How to earn extra income through private tutoring

Are you looking for a way to earn some extra money? Did you do well in school, or on standardized tests? Offering tutoring services may be a good bet for you.

I've been a private tutor for the better part of seven years now. It kept me in spending money as a part-time job in college, and it has turned into a full-time gig for me over the last few years. The best part about it, though, is that it's an easy concern to keep going whether you have three or thirty hours a week to devote to it.

What to Tutor

I've taught everything from high school writing to college calculus to professional certification exams for public school teachers. That's just the tip of the iceberg: there's a market for tutors for every standardized test in existence, and probably every academic subject at every level, too. Heck, much of this article probably applies to things like music lessons, as well.

If you have a strong academic background, but aren't comfortable opening for business without some kind of certification, it might be worth taking a job with a tutoring service, particularly one of the big-name test prep companies such as Kaplan or The Princeton Review. They'll train you, you'll get valuable in-class experience, and after a few months you may feel better about setting off on your own.

Finding Students

The standard advice for would-be tutors is to post flyers at strategic locations such as universities. In my experience, though, that doesn't work.

Ideally, your business would come via word of mouth. Every time you work with a student, make sure they have your contact information, and encourage them to tell their friends about you. The less effort it takes to get business, the better!

Starting out, though, referrals will be hard to come by. (That doesn't mean you shouldn't try: family and friends may be able to help out early on by spreading the word.) The easiest way to reach prospective students is through Craigslist. Better yet, set up a simple website in addition to your Craiglist ads so that you appear to be more than some guy or gal with an e-mail address.

Ultimately, though, Craigslist is just the 21st-century version of flyering the local university. The best way to find students is to go to the source. If you'd like to help elementary school children with reading, introduce yourself at the local elementary school. Teachers and counselors are the absolute best source of referrals for K-12 students.

Nuts and Bolts

The most important operational question you'll face is how to set your rates. At the high end, you'll find SAT, LSAT, and GMAT tutors in New York City charging several hundred dollars per hour. The range is huge: Even in New York, for the same services, you'll find other tutors for as little as $20 or $25 per hour.

As with most services, acceptable rates are tied to the level to expertise you bring to the table.If you're offering math tutoring for junior high students, don't expect to command $50 per hour: High school students can do the same thing, and they'd probably do it for a whole lot less. This is one reason to consider becoming a test-prep tutor through a major company: As soon as you finish training, you'll have skills that set you apart from the vast majority of would-be instructors.

While it's important to consider what the market will bear, it's also crucial that you consider your time investment. One of the drawbacks of tutoring, compared to other part-time jobs, is that it can be difficult to string together more than an hour or two at a time. If you're charging $20 per hour and driving across town to meet with a student for one hour, is it worth it?

One partial solution to that problem, at least once you're working with multiple students, is to have people come to you. (Perhaps even for a discounted rate.) Before I found a shared office solution, I would set up shop at a Starbucks in Midtown Manhattan. It was convenient for my students, and on some weekends, I would tutor four students for two hours each, straight through from 9-5. One commute is much better than four!

Final Words

As I mentioned in the beginning, one of the benefits of tutoring as a side job is that there are no real minimum time requirements. It can turn into a full-time job, as well, but don't count on that happening in short order. Be especially careful about the actual number of hours you're spending: if you have a dozen students and you're traveling to them, an 8-10 hour per week job can suck up quite a bit of time and expenses.

Warnings aside, there are plenty of benefits I haven't mentioned. You'll meet all sorts of people you never would otherwise, and you'll help students meet goals they may not have reached without you. You'll be your own boss, and hey — you might even have some fun!

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A
A
12 years ago

I work for The Princeton Review — while the training and experience are pretty valuable, you can’t exactly go off and do your own thing “after a few months”. After leaving TPR, you have to wait a year before teaching anything that they offer, no matter what area you were trained in. Unless you want to get sued, jumping the TPR ship to tutor would-be LSAT takers after teaching a couple of SAT classes isn’t such a good idea.

Andrea >> Find a consultant
Andrea >> Find a consultant
12 years ago

You might want to check out my post on how to set tutoring rates. I strongly recommend teaching something like GMAT prep, since it seems to pay $40 to $75 an hour or more, at least around here. It doesn’t pay as well as consulting, but it’s a good entry point to teaching for university night school.

Leo
Leo
12 years ago

Excellent advice! This is the perfect introduction for anyone thinking of entering the field. I’ve been advising my wife (a teacher) to do so for some time.

Mrs. Micah
Mrs. Micah
12 years ago

I’m thinking about signing up with Tutor.com. I don’t have a car, so that seems like the best option for me unless they come here.

Erick
Erick
12 years ago

I think that the tutoring market is only going to grow. It’s a great way for students, retired people and stay-at-home parents in particular to earn extra money. In fact, my dad–a retired engineer–is one of the top math tutors on a website I started a few months ago: http://www.mindzinger.com I may be biased, but I think my site is a great way for people to start up a successful online tutoring business for themselves.

Money Blue Book
Money Blue Book
12 years ago

I had no idea Princeton Review required its tutors to sign non competition agreements…I guess they don’t want you to use your training to benefit another company so soon after leaving them.
-Ray

mbhunter
mbhunter
12 years ago

I’ve done some tutoring and it’s essential to charge what you’re worth. One woman laughed in my face when I said I charged $25/hour (this was 10 years ago). She said professors were paying $15. So I caved and charged $12. She didn’t treat me very well, and I was driving 20 minutes one way, twice or three times a week. Then she wanted me to take $10. I could have made more working at 7-11 after all of the gas and time I was spending. Plus, when I charged $25 and the parents accepted, I was treated a whole… Read more »

Julie
Julie
7 years ago
Reply to  mbhunter

NEVER put yourself on sale!!!! I’ve found the people who want you to work for less are a-holes! NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER PUT YOURSELF ON SALE! I CHAGE $30 ACROSS THE BOARD AND MAKE THEM MEET ME AT A LIBRARY!!! If you want what you want, REACH IN YOUR POCKET! I didn’t get a doctorate to work for slave wages!!!

Jon
Jon
12 years ago

Erick, that’s a cool website but do the tutors get paid? Also, just a suggestion but it would be nice if people could use real math symbols and layout when they’re typing in a problem (e.g. for powers, fractions, limits, etc).

Mikus
Mikus
12 years ago

Sylvan has the same “no compete” clause in their tutors’ contracts.
I’m seriously thinking of quitting Sylvan and tutoring. Thanks for the inspiration!

Jason
Jason
12 years ago

I tutored math a little in HS, and then all through college. I’ve considered picking it up again since then. Perhaps I’ll look into it for a few hours a week. Can always use the extra bucks. GMAT tutoring sounds interesting as well.

Making Money Journal
Making Money Journal
12 years ago

My wife works for Huntington. I can’t believe the disparity between what students are charged and what tutors are paid. In some cases it can be higher than $50/hr. I know there is some overhead, but man what a difference.

Eileen
Eileen
12 years ago

Targeting a specific niche can be key to success. When I launched my own computer tutoring business, I focused exclusively on teaching kids. I found clients among families who homeschooled, who had kids who weren’t challenged enough in school, and kids who had fallen behind their peers, among others. Many times I heard relief from families that they had found me — that is, someone who does what I do. Being flexible in what/who you can teach may also open your eyes to additional clients. Later I started getting corporate training gigs, helped in part because of my history with… Read more »

Erick
Erick
12 years ago

Hi Jon, In response to your comment above (#9), the tutors who participate on MindZinger answer questions for free (and aren’t paid by us). However, each time they answer a question, they advertise their services and show they’re knowledgeable to potential customers . Also, we’ve partnered with another website (Kasamba) that gives MindZinger tutors the ability to chat with students live and get paid for their input.

Finally, thanks for the good input on adding the ability to enter in math symbols and characters. We actually just added this functionality for answers, and questions will follow.

Hattie
Hattie
12 years ago

In Switzerland I had a nice little business and made a fair amount of money as an English teacher, with a combination of teaching classes in private schools or for community organizations, teaching small classes in students’s homes, and private tutoring in my own apartment. I taught adults only.
I could make good money with the home taught small classes. I provided the textbooks, for which the students paid me, and my only further expense was transportation. And I loved doing this. It was so much fun!

Ronnie
Ronnie
12 years ago

FYI, for any California employees who have signed non-compete agreements with tutoring companies: Non-compete clauses are void under California Business and Professions Code, section 16600.

Madina
Madina
7 years ago
Reply to  Ronnie

Great to know! Thanks — I will look that up to confirm. 😉 How did you know this? Thanks again!!

Colin
Colin
12 years ago

Thanks for all the pointers! I’ll be moving back to Britain in a few weeks and am looking at tutoring as a potential business. I’d definitely appreciate feedback from anybody on my site – I’ll be looking to adjust it once I get home.

Melanie
Melanie
12 years ago

I enjoyed your article. I have been a private reading tutor for ten years and it’s been great to work from home (my student’s come to my home). I started out tutoring elementary students in any subject. I decided I liked reading best and have specialized in it for the last eight years. I’ve since worked with students ranging in age from 8-46 years old. The actual tutoring part of the business has always been rewarding. I did have to learn from trial and error how to make sure I always got paid in full and on time as well… Read more »

Brian
Brian
11 years ago

Thanks for the great article. I’ve been tutoring for almost 20 years now and would add a few recommendations. Tutoring goes better with some clients than it does with others. Make sure you ask your most satisfied clients to use their name as a reference before the tutoring relationship has finished. It also would not hurt to get a testimonial. That way you don’t have to track people down months after the tutoring has ended. Also, some tutoring companies do not have non-competition agreements. The tutoring company I run, Tozer Tutoring in Wichita, KS is able to attract great tutors… Read more »

Ray
Ray
7 years ago

Starbucks is a great idea. We teach also in libraries, been offered a cafeteria and classrooms when teachers are off on weekends.

This article just reinforces that we sometimes need a helping hand in reaching that goal, be it a GMAT exam, The series 7 or LSAT.

allenvictory
allenvictory
7 years ago

Great tips! I grew up with a tutor but I can see the benefits of a tutoring center.

Daniel
Daniel
7 years ago

The flexibility afforded by tutoring is one of the best things when you’re studying. I studied music for four years but tutored high school maths! The extra cash is so helpful 🙂

Thanks for the post Jeff.

gilliandunn8
gilliandunn8
6 years ago

I am pursuing my bachelors degree in science and i am also working as a private tutor. I believe it is the best part-time job. Even this job improved my knowledge skills also.

Andrew
Andrew
6 years ago

Look very carefully at those non-compete agreements . . . USUALLY, as long as you aren’t stealing current customers, you’re ok. Meaning, if you go out and get your own students and don’t take the ones you were teaching at Sylvan with you, then it’s fine. But be sure to read your particular agreement just to be sure!

Gilliandunn
Gilliandunn
6 years ago

Teaching kids is the best profession for me. I love teaching and helping kids with their studies and improving their grades.

Kyle
Kyle
5 years ago

We started tutoring as a side job and a hobby, it has now turned into a business venture. Tutoring opens the door to many opportunities and to the most genuine people on earth. Thanks for the post jeff.

Sahara
Sahara
5 years ago
Reply to  Kyle

Hi Kyle,
I am looking to tutor Middleschool Math. Can you please give me some guideleines? Should I get a training from one of the Learning Centers like Sylvan, Huntington, Princeton Review Kaplan?
I have Science background. So once I begin practicing, Im sure I will be able to do it.
Please help!!
Sahara

Sahara
Sahara
5 years ago

Hello,
I would like to tutor math for middle school students. I have science background, but forgot most of it doing some technical jobs for years.
Is there a place where I can get a sort of formal/informal trianing to start with Middle school Math.
Please advise.

Mercy
Mercy
4 years ago
Reply to  Sahara

Hi Sahara, I understand what you mean. I’ve been tutoring for 12 years with the same company. Though I have not been “trained”, through the study guide that’s provided for every student, I got to remember most of my math and language arts principles. Then, as I teach it year after year, got better at them. Thank God, too, for the internet where I get a lot of useful resources such as printable free worksheets for just about everything I tutor.

kirby
kirby
5 years ago

Hi there I am an ESL teacher in South Africa interested in opening my own international school and looking for advice anywhere I can get it. If you have any knowledge about this please respond with some valuable information. I would really appreciate it. Thank you for your website. I have gained a few things from this. Very helpful.

Kunal
Kunal
4 years ago

Hi there,

Can we teach math online privately without having a Bachelor and BEd degree. I am based in Calgary, Canada.

Thanks

Kunal

Brink
Brink
4 years ago

I found this article because I’m thinking of getting my TESOL (Teaching of English for speakers of other languages) certification with the intention of becoming a private tutor and was wondering if there were any certifications besides the TESOL that I need.

Thandeka
Thandeka
4 years ago

good day,

please advise me. im in South Africa and I want to start a small business by offering accounting extra classes on saturdays for grade 11 high school. do I need a special certificate to do this?

Lorna
Lorna
4 years ago

Another location; libraries.
A few questions, I just happened to be a stay-at-home mom. But not by choice. (Broke:( That is one of the things I was looking into for elementary reading and math. I have an online business degree. No tutoring experience at all except my 9yr old. So it is better to take courses? Should I have materials already at home?

Mia J
Mia J
3 years ago

Nice article and well thought. As many parents search online to find tutors closer to home, local-online presence is very important.

List your tutor profile in children specialty website like KidoServ which is zip code based and allows tutors to post their service and contact parents/students for free. No cost involved.

Also get good reviews from your past students/clients under your profile and share the URL in social media websites to get more exposure. Building online reputation with good review will help tutors in long run and your profile page will act as testimony and bring more students.

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