One of the best seasonal and side gigs for educators is tutoring. Tutors are needed in every subject and at every level. During times when school is not in session, parents especially look for tutors for their children to keep from losing any ground they’ve gained, and occasionally to improve upon and review what they’ve learned during their most recent time in school.
There are some things you have to decide before beginning a tutoring side business, though, especially if you plan to work on your own (as opposed to working with a company).
Here are some of the things we’ve found you’ll need to think through, as well as a few additional resources we’ve found to be handy.
Some schools and districts have policies against teachers tutoring students from within their own district or school, so be sure to check your contract before formally beginning any sort of side business.
Even if it isn’t in your contract, you are morally obligated not to tutor students from your own classroom. It’s OK to tutor students from other classes, schools, or districts.
You may want to teach students as individuals or schedule small groups of children. There are advantages to each method. While students who are really struggling may need one-on-one attention, small groups can be very beneficial for children who respond well to competitive games and socializing while learning.
Chose the subject with which you are most comfortable and for which you have the most resources.
Create or find an assessment that you can use to find the strengths and weaknesses of each student with ease. Whatever you choose, be sure students can complete the assessment in 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Administer the assessment in the initial meeting, then repeat it at the end of a set number of sessions.
Determine what ages you’d like to work with. Keep in mind that students often have gaps from half a year to two or three years below their current grade level, so if you plan to tutor grades 3 - 5, have materials ready to work on skills from grades 1-5.
Once you’ve established how you’ll determine what students know and what they need to know, plan, find, or purchase a curriculum. It’s best if you are able to establish lesson skeletons in a series that will help students fill gaps as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Decide how often you’d like to work with students and how long each session should be. Consider ending sessions with ten or fifteen minutes before the next student arrives so you’ll have time to say your goodbyes, put away resources from one student, and gather your materials for the next.
Also, it’s often best to offer sessions in small groups of 4, 6, or 9. Parents and guardians like knowing there is an end in sight, even if you assess the student at the end of the time and find they’ve improved but still need more time in tutoring. Just be sure that you explain that you’ll teach for a set number of sessions, reassess, and use the evaluation to help you all determine together what your next steps will be.
This way of grouping sessions will help parents, guardians, and students, but it’s also helpful for your schedule.
Most new tutors are surprised at the ebb and flow of students available. Parents like to get help for their children often in the spring, after school starts again in the New Year and leading up to the time for standardized testing to be administered.
After standardized testing is done, though, students will be scarce until at least two weeks into summer vacation. The summer season is filled with students whose parents are concerned with their lack of advancement during the school year or those who are concerned that their child will slip backward and forget all their learning.
Students will usually need tutoring until about two weeks before school begins again, and won’t be seeking tutoring again until after the first progress report or report card (3-5 weeks after the beginning of school).
This is the last busy season of tutoring, from this time to mid-November. Once the holidays begin, few students are available for weekly meetings, although this is a good time for small group meetings where you only meet them once or twice for possibly a longer session (an hour and a half or two).
Again, some schools and districts may have rules about you tutoring for pay in your classroom or in your building. You may simply need your principal’s permission to use your classroom. Check the published policies of your school district. You can often find this information online or in your school’s handbook.
Whenever possible, meet students in a public place. If there isn’t a good place and you have to tutor in a secluded space, ask parents to stay. Just as in teaching, you never want to be left alone with a student for accountability purposes. Many libraries have tables where you can set up to work with a student. Coffee shops can be a great place to meet as well.
If you go to a public place that requires you to make a purchase, keep your receipts. Food and drinks you purchase for a tutoring session are deductible as a business expense.
Other Common Questions
How much should I charge?
Depending on the age of your student and your specialty, rates can vary wildly from $15 per hour to over a hundred dollars per hour for tutoring in subjects like calculus. The best way to set rates in your area is to research and find what other tutors are charging. Start with the average middle rate.
Don’t be tempted to charge too little. First of all, if you introduce your new business at a lower rate than everyone around you, you may make a few enemies, which no one has time for.
Secondly, you don’t inspire confidence in clients by charging low rates. Customers tend to overlook tutors who don’t charge enough because they think there’s probably a reason that those tutors can’t earn as much (ie: they don’t teach well - never something of which you want clients to be convinced).
Thirdly, if you start at a very low rate, it will be really difficult to increase your rates later without losing your client base.
Begin in the middle.
Don’t forget to give yourself credit when comparing your prices to those of others. Be realistic about your experiences. If you have an advanced degree or more than 10 to 20 years of experience and other tutors in your area have fewer of these qualifications, charge accordingly.
Take into consideration the area in which you live. If the cost of living is high because you live in New York City, your rates will be higher than tutors, say, in a rural town in Ohio.
Taxes and Legal Information
You will be required to pay taxes on your earnings as a tutor. Usually, if you save about a third of your pay, you should have enough to cover your taxes.
You may also consider allowing your school district to take up to the maximum amount available from your school paycheck to cover what you think you may owe in taxes. After the first year, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’ll be paying in taxes and apply that to a yearly average, adjusting how much is taken from your paycheck or saved from each tutoring payment to cover your tax cost.
If you are tutoring on your own (as opposed to through a company), you’ll be freelance. You don’t have to create your own company or register with a business name in the beginning, and may never need to if you’ll be making under a certain amount each year.
It is wise to consult with a CPA who specializes in small businesses to help keep your finances straight, especially if you do better than you expected or plan to expand your side business in the future.
Self-employed individuals generally pay taxes quarterly, so if you make a certain amount, you may need assistance filing and paying that way. It’s definitely worth your time and money to find a CPA you can trust to help you keep track of things. You also may find it useful to have someone advise you on deductions that may help you keep more of the money you’ve earned.
Can I Tutor Full-Time?
Quite a few former teachers have made a transition to tutoring. Right now, because education is experiencing a bit of a crisis, classrooms are overcrowded, students are not getting the amount of personalized attention they need, and people are desperately needed outside the classroom to assist struggling students.
All of this makes transitioning to work outside of the traditional classroom a good alternative at the moment.
However, if you are considering making that change, the wisest move is to begin building your business slowly and transitioning to full-time once you’ve built a good client base to help spread the word and talk about your services.
Before you take the plunge, though, consider the following:
- Do you plan to rent a space? If you do that now, will you be able to make enough to cover space rental, pay for insurance, and cover any additional expenses while still making enough overhead to pay your bills?
- Your hours are likely to be limited. Keep in mind that you’ll be teaching during the times that students are free. That means you’ll be working afternoons, evenings, and weekends. If you have a family, that may be more challenging than your current schedule.
There is one possibility that may create more opportunities for you: the increase in homeschoolers. You may be able to offer larger group classes for these families, but you will have to charge less and keep in mind that most homeschooling families are looking for academic enrichment and social interaction. If done right, and you already have some connections within the homeschooling community, this may work.
There are a couple of successful tutors who have started coaching others in becoming tutors. They have tons of good resources and helpful information.
Adrianne Meldrum - https://thetutorcoach.com/about/ - Adrianne also has a Facebook page, and is on Pinterest and Twitter.
This Reading Mama - https://thisreadingmama.com/resources-links/tutoring-resources/
Joanne B. Kaminski - https://www.onlinetutorcoach.com/ - Joanne has a Facebook page and YouTube videos.
This is not a tutoring resource, but it’s a great small business guide with tons of resources and helpful information. It’s written for women specifically, but you are likely to be able to find resources that are pertinent to men as well. Her book and resources are incredibly helpful for any size business. It’s a great investment to make in your future.
The Women’s Small Business Start-Up Kit by Peri Pakroo
Peri has a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts, as well as a website and lots of resources as well. Here’s her webpage: http://peripakroo.com/