Becoming a Private Tutor
Let’s face it. Teaching is not a job that pays high salaries unless you get to the top of the education game. Many classroom teachers, frustrated by the absence of paid overtime opportunities, turn to becoming a private tutor as a means of making a little extra moolah.
Several years ago, I dipped my toes in to the waters of the private tuition world for this very reason. Now, I have a growing little side business to supplement the income offered by my full time teaching gig.
If you’re reading this it maybe because you’re also wanting to embark on a journey as a private tutor. Allow me to share my experiences to take out some of the guess work for you.
The Benefits of Becoming a Private Tutor
Becoming a private tutor has several key benefits beyond the obvious financial rewards:
- Professional Development – Tutoring privately develops your subject knowledge and pedagogy and puts you in contact with a wider range of students and their families. Essentially you’re running a small business so you’ll develop skills in negotiation, time keeping and financial recording.
- Forces you to use time more effectively – Obviously, becoming a private tutor will see you have less spare time than before. This is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, restrictions on time can motivate one to plan and organise more effectively than before.
- It’s rewarding – It must be said that having a good reputation and steady client base is definitely a source of pride for me. Knowing that I’ve helped a student to understand something they couldn’t get to grips with at school makes me very happy.
- Makes further use of your existing skill set and knowledge base – ‘Nuff said!
What do you need to get started?
Nothing specific is needed to become a private tutor in the UK. Even without teaching qualifications or experience in education, one can start advertising as a private tutor. However, relevant qualifications and experience in one or more sectors of the education system is a huge advantage and will enable you to get more leads and clients.
Nothing is compulsory as far as equipment and resources go but I feel I couldn’t tutor as effectively without these pieces of kit:
- Laptop – You could substitute your laptop for another portable device such as tablet but something that sits nicely on the table and provides a sizeable screen is ideal for taking to tuition sessions. Your computer will hold all your client details as well as resources you need for lessons and saves you carting around tonnes of paper in the process.
- Internet connection – This gives you access to an abundance of free resources. A mobile broadband connection isn’t necessary because many clients are happy for you to use their WiFi connections but having internet access in your home is important for becoming a private tutor.
- Printer – Having a decent printer lets you print out handouts and worksheets when you need them.
- Mini Whiteboard – This is always useful to have an extra display or as a surface for your student to make notes on. Folding, tent style whiteboards are idea like this one.
- Pencil case – Fill it with a range of pens, pencils and things like dice. They always come in handy.
- Car/own transport – I couldn’t visit all my students without one.
Things to consider before you begin
- What availability do I have? When am I able to serve clients?
- Do I want to tutor at my house? Do I want to visit clients at their home? Should I tutor online?
- What subjects shall I teach?
- Which age group do I want to teach?
- How much shall I charge?
- How shall I advertise my services?
Not an exhaustive list of questions but this list should be enough to give you food for thought.
Logistics is important if you’re visiting clients like I do. Make sure you don’t fall in to the trap of leaving yourself short of travel time. Most tutors of primary age children find that their tutoring hours range from 3:30 – 7:00 pm. I have never tutored a child later than that.
Tutoring in your own home might have implications for insurances and may also blur the distinction between your home life and your work life. Discuss this with your family before inviting clients in to your home. Make sure you have an area appropriate for tutoring children.
As a primary teacher, I teach mainly English and Maths as well verbal/non-verbal reasoning for 11+ students. My youngest student is 8 whilst my eldest student is 14. Tutor children who you can develop with your current skill set.
Rates for tutors depend on location and levels of experience. I began charging £20 per hour but I have since increased this fee. Find out what other tutors in your area charge and adjust accordingly.
I have never placed a paper advertisement in the local shops or in the papers. I rely on tutoring websites and tools such as Facebook to win clients. Once you have one or two students, word of mouth will secure more clients for you.
The first session you spend with a new pupil is usually spent carrying out assessments. Make sure you have a bank of assessment materials you can use for getting to know a pupil’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask the parents for a copy of the child’s school report to gain further insight into the child’s academic progress.
Subsequent lessons may be based around the outcomes of the assessments. A lesson in a one-one setting can be structured in a similar way to a typical classroom lesson. For example, I often start with an oral-mental starter if I’m teaching maths before introducing the lesson’s objectives. I then demonstrate the knowledge or the skill to the student before enabling them to practice and apply the same knowledge and skills. At the end of the session, I will usually discuss the pupil’s learning with them before explaining any homework tasks. Future lessons sometimes begin with a discussion about the homework task completed by the pupil.
Challenges of being a tutor
Being a tutor is simpler than being a classroom teacher but it’s not without its own set of challenges.
Tutoring on top of a day job obviously adds to the challenge of striking a healthy work-life balance. Think carefully before committing to any assignments that might place too great a strain on you.
Safeguarding is another area of challenge for private tutors. Make sure that you are clear about expectations from the outset. If visiting pupils in their homes, tell the parent that you require a communal area of the home and that you will certainly not teach in a child’s bedroom. Let them know that a responsible adult must remain in the home during the times that you are tutoring their child in case of emergencies and to protect both yourself and the child. It’s not rocket science really.
Parental demands can change quickly so it’s important to be flexible. For example, you may be asked to teach English initially but the parent may then ask you to alternate teaching English and maths on a weekly basis. They’re the customer so go with what they ask you to do.
Finally, sorting out the financial part of tutoring privately presents another challenge. If you’re used to working as an employee as opposed to being self employed, it is likely to be difficult at first to get your head around paying taxes and national insurance. Rest assured though – there is an abundance of materials online to help you through this and HMRC are usually helpful. You could try using free accounting software that is available online.
If you’re interested in reducing you tax bill, consider setting up as a limited company and pay yourself through dividends as these are exempt from national insurance contributions. Don’t forget to keep receipts for purchases of things like printer paper and ink cartridges as these costs can be deducted from your earnings and thus reduce your tax liability.
Is there a future in tutoring?
It must be very challenging to make a living solely by working as a private tutor. Children are at school all day and most people want their children settled by around 7:00 pm so the window for delivering sessions is quite small. Earnings can be maximised by working weekends of course. But do you really want to sacrifice your weekends if you’re working full time Monday to Friday?
I can see myself tutoring for a good number of years and it may be something I wish to continue after I’ve retired from classroom teaching. The demands for educational supplements are not likely to go away in an increasingly competitive world which is good news for teachers looking to make a little extra on the side.
Some teachers have taken private tuition a step further to set up their own tuition centres. Some teachers start up independently whilst others buy into a franchise. This is perhaps one way in which someone can make a full time living out of tutoring but it must still be very challenging to make ends meet in this way. I have considered hiring a conference room to deliver lessons where you could charge a smaller amount per pupil per hour.
I have known successful music tutors who make a healthy living from teaching their instruments to both adults and children. Could you offer lessons in languages or music to give yourself access to a wider market?
Becoming a private tutor is something that I am glad I have done. It gives me a opportunity to meet new people and to work with children who are keen to learn. In addition, it gives me the luxury of a second income and a sense of pride in running my own small business.
Give tutoring a go. You might also be pleased that you did.