“Knowledge is power” – so go the oft-quoted words of Sir Francis Bacon. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that those who impart knowledge are the most powerful of all. We all recall our favourite – and arguably most effective – teachers at school and remember them with fondness and how they were able to shape our future selves.
However, being a fully qualified teacher isn’t the only way to impart knowledge. Do you have a qualification or an extensive skills base that you could use to enrich the lives of others? If so, then working as a tutor could be for you.
This could be for children or adults or both, at a learning centre or in somebody’s home or even online. However you decide to ply your trade, there are certain steps that need to be taken before embarking on this new career.
There are some pros and cons to staring up a tutoring business that are important to consider.
- It’s a lucrative market - there will always be students who need individual help and you can determine your own fees
- It’s cheap to start up – very few overheads
- The range of subjects is as wide as your imagination, from academic ones such as maths and business studies, to creative and vocational subjects, such as music lessons and cookery
- Tutoring keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field you are tutoring
- Tutoring is a networker’s dream. You can use existing contacts to source new business
- Increased liability and tax implications if tutoring in your own home
- When tutoring young people, throughout the school year, eg holidays, work can fluctuate
- Children and vulnerable adults have vastly differing needs – you’ll need patience and specific training to work effectively with them
- Schools usually have their own syllabi and you will often find yourself at odds with differing teaching methods.
Although not a deal-breaker, if you can show that you have a qualification in the subject you intend to tutor, it will improve your authority. However, in order to establish credibility, this would have to be at least to degree level, especially if the subject is academic and the pupil is expecting to pass exams at the end of the process.
A Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) is needed by a graduate if they wish to teach in a school or college to a group of students. The PGCE gives you the skills to tutor a large group of people. However, for vocational tutoring, you will need to convince the parent, college, and student that your experience meets their expectations.
If you intend to tutor in vocational subjects, a formal qualification isn’t always necessary. Private tutors with teaching and non-teaching backgrounds can be equally successful at improving the student's confidence and understanding. Have you worked in the arts or as a carpenter, or even sport? There are a multitude of skills that you could tutor if you have years of experience to pass on. If you’re experienced enough, there’s a great deal of money to be made by delivering business seminars, for example.
Any adult who has regular contact with a child or any other vulnerable person will be required to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. These are easy and inexpensive if you’re registered with an agency or an employer but, as a sole trader, the matter is rather more complicated. The law states that a sole trader cannot apply for a CRB check on themselves; ideally they should be part of an agency or other organisation. However, it may be possible for a sympathetic local church (which will have to have CRB checks on volunteers) or local council to assist. Another option is to apply to your local police authority for a Subject Access Request. The Data Protection Act gives to individuals is the right of access to their personal information. An individual can send a Subject Access Request requiring the authority to tell them about the personal information held about them on the Police National Computer (PNC), and to provide them with a copy of that information. However, this is not a formal CRB check.
The situation with adult learners is somewhat less complex. Tutoring adults will most likely take place at local adult community colleges, outreach centres, further education colleges, universities, and independent providers such as residential colleges and charitable organisations.
Adult literacy and numeracy is a huge field and there is business to be made in this area. However, many adult literacy and numeracy tutors start off as volunteers until they’re established, and then turn it into a business. Your local college or literacy centre will be able to advise. Of course, those wishing to tutor people with special needs, such as dyslexia, will require specific training before doing so.
If your skills are experience-based, will former employers give you testimonials? These are always very useful to present to clients. You will already have any paper copies of academic qualifications but a personal recommendation from a school, college, or university will also be invaluable.
Home, school, or mobile?
Another aspect to consider is where you will base your business. Do you plan to provide services to groups or individuals? Will you visit centres of learning, social centres, or private homes? Or will you invite students to study at your own home. Bear in mind that, if you tutor at your home, you will need at least public liability insurance. A home-based business may also need planning permission. It is best to contact your local authority to check this, especially if your clients are children.
If you are tutoring from a college or learning centre, the issue of CRB checks becomes a little simpler as they will be able to arrange this, although you may have to pay the fee yourself.
Flexible working hours
One of the major benefits of setting up business as a tutor is that you can enjoy flexible working hours. Outside of regular school or working hours, it’s down to you and the student to determine when you will work together. However, always remember that, unlike in an academic environment, your student is your customer. You need to be flexible with regard to their requirements. However, it’s also important to establish how those one or two hours per week will be spent. Some tutors find it useful to present a written contract outlining content of lessons, their rates, the location and times of meetings, and payment policies.
How to get started
One way to start a tutoring business is to let the schools know that you are available for tutoring. You can also run an ad in the local paper and let people know you are taking new students. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are also useful for this – they’re free to use and will likely contain friends and family, who might well refer you. Word of mouth recommendations are incredibly important to any business.
If you’re tutoring in an unusual subject, you might try letting your local media know. Radio stations in particular consume content at a phenomenal rate and are always looking for a quirky story.