Humans have been tutoring each other since the dawn of history—how else do you think fire was discovered and the secret to making it passed on? This need for face-to-face attention and the passing of knowledge from one person to another still continues today.
People hire tutors in almost any area where skills can be taught and acquired. Tutors are available in areas ranging from academic subjects and computer use to athletic skills and hobbies. While most independent tutors have students come to their homes, some go the clients' homes or use space at the students' school. If they're helping students with a sport, tutors use the appropriate sports field or facility. Technically, the swimming instructor at your local YMCA is a tutor!
Academic tutoring has been in particular demand because of the increased expectations placed on high school and even grade school students. As one tutor told us, "What used to be taught in college in the old days is now taught in high school." Crowded classrooms don't enable the individual attention many students require, and parents are finding that their children are not sufficiently prepared for college or for the entrance examinations necessary for admission. They realize their children need more personalized attention than they can get from classroom instruction.
Taught without the pressure of peers or authorities, many students learn through tutoring what they don't absorb in a classroom. As a tutor, you'll customize what you teach to the level and needs of each of your students. While tutors who specialize in computer topics will need equipment for their students to use, most tutoring requires little in terms of books or materials. Many times, a tutor uses materials provided by their student’s classroom teacher.
Beyond academics, you can also teach or tutor any skill someone wants to learn. Music, the arts, and sports like baseball and tennis are a few such areas where both children and adults need additional help. And remember, it's going to be easier to sell yourself if you have teaching experience or a degree in the subjects you're tutoring. A tax accountant could tutor people in budgeting or a registered nurse basic first aid.
Tutoring is a word-of-mouth business but to get to this point, you'll need to take the initiative and develop a base of students. This is best done by calling on teachers in the subject areas that you plan to specialize in as well as talking to school office personnel and counselors. You should also spread the word among your neighbors and friends—it's very likely that you'll find your first students among people you already know. Posting fliers on community bulletin boards, writing articles for or buying ads in local publications and having a Web site are other ways of generating business.
Becoming a tutor is as simple as saying: I'm a tutor. There are no state or licensing requirements. Of course, parents usually won't pay much for a tutor who has less than a four-year degree. And the more qualified you are to teach your target group, the more successful you will be.
In making tutoring your at-home occupation, begin by creating a list of your one-on-one, small group, or other teaching experience and your education credentials.
After developing a list of teaching experiences, you can use it to decide what age group you want to teach as well as what subjects you can teach. A common error for many beginning tutors is assuming that they must be versatile. If you know you can't teach math higher than Pre-Algebra, define your tutor offerings in terms of arithmetic assistance. If you simply don't have the patience for the pace of elementary students, define yourself as a Junior High/Middle School or High School tutor.
After you have established yourself, you can expand your range. When your students continue to do well in school, their parents will begin to ask for help for their younger children as well. This is how your business will grow.
Success for a tutor is usually defined by the increase in their student’s grades in school. It only takes one satisfied parent to begin building your tutoring business. When parents are pleased with their child's progress, they are eager to pass along the name of their tutor. Thus, success is also measured in the number of queries a tutor gets from potential clients.
Promoting Your Business
Word-of-mouth is the biggest marketing tool a tutor has. Most of your clients will come to you because somebody who has already hired you to tutor their child recommends you. But getting those first few clients is almost as easy - even if you don’t have any friends or neighbors who've already hired you and want to spread the word about your availability.
Simply devise a resume. Although the top item will naturally be your name, phone number and address, the most prominent item should be your target statement: the ages or grades and the subjects you will like to tutor. This should be followed by the dates and brief descriptions of any teaching experience you deem relevant. Unlike a regular resume, a tutor resume can have gaps between dates of experience. The last item on your resume should be your education. Next, take your resume to each of the local schools from which you want to attract your clientele. Stop in at the office and introduce yourself to the school clerks -- parents often ask them if they know of any tutors. Then visit that school's counselor(s) -- describe your teaching abilities and your target students. If the school doesn't have a counselor, visit the principal instead. Finally, put a resume into each teacher's school mailbox.
After you've visited all the schools in your target area, take your resume around to the local grocery stores. Many have bulletin boards on which people place sale or service fliers. Other places to post your resume could include: dance or martial arts or gymnastics schools; the recreation offices of local parks; children's play centers or child-oriented restaurants. Some of these places have policies against posting fliers but many are accommodating.
There are almost no expenses in a tutoring business. You don't buy textbooks because the students bring their own. Some tutors provide writing utensils and paper but I expect my students to bring this equipment to their sessions. You don't have transportation or site-rental costs because parents bring their children to your home. You don't even need a special room in your house. I set up a card table in my living room, but most tutors use their kitchen or dining room tables.
Just about the only expense you have is the printing of your resume. One batch of a thousand one-page resumes should last you about a year. After that, you'll want to update it before reprinting.
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