How to Start a Tutoring Business

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Do you like teaching but need flexible working hours?

One option is to start a tutoring business. It’s possible to tutor high school students preparing for the SAT and ACT, adult students learning English, or even kindergarten students. There’s a demand for your knowledge and you can make at least $1,000 a month providing it.

Tutoring is a good way to earn income working a few hours in the evenings and weekends. It’s perfect for a new parent or a working adult who’s looking to supplement income from a day job. For instance, tutoring part-time has helped me work from home for four years.   

It can also be a good part-time job for college students that helps build teaching and business experience that can help you establish a career eventually. Who knows? You might decide to make a career of being a professional tutor.

What is a Tutor?

It can be easy to confuse tutoring with teaching. Teachers help students learn new material following a textbook or a structured syllabus. Tutors help students understand the information they are learning in school. As a tutor, you clarify and reinforce the knowledge a student already has. This means tutoring can require less work than teaching.

Some basic guidelines from the tutor code of ethics about what you should do include:

  • Help explain concepts that the student learns in class.
  • Use alternate teaching methods in cases where the textbook doesn’t work for the student.
  • DO NOT complete the student’s homework or assist with take-home exams.

Depending on the subjects you tutor, you may also need to plan lessons or correct homework. For instance, offering SAT and ACT test prep classes may require more effort than tutoring a high school student who only needs help once with chemistry class. Overall, you will find that tutoring is less time-intensive than teaching.

Having teaching experience isn’t necessary, but it can be very helpful because it may prepare you to adapt your tutoring methods to a student’s learning style. And it may enable you to charge more than an inexperienced tutor without teaching experience.

Not having teaching experience doesn’t disqualify you from becoming a tutor. As long as you like helping others learn and you are a “content expert” for the subjects you tutor, this can be an engaging way to make money fast in your free time. With time and effort, you can expand your tutoring business to earn a full-time income.

Do You Need a License to be a Tutor?

Tutoring is an awesome side hustle because you can start a business with little money. In most cases, you only need knowledge, time and effective communication skills to tutor.

Tutor Certification

Unlike teachers, tutors don’t need a teaching degree or a state-specific teaching license. However, if you tutor for a school or for a tutoring center, your employer may require a formal certification from the National Tutoring Association or a similar governing body.

I have been tutoring one day a week for four years and don’t have a license. I also didn’t have any prior teaching experience besides leading weekly training classes in my old career field.  

Business License

You won’t need a business license unless you open your own tutoring center. If you plan on operating a brick-and-mortar business, check your local and state regulations to determine which legal paperwork you will need to file.

Either way, you will need to report your earnings as taxable income to the IRS if your annual self-employment income exceeds $400.

Self Background Check

Since you will most likely be tutoring minors, it’s not a bad idea to get a background check. I get one because it helps build trust with parents I don’t know. This check confirms your name isn’t on a sex offender registry and you don’t have a criminal record. You can request a background check at GoodHire for $20 and up.

If you tutor for another tutoring company or a local school, a background check will most likely be mandatory.

How Much Do Tutors Make?

I spoke with several tutors located across the United States regarding their rates. From my conversations with them, I’d say you can expect to earn between $500 and $1,000 a month by tutoring multiple students several hours a week. Of course, you can earn more than $1,000 a month if you become a full-time tutor and increase your rates as you gain experience.  

There are several variables that determine how much you should charge each student:

  • Your educational background.
  • Prior teaching and tutoring experience.
  • Average rates for your local area.
  • The subjects and grade level you tutor.
  • Whether you work for a tutoring company or tutor on your own.
  • Commuting expenses.

Having an advanced degree or previous tutoring experience means you can charge more than a college student studying for an undergraduate degree. You can also charge more in big cities than in rural areas. And it’s possible to charge different rates for tutoring online versus tutoring locally.

You will need to conduct your own local market research to determine your personal rate.

To help set your rate and not undercharge, you might follow these basic guidelines:

  • College students or adults without prior tutoring experience: $15 to $20 per hour.
  • Experienced tutors and adults with advanced degrees: $25 to $125 per hour.
  • Tutors living in large cities: $40+ per hour.

Don’t forget that as you gain experience and begin adding more clients, you can increase your rates. As your reputation grows, parents will be willing to pay more for you. They’ll usually want to hire an experienced tutor, who can be more effective than a beginner tutor.

Earnings from Real Tutors

Are you ready for a couple of real-life examples about how much you can make tutoring?

As a college student, Riley Adams made between $15 and $20 per hour tutoring math for all grade levels. During the school year, he made around $650 per month. In the summer months, he made $1,250 monthly. In an area with a low cost of living, this was a good salary with flexible hours.  

Gaye Weintraub has been tutoring for seven years in the Houston, Texas area and replaced her full-time income from her previous job. Although she started at a lower rate, she now charges $65 for basic one-on-one tutoring in reading comprehension and writing, and $125 an hour tutoring for college entrance exams like the SAT, ACT and GRE.

She states you can easily make $500 to $1,000 daily when working for yourself in a large city once you gain experience and can tutor high-demand subjects For instance, she proofreads and edits college essays for $550 per student. Other tutors charge $1,500 for the same service. Another tutor she knows charges $300 per hour for AP Chemistry. If you have the skills, charging more can help you gain more clients, since you don’t come across as inexperienced.    

As with other side hustles, your income can vary depending on how many hours you work each month. Most tutors can expect to earn between $500 and $1,000 a month when tutoring on a part-time basis. That’s my case, living in a semi-rural area. But you can replace and maybe exceed your current income as you scale up to having a full-time tutoring business.

How to Start an In-Person Tutoring Business

The most common way to start a tutoring business is with in-person tutoring. Your students can drive to your home or vice-versa, or you can meet them at a public place like the library or a community center.

Although online tutoring is growing in popularity, in-person tutoring is still very common. This is because it’s often easier for the tutor and student to interact when they’re in the same room. It can be more difficult to explain concepts on a webcam and to maintain the student’s attention.

Choosing a Name

It’s not a bad idea to give your tutoring business a name to establish a level of professionalism. While there isn’t anything wrong with only using your legal name, your business name can help potential students know what subjects you tutor.

You can always choose a general name like “Acme Tutoring” if you want to leave the door open to tutoring multiple subjects and age levels.

In today’s digital world, you should create a website or a social media page to find students who don’t rely on word-of-mouth or physical advertising to find a tutor. Building a website helps you establish credibility with local and online clients.

Picking a Niche

The number of subjects you tutor can help determine your potential income. Finding which subjects have a shortage of tutors is a good starting point. You might choose your tutoring niche based on these factors:

  • Your current career background.
  • Your college major or minor.
  • A strong interest or hobby.

As you tutor students in one subject, see if you can help them in other subjects.

Finding Students

Your potential monthly income may be just as dependent on how well you advertise your tutoring business as it is on how well you tutor.

One of the best starting points is word-of-mouth referrals from family, friends and co-workers. If they like your methods, they may refer your name to their friends. Don’t be afraid to give them several business cards they can hand out to prospective students.

According to Weintraub, word-of-mouth referrals are her most effective advertising method. One way she boosts this is by giving parents a welcome letter with two business cards to share with their friends. As a token of thanks, she gives a coffee shop gift card to the parents who refer new students to her.

You should also try placing a flyer in or advertising on these platforms:

  • Social media networks.  Local Facebook groups and sites like Nextdoor let you advertise for free. Craigslist and Care.com can also attract students.
  • Public places. Ask to place flyers at the local library, community center and other places where students visit outside of school hours.
  • School guidance counselors. Try leaving flyers or business cards with school guidance counselors and other staff members.

Regardless of how you attract potential clients, you might decide to offer the first tutoring session for free or at a discount rate. This extra incentive can mean clients contact you before another tutor. If you’re an inexperienced tutor, these free sessions help you gain experience and improve your conversations with future students.

When I first started tutoring, I offered a free group session during summer break. I left a flyer at the local library and advertised on social media. This gave me a chance to refine my skills and to attract my first students.

Tax Implications

Because your tutoring income is taxable, you will need to think about your business tax filing status. Being a sole proprietor of your business is fine if you’re working part-time. As a sole proprietor, you will report your tutoring income on Schedule C when filing your income taxes.

Earning between $500 and $1,000 monthly can be a good part-time wage. But if you begin earning more or you hire other tutors to work for you, you might want to make your business a limited liability corporation (LLC). With an LLC, your personal liability is limited, but you may have more tax forms to complete.

Because everyone has a different tax situation, it’s best to ask a tax accountant or tax lawyer the best move to make when your tutoring business earns a sizable income.

Pros of Starting an In-Person Tutoring Business

  • Minimal starting costs.
  • No official certification or degree is required to start.
  • Flexible hours in the evenings and weekends.
  • Might be able to charge more per hour compared to online tutoring.

Cons of Starting an In-Person Tutoring Business

  • Can be harder to initially find clients compared to online tutoring.
  • Your hourly rates may be lower than online tutoring if you live in a low-cost area.
  • Travel costs and time eat into your hourly rate.

How to Start an Online Tutoring Business

Some tutors prefer tutoring online because of the convenience of being able to work from anywhere. All you need is a webcam, microphone and a reliable internet connection. You may also prefer tutoring online because there are no commuting costs or travel time.

Online tutoring might be a better option for stay-at-home parents and college students who don’t own a car.

What to Expect When Tutoring Online

The student-tutor dynamics will be different than in-person tutoring because you can only see each other from a computer screen. Thankfully, today’s quick internet speeds minimize video and audio buffering, so you’re more likely to have a trouble-free conversation than in years past.

Online tutoring can also be a rewarding way to diversify your tutoring income when you don’t have enough face-to-face clients.  

While you can advertise your online tutoring services in local social media groups and on your website, initially plan on joining online tutoring companies to reach more students. Until you build an online presence, it can be difficult finding online students. That’s because there are so many places to advertise your tutoring services, and there are many online tutors competing for the same students.

Each tutoring company has a different onboarding process. Keep in mind that some platforms require you to either have a college degree or be a current college student. You may also need to pass a subject exam and a mock tutoring session.

Once accepted, it’s possible to tutor students located within the United States or around the world for a variety of subjects. The tutoring company might determine your hourly pay and tutoring session length for you. If not, you can set your own hourly rate and tutoring schedule.

For ultimate scheduling and pricing flexibility, try opening your own online tutoring company. Even if you have to work for another company to build experience, you are an independent contractor and can build your own business in your free time, as you aren’t restricted by a non-compete clause.

Teaching English Online

If you decide to teach English to international students, the average class lasts 30 minutes. You may have to commit to tutoring a minimum number of hours each week.

You can be assigned between one and four students for each session. How many students you get depends on the tutoring service and student demand levels.

These students usually take English classes at their local school. Your online sessions help them practice speaking English with a native speaker.

Some of the best places to teach English online include:

VIPKID

Teaching English online to international students might offer more flexible hours than in-person tutoring. VIPKID provides activity-based lesson plans for students between the ages of five and 12. Expect to earn between $14 and $22 an hour. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a position.

With VIPKID, you will be teaching Chinese children who live about a dozen time zones away. This means you may need to wake up early or stay up late to tutor. But this can be a good option when you have a daytime work or family commitments that hinder you from tutoring during other hours of the day.

Qkids

You can teach English online to children ages four through twelve at Qkids. This platform uses a narrative game-based curriculum. The structured learning system makes Qkids different than other tutoring sessions, as you may help students complete tasks instead of waiting for the student to tell you what they need help with.   

Qkids can be a good fit when you can work at least six hours weekly. You also need to have at least an associate degree (a bachelor’s degree is preferred) and live in either the U.S. or Canada.

Education First

Another online teaching site is Education First, which has students ages five to 10 at 300+ Chinese schools. It’s possible to teach the same child for five months, which is the average class term. Teachers earn $20 an hour right off the bat. According to Education First, you can earn up to $2,000 monthly.  

You will also need to obtain a 40-hour Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification before you start.

Where to Tutor Other Subjects Online

There are several places you can tutor other students online. These are some of the places you can consider joining to tutor American or international students.

Tutor.com

Tutor.com offers academic and technical subjects for all grade levels. To become a tutor, check the current list of available subjects open to new tutors. You will need to pass a subject exam and mock session before your profile becomes public.

Chegg

Another reputable tutoring site is Chegg. According to Chegg, hourly pay starts at $20 and the top earners make at least $1,000 a month.

You can pick your subjects to tutor and Chegg sends clients that are middle school-aged or older your way. To earn extra income, you can tutor high-demand subjects and reply to help requests when you’re not tutoring active clients.

Your Own Online Tutoring Business

Joining an online tutoring company can be an easier way to earn immediate income than going it alone because the company has an established student base. However, you can earn more by launching your own online tutoring business because that allows you to set your own rate.

Your starting pay for online tutoring sites may only be $15 an hour. As a new tutor, this rate is better than nothing. However, it’s possible to charge more as an independent tutor without paying fees to the online tutoring company Most online tutoring companies charge $40-$45 per hour. Your rates can be similar as you’re trying to “steal” their customers.

If you’re a credentialed teacher or an experienced in-person tutor looking to expand your reach, you can charge more than what the online tutoring companies charge students. For instance, some of the people I interviewed for this article charge between $40 and $125 per hour because of their teaching and tutoring experience.

It’s possible you will tutor students from other states and countries. You might also be able to use Skype to tutor local students whose schedules don’t mesh with yours for an in-person meeting.

Online Job Boards

You will also find open tutoring positions on online job boards. Some of these jobs are remote-based and others will require local in-person tutoring. It doesn’t hurt to look to see what’s available and to gauge how much companies are willing to pay the tutors they hire.

How Much Do Online Tutors Make?

Where you tutor online largely determines how much you can make. Many online tutoring services only pay tutors around $15 to $20 per hour. In exchange for the lower pay, they may assign students to you. That means you can spend less time waiting for work and marketing yourself.

The most profitable online tutoring method may be offering online sessions through your own tutoring company over Skype or FaceTime instead of working for another website. Of course, it can take time to build an online presence that attracts new students. You can still tutor online for other companies until you’re able to earn a regular income with your own online brand.

But you don’t necessarily have to start out as a tutor for other companies. Gabby Wallace is a world traveler who currently lives in Brazil but is originally from the United States. She set up her own online tutoring company out of the gate, and today, it earns an annual six-figure income while employing several teachers and offering online courses. Wallace enjoys online tutoring because she can earn more than being a local tutor in Brazil, where the low cost of living keeps tutoring rates low.   

Another online tutor, Paul Stevens-Fulbrook, also started out with his own online tutoring firm. He charges $39 per hour for online tutoring and works up to six hours a week to supplement his full-time day job. Stevens-Fulbrook started tutoring online by launching a Facebook page. He also tutors in-person to local students in his area.

As with doing face-to-face tutoring, most online tutors can expect to earn up to $1,000 per month. Of course, to make that much, you will need to work more hours if you join an online tutoring service. You could do that until your own online tutoring company starts earning a regular income.

You may find it easier to initially make more money tutoring in-person than online. Although you have commuting costs, you might be able to charge a higher hourly rate, tutor multiple students at once and avoid the fees that online tutoring companies withhold from your pay. These three advantages help make you earn more per hour.  

If you tutor for an online company, always pay attention to any invoice fees or platform fees the tutoring service collects. Although you don’t have travel costs, these other fees can reduce your net pay.

Pros of Tutoring Online

  • Ability to tutor from anywhere in the world.
  • No travel time or travel costs.
  • Even more flexible hours than face-to-face tutoring offers.

Cons

  • Potentially lower hourly rate than in-person tutoring.
  • Can be more difficult than in-person tutoring.
  • More likely to need a specific college degree or relevant experience.

Advice from Other Tutors

Like anything, the best way to learn how to start a tutoring business is to get expert advice. Below are a few helpful tips on getting your tutoring business off on the right foot.

Use Fun and Engaging Activities

One challenge as a tutor can be getting students interested in what you are helping them with. Instead of only assigning examples from the textbook, use real-life scenarios to teach concepts. Math tutor Riley Adams helped motivate one student by having her design a house using actual prices from a local hardware store.

Build Relationships

Whether you tutor online or in-person, try using the first few minutes of your sessions to have a casual conversation to get to know your student. This can help you discover their interests and give you ideas for how to help them. This talking helps the student relax and become more willing to learn.

Know Your Limits

Only tutor subjects you are comfortable helping others with. If you can tutor a subject but aren’t as knowledgeable in it as you think you should be, you may consider charging less. If you learn new information to help students, you may be able to increase your tutoring rates in the future.  

Offer a Free or Discounted First Session

Marketing your tutoring business can be as important as honing your tutoring abilities. To help attract new students, you might offer the first lesson for free or at a discount rate. Think about all the businesses that offer free trials before you pay for a subscription. If the student decides you can help them learn, you can charge your regular rate for all future meetings.

Summary

You can earn between $500 and $1,000 by tutoring several hours a week to supplement your current income. With time and effort, it’s possible to become a full-time tutor and earn more than $1,000 a month. One of the best parts of tutoring is that you probably already possess the skills and knowledge to find your first student.

Do you want to tutor online, in-person or both? What subjects do you want to tutor? Let us know your tutoring ambitions and please share this article with another rising tutor.

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