Why Would you Want to Start a Tutoring Business?
Starting a tutoring business is not for the faint of heart; it is all about heart. Or heart attacks…
The people who spend a significant amount of time in the tutoring industry have a passion for helping students reach their potential. In my case, I started my tutoring journey by helping a friend with her A-Level Philosophy over my summer holiday (she had missed the entire year). After my degree course, I spent a year working and volunteering with many organisations.
I discovered a charity called The Hackney Pirates (now known as The Literacy Pirates), and I worked with them on a few of their creative projects. We would also have a session where we would each assist one of the children with their reading. I remember, one boy in particular, getting very frustrated and angry reading, and I remember being shocked that he was around 9 years old, yet was still reading phonetically.
I realised that my experience of the world was quite small, and that many skills that I take for granted, were not equitably spread, even in the UK. I knew that I could help many young people by working closely with them.
Tutoring Business or Teacher in a School?
I thought about taking the path as a teacher, but decided that it was not the most efficient form of education. As tutoring involved working in small groups, or individually, I knew that time-per-student would significantly boost the chance of having an impact.
Just as a mathematical illustration: the average class size in a primary school is around 26.6 (as of 2021). In an hour lesson, a single pupil may receive 2 minutes 18 seconds of a teacher’s attention (some have more, some a lot less). In a tuition class, smaller class sizes provide tutors and teachers the chance to interact more with each child in a short amount of time.
As a teacher, you have greater stability, but as a tutor, there is long-term potential to earn more, and certainly more opportunity to balance your time. Both options can be very attractive, but each have their pitfalls, so consider what you want to do carefully. Both options can also be absoluting exhausting, as you may be able to tell from the video below:
Do you Need a Licence to Operate a Tuition Business?
It is quite amusing to see some tuition centres claiming to have ‘fully-qualified tutors’ as there is no such qualification.
Anyone can start a tuition business, but not everyone can be an effective tutor. At our tuition centres in Ilford and Loughton, we employ tutors to work with us, but we have put them through an intensive recruitment and training process to ensure that they are ready to teach. Subject knowledge, and knowledge of the exam content and curriculum are obvious factors, but the soft-skills are also critical factors.
We also have a few fully-qualified teachers who work with us on a regular basis (many teachers start a tutoring business on the side to supplement their income), but we also love working with graduate students and graduates with a talent for communication, as they can bring a different energy into classes.
How to Start your own Private Tutoring Business from Home
Tuition is, what is known as a ‘cottage industry’; a business that has traditionally been run from the kitchen table.
Most people who start tutoring, do not see it as a main career path, but regard it as a useful side-hustle.
The main initial barriers to entry are subject-knowledge, experience, resources and reputation. For any tutor starting off, you need to identify the age-groups and subjects you are comfortable teaching. For instance, I would be foolhardy to believe that I have the necessary subject-knowledge or experience to teach A-Level Biology.
The next step is to market and advertise your services online. This is most easily achieved through use of a directory or agency website. These include Tutorfair and Tutorhunt, if you want to reach the most students possible, or less-specialised directories such as Gumtree. A platform like Preply is extremely helpful if you teach languages.
The issue with these sites is that they do not work in your best interests, take commission or one-off-payments from clients, and take control away from you. However, for most individual tutors looking to start a home tutoring business, they are a valuable resource.
How to Start Tutoring Online
Tutoring online is now part of the mainstream. The main challenges are:
Organisation is a real challenge, because you have to ensure that you are online when you need to be, prepared for the class with the resources, and have your set-up ready before class.
Be prepared to deal with connectivity issues, as internet services and remote servers can go offline. In this eventuality, you may have to re-schedule a class, or tether using your phone.
Ensuring there is enough interactivity between you and your student, can also be quite difficult at times (especially with younger groups). You want to ensure that the student has his/her camera on, there is a variety of different tasks you can use to shift focus and engage students, and that the student is focused on the task and not playing a computer game (speaking from experience)!
In terms of software for classes, there are several which come to mind. Google Meets, has gone from strength-to-strength as webconferencing software. I find that the call-stability and sharing features are particularly well-developed. Your can also use Google meets in conjunction with Google Classroom, and start a whiteboard where the student can interact. Zoom is also an option, although it can be a little pricier. In fact, I struggle to find a reason why someone would pay for Zoom rather than use Google Meets. Microsoft Teams is also a nifty option with some nice features and decent call-stability, and seems to be replacing Skype. Even Apple have got in on the party with Facetime. Facetime actually may be one of the better options with its feature-set.
Check out our video below where Redbridge Tuition had to go completely online during lockdown:
How to run a Tutoring Business in a Centre
Transitioning to a centre, is a big decision. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration before making that decision. I’ve included 5 major factors below that all need to be deliberated over before taking any action:
Cost of Overheads
It is crucial to work out the everyday expenditures that will occur from month-to-month and year-by-year. Rent, maintenance, cleaning, power, water, waste-disposal, insurance, business rates, paper, printing, website costs etc. A tuition business needs to turn a profit in order to remain in business, and your pricing structure, business model, marketing and advertising strategy, will be dependent upon these recurring expenses.
If you’re not within walking distance of a school, there is little point starting a tuition centre. Furthermore, if data in your area indicate that there are not many children, it is likely that there will not be enough business to make running a tuition centre sustainable or worthwhile as a business opportunity.
Supply and Demand
How many competitors have you got around you? How much demand is there for services? An excessive supply of local tutors or other tuition centres can drive down prices so that it is impossible to cover overheads. Similarly, if there aren’t enough students in the area or there are not many parents seeking tuition in the area, it is going to be difficult to survive. Our tuition centre in Ilford has many competitors in the local area, and high-demand for services. This shapes how we approach our marketing and advertising, and means that our standards need to be much higher to compete for business.
Transport and Parking
How far are you willing to travel for work? Can your tutors reach the centre easily? How close to transport is your tuition centre? Is there a way for parents to drop their children off at the centre without accumulating tickets? Most client facing businesses need to consider these factors. If you’re able to set up a tuition centre in a place that is accessible for parents and within easy reach of shops, cafes and restaurants, it will ultimately be more attractive to parents (and make overheads more expensive).
Start-up Costs and Subsistence
For the first few months to a year, it will be challenging financially. There are first, many start-up-costs that need to be built into your budget. Getting your centre decorated and ready for parents and students can cost upwards of £15,000, depending on your needs. It is also important to factor subsistence into the equation, as you probably will have to wait some time before taking a wage. It can be tempting too, to take a wage early on in the development of the business, but you need to also take time investing money back into the business to acquire students.
Which Tutoring Business Model Should I Adopt?
When you run a tuition business, it is crucial to consider that you think about the tutoring model that you will use. A lot of tuition centres use external resources to provide the work and homework. The issue with this is that it could make it harder to sell your services to a prospective customer. Parents are more discerning these days as there are more tuition centres and tutors in the marketplace. There needs to be some form of USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that makes your centre stand out, otherwise you will struggle to compete on price and outcomes. There also needs to be clear structures and operations in place, otherwise the business will appear disordered, disorganised and unfocused.
One of the reasons why we decided to embark on the franchising route, was because we needed our idea to be scalable and marketable. If you are not prepared to spend the time and money developing your own system and model, then adopting an existing franchise model could be for you. If you decide to go it alone and build from the ground up, good luck, but it is certainly going to pose a far greater challenge.
Managing Your Tutors
Professional tutors are usually quite independently-minded, as they are usually self-contractors. They usually value autonomy a great deal, and this can pose a challenge when they are employed by an organisation. It is important to let them know the rules of engagement very clearly from the start. As long as they are clear on these terms, and few assumptions are made, there shouldn’t be too many problems. Furthermore, ensuring that staff are paid on time is important, which means that your cash-flow needs to be managed carefully.
Running a tutoring business is certainly not for everyone. It requires enormous amounts of dedication and time if you decide to make it your main vocation. You might want to start offering tuition as a side-hustle and then, if you feel ready to take the plunge, consider buying a franchise or starting a centre. This will mean that you transition from a tutor to business-owner. This transition entails devoting most of your day to managing people, clients, finances, administration and advertising your business.