Every Wednesday, we explore a new side hustle, and today is about tutoring. I have been a tutor ever since I was 12. I used to pick up two kids after school, bring them home, give them a snack, and then do homework with them. They didn’t have much of a learning problem, but lacked attention so their grades were slipping and their parents didn’t have time to oversee homework. I also taught the piano for five years when I was in high school. My music teacher would let me use the music room at lunch time, and I gave a one hour lesson to another kid from my school.
Pros about being a tutor
The hours are very flexible. You can have one student, one hour a week, or make it a full time job. It is up to you and what you can give.
You teach what you like. I have taught music, French and Spanish, on top of overseeing homework. Homework was a bit boring but I loved the other topics. I would bring something fun for the lesson, like a French song to learn, or a list of Spanish slang, and we would do that at the end of the lesson. It was not all grammar and conjugation.
You set your rates. When I was living in an affluent part of the UK, I was charging between $40 and $90 per hour, gas money on top. I provided all the lessons that I printed beforehand, so there was a bit of work outside the lesson but it was a great hourly rate. I started at $30 which was really cheap compared to similar ads and increased my rates as I got more gigs. It helped that I had years experience, although no one asked for references.
You can tutor online. There are a few sites that offer online tutoring, either live lessons via Skype, or they hire you to grade papers. If you are giving live lessons via skype, you may want to have a screen sharing feature available for better cooperation between tutor and student. They don’t pay as much as if you find your customers directly, but can bring you more business and you don’t have to move from home. You can also make money online by freelance writing.
High market for customers. If you tutor math, at least 10% of the local high school students will need a tutor at one point. For music or languages, there are always people looking to start lessons, who don’t want to wait until the next class starts at the community center. You may have more problems with retentions because people suddenly get busy or bored and give up, than finding new customers.
Complement a teacher’s salary and hours. Kids need tutors when they are not in school. If you are already a teacher, it is the perfect side hustle to make a little extra, you can even ask the kid to stay after school and use the classroom to tutor, meaning no commuting costs or time lost.
Cons about being a tutor
You highly depend on the economy. I was tutoring until 2007, then most of my pupils stopped their lessons because it is the first thing they cut when their parents trimmed the budget.
Odd workdays. You will generally tutor after school, and on weekends. You may have no work until 4pm, then have three lessons and get home by 9pm. People may ask you to come on Sunday because they had a family thing on Saturday. You don’t go, you lose money.
Prep time. I had a few websites listed for French and Spanish lessons, so after a while it only took 10 minutes or so to prepare for a lesson. Still, that is unpaid time you will spend at home getting ready. If you teach music and need more time to look for a song or learn it before the lesson, you should factor that in your price.
Full time is never full time. If you ask the pupils to come to you, you will have less business. You are charging more for the convenience of them having a lesson in the comfort of their homes. If you teach one hour here, one hour there, you need at least half an hour to say goodbye, get paid, get to the other place and begin. Never think that your hourly rate times 40 equals to a 40 hour workweek. If you manage at all to find the perfect fit where pupils line up one after another, Monday to Friday.
No money during the holidays. Unless you find someone who has a lot to catch up until the next school years, you won’t have much work, if any, from June until September. And even then, parents wait a few weeks to see how the new school year goes before they hire you again. January is the time for resolutions and business should be booming.
Cancelations. People think you are at their disposal. And like a gym membership, few will have the assiduity to attend every time. My pupils were allowed to cancel 24 hours before for free, then the money was lost. If they cancel 24 hours before, chances are you won’t find another gig for the next day. And if they cancel on the same day, they may get annoyed they lost their money, and not call you again. I didn’t mind too much because I had LOTS of students so the odd night off was pretty welcome and I didn’t need the money badly. My mum is a teacher who tutors after school and sometimes the parents are a real PITA rescheduling three times before she actually gets a paid lesson.
Money: How much can you make being a tutor?
As mentioned above, you decide how many hours you want to put in, so it will greatly depend on your involvement. I used to teach one hour every night, Monday to Friday, and sometimes on Saturday morning. $40 per hour five times a week is about $850 per month. I am aware that my rates were high, but you should try to teach at the highest level possible (college, enthusiast musician instead of beginner) so you can command higher prices.
If you teach one hour per week at $25 that is still $1,300 per year in your pocket.
Because the starting costs are very low, that is a good option to try, even if things don’t work out, at most you will have lost a few pennies making photocopies for the next lesson.
Where to find tutoring gigs
Most of my clients came from ads I put on the local equivalent of Craigslist, Gumtree. Make a simple ad, with your rates in the title (many tutors don’t put rates in the ad, I personally hate having to contact a person, wait for a reply, only to find out they charge too much). Give many details, which grade do you tutor, which subject, are you able to tutor a college student… and give your credentials, either years of experience, or a teaching degree. I didn’t have one but to teach French, nothing like a native :).
Another sizable part of my customers were referred by tutoring agencies. Their rates are much higher and you get about half of what the client really pays. Those customers were mainly professionals about to be assigned a job in France, whose company was paying for the lessons. Their expectations are also higher, so make sure you are able to deliver, and listen well on the first lesson when they explain why they want to learn or improve their skill and what they expect from you. Or you can read about my post talking about if you’re interested in the future.
I also applied to the local council to teach French in adult classes, but they were only accepting people with a teaching degree. I got a job a few years back teaching adult classes in Guatemala and it was a lot of fun teaching to a small group instead of just one person.
Have you ever tutored? How did it go?