Tutoring guide

This is your opportunity to learn insider tips and advice from 3 professional full-time tutors who make a comfortable living from tutoring and experience job satisfaction doing so.

So, what are the characteristics of a professional tutor and how can you become one?
What are the benefits and opportunities for tutors?

Merlyn’s story – turned to full-time tutoring due to family circumstances
Henry’s story – from a passion for music to full-time tutoring
Marco’s story – tutored as many as 30 hours per week only a year after university

The benefits of hiring a private tutor are many and it is no surprise that the demand for good tutors is on the increase. Private tutors offer a level of expertise, engagement, and encouragement that is difficult to achieve in a group setting. Other benefits include personalised, customised lessons and many more which are covered in detail by The Educator.

According to a study done by Sutton Trust, in the UK, 25% of families have used a private tutor at some point in the past 3 years. This figure increases to 40% in London and is on the rise.

Tutoring can be a rewarding career. Go about it in the right way and it offers flexibility and the satisfaction of having an impact on children’s attainment and confidence levels in school.

It goes without saying that achieving good examination results in school, and feeling motivated to learn and strive for excellence, can be genuinely life changing for children. A good tutor can play a pivotal role in this. At Impact Tutors we strive to hire many such professional tutors.

So, what is it that sets a professional tutor apart from the rest? What are the skills and qualities that professional tutors possess; allowing them to have a never ending stream of students who keep coming back for more lessons; refer other students, and leave rave reviews?

Continue reading to find out…

The interview questions

We interviewed 3 professional tutors and asked each of them the following 5 questions:

  1.  What led you to become a full-time tutor? Tell us your story!
  2.  How do you find students?
  3.  How do you ensure a steady income from tutoring?
  4.  What are the top 3 qualities that you think every full-time tutor should have?
  5.  What advice would you give to anybody wishing to become a professional tutor?

Below you will find the answers to above questions from all three tutors who have kindly shared their insights and experiences.

 Merlyn’s Story

Merlyn
Merlyn Maths Whizz

Merlyn Wright is a Maths educator based in Enfield, London. Her passion is in the teaching and the learning of Mathematics as well as an enthusiast of history, psychology and engineering. Merlyn’s education background is in Engineering and she has been recently accepted as an associate member of IMA. You can find out more about Merlyn here.

 

 

1- What led you to become a full-time tutor? Tell us your story!

When we discovered that our first child had a heart condition (VSD) at the age of five months in 2012, I decided I would not go back to my IT job in London.

Our son had regular check-ups with consultants, and since his condition did not improve for the better, the consultant decided to operate. The hospital put my son on the waiting list for surgery, but they could not tell us how long the wait would be. I felt that caring for our son ourselves was the right thing to do at that time while waiting for the time for surgery; but at the same time, I needed to start earning again.

I was already tutoring Maths part-time, with only three students per week. I then began to take on more students. The working hours fitted well with my husband’s work and the childcare. He worked during the day while I cared for our son and we swapped in the evening.

My son had his surgery, and we had another addition to the family a few months afterwards. I took on more students as the childcare arrangements worked well and within just a few years, the number of students I tutor has grown to 25 to 30 students per week.

2- How do you find students?

I have tried several ways of advertising. I started by creating profiles with online tutoring agencies. Some agencies offer a free service to tutors, but they have strict rules about exchanging contact details directly with the potential client. All communication initially happens through the agencies, and once the initial arrangement has been made, then the client would have to ‘buy’ the tutor’s contact details from the agencies.

Other agencies do not offer a free service to tutors. Their registration is free, but they charge a percentage of the fee from what the tutor charges the student. I have tried both types of agencies, and I prefer the first type.

I have also advertised locally. I dropped cards through doors. I put up some up in local shops. I also actively posted on local Facebook groups (with the permission of group admin). But, in fact, the most efficient and effective way to get students is through word of mouth.

3. How do you ensure a steady income from tutoring?

I try not to overcharge students, but I do not undercharge them either. It would be a good idea to research the market for tutors in particular subjects as well as how much parents/students are willing to pay for a good tutor.

I try not to overcharge students, but I do not undercharge them either.

Parents are happy to have regular sessions when the fee is reasonable. If they are happy with their child’s progress, they are likely to want to continue sessions over school holidays. I charge enough of a fee so that I can save some for periods when I am not working as much and am not as busy.

I take on students from different school years. Those who are not sitting national exams soon are likely to become long-term students. I try to keep balance the number of exam students and continuing students.

The continuing students are likely to have their sessions regularly from September to July which is a huge advantage once exam students finish (around June). The exam students are likely to want extra tuitions near to exam time. This is useful as it means I can then save for the summer holiday (when I am not working as much).

Also, when exam students leave, their space can be filled by new students. Once you build up a good reputation, you will have a waiting list. By having available slots in June, I can start scheduling ahead for the new academic year in September.

4. What are the top 3 qualities that you think every full-time tutor should have?

Full-time tutoring is just like any other full-time job. It requires professionalism. I think the three most important professional qualities are:

  • Reliability – be well-organised, punctual and consistent
  • Flexible – be flexible in your teaching approach and always be willing to improve by listening to feedback, and keen to learn new methods.
  • Be human and persevere – both with yourself and with your students; whatever your circumstances are, don’t take it out on your students. Find a way to deal with your situation and remind yourself that work is work. Show up, smile, and get on with it! Be sensitive, especially when a student is tired. Acknowledge their tiredness as well as praising them for still being willing to spend the time to learn at the end of a busy day.

5. What advice would you give to anybody wishing to become a professional tutor?

Becoming a professional tutor requires effort and a lot of patience. If you have only one student a week then don’t get disheartened. Tutor the one student to the highest standard and soon you’ll be recommended to others. The referrals will come.

It is a rewarding job but do expect ups and downs. When things are going well, keep your feet on the ground and stay humble so that when things aren’t going so well, it won’t hit too hard.

In a world when things are expected to work out instantly, tutoring can be quite challenging. Be honest with students and parents positively and encouragingly, for example, “Jasmine is not where she should be for her age, but together we can get her up to standard. She has the potential, but it will take time.”

Tutoring is a two-way relationship. You should get to know your students and appreciate them for their differences.

Tutoring is a two-way relationship. You should get to know your students and appreciate them for their differences. Never talk about a client to another client, especially when the two know each other. Build a network with other tutors. Finally, if you do decide to become self-employed, learn about how to fill out a tax return and the legal side of things

You can find out more about Merlyn here.

Henry’s Story

Henry Dingle
Expert in engagement and motivation

Henry loves to mentor teenagers who are under-performing or struggling at school in any way and has 15+ years’ expertise in engaging and inspiring students who need confidence-building, supporting and motivating. Henry hosts a weekly call for UK Independent Tutors Collective for a group of top independent tutors where they discuss all aspects of the profession, sharing best practice with one another. You can find out more about Henry or contact him here.

 

 

1. What led you to become a full-time tutor? Tell us your story!

 I was part-time for a long time because I was chasing a music career.  I met a fellow musician who told me he was earning £25/hr tutoring as a basic rate – and this was 15 years ago!

It sounded like the best way imaginable to make good, quick money in a flexible, part-time, honest and wholesome way (whilst I pursued my music career).  I became full-time as an independent (out of school) educator only a few years ago as my passion for teaching in this way began to eclipse my love of music.

Tutoring is such an awesome way to teach because you are free to educate in whichever way you think works best.  For me, that starts with every student of mine taking responsibility for their own learning (often for the first time).

I don’t tutor anyone because their parents want me to and make a point of distancing myself from both their home learning culture and certainly their school learning culture!  I am independent in terms of how I am prepared to educate and most students that come to me love my fresh approach. It is based very simply on learning what is actively chosen by them – not their parents! It is always pervaded by relaxation, fun and enjoyment of each other’s company and the subject we are studying.

  2. How do you find students?

I have been doing it a long time now so I have gradually built up a strong base of past clients who recommend me to others.  Nothing can compare to a word-of-mouth recommendation because the trust and assurance are built-in with the new client from the first moment. Because of this, they are usually delighted that you can fit them in.

I also love and am registered with a couple of independent tutoring web platforms. On my profiles on these sites, I am able to present an up-to-date version of my teaching approach, exactly as it is, explaining in detail who I want to teach and what my working method is.  This way I can attract my dream clients and repel those that wouldn’t be a good match!

   3.  How do you ensure a steady income from tutoring?

For many years I didn’t but that was because I was putting all my time and energy into a music career! In recent years, however, I have seen how it is possible to achieve this.  It’s always been easy enough for me to be busy November-June but only now am I solid all year round.

My advice, in general, would just be to dedicate yourself completely to each and every student you have, ensuring that your first or your existing clients are really receiving the best you have to offer. Give them everything you’ve got to support them to thrive and flourish in their school work and lives.  This way you will (inevitably) discover how best to serve all sorts of different clients. Not only this, your confidence and satisfaction will grow exponentially as a tutor, and all your clients will be well pleased and will recommend you to anyone who so much as raises the subject with them.

 Dedicate yourself completely to each and every student you have

Even if you are working mostly for one or several agencies this is still the best way to guarantee work year round because you’ll be a brilliant tutor.  Dedicate yourself to excellence in all areas of the service you are providing.  I also make sure my rates match the quality of my service, not charging too little or too much (for me and for my clients) and becoming available as an online tutor has also really opened up the market!

4. What are the top 3 qualities that you think every full-time tutor should have?

  1. The ability to make warm, sincere & committed human relationships with both parents and students
  2. Care – tutoring is a great way to make good, quick and honest money in a flexible and potentially immensely satisfying way (as I recognised in my song writing days) but this position is not to be abused.  Take every client to your heart and do what’s best for them all and you will thrive.
  3. Honesty – don’t try and pretend you know it all (not least because this is a rubbish persona for a teacher anyway!) Resign if you don’t think you can do the job or don’t want to (forget the money if you are taking jobs because you’re cash-strapped). Much better money will come far more easily and quite quickly too if you play it straight.

Take every client to your heart and do what’s best for them all and you will thrive.

5. What advice would you give to anybody wishing to become a professional tutor?

  • Ditch (in the most respectful way) any students or parents you don’t enjoy working with. If it’s not working for you it’s almost certainly not working for anybody involved. I’ve experienced first-hand what it’s like to dread one or two students each and every week.  Find a way to make it work or move on.  Then make a commitment to only accept clients you truly want to be with.
  • Find your niche and go for it – I’m emphasising teenage mentoring alongside tutoring English & Maths GCSE – and others I know are becoming dyscalculia specialists, elocution experts; it can be anything but, for the online world especially, the more niche the better!
  • Network with other tutors – a whole world of perfect advice and opportunity opened up for me when another tutor saw my LinkedIn profile and asked if I’d like to Skype with him.  Since then I’ve benefitted immensely from knowing countless other tutors and hearing their experience and advice through online conference calls we organised together.  In October we’ll be launching a tutor networking platform called ‘Indie Tutors’ which I’d highly recommend to you all as the ultimate plug-in to optimise anyone’s tutoring profession – search for us and join us, you’d be most welcome!

You can find out more about Henry or contact him here.

Marco’s Story

Marco Maths Tutor
Marco Maths Tutor

Marco is an experienced full-time tutor with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Nottingham. Marco’s approach to tutoring is to show people how much he has enjoyed (and continues to enjoy) learning. He believes that once a student fully appreciates a subject and begins to enjoy it, it is no longer a dreaded chore having to learn and revise it. You can find out more about Marco or book a lesson with him here.

 

1. What led you to become a full-time tutor? Tell us your story!

Having finished university, and not really knowing yet what I wanted to do, I branched out a little and gave a few things a try. When I first came across tutoring, I thought I’d just do a few hours on weekends. I kept adding an extra hour here and an extra hour there, and before I knew it, I was working over 25 hours a week.

Although this may not sound like much, taking into account travel time to and from places and preparation for lessons, it came up to almost a 50 hour week. It is a lot of hours, but I really don’t feel it as there is a lot of travelling around. And tutoring all sorts of different students is quite exciting and rewarding in its own sense.

2. How do you find students?

For me, there are three main ways of finding students. Firstly, you sign up for tutoring websites or agencies, giving all the necessary details; such as when you are free to work, your experience, the subjects you will teach…. and just wait until you are contacted by a client who likes your profile.

Secondly, using the same websites, other opportunities will turn up where you can apply to tutor clients. In this instance, you contact the client, letting them know you are interested in providing tuition, and then they make a choice as to whether they would like to hire you. Finally, and perhaps the most rewarding way – when you are contacted due to being referred by someone you already tutor.

3. How do you ensure a steady income from tutoring? 

In regards to a steady income, I believe it comes down to having a good rapport with the clients. As a full-time tutor, I ensure that clients understand that this is my primary job and I like to show that I am fully committed to the task at hand. This helps to prevent delayed payments and cancellations. By giving sufficient notice when either party will be unavailable further helps to make sure no lessons are missed.

4. What are the top 3 qualities that you think every full-time tutor should have? 

Time Management – You may tutor between 3 – 5 students a day. If you don’t plan your sessions well and take into account travel time and contingencies for when transport is delayed, you will suddenly find yourself being late for the first lesson – and all other lessons on the day.

Patience – Your students will be at different stages in their learning. Some will be able to fly through content and exercises, while others will need more assistance throughout, which you must be able to accommodate for.

Adaptability – Students will have different methods of learning. This comes more into effect when taking age into account: someone doing KS2 and someone doing GCSEs will require different input to ensure the maximum learning is achieved.

5. What advice would you give to anybody wishing to become a professional tutor?

I would say – Give it a try! If you have the necessary qualifications and feel like you would be able to help the next generation of students, then it is one of the most rewarding jobs

 Make sure you give yourself the best chance of finding students by being as thorough as possible in your descriptions on websites and ensuring you have a professional-looking picture, as this will be the first thing a potential client will see.

Always try to stay courteous and professional when contacted by, or contacting, a potential client and maintain that throughout the tuition of that client. This will help not only to get potentially referred to other clients but will also get you good reviews on that particular website, which always helps

You can find out more about Marco or book a lesson with him here.

Conclusion

The stories that our 3 interviewees have to tell about their own experiences of getting into (and making a success of) professional tutoring should give a great deal of encouragement to anybody considering starting out as a tutor.

Merlyn, Henry and Marco all come from different backgrounds and had varied personal circumstances. However, the common message from their accounts is that whatever your individual situation might be, you can make it work for you as a tutor – either as a sideline or as a fully-fledged career change. You can decide your working hours to fit around your personal requirements and commitments.

Essentially, you can fit tutoring around your lifestyle. In time, tutoring can help you create a lifestyle you really want. What could be better than that?

Well, another common theme from the answers that our pro teachers gave was the job satisfaction they all feel from their work. With that, a tutor needs to be reliable, dedicated, determined and flexible. But, if you have those qualities, the rewards are great.

Of course, marketing yourself effectively is crucial. You’ll find great nuggets of advice about how to do this from what our 3 pro tutors have to say. Whether you use agencies, social media or good old-fashioned leaflets through doors, it is building a reputation that counts. This will take time, but do your job well and reviews and referrals from word of mouth will flood in.

Increasingly tutors searches start online and hence it’s important to build a credible online presence. You can either build your own website and market yourself or create a free profile on a site like Impact Tutors where you get a dedicated page, receive verified reviews and benefit from expert marketing on your behalf.

Whether you are independent or with an agency, being a member of a professional body such as The Tutors’ Association is beneficial for networking with like-minded tutors and access to various member benefits.

You need to get out there and get your name about – at least at the start. Network and charge a sensible price – one that reflects the quality of what you do, but one that doesn’t price you out of the reach of potential clients.

We’d like to thank Merlyn, Henry and Marco for taking the time to share their experiences with us.

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