Determine Your Niche
Online tutoring takes many different forms, and the one you choose will ultimately depend on two main factors: your experience and qualifications, and your preferences. There are a number of niches to explore, and some of the most popular include:
This is a great option if you have little to no experience in online tutoring or teaching, as many positions only require you to speak the desired language fluently. English is a particularly popular option here, as it is required for so many businesses across the world.
If you have a particular skill in an instrument or are a talented singer, you may be able to offer music tuition online – this can be particularly useful for students who are taking exams and need a little extra assistance.
One of the most common and popular options for online tutoring is academic tutoring, and this involves helping school students with specific subjects and skills.
You can usually tutor according to your strengths, and to the level that you are comfortable with – in some cases, you may even be able to assist undergraduates and degree students, depending on your level of proficiency in the subject!
Decide How You Want To Work
Once you have decided what you want to teach, the next step is to determine how you want to work, and there are two main options here: join an agency, or go it alone.
Both have their own pros and cons, and we will take a closer look at each of these to help you determine which is the best option for you. Sometimes, a combination of both can work well.
Joining An Agency
Joining a tutoring agency is one of the easiest ways to get started, and tends to be the most convenient option for newbies. Different agencies will have different requirements, including the need for qualifications and experience.
Not all tutoring agencies are created equally, so you will need to do plenty of research to determine which is the best fit for you.
Establish whether or not qualifications and experience are needed – depending on your personal circumstances, this may automatically qualify or disqualify you from certain options.
If you are a qualified teacher or an experienced tutor, then your payment may also be dependent on your qualifications, and so it is a good idea to compare agencies to see if this is the case.
You should also look at the pay that is being offered.
As a rule, pay may depend on qualifications and experience, but it can also vary depending on where in the world you are based, and where your students are – agencies based in Europe, Australia, and the USA tend to pay a little more than those in Asia.
Consider how you will be paid – if you are tutoring for an agency abroad, you may find that you are subject to high conversion rates and fees, so it is a good idea to be aware of this before you commit to an agency.
As well as the pay, you should also research the conditions that are expected – will you be required to do a minimum number of hours, and will you have the freedom to manage your own schedule?
When will you be expected to teach classes – some agencies require teachers to be available in the late evening or even the night, in order to ensure that they are in sync with the students.
Type of Teaching
Some agencies will offer one-to-one tuition, while others will expect you to teach wider and larger classes. Neither is necessarily better than the others, but you are likely to find that you prefer one over the other, so make sure that you are happy with the options available.
Why Choose An Agency?
There are a number of benefits to signing up with an agency, and it may be the best option in several situations, including:
You Don’t Have Potential Students
If you have a somewhat limited social network, an agency is a great way to find students and get started. It also eliminates the concern about having to find an entire client base from scratch!
You Need Money Fast
Building up a tutoring business takes time, so an agency is a good idea for those who need to start earning as soon as possible – you could be teaching in no time.
Remember that you may have to pay a fee to join an agency; many services will take a percentage of what you earn, so don’t forget to budget for this.
You Are Not Software Savvy
When starting your own tutoring business, you will need to be fairly comfortable with a range of tools and software, including screen sharing, video conferencing, and virtual workspaces.
If you are not confident, or just want someone else to handle this, then an agency is the way to go.
Going It Alone
Another popular option is to go it alone, and tutor independently. When done correctly, this can be a very lucrative business and one that offers you complete freedom over your working schedule and income stream.
This does take a little more work than joining an agency, and the key things to remember include:
When you are tutoring as part of your own business, qualifications matter. Your level of education will determine the level that you can tutor.
A High School Diploma or GED allows you to tutor students of elementary and middle school age, as well as high school students, as long as you can prove that you have the required content knowledge.
With an undergraduate degree, you can tutor students of elementary, middle school, and high school age, as well as college students who are working in your area of expertise.
A postgraduate degree opens up your field of potential, allowing you to teach elementary students, middle school, high school, and college-level students. You may also be able to teach adults.
Consider Your Area of Specialization
The first step in starting a tutoring business is to discover your area of expertise. Where are your skills? What subjects can you add value to? Where can you make the biggest difference to students’ lives?
Most importantly, where are you the most confident? When you know your subject and are confident in your skills, you can really let your teaching shine.
Make A Business Plan
All businesses need a strong, steady business plan – this is a written document, containing all of your plans and strategies to help you decide how your business will be run, how it will make money, and how you will overcome any obstacles.
A strong plan is the basis of any successful business, and it allows you to think through your model, anticipate any issues, and can be useful in helping you to secure funding down the line.
Take your time over your business plan, as it will form the foundation of your success.
Once you have your plan, you need to calculate your costs. Start with expenses – what software do you need? Budget for a website and associated costs, as well as insurance for your business.
You should also plan for marketing expenses, as these will be important for helping you to attract clients.
Build Your Classroom
When you tutor online, your computer is your classroom, and you need a quiet, private space to work. Make sure that you have plenty of natural light and a neutral background, and then set up your tech.
A webcam and microphone is a must, as is a strong, stable, and reliable internet connection. Invest in virtual whiteboard software to share ideas and lessons, and consider a tablet to allow you to illustrate key concepts.
You will also need reliable video calling software, such as Zoom, the ability to share your screen, and document sharing software – Google Docs is a top option for this and works perfectly with Google Classroom, which allows you to add resources and assignments.
Set Your Prices
The next thing you need to decide is how much you charge – this is one of the perks of being the boss.
Do your research to see what local tutors in your area are charging – as a rule, those tutors with niche, specialist skills, such as college and SAT prep, will be able to charge more, as can those teachers with experience with SEN and students with additional needs.
You also need to decide how to accept payments – the easiest option is to integrate a payment processing solution into your website. You can opt for one of two options – Payments Service Providers (PSPs), or merchant accounts.
The former are fast and easy to set up – and tend to be cheaper – but they can also be less stable and reliable.
Merchant accounts rely on an initial review process, and so take longer to set up, but they offer greater stability and freedom over the rates paid for each payment processed.
Before you start trading, you need to register your business – this can be as a partnership or a sole proprietorship.
This latter option is fast and easy to set up and allows the option to file business taxes alongside personal taxes for simplicity.
On the downside, you will not be covered by liability protection, meaning that you will become responsible for any debts incurred by the business.
Other options involve Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), which do offer limited liability protection, C-Corps – these include limited liability protection and allow business taxes to be filed separately from personal taxes.
Here, however, business decisions are made by the corporate officers, who may also be shareholders – this is a little more complex to set up.
No matter which type of business you register as you should also separate personal and business finances with a separate account. This means that you can track profits more easily, pay taxes more easily, and be sure that you protect yourself when it comes to audits.
At the same time, remember to file a Doing Business As Trademark, also known as an “Entity Name” – this means that you can trade and operate under your business name, rather than your personal name.
Build An Online Presence
Building your online presence is crucial as an online tutor, and you will need to start with a sleek, informative website.
This should contain all of the information that parents need to know to use your services, including contact details, information about your lessons and offerings, and a way for parents to book and pay for sessions.
Social media is always essential, and you should have business accounts across all of the major platforms. Integrate these with your website, and use these spaces to showcase reviews and positive testimonials from happy customers.
Marketing needs to be a key priority, even if you already have a customer base. Contact your existing network with email marketing, and keep social media marketing up to date, sharing relevant links such as resources, education updates, and advice.
Make the most of videos – these are a great chance for your customers to get to know your personality and teaching style.
Why Choose Your Own Business?
Your own business may suit you if you are able to tick a number of boxes, including:
You Have A Network
If you already have a network of potential students, then starting your own business is the perfect solution – you have a captive audience just waiting for you!
You Don’t Want To Pay A Fee
As we mentioned, many agencies will require you to pay a percentage of your earnings, and this can be frustrating. If you want to keep more cash for yourself, then going it alone is a great choice.
You Have Time and Energy
Building a tutoring business takes time, but if you have plenty of this available, then why not put it to good use and build your own business?
Tutoring online is a great way to educate others, pass along your wisdom and take the chance to make some cash.
Your route will depend on your individual circumstances, but whether you opt for an agency or decide to fly solo, online tutoring could be the gateway to a great new career path.