
I was swamped.
I had tutored C in her home years before in math, but now she was older and needing help in her high school physics class. So her mom would drop her off at my college’s library, we would have our lesson for an hour, and then she would be picked up and I would go off to my next class.
C has since graduated high school and college as well.
I want you to keep this in mind as an example of how loyal your families can be if you give them high-quality tutoring lessons.
I’ve tutored at Starbucks and The Coffee Bean locations before, and it can be quite nice!
The pro, of course, is being able to grab a quick snack or coffee before the lesson starts!
Keep in mind, however, that you may not always be able to find a table available.
This is the least likely option so I won’t go into too much detail here. If the parents choose this option, be sure to maintain your standard level of professionalism. Dress as you would to tutor at the child’s home, don’t eat through the lesson, or complete unrelated chores.
Provide parents with a space to wait or supervise if they wish.
Rent a tutoring location
Of course, this is a possibility, but I find that the cons far outweigh the pros. Even though it’ll cut down on commuting and appear more professional, parents are less likely to prefer a location other than the convenience of lessons in their home. And do I even need to state the obvious: it can be expensive to rent a location!!
But don’t feel bad if you’re working hard and still not making enough to rent a small office space: I make a decent income from my tutoring, and I even I don’t rent a location.
Now that we’ve covered what to teach, where to do it, and what to charge, how about the most critical part: where to find students?
How to Become a Tutor: Where to Find Students?
Believe it or not, finding students isn’t actually as hard as you might think! The key is in getting the first two or three students. From there on, if you’re good at what you do, the referrals can start snowballing in pretty quickly!
Tutoring your neighbors’ kids is a great start. Not only is there no commute to consider, but you probably already have some sort of relationship with them so you’re not starting a relationship with a family from scratch.
My first paid student was my next door neighbor, E, back when I was in high school and only charging $20. She was very bright and studious, and my memories of her certainly serve as a reminder of how long I’ve been tutoring, since she had her high school prom about a year ago!
Family, Friends, and Family Friends
Tutoring family and friends might be hit or miss. However, it can be a great starting point if you’ve never tutored before, so I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the option.
Tutoring family and friends is a great idea since they tend to be our biggest fans. 🙂 They are usually our biggest cheerleaders, rooting for our success.
The downside to tutoring family and friends is that they sometimes want a “family and friends” discount.
Since offering a discounted rate to get the ball rolling is a great way to start getting your name out here, you can minimize this downside by telling them that that is a special rate for them and that they shouldn’t quote it to others when recommending you. That way you won’t be held to this lower rate when taking on students they recommend you to.
Sometimes neighbors, friends, and family won’t be quite enough to kickstart your tutoring side-hustle. That’s when phone apps can come in clutch for when you’re struggling on how to become a tutor. There are plenty of websites and phone applications where you can make a tutor account and post your profile. I’ve personally only used two of them, so I’ll talk about them here.
Wyzant is a great place to find tutoring students, since there are many parents using the app daily. They pay you fairly often, which is great, and you can also set your own hourly rate. It does, however, have a few downsides.
First or all, it takes a bit of effort to set up your account. For each subject you want to teach, you have to either take and pass a quiz they provide, or write a few sentences on why you are qualified to teach that subject.
Second, they pay you on a sliding scale depending on how many hours you’ve tutored for them. When you’re first starting out, they will withhold 35% of your hourly rate. That’s quite a huge chunk of cash!
The more hours you teach through their app, however, the smaller the percent they will deduct, so logging more hours with them is beneficial if you plan on staying in their structure for some time.
Care.com is a website where people can hire many different sorts of help, including nannies, babysitters, tutors, senior care, etc. Even though I have used (and gotten clients through) Care.com, to be honest, I didn’t enjoy my experience very much.
When a parent posts a job, they include what they are willing to pay per hour. The problem with this is that, in my experience, people on the site don’t generally value a tutor’s experience.
Most posts for tutors hover at about $10-20/hour or so. And others are even less reasonable than that.
For example, I’ve seen posts requesting tutors with experience teaching special needs children as low as $15/hour!
Teaching special needs children can often require very specialized knowledge and expertise. Requesting to pay a maximum of $15/hour is simply unreasonable!
Ok. Rant over. 🙂
Word of mouth
This is my favorite aspect of how to become a tutor! Once you’ve landed your first couple of students, word of mouth will be your best friend when it comes to landing new students!
Studies show that people are more likely to make a purchase when it’s been recommended by a friend, it’s basic social proof! Even though they aren’t exactly “purchasing” you, the idea still stands. It’s better to hire a tutor that comes recommended by someone you know, than to have to do your own search and potentially hire someone inadequate.
Talk to local schools
Another good option is to foster relationships with schools near you. Set up a meeting with an administrator and discuss the relationship you would like to build with their campus. Ask if you can leave flyers at their front office. Or perhaps there is a procedure for working with them in a more formal way.
This is a great way to ensure you always have a steady stream of students, since there will always be kiddos coming in from younger grade levels.
There’s a lot of debate around the use of business cards nowadays. Many feel that cell phones have rendered the typical business card obsolete.
I bed to differ.
If you design yourself a truly eye-catching business card, it can be a great ice breaker out on the town whenever you meet someone new. It will also help your current students give you referrals if they have a card to hand over.
Include the areas within your driving radius, as well as any other information a family might use to learn more about you, such as your blog or social media (more on that later).
Vendor with a nearby charter school
I’m not sure if this is a nationwide procedure, but in California, private tutors can become vendored with local charter schools to tutor their students.
Vendoring with a school is a great idea, since parents can still hire the tutor they want (i.e. YOU!) but the bill gets passed on to the school.
This is a bit more involved of a process, since you’ll have to submit to a background check and receive a w-9 or 1099 tax form from the school.
However, having a charter school as one of your clients increases your legitimacy, and knowing that you are able to passing a background check will always be a comfort to families.
Post up flyers
If you can design (or hire someone to do it for you) yourself an eye-catching flyer, there are many places you can ask about posting it. Some options for places where you can leave your flyers in your community for people to come across include:
- Pediatricians offices
- Pediatric dentistry offices
- Coffeehouses near schools
- Hair salons tailored to children
Admittedly, a website alone will not bring you many clients. It requires quite a bit of promotion on your part, and ranking on Google is near impossible without implementing a serious strategy.
However, including a few pages will definitely make your onboarding process easier.
- An About Me page will help parents get to know you. You can include a bit about yourself personally, as well as your credentials and experience.
- A Testimonials page will make it easy for you to have a go-to response if a family asks you for references.
- A structured page with your rules and procedures will minimize miscommunication regarding your cancellation process, holiday schedules, and confirmation procedures before lessons.
Adding a page with a survey you can give parents will help you gather testimonials from students and their families.
I’m so glad you’re still with me! Grab yourself a refill and let’s keep going. 🙂
How to Become a Tutor: Offering Families Bonuses?
Sometimes a student will be a great fit for you, your schedule, and your commute.
They’re adorable and you can’t wait to teach them.
You HAVE to have them in your classload!
But the parents are just too hesitant about your hourly rate.
Has this ever happened to you?
At this point, there are many different bonuses you can offer a family to sweeten the deal without selling your soul and undercharging for your time and expertise.
Discount for multi-hour sessions
Multi-hour lessons are my favorite for many reasons (I even wrote a blog post on Tutor in Tinseltown about my ideal lesson.). Mainly, multi-hour lessons will help the student feel less rushed during their learning. They also give you more time to get to know their needs and learning styles.
Multi-hour sessions are best for you if the student lives far, since you can get more out of that commute.
They’re also great if the parents want you to teach their siblings as well, since it saves you having to schedule time on another day and make the same drive.
Just keep in mind that younger students will not be able to stay as attentive through a longer session, so offer them short breaks and be more patient towards the end than you were at the beginning.
Discount for multiple sessions per week
This is a good option if the student lives closer to you (to minimize commuting) or if there are siblings you’ll be teaching separately.
Multiple sessions per week are great for parents that want more help for their child but the kiddo is too young (or has special needs) and can’t sit through a multi-hour lesson.
Discounts for referrals
This is my favorite bonus to offer!
Why? Because it’s the bonus that keeps on giving! Not only does it mean a new student knows about you, but now that’s potentially several whole new audiences you can expand to. That new parent’s social circle, the student’s social circle, and if there’s a sibling, even better!
Remember, word of mouth will always be your best friend. Be generous and make a referral worth your family’s time.
How to Become a Tutor: The Ups of Being a Tutor
- Seeing the lightbulbs go off when your sweet student finally get a topic.
- Hearing them say “Your explanation makes it sound so easy!”
- Watching your kiddos grow and succeed.
- Keeping in touch after you finish teaching them, knowing you helped make their lives better.
- Realizing you’re a role model to some of these kids, someone they can talk to and relate to.
- Knowing you are your own boss and running your own business.
- The ability to set your own schedule.
And if I cover the UPs of tutoring, I also have to be realistic and fill you in on the negative aspects too. I do want you to be a fully informed tutor, after all!
How to Become a Tutor: The Downs of Being a Tutor
- Some kids won’t like you, they may even be pretty rude. Don’t take it personally.
- Some parents won’t respect your time or value your work enough to pay you your desired rate. Be flexible but know your worth.
- Each student is a kiddo you know you’ll stop seeing eventually–it can be sad when you get attached.
- You do a lot of driving. A lot.
- Some kids have special needs, which may be difficult to work with if you don’t have experience with unique learners. Be upfront with parents about this. They will appreciate your honesty, and it will make your life a lot easier too.
- The better you do your job, the quicker you’ll lose the student. But if you follow my advice and give it your best, hopefully, they refer you to others! That way you’ll be able to keep working.
I know that setting up a side-hustle can be a fun and exciting time, though it definitely has it’s challenges.
Hopefully, this guide on how to become a tutor will be an invaluable tool in turning your casual tutoring into a profitable side business.
For my absolute BEST tips on how to become a tutor, other bonuses to offer, and expanding your reach in terms of students and income, sign up below and keep an eye out for my upcoming ebook: The Ultimate Blueprint on How to Become a Tutor.
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With all my love,