online tutor

These days, learning looks a little different than it used to.

Since COVID-19 forced widespread school closures earlier this year (and into the new school year, too), chalkboards, worksheets, and in-person lectures were replaced with PowerPoint presentations, Google Docs, and Zoom calls. Remote learning has, for many, become the new normal.

This new remote environment has had a significant impact on how students learn. In fact, more than 42% of parents are concerned about the potentially harmful effect remote learning might have on their children's education.  

As a result, more and more parents are hiring tutors to help their kids stay motivated and engaged. During a time when Zoom classes can feel hectic and impersonal, tutoring provides one-on-one time for students who aren't getting the attention or support they need from overstretched schools.

This growing demand has led to a significant spike in the need for tutors. The online tutoring market is expected to grow 12% every year from 2019-2023. With that surge comes an opportunity for those who love learning to pursue their passion.

But the promise of helping struggling students is just one of the reasons why those with a talent for teaching are turning to tutoring — it's incredibly affordable and flexible, too. You don't need any specialized training or equipment to tutor, so you can start your new side hustle today.

Because tutoring typically occurs after school hours, you can even hold your current job at the same time. If you're already a teacher, tutoring can be a great way to supplement your income.

If you're ready to explore a side hustle that's equal parts rewarding and profitable, here's everything you need to know to start your own tutoring business.  

Zero-in on Your Area of Focus

Like any business, your first step is finding that one thing that helps you stand out. This is especially vital in the tutoring industry, where students come to you with a specific concern or need in mind.

To start, ask yourself what areas you're already the most knowledgeable in or where you can bring the most value to students. Maybe you're more comfortable helping high school students prep for major college entrance exams, or maybe you're already used to teaching math fundamentals to elementary school students. Wherever your interests lie, this is also a good time to scope out the competition to identify any unmet tutoring needs.

Here are a few questions to help you zero in on your area of focus:

What age range do you want to tutor?

Maybe you're exceptionally skilled at working with a certain age bracket. Whether you're interested in teaching elementary school students, high school students, or college students, identifying this age group is the first step in narrowing your scope.  

What subjects do you want to specialize in?

Tutors often focus on a specific subject. For example, STEM fields, like science, technology, engineering, and math, are a strong, unique selling point for tutors, as these skill sets are in high demand. Once you pick a subject, don't be afraid to narrow your niche even further, like focusing on geometry or how to write a college research paper.

Do you want to specialize in exam preparation?

Preparing students for college entrance exams is another niche in high demand because, let's face it, these tests are stressful for most students. This includes helping students prepare and study for the SAT, ACT, LSAT, and other tests like the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams and Advanced Placement Program (AP Program) exams.

This niche can be highly-profitable for tutors. Taking an SAT prep course from The Princeton Review, for example, can cost as much as $900. Parents might be willing to pay a little more to give their kids an extra edge.

Looking for bonus points to help set your tutoring business apart from the rest? While certifications aren't a need-to-have, it's definitely a nice-to-have. Doing so adds instant credibility to your new business. Not sure where to get started? The National Tutoring Association orAmerican Tutoring Association have certification programs.

Determine Your Pricing Structure

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to pricing your tutoring services. Much depends on the education level and the subject you're teaching. The more complex the subject (like STEM or foreign languages, for example), the more you can charge for your services. That said, you can expect to earn anywhere from $10 to $75 per hour.

In addition to pricing based on the complexity of your subject matter, here are a few other considerations to help you nail down a reasonable price.

Demand: Do you live in an area with a lot of high schools, elementary schools, or colleges? If so, you already have a huge potential customer base. This is a good indicator that your services will be in demand, and you can probably charge more than average.

Location: Spend some time getting to know the area you want to serve. What is the average income? This will tell you if you can charge higher prices, or if it's more realistic to lower rates to make your services more accessible.

Instinct: This isn't as straight-forward, but it's just as important. Spend some time asking around and talking to parents. Is this a town that fiercely competes for admission to top colleges? You'll learn more about their kids' needs and if they're willing to pay for additional help.

Decide Your Business Structure

It's time to officially put all of those great ideas in writing. Establishing your business structure means deciding if you want to operate as a sole proprietor or an LLC

You can start a sole proprietorship for free, and they require no state registration. As a sole proprietor, you'll need to file a DBA (doing business as) when registering your business if you want to lock in a business name. During this process, make sure the name you want isn't already taken.

However, sole proprietorships have one major downside — you'll have zero protection against personal liability. That's why, for most small businesses, forming an LLC is the best option.

LLCs are adaptable to your unique situation, whether you are a one-person-shop or plan to eventually hire a team of tutors to support you. Another perk of forming an LLC is that it gives you access to benefits like reduced liability and choices on how you'll be taxed. Attaching "LLC" to your business name can also boost your credibility, which, in turn, helps you set higher fees and get more customers.


Refine Your Process and Get the Tools You Need

With COVID-19, remote learning has become about as normal as pizza Fridays at the cafeteria. That means there's a huge opportunity to take your own tutoring business online, too. To do so, however, you're going to need to be technologically savvy and have the right tools to ensure you, and your students, thrive.

Here are a few tools to help you get started:

Video messaging: This is your tutoring classroom, and it's where you'll connect with all of your students face-to-face (aka computer screen to computer screen). You'll want to use a service that's both reliable and intuitive. Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom are all strong options. As a bonus, most video software lets you record your sessions, so you can easily send the recordings to your student for reference.

Virtual whiteboards: You'll want to make your tutoring sessions as visual as possible. Services like AwwApp and WizIQ help you create dynamic and interactive lessons.

File sharing: Make it easy to share lesson plans, study guides, assignments, and quizzes by creating a shared and easy-to-access space for all learning material. Consider using Dropbox or Google Drive to house everything in a secure, cloud-based system.

Make it Easy For Students To Discover Your Services

Are you ready to enroll your first student? You'll need to shout your new business name from the rooftops (and by rooftops, we mean the internet). A majority of your prospects will turn to the internet to research what tutoring services are available. That means getting your first customer hinges on making yourself easily discoverable. Here are a few ways to do just that.  

Build your website

This is the first step for any new business. Check out intuitive drag-and-drop builders like RocketBuildr. Here, you'll want to clearly outline the services you offer, give visitors a personal glimpse into who you are and your experience, and outline your teaching process. Make sure you include an easy-to-find contact form, so there's no question on how prospects can get in touch with you.  

List your business on Google  

Google is one of the first places people go to find what they need. To ensure your business shows up at the top when someone Googles, "Tutors near me," you'll need to set up a business profile. This will include all the need-to-know details about your business, like your website, phone number, location, and even reviews (once you start accumulating them).

Build your social media presence

Next to Google, this is one of the most popular ways to discover new services. Creating a specific business account across social platforms like Instagram and Facebook allows you to show your unique teaching style. Plus, it's a chance to let prospects know who you are, which can go a long way in building trust and comfort with parents and students.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few ways you can leverage social media to promote your business:  

  • Share short, 30-60 second videos that feature lesson plans, how-tos, or even a "fact of the day." These educational videos offer a sneak peek into what students can expect when working with you.
  • When you start getting students, ask them (and their parents) if they're OK with having their photos shared. You can post photos of your students in action to humanize your business even further.
  • Consider creating limited-time offers to lower any perceived barriers to entry. For example, maybe offer a free (or discounted) first lesson. Whatever kind of offer you choose, social media is a great way to advertise it.

Don't forget about referrals!

Talking about how awesome you are across your website and social media platforms is great — but getting students to talk about how awesome you are is even better. As you start to build your roster of customers, start asking them (and their parents) if they'd be willing to provide a testimonial. You can share their feedback and quotes in your marketing, like your website, advertisements, or social posts. This is one of the best and easiest ways to boost your credibility!

Starting your own tutoring business lets you turn a passion into a rewarding and profitable side-hustle. By following the steps above, you can also turn that side hustle into a full-time job. Whether you're looking to establish an LLC or forming a DBA, the experts at Swyft Filings can walk you through the process, so you can spend more time teaching and less time filing paperwork.