Breaking Into the Tutoring Game

The following is an answer that I wrote for a question on Quora that I will link to here:

How much does an average mathematics tutor earn monthly?

The answer is of course that it really depends. I am sure that isn’t the response you were looking for, however, so I will do my best to toss in my two cents.

First I am going to assume that you mean tutoring privately as yourself and not through a business such as Mathnasium or Sylvan, both of which I have been employed by and even run at some points. At either you can earn anywhere from $9/hr to $20/hr for private lessons. The advantage to such employment is guaranteed income at 5 to 20 hours per week with the possibility of more as you devote more time to them and rise in ranks.

The next factor to consider is what you are charging. This will rely on both your qualifications and location. I live in a mid-sized city where math tutors charge from $15/hr as high school students to $50/hr as teachers with masters degree or higher. I personally charge $20 to $30 for each hour.

Finally, you must take into account the time you are willing to invest in tutoring. As a teacher, much of my day is naturally devoted to my job in addition to planning lessons and grading. Thus, I typically only have from four in the afternoon until whenever I feel like is a good time to stop. A word of caution here, however. It is very easy to get burned out working late into the evening and pulling consistent 13 or 14 hour days, so if this is a part-time endeavor on the side, mind your health.

On average, I once read somewhere that tutors can make an extra $500 a month as a simple side gig. Personally, I average around $2000 tutoring with some months as low as $600 and others as high as $2800. (My all time record was a month where I brought in almost $7000.) I have been told that I am a more rare case, to be fair.

If your purpose in asking this is to begin supplementing your own income through tutoring, I have a few suggestions.

  1. Start Now — I managed to make a name for myself in college by having my name on their tutor list to be provided to local parents who inquired about help for their children. The ultimate key to building up a steady stream of students is through recommendations made over time. I know everyone hates to hear that nothing is a “get rich quick scheme,” but I can attest that anything worth doing takes time. As you work with more and more students, you will slowly gain a following.
  2. Get a Facebook Page — This one is actually unique from what many professionals would suggest purely because I mean to have the page as your primary source of contact. I purchased a website and maintained it for two years with zero response even from the fairly decent number of pupils I had already. My Facebook page, however, continues to bring new customers. Perhaps others have had different experiences, but this is what worked for me. (And it is completely free! I wouldn’t even recommend running their ads!)
  3. Make Every Session Your Best — Ultimately, your best qualification and source of new clients will be word of mouth. This is especially true for any city with a population of less than 100,000. Be your own unique self. Personally, I live by the philosophy that math terrifies people, so I make them laugh and boost their confidence. I promise that if you can get a student to laugh even once, their mindset will change, and their parents will notice. Associating any academic venue with happiness instead of pain for a family that has been having struggles is sure to have them talking about you to their friends.
  4. Figure Out Where to Advertise — Alas, even though this is surprisingly the least important part of the puzzle, it is just as necessary. Where else are you going to find your first student to start making your recommendations? I have found success in Craigslist, Facebook (as mentioned above), college campuses, and math departments. Anywhere that will let you post a flyer will help get your name out. Talk to others in your area to see the most visited spots both online as well as in physical locations. The most useful areas are those where you would find your prospective clientele. You’d be surprised how helpful people can be with a simple conversation about what you are wanting to do.

These are only four of dozens of tips floating around in my head as well as making rounds on the web, but they are broad enough to help get you started. Everyone’s experience is unique, so as you begin to get a feel for how you would like to work you will undoubtedly find your own successful route. What helped me was my experience at Mathnasium and Sylvan honing my ability to break topics down all the way from pre-K through Calculus. This lead to building relationships with parents who sought me out after a center closed and they still desired math help.

Some of those parents recommended me to a private school where I found my dream job and continued to make more contacts. And the success snowballs from there as long as you remain honest and love what you do. That is where the time part comes into the equation.

At the end of the day, the best advice is to begin tutoring because you want to make a difference in students’ lives. This passion will drive you to become better which will draw the attention of the clients you need. I wish you the best and hope that I didn’t drone on too long as well as managed to answer your question adequately. Good luck!

Kagan Love

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