Tutoring can provide a bit of pocket money—or even a good chunk of change—to teachers willing to work with students after school and during school breaks. Like any job, tutoring has its challenges. If you plan to start a tutoring business, avoid these mistakes to ensure your side hustle is profitable and drama-free from day one.
1. Thinking you need a website
While you might believe a website is necessary to lend some credibility to your business; it’s an expense and time-drain you just don’t need. You are most likely to get referrals from other students’ families and educators who know you and your work. Get some simple business cards and focus your energy on cultivating those word-of-mouth referrals instead.
2. Tutoring students from your school or your former students
It doesn’t matter how nice the parent or how long ago you taught their kid, if there is any gossip going around your school, families will ask you about it. Do you really want to explain Ms. Smith’s departure from third grade? Plus, you want to avoid any perception of favoritism. Don’t jeopardize your professionalism or put yourself in awkward’s way.
3. Undercharging and undervaluing your experience
Here’s the truth, teacher-tutors: You are keeping yourself from making more money by not charging what you are worth. While tutoring rates vary by location, what you charge should reflect the fact that you are trained professional. You will get the job done in less time than the college kid down the street…so charge at least $20 more an hour than he does. More if you have special training. You are totally worth it.
4. Being afraid to promote yourself
Remember how I said that your best referrals will come from other families and fellow educators? That’s not going to happen if they don’t know you are looking for tutoring work. Make a commitment to email or text a teacher-friend at another school and let them know what grades and subjects you are looking to tutor. They will do the promoting for you!
5. Taking on every student
I get it; you have a big heart and want to help every student. But you should be just as careful about the students (and parents) you take on as parents are about choosing you. You know by now that not all parents are easy to work with. Some have unrealistic expectations or lack boundaries or are downright flakey. Do a preliminary phone call and then follow-up in-person meeting with prospective parents and students to make sure you are screening for the families you can best serve.
6. Investing in resources you don’t need
You definitely need some lined paper and pencils. A few highlighters and markers might come in handy. But you don’t need to invest in expensive curriculum or all the school supplies just yet. Keep your overhead low when starting out, so you can keep that money in your pocket.
7. Being afraid to follow up on late payments
You don’t have to be aggressive about it. Just shoot off a quick email saying how much they owe and when you need it by. Or if the idea gives you hives, have your spouse or friend send email the request as your “bookkeeper.” Chances are, the parent just forgot and will send you the money right away. Then you get money!
8. Thinking it’s wrong to ask other professionals for help
If a student ends up in tutoring, it is often because they are struggling with school in some way. Most times you will be able to address the problem directly, but sometimes the student will have challenges that you aren’t quite sure how to handle. Don’t be afraid to ask a colleague for their advice or to even refer the family to an allied professional like a speech therapist. There is nothing wrong with acting in the student’s best interest as long as you keep personal details confidential.
9. Overpromising or not being completely honest about what parents can expect
Tutoring is not a quick fix. You are working with students for one or two hours a week to make up for deficits that may have been years in the making. Students will need to do practice at home. If the student has a learning challenge like dyslexia, tutoring support isn’t going to “cure” their challenge. Be upfront and honest with parents about the learning process and be careful not to promise instant results.
10. Failing to set boundaries
Congrats! You have become a trusted ally to both the student and her parents about all things Ashley. That doesn’t mean that you are now available for long phone calls or drawn-out post-tutoring chats about Ashley’s latest math test. If parents would like to talk about their child, you can take a few minutes out of their child’s session to speak directly. Ditto for long email exchanges. Set clear boundaries around your time early and often. Same with late payments and late cancellations.
Have you tutored in the past? What advice would you give to teachers who want to start a tutoring business?