Starting a tutoring business may seem as simple as getting the word out, but there’s a lot more to it than that. In addition to building your client base (an art in and of itself), there are also must-have supplies to stock up on, tutoring rates to research, legal and insurance issues to consider and more.
“There are a number of boxes to check when starting a tutoring business,” says Lindsey Wander, founder of WorldWise Tutoring and the nonprofit Educate. Radiate. Elevate. “There are attorney fees associated with registration and documentation to consider, a website to build and social media to manage, as well as scheduling lessons and collecting feedback.”
Wondering exactly how to start a tutoring business? Follow these expert-backed step-by-step tips.
Steps to starting a tutoring business
Here’s what you need to know before starting a tutoring business.
1. Determine your specialty (or specialities)
While it is possible to have your personal tutoring business cover multiple subjects and age groups, generally speaking, people want to hire a master, not a jack of all trades. If your only employee is, well, you, think about the subject area, or areas, you’re best suited to tutor.
Is SAT/ACT test prep your thing? Or do you have elementary school experience, which typically doesn’t need to be as niche in terms of subject, according Wander.
“Many parents of elementary students look for teaching credentials,” notes Wander. “Whereas in high school and college, adult students look for expertise in the topic.” In other words: The more advanced the subject, the more mastery you need.
And while there’s no requirement that you have a specific degree or qualifications to tutor, it’s highly recommended. “You will have a much greater chance of success in starting a tutoring business if you have a college degree, especially in a highly technical field,” says Greg Freebury, owner of Think & Evolve Tutoring. “Or if you have previous experience teaching students successfully.”
“If parents are shelling out money for tutoring, they want to know that their kids are in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing,” Freebury continues. “So any way you can demonstrate that you’re highly skilled at teaching a subject or age group, use that to your advantage.”
To that point, consider getting certified with the National Tutoring Association, which, while not necessary, will give you some legitimacy.
2. Plan your business model
What do you want your personal tutoring business to look like? Do you want to meet students in person? Or offer online sessions? Both? Are you interested in tutoring kids one-on-one or are you open to group sessions?
Think about what you want your tutoring sessions to look like and start from there. (And yes, it is possible for this model to evolve over time.) The reason this is important, according to Freebury and Wander, is because if you’re going the online route, you may need certain software or programs, and the same holds true for in-person sessions and materials.
Additionally, some tutors charge more for in-person tutoring than virtual sessions. Freebury says he charges the same for both while Wander notes that virtual sessions can have a rate of about $10 less per hour.
There’s also the option of buying a tutoring franchise, such as Kumon or Sylvan, if you’re interested in owning a tutoring center. But keep in mind, this option comes with less flexibility, as well as startup fees.
3. Address legal issues
Speak to your tax accountant about what kind of business structure is best for your company — an LLC, sole proprietorship, etc. Also consult with a small business lawyer to find out about local ordinances, liability issues and other aspects of business ownership.
“Working with children can be risky,” Wander says. “So it’s advisable to heavily insure yourself and your business. Professional liability and umbrella policies are definitely recommended.”
“General liability insurance is great to have to protect against bodily injuries or damage to property while you are in other people’s homes,” Freebury adds. “Professional liability insurance is great to have to protect you against someone suing you for negligently performing your duties. That said, I have been a tutor for six years, and I have never had to make a claim with these insurance policies, but it is nice to have them just in case.”
Another factor to keep in mind, according to Freebury: Make sure lessons are always conducted with parents or guardians present. “Never ever conduct a lesson with a student when they are home alone or in a room with a closed door and no windows,” he says. “You must always be visible to parents or other guardians inside the house while conducting lessons.”
4. Plan your budget
In addition to potential legal and insurance startup fees, such as registering for an LLC and general liability insurance, there can be a number of additional fees, depending on how you plan on running your business.
Here’s what you may need to budget for, according to Wander and Freebury:
- Website design. There are a number of website tiers and options that range from one-time to monthly fees.
- Supplies. “If you plan on doing in-person tutoring, you will need about $50 to buy pencils, paper, a dry erase board and dry erase markers,” notes Freebury. “For test prep tutoring, you will need to purchase study books for standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, GRE and ISEE.”
- Transportation costs. You’ll need to factor in transportation costs if you’re commuting to meet students in person.
- Electronic writing pad. According to Freebury, having this tool makes lessons “so much easier” for all.
- Zoom subscription. “It’s $16 a month, and it makes it easier to conduct online lessons,” says Freebury. “And with a subscription, you do not have to worry about the Zoom room timing out and closing after 45 minutes during your 60-minute lesson.”
- Scheduling software. “Software that assists with scheduling sessions, tracking balances, managing social media, collecting feedback and testimonials can help,” Wander says. “And it will also help your tutoring business grow.”
Zero-cost tutoring business tools
There are several free options that can help to save money when you’re starting a tutoring business:
- Social media. Posting about your tutoring services on an app like Instagram can help drum up business and advertise to your followers.
- Tutoring jobs profile. “To start getting paid as a tutor, you can create a profile on a website like Wyzant for free and start reaching out to potential clients immediately,” notes Freebury.
- Google Calendar. Fee-based scheduling software is not necessary, says Freebury says. “I use Google Calendar and that works great, but if you want to use scheduling software, then Calendly is a good option.”
- Khan Academy. “One of my favorite resources as a tutor is Khan Academy,” Freebury notes. “The site has almost every conceivable subject, and it provides a ton of explanation videos, articles and practice problems. Best of all, it is all free! If I show up to a lesson and my student does not have any homework or other review materials from class, then I always turn to Khan Academy.”
- Wave Financial. Freebury also uses Wave Financial to keep track of all business income and expenses.
5. Do your market research
When you start your own tutoring business, whether it’s a side gig or a full-time job, find out the going rate for tutors in your area. For reference, here’s the average hourly tutoring rate in 15 U.S. cities, according to recent Care data.
Average tutoring rate in several 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|
Make sure to look beyond location, too. When researching and comparing tutoring rates, also take into consideration the tutor’s experience and their tutoring subject, grade level and/or other specialization.
According to Freebury, test prep tutors generally are the most expensive since so much is riding on them. “It’s not uncommon for SAT/ACT tutors to charge at least $100 an hour,” he says.
6. Get the word out
Consider the following when building your client base:
- Accept as many clients as possible. “A good way to build your client base at first is to accept as many new people as possible in the beginning,” Wander says. “And then give incentives for referrals.”
- Create an online profile. “Creating a profile on a website like Wyzant is a great way to find new clients because everyone on the site is already looking for tutors,” says Freebury. Another option? Search tutoring jobs for free on Care in a number of subjects and grade levels.
- Reach out to schools and other relevant businesses. “If you want to attract new clients locally, try reaching out to schools to see if they need a go-to tutor when any of their students run into problems,” suggests Freebury. “Another great way to find tutoring clients is to reach out to other professionals that are in a similar field but do not directly compete with you, such as educational therapists, college consultants and child psychologists. You can offer these professionals a referral fee for every client that they send your way.”
- Ask for reviews. “If you have a really good lesson with a student, you can ask the family to leave you a testimonial, which will help you build your brand,” says Freebury. “You can even offer free lessons to families if they will leave you a good review.”
7. Hone your social skills
“While not a required qualification, I would recommend working on your social skills,” notes Freebury. “There are many big-brained individuals that graduate from Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale every year, but they would struggle as a tutor because they have a poor attitude or don’t know how to teach properly.”
“Remember,” he adds, “the foundation of a successful tutoring business is building high-quality relationships with students and families, not how smart you are.”