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Learning and Earning: How to Make Money as a Tutor
Have a passion for teaching? Know lots about how to ace the SATs or solve tough equations? Tutoring could be the side hustle for you.
According to Forbes, the online education and private tutoring market will exceed $102 billion this year — which means it’s a great opportunity for an energized teacher to cash in and help students succeed.
But what’s actually driving this education bubble? Tutoring is an “innovative, highly personalized, and secure learning environment for today's stressed and distracted students,” writes education reporter James Marshall Crotty at Forbes.
Plenty of parents are willing to pay big bucks for qualified tutors who can help their kids stay ahead of the curve — especially as school budgets are cut and top slots at American universities are snapped up by competitive foreign students.
Here are five things you need to know about how to make money as a tutor — including 5 online sites where you might find a gig today.
1. Advertise Your Expertise
Whether you decide to tutor online, in person, or both, it’s time to let your potential clients know you’re open for business.
To get started, reach out to your network and ask for referrals. Just make sure to ask for referrals from those who know your work well, suggests marketing expert John Rampton.
“Instead of targeting all of your clients or customers, focus on the ones that you already have a relationship with...or those in your community,” Rampton writes at Entrepreneur.
If you already work in education, use your school — including bulletin boards, announcements, message boards, and social media — to put yourself out there. But be sure to check with the proper administrators before you do. Colleges and universities might be more accepting of this than high schools, for example.
Your personal social media accounts and website can help, too. The more your close networks begin to see you as an expert tutor, the more business will come your way.
And don’t discount the power of personal connection, says Jenn Cohen, owner of LaunchPad Education.
"I've been working with some families for years, and it started by striking up a simple conversation at a bookstore,” Cohen, whose business specializes in helping students with special needs prepare for standardized tests, told Care.com.
Everyone you meet could be a potential client — so put yourself out there!
2. Tutor in a Needed Area
Sometimes high school students will need a boost across the curriculum, so there’s nothing wrong with being a generalist. But you’ll probably attract more clientele if you offer tutoring services in an area that requires a level of expertise.
According to Megan O’Connor, CEO of Clark, an online business portal for tutors, parents are on the hunt for STEM tutors because they’re anticipating that their children might want to major in or work in a high-demand field.
“Current trends in the economy have parents putting an emphasis on their children's science, math, and general technology learning outside the classroom, meaning that educators with this expertise are likely to command higher hourly rates,” explains O’Connor at Forbes.
Other popular tutoring areas include writing (college essay season, anyone?), English as a Second Language, and test prep.
What’s your area of expertise?
3. Use Your Personal Time Wisely
Chances are you already have a full-time job, and you just want to make money as a tutor on the side. That means finding a healthy balance of tutoring on nights or weekends, or during after-school hours — peak homework time.
If you’re already a teacher or student in an advanced field of study, your school vacations and summer break are the perfect time to take on clients.
Sarah Li Cain, a second grade teacher at Shenzhen American International School, started a tutoring business during her summer vacation — and it grew fast, thanks to word-of-mouth referrals.
"During the summer, parents in China talk to each other a lot and many of them want to work with an experienced educator/tutor at the beginning of the school year, so it can get really busy for me," Cain told U.S. News & World Report.
Since it can take time for word to spread about your business, make sure you keep up with advertising or blogging while you’re waiting for your next client to come along, says Eric Clark, president of the National Tutoring Association.
“Build relationships via social media and become highly recommended,” Clark told Care.com. “Build a brand that invests in the community, and the advertising will take care of itself.”
If you’re short on clients, revisit your web presence. Does it offer helpful information for parents in search of a tutor? Does it showcase your areas of specialty? Have you provided interesting, relevant content? Small tweaks could bring a new reader — and client — your way.
4. Balance Your Workload
If you’re a good tutor with a sizable network and glowing referrals, it’s possible you’ll get plenty of business without advertising or hunting for clients.
But if you need to drum up more work, finding a healthy balance between word-of-mouth clientele and online assignments can do the trick.
Plenty of online tutoring sites, like Tutor.com and TutorVista, offer easy ways for subject matter experts to tutor — which is especially helpful if you don’t have time to commute, or your advertising budget is zilch.
Finding a balance between online and in-person tutoring can also help you take more control over your side hustle. By not depending too much on one form of tutoring income stream, you’ll be better off when a client heads off to college or finally aces that test.
5. Charge a Premium Rate
We’re not advocating that you gouge anxious parents, here. And you definitely shouldn’t charge expert rates if you’re not an expert in a subject area, or in education.
But tutors can make good money if they charge higher hourly rates. And if you’re able to niche your services to wealthy families, you can earn even more.
Anthony Green, owner of Test Prep Authority, works with some of the most elite families in New York City — the ones who can afford his high hourly rate.
"It's a free market economy," Green, who charges $1,500 for a 90-minute session, told Business Insider. "These people find me on their own and they want to work with me, and I am happy to work with them."
Green’s rate is not for everyone — certainly not every local market could bear it. And while it may take you a little time to earn an average $50 to $70 an hour, keep trying.
If you’re new to teaching or tutoring, start out offering a “value price” in order to gain confidence and referrals. In several months, you should up your rates for new clients, until you’re earning the hourly rate that you want to take home after taxes.
5 Online Tutoring Companies You Should Work For
The internet is still the Wild West when it comes to educational services. But that means there are plenty of tutoring companies in search of talented educators. Here are 5 worth your time:
- Tutor.com: One of the first online tutoring companies out there, Tutor.com has staying power, which makes it an all-around good option for getting new clients.
- TutorVista.com: If you’re an experienced STEM whiz, TutorVista could be for you. Tutors provide homework and test prep help via an interactive whiteboard.
- Chegg.com: Depending on your area of expertise, you could earn $20/hour. This is a great option for new tutors who want to get experience and reviews.
- Skooli.com: If you have an advanced degree or other certification, Skooli is the place for you. It has a rigorous screening process for tutors, so sharpen your pencils!
- TutorMe: Want to work with people like you who may just need a little extra help? Check out TutorMe’s peer-to-peer network.
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