Practical Advice for New Tutors (Part 1)
Becoming a tutor can be a very rewarding way to earn a supplemental income. The benefits of maintaining your own schedule and adjusting your workload can be a refreshing change of pace when compared to other options. However, there are numerous potential challenges and pitfalls when you decide to become your own tutoring business. Here is some practical advice for new tutors.
1. Know Your Strengths
Early on it can be tempting to accept any tutoring opportunity you can find. However, the practice of accepting all the clients you can, regardless of content or fit, is a professionally dangerous one. As a rule, only accept jobs based upon subject matter you know well. Market your experience, educational background, and any teaching experience to attract clients best suited to your abilities.
Keep in mind, word of mouth can be a huge help in growing your client-base. Any job where you are successful can potentially lead to exponential numbers of new opportunities down the road. Conversely, doing a poor job will negatively impact your ability to find new clients. Getting in over your head with subject matter you aren’t prepared to teach can be a recipe for disaster.
2. Formalize Your Terms of Employment
When you begin a new tutor-client relationship, it is vital that you come to an agreement on the terms up front. Some questions that should be answered before beginning your work with a new client are:
- Will you work on a set schedule or be on-call as needed?
- How much will you charge?
- Will payment be made up-front each month or on a per-session basis?
- How much advance notice will each party need for a cancellation?
- Where will you meet?
Consider what terms are acceptable to you up front and which of those terms are negotiable.
If your goal is to build a large client base, you may want to be sure that you keep a tight schedule and have strict rules about cancellation from the beginning so you are both maximizing and protecting your potentially profitable hours. If you are leery of not getting paid for your work, you may want insist on a specific payment schedule to ensure your fiscal security.
It is best to have all of these things ironed out in your own head before even discussing them with a new client. This will help you to establish your professionalism and ensure a good working relationship. Referring to tutor databases like The Knowledge Roundtable can be helpful in determining what rates and policies you want to offer in relation to other tutors in your area.
3. Protect Yourself
Unfortunately, in today’s world, it is important that you protect yourself against any potential allegations that could prove ruinous to not only your tutoring business, but your personal reputation as well. Make it a point to never be working with a student alone. My rule as a tutor was that I would be available to meet with a client in a public space (like a library or local coffee shop) or at the client’s home with another adult present. I have walked out of tutoring sessions (and still charged for the session) where parents either were not present or parents insisted on leaving while I was there. I was able to do this because this expectation was clearly laid out in writing at the beginning of my employment.
Be sure to check back in to The Knowledge Roundtable Blog for more practical advice for tutors. Please leave questions or comments below about your tutoring experiences!