Are you an educator or parent interested in tutoring? It can be overwhelming knowing where to start. I asked my colleagues to share their insights and suggestions on how to start a tutoring business. Between us, we have years of experience and we have tried it all. I hope that our suggestions save you time and money so that you can focus on what is important…your students!
1. Find Your Niche in the Tutoring Business
There is a growing need for general academic support tutoring. But there are also more specific tutoring niches that may be more suited for your background. For example, ACT tutoring, SAT tutoring, a specific reading tutor like an Orton Gillingham tutor, math tutor, executive functioning, etc. Research to see if additional training would help you market yourself and improve the tutoring you are able to provide. This will help define you professionally when in your quest of how to start a tutoring business.
For instance, I am an Orton Gillingham tutor. I took part in additional training and certification programs through The Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, the International Dyslexia Association, and ALTA. As a result, I am now certified as an Orton Gillingham tutor and Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist. Parents do their research, so I encourage you to apply to programs to certify you as a tutoring specialist.
#2 Focus on What is Important for Your Tutoring Business
When figuring out how to start a tutoring business, it is easy to be swayed by the “pretties.” By this I mean fancy logos, impressive tutoring websites, or tutoring business plans that you must purchase. All those cost money and do not add to your quality tutoring approach. Instead, focus on your niche and how to add students to your caseload.
The logistics of your tutoring sessions is of the utmost importance. So many times, tutors over-commit or they do not think about the specifics. So before taking on any students, consider the following:
- Will you tutor at the student’s home, a shared location like a library, or will you offer a home-based or office space for tutoring. Or, ,will you offer virtual tutoring?
- If you tutor at home, make sure you have a dedicated workspace. You will have a lot of supplies and books. Also, consider looking into tax breaks for a home office if you choose this option.
- Are there any additional costs to you for these different locations/platforms? Some tutors charge a premium to travel to the student’s house to help cover gas and lost tutoring time while traveling.
- If you travel for tutoring, investigate how to streamline and organize your materials. Consider a rolling cart like the picture below. You also may want to keep many materials and games on a laptop so that you do not have to cart additional supplies around to each location.
- Hours- What hours each day/week are you able to work?
- Do you have another job that you are working around? If so, make sure your additional tutoring services do not interfere with those duties. The last thing you want to do is schedule a student and then have to cancel due to your other job’s responsibilities.
- Will you work on weekends? Nights? Holidays? Mornings? These are all prime times for working families, so be prepared with what you are willing to offer.
- How long will each session be? Will you offer shorter sessions for younger students? Many tutoring approaches suggest at least twice a week. Is that something you can offer on a consistent basis?
- How much will you charge per session? Talk with other specialists in your area to see what the going rate is. Depending on your level of training, experience, and your location, charges can range anywhere from $30-$120 per hour. So, do your homework so that you are paid for what you deserve.
- Build your own library of book resources and supplies. But if there are specific classroom texts, consider asking the family to purchase these for you.
#3 How to Find Students
This is the #1 question people ask me when wondering how to start a tutoring business. I have found the following the most beneficial and worth your time:
- Join local educational and parent-directed social media groups. Share your knowledge in your field of expertise. Then, post about your tutoring business availability when appropriate.
- Meet with local principals, counselors, and reading specialists. Parents may inquire with them about outside services. If you have a detailed infographic to share about your tutoring services, share it with those you meet.
- Word of mouth is often your best friend. Ask all your friends and family members to help spread the word. Furthermore, ask your current tutoring parents to share your name with others too.
- Apply to national certification groups who list practitioners by location. For example, a structured literacy tutor might apply to the Orton Gillingham Academy through CERI, or ALTA . Parents looking for a structured literacy tutor can find your name in one of these databases. Additional training and certification may be required. But these trainings are well worth your professional time!
- If you have specialized training, contact local educational psychologists in your area. Be prepared with a short resume with your educational background, experience, additional trainings, and references to share with them. Here is a free example template:
#4 Steps Before Taking on a New Student
- Conversations with parents: Your initial conversations with parents are as much an interview for them as it is for you. Yes, share your credentials, explain your tutoring approach, and be firm with your availability. But also explain that his might be a long-term relationship. Verbally explain your business practices including payment, cancellation policy, consistency of sessions, and communication.
- Follow up the above conversation with your tutoring contract and cancellation policy. Ask the parents to sign them both. Keep a copy for yourself and give a copy to the parents.
- Request and read any additional psychoeducational testing that the student has received.
- This is a hard one but be willing to admit when you will not be a good fit. Perhaps the timing does not work with your schedules. After reading the student’s report you may realize that you do not have the qualifications required. Or after an initial phone call, you do not get a good feeling from the parents. Make sure you are honest with yourself and with the families who contact you.
- Complete a New Student Information form. This will help you gather and keep track of all pertinent educational, family, testing information.
- Do your own initial assessments. I ended up creating my own because I was pulling from so many different assessments. Figure out what information you need to start with a student. For example, do you need to isolate gaps in their spelling? Assess comprehension or decoding? Phonological awareness? The answer is you probably need to assess several areas of the student’s learning profile. When first starting out, don’t feel the need to invest in expensive, standardized assessments. Find some less expensive options that give you a road map to start with your student. Share the results of your assessments with parents/teachers in a professional write-up. This will reinforce your goals and approach as you work with the student.
#5 Billing and Scheduling
Accepting payments and keeping up with scheduling can often be overwhelming for new tutors. There are many free or relatively inexpensive online options to help you with both.
- Scheduling: Consider Acuity Scheduling and Calendy. Depending on your needs, they can send parents reminders. This will also help you keep track of number of sessions seen within a month.
- Billing: When first starting, you may be able to keep up with sending invoices. You can send a simple invoice via email to the parents at the end of each month. As your tutoring business grows, you may want to consider an online accounting software like FreshBooks. There are different levels depending on your needs.
- Payments: A few popular options for sending and receiving payments include Venmo, bank transfers like Zelle through Wells Fargo, Paypal, and personal checks. Make sure to keep track of all payments for tax purposes.
#6 Other Helpful Suggestions for Getting Started
- Ongoing Communication- Decide in what manner (email, phone call, in person) and how often you will contact parents about student progress. I recommend formal communication at least once a month. Include assessment results, anecdotal observations, goals, skills mastered, and skills still needing review. Include parents and teachers (if the parents allow) so that all parties are in touch.
- Find your network of tutoring peers. While tutoring can be a wonderful business, it can also be lonely. You will want to find a local group or online group to share ideas, ask questions, and support one another. Believe me, this is worth the price of gold. My fellow group of tutors and reading specialists affectionately call ourselves the Word Nerds!
- Stay up to date with current research. Read educational journals, follow social media groups, and attend online webinars. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and a lot of it is free!
- Get additional training and certification. This will not only serve as professional development, but it will also allow you to charge more per session.
You are on the right path to figuring out how to start a tutoring business. Pace yourself and know that it won’t happen overnight. And that is okay. It is better to slowly add students to your caseload and focus on their needs. Thank you for putting in the time to support our students!