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How to Turn Your Interest in Tutoring into a Successful Business
There are many ways to set yourself apart in the college admissions game. Strong grades, high test scores, and shining recommendations are all a good start. To really get that extra edge you need to gain acceptance at top selective colleges, though, you’ll need to go one step further.
By excelling in extracurriculars, you’ll be able to demonstrate not only your dedication and ability to stick with something over time, but also who you are as a person outside the classroom walls. Extracurriculars allow you to demonstrate your passions beyond academics. In addition, they are strong evidence of your time management, organization, and leadership skills.
Many extracurriculars fit neatly into the category of a school club or sports team. Others are less simple, especially if you can’t join a school-sanctioned activity that incorporates your interests.
If you are dedicated to a particular subject area or skill set beyond the classroom, and you wish to get serious in pursuing it, you might consider setting up your own tutoring business. Doing so not only allows you to stay involved in subjects that you love, but also allows you to demonstrate leadership, organization, and time management in a way that’s easily quantifiable on your college applications. And of course, the money you can earn through your own tutoring business is a big perk as well.
To learn more about setting up your own tutoring business, including why it’s a good idea and how to get started, keep reading.
There are some passions that are easier to quantify on a college application than others. Sports and school clubs, as discussed above, will fit very neatly into the activities section of your college application. If you excel academically and want to pursue a specific subject area further, this dedication and pursuit can be more difficult to quantify on your college applications.
Specifically, self-studying and achieving a level of mastery in certain subjects is not immediately evident on a college application. Even if you get perfect grades and high test scores, an admissions committee will not get a real sense of your true commitment to a subject area unless you demonstrate it outside of the classroom in a way that is easily communicated on a college application. Tutoring is an ideal outlet for this.
In addition, tutoring can earn you extra money and provide you with teaching experience that you can put to use in a career or in continued tutoring gigs.
Starting your own tutoring business is a great way to provide concrete evidence of your dedication to a specific subject area, while gaining important experience and a little extra spending money, too.
How to Start Your Tutoring Business
It is difficult to jump right into paid tutoring without any sort of experience, so usually it is easiest to start somewhat informally. If you are known as a top student in a certain subject area, you might have even started this process already by helping friends and classmates without realizing you were laying the foundation for a successful tutoring business.
Start by tutoring friends or younger students on a casual basis, for free. You might organize a study session or work with a younger sibling and his friends. Start with people who are close to you, and then branch out gradually. As you begin to branch out, be sure to market your study groups or one-on-one sessions as “free for a limited time” or “free trials”. This way, no one will feel deceived when you begin to charge for services further down the line.
The slow start will allow you to build your skills and confidence, and to make sure that tutoring is something you’ll actually enjoy doing. Once you’ve ensured that this is something you can and want to do, you can start to ease into the business side of it.
Make a Business Plan
Once you have a semester or so of experience, you should have a good idea of whether or not a tutoring business is a feasible and appealing idea to you. If it is, you’re ready to start getting serious. Begin by making a small business plan. This doesn’t have to be hugely formal or completely comprehensive, but it should be enough to provide you with some direction.
Your business plan does not need to include everything that an actual business plan would need to have to, say, be approved for a bank loan, but it should include a few fundamental elements. For starters, come up with a vision for your tutoring business. How extensive do you hope to make it? Consider how much time you are willing to put into it and think about the scope of services and clients you hope to cover.
If you know that this is going to be a very part-time endeavor for you and you have no desire to grow it beyond that, that’s totally fine. But try to begin with a clear vision so that you don’t end up in over your head and so that you can try to hold yourself accountable as your business progresses.
Next, consider where you’ll conduct your business. Will you tutor other students in their homes, and if so, are you and your parents comfortable with you doing so even if you don’t know the family? How will you get to and from your appointments? Do you have access to any other spaces to conduct your tutoring sessions in, like a community center, library, or school space? Explore some options in advance so that you know where you’re going to be working, and when the space is available.
Also consider your marketing strategies. Outline a few ways that you might be able to advertise your services and consider any associated costs. We will discuss a few different ideas for marketing later in this post.
Be sure to also consider any additional expenses you might have in your start-up phase. Are there materials you’ll need to buy? Some math tutors might need manipulatives for younger students, or you may be able to borrow them from the school. For older students, you might need supplemental curriculum or books. Some of this can be sourced for free online. Do your research in advance so that you can anticipate any start-up costs.
Finally, make a list of the services you intend to offer and the pricing for each one. Use your anticipated costs and your desired income to come up with pricing. Generally, tutors charge an hourly fee and are paid slightly more than the going rate for babysitting in your area. Depending on your level of expertise, your clientele, and some regional variation, you can usually expect to make between $15-$30 per hour.
Writing up a list of services and fees will also help you to formalize your pricing. Being consistent is required if you want to be taken seriously as a professional. If your clients find out they are paying more for the same service as your friend’s brother, you could have some disgruntled patrons on your hands.
Publicize Your Business
As you get ready to tackle some basic marketing for your tutoring business, you should begin by brainstorming a list of things that make you uniquely qualified to do what you’re doing. Have you won any awards or other recognition in this subject area? Do you have experience teaching, coaching, or working with younger students in other capacities? Anticipate what potential clients and their parents might want to know about you ahead of time.
Now, use this list as your marketing points. Make flyers, business cards, or even a simple website or Facebook page to get your name out there. You could also look into advertising in your school newspaper or local newspaper. If your target audience is younger, think about placing flyers or business cards at places that their parents are likely to frequent, such as the pediatrician’s office, the local library, the local rec center, or the elementary school.
Keep in mind you’ll need to always be sure to ask before you place any marketing materials someplace. Sometimes they are removed if you do not have prior permission.
Run Your Business Professionally
As you start to drum up some customers, you’ll need to be sure to conduct business in a professional manner from the very beginning. Start with organization. Get a calendar and keep it updated. Sync it to your phone with notifications in advance set for every client. Always show up for your appointments slightly early so that you can be set up and ready to go by the agreed upon start time. Be sure to return all phone calls and emails.
Also, keep records of your business. You should have a file folder for each student with copies of their work and notes on each tutoring session. You should also have records of all your business transactions, including all expenses and income. You can read more about the legal and tax implications of running a business in our article, A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business in High School.
Build Your Business
As you gather more clients and build some momentum, it’s important to keep growing your business. This might happen naturally, or it may need some help getting traction from you. You can get the ball rolling by offering referral discounts to your existing customers and by gathering testimonials from your satisfied clients.
Also try to quantify your results. If you are tutoring test prep, keep track of the average score increase for your students. If you’re tutoring reading, keep track of reading levels gained. If you’re tutoring another subject area, try to track your student’s grades and progress on classwork so that you can measure your success.
In addition, keep track of the time you spend on your business. This doesn’t need to be exact, but having a general idea of how much time you spend on your business each week will allow you to quantify it more easily on your college applications.
If you’re thinking about starting a tutoring business, use this step-by-step guide to help shape your progress from initial concept to actual, functioning business. It may seem like a daunting prospect at first, but if you take it one step at a time, you’ll find that the pieces follow logically and that no single aspect is especially intimidating on its own.
If you aren’t sure about starting a tutoring business, or you’d like to explore some other options for dedicating yourself to a particular subject area, consider checking out CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you’ll be paired with a personal admissions specialist who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, including how to best highlight your unique skills and activities.
To learn more about business programs and activities, also check out these CollegeVine posts: