10 Mistakes Tutors Make When They’re Just Starting Out

10 Mistakes Tutors Make When They’re Just Starting Out

Arguably the nationwide need for tutors has never been greater than it is today. The pandemic wreaked havoc on schools, disrupting student learning and causing an unprecedented knowledge gap. Tutors are on the frontlines doing damage control as they help students catch up. Of course, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, tutoring has never been more accessible thanks to user-friendly online resources and affordable tutoring software

The high demand for tutors, combined with the relative ease of getting started, leads all too many fresh-faced tutors to make classic rookie mistakes. Some are pretty obvious, but a few might surprise you! Instead of setting off to reinvent the wheel, take a moment to learn from your predecessors about the common mistakes tutors make when they’re starting out. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes newbie tutors tend to make and some tips for how you can avoid them:

1. Being Unprepared

Many subject matter experts are filled with a desire to tutor students yet have zero practical experience. As a result, they underestimate the work involved. As any experienced educator will tell you, knowing the material doesn’t make you a teacher.  Effectively teaching a subject to another person requires training, even if it is self-taught through watching videos from professional educators or reading books about tutoring strategies. Equally important is having the correct mindset, which is why we recommend checking out SUNY Potsdam’s 10 Golden Rules for Being a Good Tutor.

2. Not Treating It Like a Business

Even if you only plan to tutor as a side hustle, it’s essential to think of your enterprise as a self-employed small business. As with any business, you should develop a general business plan outlining your goals and strategies for reaching them. 

As a business owner, it’s always wise to plan ahead and think about how things will change as your tutoring business scales and you secure more students or perhaps hire more tutors to help with the client load. As a professional tutor, you’ll need to outline a budget, chart anticipated earnings, and estimate expected costs. Expenses should include branding, marketing, and advertising, as well as supplies or any tutoring software you plan to use. 

And don’t forget to budget in the costs of self-employment tax on top of your income tax if your tutoring business nets you $400 or more by the end of the year. 

3. Choosing Inadequate Tutoring Software

For years, colleges and universities have embraced distance learning through online platforms made for education. Online classes are proven to remove barriers and improve access to higher ed, yet K-12 schools were slower to adopt these technologies…until COVID-19 forced them to. K-12 schools received an abrupt introduction to remote learning due to the pandemic and now, nearly two years on, most schools have adopted hybrid models of learning. 

Tutors have been relatively proactive in embracing e-learning from the start, but they often make the mistake of not choosing the right tutoring management platform. Standard video conferencing apps like Zoom won’t cut it in the long run because they don’t offer some of the important features a hybrid tutoring business needs like file sharing and storage, secure messaging, easy payment collection, and built-in analytic tools to track student progress. 

Not sure why you need tutoring software to run your business? Have a look at our recent blog outlining the 7 reasons why you need tutoring software if you’re a professional educator. 

4. Lack of Creative Branding and Marketing

It won’t matter if you’re the world’s greatest tutor if customers don’t know you exist! So how do you get their attention? Professional and attractive branding and strategic marketing are tried-and-true methods of spreading the word about your tutoring services.

All too often new tutors underestimate the importance of branding and marketing, or they fail to do sufficient market research ahead of time. For example, think about who your target students are and what avenues and approaches are most suitable to reach them at? If you’re planning to purchase a website domain name, register an LLC, snag a social media handle, or trademark a snazzy new slogan, put enough forethought into these elements to ensure they are distinctive, appropriate, and catchy. 

Next, use organic marketing tactics and paid advertising (like Google Ads or Facebook Ads) to get the word out to the right potential clients that your tutoring services are open for business. There are plenty of free resources online (eg. YouTube, Coursera, Khan Academy, etc.) for you to learn the basics of marketing and advertising your fledgling tutoring business.

5. Overestimating the Need for Your Services

Yes, there’s a high demand for tutors — in general. But is there an underserved need in your local area for tutors in your area of expertise? New tutors sometimes fail to assess the market and thus struggle to fill their openings. Either there’s already too much competition, or perhaps local schools offer free tutoring on the topic you teach. Do your homework before diving in or investing any capital in your tutoring business.

That being said, if you’re planning to offer your tutoring services primarily or solely online, then the possibilities are endless, and you can tutor virtually anyone, anywhere. 

6. Not Having a Good Space to Teach In 

Tutoring in the comfort of your own home may sound like a dream come true, but there are many factors to consider. Often, tutors simply don’t have suitable space with adequate lighting and sufficient supplies on hand to tutor from home. Other times, their home isn’t easy to travel to, or perhaps parking is difficult, which can be a huge turnoff for potential clients. Unless you plan to go big, renting an office space in town isn’t a likely option for most newbie tutors. 

To have your cake and eat it too, we suggest incorporating an online option, so you can work from home while your students stay at their homes. Check out our recent article on How to Start a Home-Based Tutoring Business for more tips that’ll save you from costly oversights and miscalculations!  

7. Indecisiveness About Your Tutoring Model

Historically many tutors have preferred live interactions with students. However, times are changing, and live or in-person lessons aren’t always practical or feasible, so you don’t want to limit yourself. In 2021, savvy tutors are weighing the best options for their customers’ wants and needs and discovering that online and hybrid models are increasingly popular. 

Online lessons offer flexibility and easier access since there are no geographic barriers and no commute time. Meanwhile, with the plethora of inexpensive mobile devices and laptops out there, almost every student can now sign up for fast, no-hassle online instruction.   

8. Not Making It Easy for Your Students

Customer service extends beyond being polite and attentive when a customer is in front of you; it also includes thinking ahead about ways to make your customer’s experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. 

That said, who is the “customer” — the student or the parent? Depending on the age of your students, they may be the ones paying for their sessions, or it could be their parents. But no matter who is footing the bill, the focus must be on the student as the recipient of your lessons and the primary end-user of any tutoring software involved. 

Every logistical detail about your tutoring lessons should be as simple and friction-less as possible. From booking sessions to submitting homework or paying invoices, you want to eliminate anything that makes the process inconvenient, annoying, or distracting. 

The same goes for making it easy on parents, too. For younger students, parental engagement is a critical factor in their success; however, you don’t want a helicopter Mom or Dad eyeballing everything their child does during a session. This makes it hard for students to focus, especially when they are already combating the serious effects of learning loss stemming from COVID-19. 

9. Setting a Tutoring Rate That’s Too High or Too Low

Setting your rate is one of the most important considerations when establishing a tutoring business. Yet new tutors frequently price themselves too low or they set their rates unjustifiably high. 

How much should you charge as a new tutor? The simple answer is — charge as much as you’re able to get. That doesn’t necessarily equate to what you feel your time and expertise are worth, though. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “the right answer to that question is a company should charge ‘what the market will bear’ — in other words, the highest price that customers will pay.” 

To determine that dollar figure, it’s helpful to empathize with your target customer. For example, if you have a killer reputation to justify a higher price point and know how to successfully market your talents, you might target high-net-worth students or parents. But if your goal is to stay affordable to the average student or parent, take an objective look at what local tutors are charging and how your experience compares. 

Keep in mind, tutors offering online lessons may have less overhead and can offer lower rates. Discounted small group rates are another way to stay within the average person’s budget. 

10. Not Establishing Policies 

It’s handy to have your general policies in place and easily accessible to customers, either by posting them to your website or sending them out to new enrollees. These should be clear, reasonable, and easy to digest, so students or parents don’t skim over anything important. It’s also good to request confirmation and agreement to your policies and terms in the event of a later dispute. This helps ensure everyone is accountable and lets them know they are entering a partnership with your tutoring business with the goal of achieving positive student outcomes.

At a minimum, cite your policies on charging for no-shows or short notice cancellations. If offering in-person tutoring lessons, state your COVID-19 guidelines or requirements to maximize everyone’s safety (and decrease your liability). If you plan on offering snacks or drinks, ask about food allergies and get consent in writing. 

The ten mistakes listed above are a few of the most common misjudgments new tutors are prone to make when starting out. You’re sure to discover a few on your own through trial and error, but we hope this list helps you avoid as many headaches as possible! And if you’re looking for a partner to help you scale your tutoring business, get in touch with us today and ask us how Pearl can help you build a successful tutoring business.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Tutoring Software

The Importance of Choosing the Right Tutoring Software

Tutoring has never been more important for students or as popular for entrepreneurs looking to start up their own businesses! But it takes plenty of planning to launch a successful tutoring business, and one of the most vital yet overlooked components is tutoring software. Whether your tutoring model is online, in-person, or blended, you’ll want to select software packed with the right tools aimed at improving your tutoring workflow and student outcomes. 

Ideally, look for tutoring software with a built-in virtual classroom that enables you to teach effectively. The program should also help streamline your day-to-day operations, such as adding new students (or parents, or admins), scheduling tutoring sessions, sharing communications, collecting payments, and generating reports. 

Every tutor or tutoring company may have their own slightly different business models and budgets to take into consideration when selecting the best tutoring software for their needs, but read on below for a summary of some of the “must-have” features of good tutoring software.

The Best Tutoring Software Features to Look Out For

Built-In Virtual Classroom

The best tutoring software should include high-resolution video and crystal clear audio, but a virtual classroom needs more than standard teleconference capabilities. You’ll want a purpose-built online classroom with a virtual whiteboard that includes easy-to-use drawing functions. Depending on the subjects you teach, you may need advanced features that allow for math functions, too. 

The virtual classroom feature should allow for user-friendly multimedia tests or quizzes. Presentation capabilities are also handy and should be simple enough for your age group of students. A screen recording function is another great bonus feature that allows you or students to capture sessions for later playback or review. 

Brand Customization 

Some software for tutors offer limited customization options for tutors and tutoring agencies to add their own logos, change color schemes, or adjust certain visual aspects. While this is definitely a “nice to have” professional branding feature, it’s not necessarily a “must-have” for solo tutors.  

As an alternative, tutors may want to add a few discreet branding touches in their visible screen space, such as a banner behind them or a coffee mug with your logo or business name. 

Secure, Transparent Messaging 

You’ll want the tutoring platform you use to incorporate a live chat option so your students can send messages in real-time during sessions. It’s also efficient to have in-app messaging capabilities that extend beyond the session, so users don’t have to rely on email or phone texts. Tutors often send out instructions, updates, or links to reading material or videos, so having the ability to do this in-app is much simpler and more organized than traditional email. 

You may also want the messaging to be transparent so that parents of younger children can view the correspondence between tutor and student. And you’ll also want to look out for tutoring software that features strong security to protect everyone’s data and privacy from outside cyber threats.  

Integrated and Robust Data System

Tutor management software solutions are not all built equally. It’s best to have one that can be fully integrated into your computer system, so no data slips through the cracks. It also needs a robust data system that can allow you to keep track of individual student progress and other analytics, and reconcile tutoring sessions as needed for students, families, or third-party program use. 

It’s important to be able to view and report student performance and outcomes. This helps tutors make adjustments and address learning obstacles as needed, thus keeping students on track to achieve their goals. Progress tracking also offers visible proof of your tutoring efficacy, which can be shown to pupils and parents as a means to encourage them to continue with lessons. 

In other words, a strong data system can capture Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that allow your tutoring business to measure value and demonstrate effectiveness to students (or parents). 

Easy Scheduling 

Tutors, students, and parents all need the ability to book sessions in-app. This saves valuable time and keeps everything organized. It’s so much simpler than scheduling over email and phone calls, and experience shows that businesses earn more when they can reduce hassle for customers and thereby enhance loyalty. 

It’s also efficient to have automated appointment reminders and the ability to invite students to their tutoring sessions. These extra little features go a long way in ensuring maximum attendance, especially in today’s hectic world. 

File Sharing

All users must be able to readily upload, download, share, and save files and other content through the tutoring platform. From lesson plans to homework or reports, these files might sometimes be large or may contain personal information. File sharing should be painless but it’s vital that all information is protected with a program that has strong security and enough recordkeeping and storage capability. 

Tutoring Business Management Tools

Remember, as a tutoring entrepreneur, you’re running a business and must treat it as such. That’s why robust business management tools are critical, no matter what subject you’re teaching or how you’re teaching it. 

Indeed, whether you’re a one-person shop with a lot of students or running a large team of tutors hosting multiple sessions, you’ll want a program packed with flexible business management tools. If your tutoring company is sizable enough, you may also need admins to manage operations using these built-in tools. 

A critical business feature is user management and role-based portal access, which allows permissions to be set for the “roles” of instructors, students, parents, and admins if needed. In other words, each user can be assigned a role that determines what areas and functions of the platform they can access, read, or alter when they are logged in. This is the same principle used when creating standard network accounts at any organization. 

Payment collection is, of course, another significant consideration. You want a program that makes it easy and safe to collect payments from your customers using credit cards or, if desired, PayPal or other popular methods. At Pearl, we put a handy payment option right in the Storefront feature, allowing your customers to purchase sessions with the click of a button. 

Pricing

As with any business expenditure, before purchasing professional tutoring software, do your homework to ensure you’re getting a return on your investment. That said, keep growth in mind if you plan to scale your business to add more instructors and students. 

It’s better to invest in tutoring software with enough flexibility and options than to waste time learning how to use software your company is only going to outgrow in a few months. Meanwhile, larger tutoring businesses might want to look into acquiring an enterprise license to potentially save money and keep things simple.  

International Availability 

One of the amazing things about online tutoring in 2021 is that participants can be scattered all over the globe. However, not all tutoring programs are available for use in every country. Be sure to double-check if there are any country restrictions if you or your expected students are attending from outside the U.S. 

Customization for Institutions

The COVID-19 pandemic had deep impacts on schools and students around the world. To help address the knowledge gap that ensued from these disruptions, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 offers stimulus funding to certain institutions that might be able to use them for tutoring purposes. Experienced tutoring software companies like Pearl offer partnerships that include design, training, and support for such government-funded programs.

In summary, there are many options available for online tutoring software, but it requires careful thought and planning to choose the most suitable one for your needs. Take enough time to shop around and compare, then pick the best one for you and your students.

 
If you’re interested in learning more about the best-in-class tutoring software we’ve built at Pearl, get in touch with us to schedule a demo or start your free trial today.

7 Reasons Why You Need Tutoring Software

7 Reasons Why You Need Tutoring Software

Whether you’re completely new to online tutoring or you’ve been doing it for years, it’s essential to invest in purpose-built tutoring software if you’re going to get the best results for your students.

While you may have managed “just fine” without it, tutoring software for professional tutors – like Pearl – can be extremely beneficial to use because not only will it make your life as a tutor easier, it will also help improve your student outcomes and make it easy for parents to play a part in their children’s academic journey.  

Here are 7 key reasons why professional tutors and tutoring agencies need purpose-built tutoring software to take their business to the next level:

1. It Improves Student Engagement 

Thankfully the days of sitting in a classroom writing lines out of a book are long gone, and that’s a big positive for both tutors and students.

Tutoring software makes it easy for the student to engage in their studies, and allows for you to be more accessible via a virtual classroom. Virtual classroom features like screen sharing and interactive whiteboards allow students to actively participate in lessons, rather than feel like they’re just being spoken at.

Another key feature of tutoring software that can engage students is the ability to send messages and reminders within the platform. The messages allow for frictionless communication between tutors, parents, students, and admins, while the reminders help drive attendance for the sessions. 

2. It’s More Effective for Students, Which Leads to Better Results

Having students who are more engaged with their learning will lead to better outcomes, and using tutoring software can be a far more effective way of teaching them, which again leads to them achieving better results.

While face-to-face learning is still a very useful method of educating students, there are some downsides compared with online tutoring. For example, it can be more difficult to keep track of a student’s progress when all of their work is written by hand, and there are also likely to be more distractions for them when they’re learning in person.

Perhaps the biggest reason why tutoring software is often more effective for students is the fact that lessons can be recorded. Traditionally, a student would sit in a classroom being taught something once, only to then finish the lesson perhaps not having fully understood it, or wishing there were materials they could recap but can’t.

However, by recording a lesson, your students will be able to go back and re-listen if there’s any points they missed or didn’t understand during the live lesson. 

3. It Helps With Effective Time Management

Rather than having to manually flick through your diary to see when you’re free, or booking an appointment with a student and forgetting to write it down, you can have your entire tutoring schedule in one place with the right tutoring software.

This is a particularly useful feature if you’re not a naturally organized person, or if you have to manage large groups of instructors that have different schedules. 

It’s beneficial for students too, as it will allow them to see the times when you’re available if they need to schedule a 1-1 call or some extra tutoring, and it will allow you to block time out in your calendar to show that you’re busy or taking a vacation. Your tutoring software may also have a calendar that allows for students to add in their day-to-day events like a soccer game or math test. 

And, with tutoring software like Pearl, there’s the added benefit of being able to send reminders to students, parents and instructors at the click of a button. This helps drive a consistent attendance, which leads to a stronger relationship between the tutor and student.

4. It Helps You Scale Your Tutoring Business Faster and More Easily

As your tutoring business grows and you start accepting more students and bigger groups, it can be difficult to keep on top of everything from a business standpoint, especially if you’re an educator first, and an entrepreneur second.

However, with tutoring software, it doesn’t matter if you have one student, or 100. You’ll be able to track their progress, manage payments, reconcile tutoring packages and manage your schedule effectively while your business scales up.

The biggest benefit of good tutoring software is that you’ll free up more time to do what you’re good at – teaching. Instead of having endless mountains of paperwork to file away, and manual records to keep updated, you’ll be able to keep on top of your business far more easily, which means less admin and more teaching.

5. All the Tools You Need Are in One Place

While this was touched on in the previous point from an organizational perspective, it also applies from an educational perspective too, which benefits both you and your students.

Instead of having multiple programs open – such as Zoom, PowerPoint, Google Drive, etc. – everything you need to teach effectively is contained within the tutoring platform so you’ll be more organized and better able to create an engaging tutoring lesson.

And, of course, there are the benefits previously mentioned too, such as the ability to manage your schedule and your student’s progress all in one place.

6. It’s Built by Educators Who Understand Your Needs as an Educator

The best tutoring software is designed by people with an in-depth understanding of tutoring, who have the experience of being an educator themselves.

Pearl is a great example of a tutoring software company that was built by tutors, for other tutors.

As educators, we know what works and what doesn’t, and we understand that building relationships between students and tutors is the most effective way of delivering the best student outcomes.

7. It Looks More Professional

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a worldwide shift in teaching methods, with thousands of tutors being forced to adapt to more online-based learning, and more people setting themselves up as online educators.

Therefore, to build and grow a successful tutoring business it’s important that you stand out from your competitors, and an all-in-one, purpose-built tutoring platform is a great place to start.

While many of your competitors may try to do things on the cheap and run their tutoring business chaotically using several different tools, you can gain a significant advantage over them by investing in a single tutoring software that’s far more professional and elegant.

And best of all, you’re able to customize your software with your own logo and URL, which highlights your professionalism to potential clients.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how much tutoring software’s going to cost because surely a product this useful and versatile must come with a hefty price tag?

While there are many pricey tutoring platforms out there, the one we’ve built at Pearl is extremely affordable. With Pearl, you get one fixed monthly price, so instead of having variable costs every month from numerous suppliers, you’ll have just one payment to consider, making your budgeting far easier.

On top of that, you’ll have technical support included in the price too, so if you have any questions or issues with Pearl, you’ll be able to get help quickly.


If you’re interested in learning more about Pearl and scheduling a demo of our best-in-class tutoring software, get in touch with us today.