The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted classrooms around the world, causing schools to scramble in a mad dash to adopt remote learning technologies and processes. Unfortunately, many teachers — and students — never got the hang of remote learning, leading to an educational gap so wide it borders on a crisis.
What does this mean for the tutoring entrepreneur? Depending on your goals, aspirations, and living space availability, it could mean this is an incredible time to start a home-based tutoring business!
Pros and Cons of Opening a Tutoring Business
As reported by USA Today, tutoring “could be the key to lifting kids out of ‘COVID slide.’” Combating learning loss is something we addressed in depth in a recent blog post.
A great benefit of working as a tutor is the job satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re helping students and making a positive impact that could affect the rest of their lives. But, as experienced tutors know, the work comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Most of these pros and cons depend on whether you are an independent tutor or working for a tutoring agency. Self-employed or freelance private tutors have more flexibility in terms of working hours and can decide if they want to work full or part-time based on income needs. Also, when you work for yourself, you’re the boss and get to select your own students or clients.
One of the cons of opening a tutoring business is startup costs, especially if you’re an entrepreneurial tutor looking to lease a building or office space. In such cases, you assume a major financial risk if your business doesn’t generate sufficient income to cover rent and utility payments. It’s also challenging to find a suitable place in town where your tutoring business can thrive. By contrast, a home-based tutoring business offers vastly lower startup and ongoing overhead costs. If you have enough room to dedicate an area of home space to your business, you could reap a sizable tax advantage!
If operating a home-based tutoring business sounds like the right option for you, read on for more tips on how to get your professional tutoring business started.
How to Start a Successful Home-Based Tutoring Business
When it comes to launching any business endeavor, it pays to review what others have done before you. This helps you avoid costly mistakes and incorporate time-honored best practices. With that in mind, let’s dig into our handy checklist for launching a successful tutoring business:
Start with a business plan
“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” goes the quote from Ben Franklin. Writing a detailed business plan is a solid first step for professional tutors, no matter how big or small the tutoring enterprise may be. And who better to turn to than the Small Business Administration which offers a ton of resources including a business plan writing guide and formats for tradition and lean startups models.
Decide what subjects you’re qualified to tutor, and at what levels
This goes without saying, but tutors should stick with what they know, at least in the beginning. Focus your talents on teaching the subjects and grade levels/age ranges you’re most experienced and comfortable with. Over time you can expand your tutoring offerings, especially when your business has gained some traction.
Create a space in your home with proper lighting, workspaces, and seating
When tutoring one-on-one from your home, your workspace layout can be fun and cozy or sparse and professional, so long as it meets the basic requirements, i.e. having ample tabletop workspace, seating suitable to the height of your average students (keeping in mind you don’t want to sit too high over them), and sufficient lighting on the areas where you’ll be congregated. The main limitations to designing your dream tutoring zone are your budget and available floor space.
Depending on where you live and how many students you’ll tutor at a time, parking could be a problem. Make sure there are sufficient available spots for parents (or students, if they are old enough to drive) to park without getting a ticket or obstructing vehicles or sidewalks. Keep in mind that parents may simply be dropping off and picking up their kids, thus may only need to park for a moment. Be sure to add your parking details to correspondence you send to clients.
Ensure your space is sanitized and you have enough cleaning supplies on hand
During this era of COVID-19, it is crucial to keep high-touch surfaces sanitized. When one student leaves, clean and disinfect all appropriate areas and shared items before allowing another student in. Keep track of your cleaning supplies to ensure you never run out.
Remember students may need to use the restroom so have that area clean, too
Your home tutoring business needs to make a restroom available for clients. Keep it stocked with standard items — toilet tissue, hand soap, and a clean hand towel or paper towels, at a minimum. If your home only has one restroom, make sure it’s clean and businesslike enough for student use. For proper COVID-19 hygiene purposes, don’t let students use the same cloth towel that anyone else uses.
Buy any tutoring supplies or equipment needed
Along with all cleaning supplies and basic restroom inventory, make a list of all supplies and equipment your tutoring business needs. Depending on the subject you teach, this may only involve basics like computers, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and paper. Of course, many tutors simply require students to bring necessary supplies, but it doesn’t hurt to have extras. In light of COVID-19, it’s also a good idea to keep extra hand sanitizer, Kleenex, and spare face masks around.
Work out your earning requirements and budget
Some tutors work other jobs and tutor as their side hustle. Others see tutoring as a full-time business endeavor. Decide how much you must earn from tutoring to meet your income needs, minus your expenses for supplies, advertising, or other costs.
Decide on your schedule
As a home tutor, you’ll have flexibility in deciding your schedule, but you’ll need to be available during peak hours when parents and students have free time. Often this means “after school” hours, including nights and weekends. Once you’ve established your default business hours, you can always flex them later as needed.
Determine your rates and policies, such as no-shows, cancellations, and COVID-related guidelines
One thing tutors often struggle with is their rate. Research how much other tutors in your area charge for comparable services, but set your rate according to what you believe your services are worth and what clients are willing and able to pay.
Establish your tutoring business policies, including whether or not you charge for no-shows or short notice cancellations. You’ll also want to write up COVID guidelines to ensure maximum safety while decreasing your liability. Give your clients a copy or link to your guidelines before their first tutoring session.
Figure out if you want an LLC or if you need a business license in your state
Income-earning private tutors are considered self-employed and must report earnings to the IRS. Remember, self-employment tax consists of Social Security and Medicare taxes that an employer would otherwise be paying, so study up on tax implications to ensure you set enough money aside for the day taxes are due.
Many states require home tutoring businesses to obtain a license. Whether yours does or not, you’ll want to look into the possible advantages of registering your business as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).
Think about your branding and marketing, and whether you need to advertise
There’s a good chance your home-based tutoring business will have local area competition. Even if it doesn’t in the beginning, it could later, so it’s wise to distinguish yourself through creative branding and marketing.
Consider marketing first by determining your potential customer needs and personality types. Then develop a catchy brand name and tagline plus an advertising strategy for getting the word out. Upwork is a good place to find experienced freelancers who can advise you in these areas if desired.
Launch your tutoring business website
A classic mistake is to buy a domain name and start setting up a website before developing the branding. But once you’re at least sure you’ve got a great business name, go ahead and register that domain, then take time to select a dynamic website template that meets both current and expected future needs.
Popular sites like Squarespace, GoDaddy, Wix, and WordPress feature affordable, relatively user-friendly “do-it-yourself” website templates that are suitable for tutors, with plans that can incorporate credit card payment options for an additional fee.
Leverage your network to get your first clients
Landing those first tutoring clients is always the hardest step. If there is a lot of competition or a small number of potential students, you might not get to be ultra picky about who you take on at first. Still, some choice is better than none at all, so reach out to your network of friends, relatives, and co-workers to see who has a kid in need of your services!
Starting your own private tutoring business is never easy, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. By utilizing the applicable steps from our checklist, plus doing plenty of research and planning on your own, you’ll be well ahead of the curve when it comes time to launch. Best of luck on your tutoring adventures!