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How to Start a Tutoring Service

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Authored by K. Thor Jensen in Teaching and Learning
Published on 08-02-2009

Are you smart? You must be, if you’re reading my articles. Maybe you’ve been wondering how to leverage those smarts into a career to make a little extra money on the side. One of the best ways to use your intelligence, pocket a paycheck, and even do a little good for your fellow man is to start a tutoring service. Requiring very little in the way of credentials or equipment, tutoring is a time-tested second job that works for people in all walks of life. In this piece, I’ll let you know everything you need to get started.

The first thing is to determine what subjects you are comfortable teaching. While it is tempting to try to cover any and all subjects that students are having trouble with, you’ll have much better luck specializing. Parents often distrust educators with a “jack of all trades” approach, and most students who need academic help are slipping in one subject or another, not across the board. Conversely, if you wish to pursue a more holistic approach, you will need to make it clear to your clients that your tutoring specializes in learning methodology, not specific subjects. Unless you have an advanced education background, it is usually best to avoid this path and focus on direct study. Most tutors I spoke to in preparation for this article said that math is by far the subject in the greatest demand, followed by English and the sciences. History, for some reason, is the hardest subject to find tutoring work for. In addition, you should determine what age group you are most comfortable tutoring. High school students are the biggest market for freelance tutors, as parents frantically try to get their precious little ones up to snuff for their college applications.

The most important step in making your new tutoring business a success is advertising and marketing. Your client list will always be in flux, because if you’re doing your job the grades will go up and the student will outgrow their need for you. That said, the absolute most valuable advertisement you can get is word of mouth – do a good job and you’ll get recommendations to other students and parents. However, for that to work, you need to have an initial client base to succeed with. To get started, talk to teachers at schools in your area and let them know about your new business. Many parents go to teachers first to find tutors. Post advertisements on local bulletin boards as well as Craigslist. Don’t get discouraged if the response isn’t big at first – you just need to get the ball rolling with a few clients.

Once you’re actually sitting down with students, the most important thing to emphasize with them is consistency. Kids will come up with every excuse in the book to get out of doing their schoolwork, so you’re going to need to be as firm with them as you would be with your own kids. Make sure to check in with their parents after every session to talk about what they need to work more on, and if you can, discuss their progress with their teacher as well. Being a tutor is a position of real responsibility, and the good ones can make a world of difference in a kid’s education. Best of luck!

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