Whether you already have a job and are looking for a way to make extra money or want to pursue a new career avenue, tutoring is a great option. In many cases, you can set your own hours and rates and be a true asset to struggling students. But first, of course, you need to figure out how to become a tutor — particularly if you’re going the private tutoring route.
“It’s important for new tutors to understand that tutors, in general, should focus on a few particular topics and tutor those really well,” says Dan Grainger, a private GMAT tutor in New York City. “You want to really know the material and know about the quality of the various resources, practice sets and practice tests that are out there for supplemental study. This will be hard to do if you’re trying to tutor a bunch of different subjects and tests.”
From honing in on your area of expertise to what to initially charge, here’s how to get into tutoring, step by step.
What tutors do
Tutors are an essential part of learning for many students, according to Grainger.
“They provide one-on-one help that the classroom setting just isn’t equipped to provide on its own,” he explains. “It makes a big difference to be able to talk back and forth over a problem or topic with someone who really knows what they’re doing. Classroom teachers provide lesson plans and instruction, but often a student needs to ask many questions or try different iterations of a problem to really understand it.”
Tutoring pay rates
When you’re first starting out as a private tutor, it’s smart to make your rates appealing, says Greg Freebury, owner of Think & Evolve Tutoring in Los Angeles, as you don’t have much clout. And having a competitive price can help you build your client base.
Freebury recommends charging “the bare minimum” in the beginning, which, depending on where you live and what you’re teaching, could equate to about $20 an hour.
For reference, here are the average tutoring rates in several U.S. cities*:
Average tutoring rates in U.S. cities*
|CITY||HOURLY TUTORING RATE|
|Brooklyn, New York||$23.00/hr|
|Charlotte, North Carolina||$18.00/hr|
|Salt Lake City, Utah||$17.00/hr|
|Kansas City, Missouri||$17.00/hr|
|San Antonio, Texas||$16.00/hr|
|Des Moines, Iowa||$16.00/hr|
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re setting your initial tutoring rates is that, generally, elementary and high school tutors make less than college or test prep tutors; the latter, Freebury notes, being worthy of about $100 an hour since the stakes are so high.
You may also be able to play with your rate slightly, depending on whether you’re tutoring in-person or virtually. Freebury charges the same for both, but notes that if a student lives 30 or more minutes away, he asks to be compensated for drive time, too.
Steps to become a tutor
If you’re wondering how to get into tutoring, Grainger and Freebury recommend the follow steps:
1. Determine your focus
“To get started as a tutor, the first thing to do is become an expert in whatever you plan on tutoring,” Grainger says, adding that, while you can add value as a tutor by being a bit ahead of a struggling student, you have the biggest impact when you fundamentally understand what you’re tutoring.
“You should be able to explain everything multiple ways even to someone who has no background with the material — you should be able to teach algebra to a chicken, basically,” he adds. “You should also have a really thorough knowledge of things like the practice material, question banks and practice tests that exist for the topic, so you can authoritatively recommend the best supplemental material for the student to use outside of tutoring sessions.”
2. Understand the requirements
While you can get certified as a tutor by the National Tutoring Association (it can add some legitimacy to your business), it’s not required. (“I don’t think they have any real value,” Grainger notes.)
The real requirements, Grainger and Freebury note, are:
- Expertise in the field you’re tutoring.
- Good communication skills.
- Ability to teach.
- Genuine love for teaching and helping students.
These, they say, are crucial to getting your tutoring business off the ground. And once you have a few clients (or even one), word will likely spread. “Focus on building relationships and doing great work in the beginning,” Freebury says. “Soon, word will spread about your abilities and skills as a tutor.
“When people are looking for a tutor,” Grainger adds, “they will likely look at what past students have said about the tutor and what kind of tangible track record the tutor has with improving student’s test scores and other metrics.”
3. Decide between private tutoring and a tutoring center
When it comes to deciding between working as a private tutor or in a tutoring center or through an agency, there are a few pros and cons to weigh. While you can make your own hours and set your own rates as a private tutor, when you’re first starting out, you need clients — and a tutoring center or agency can provide that.
“When starting as a tutor, it’s not a bad idea to begin by working for an established company,” Grainger says, noting that he worked for a few different companies for four years before starting his own. “The company usually will ease you in with clients, allowing you to gain experience and hone your process and gradually become more and more familiar with how you can really provide value to a student.”
“The company or center also gives the student confidence that they are getting quality help, which can make a big difference,” he continues. “After you’ve tutored with a larger company for a while and have a big body of experience and expertise, then it’s fine to go off on your own. You can now demonstrate to clients what you as a person have to offer, and the backing of the company or tutoring center is less necessary.”
4. Build your client base
If you’re working through a tutoring center or agency, they can help provide you with clients. And, as Freebury notes, if you do great work, word will spread and your roster will organically grow.
If you’re going the private tutor route, again, you want to do great work that yields results (which, in turn, will put you in demand), but there are additional things you can do to market yourself.
“New tutors working independently can use lead-generating platforms and independent tutor listing services,” Grainger says. “Try Google and Facebook advertising to get your name out there more.”
Grainger adds that you can also grow your network as a new tutor by “building relationships with people otherwise involved in the education services industry. For example, you can reach out to and build relationships with admissions consultants, college mentors and guidance counselors who can recommend your services for students looking for extra help.”
Another option? Advertise your tutoring services on Care, which matches tutors with clients for a variety of subjects and grade levels.