I’d like us to start a new series here, about small business ideas. We could gather some tips and inspiration in the following months and, who knows, maybe we can help some of our readers with a new side-income venture that would help them solve any money problems they might have. For today I’d like to present something I have personally done: TUTORING.
Back in the ’90s, I was a poor teenager, studying at one of the best high-schools in the city. The money was scarce so my folks could barely cover the school costs (textbooks, copybooks etc.) and some clothing. Knowing they are doing all they can and still struggling, I decided to try earn some bucks myself.
I was pretty good at English, so tutoring seemed like a pretty good idea. My neighbours knew I was a hard working girl, with good grades, so, as soon as I advertised my availability to help kids with their homework and get them better prepared, I started having ‘clients’.
School was still my main focus, since I planned on getting into a serious college later on, so there wasn’t too much time for me to pursue my business, but I did earn some money and it helped me a lot. After getting into college and having a well paid job at the radio station, I still taught English to few kids. Afterward I decided to pursue web design and stopped taking in new pupils, while also letting everyone know I’m ‘out’ from the business.
Who can do this?
ANYONE. I mean ANYONE, it’s not a typo.
If you think you don’t have anything to offer, think again. I believe we all have some knowledge and are good at something, while others might need our expertise. I was able to help kids with their literature, math and English homework, I know people who teach guitar or accounting. I could actually teach web design for instance, if I wanted, too.
Just find out what you are good at and see if there’s anybody who’d pay for your expertise.
What do you need to start?
In many cases you might need some ‘materials’, such as textbooks. It really depends on what you’re teaching, you might need some tools or a laptop etc. (I’d need one if I went to teach web design for instance). Anyway, your initial costs are pretty small and in some instances you might not need anything – when I helped my kids with their homework, all I had to bring was my head (which is conveniently attached to my body :)), since my kids had their copybooks and textbooks.
How to charge?
In my case I’d just charge the current market-rate. I knew I WAS GOOD at what I was doing and people liked me. This allowed me to earn some good money, while not having to get my prices too low. Sure, you can ask a little less, if you want to secure some clients or even more than what others are charging, it really depends on what your potential clients are willing to pay for.
Some final advice:
- provide THE BEST service you can. I always cared dearly for my ‘students’ and this helped me get repeated business. I had clients who promoted my services so, if I wanted to still tutor, I’m sure I wouldn’t be out of students.
- don’t waste their time. I was paid hourly, so I made sure my hour was FILLED with exercises, teaching etc. People are pretty sensitive when it comes to the time they pay for, so don’t waste it. My students were always very tired after one of our 2 hour sessions, but they really got a wonderful value for their money.
- be strict and demanding. I’m usually very nice and easygoing, but used to turn into a maniac anytime I’d have a student. They had homework (some complained they had more work for my ‘class’ than for their school assignments), they had to work and study. I’d always test them and ask for 100% of their time/effort. While this was annoying for them, they did learn some very good English and their grades got better and better. I had a student who knew almost nothing and had a huge exam in 6 months. You cannot imagine how much she had to study with me, but she got an A-, which was amazing, provided she was in no shape for an F before we started our classes together.
- test them before you start. I used to test ALL my students. The first hour we spent together was mine to assess their level. I’d then discuss it with their parents (or them alone, if they were adults). I liked to know where we are at, so that we don’t waste time with advanced stuff, when they barely knew few words. Some didn’t like being taken this ‘low’, but we’d make for the lost time in few hours and then they were able to get back to the regular curriculum. I always told them that it might sound like I’m trying to ‘milk’ for more money, but they need some solid foundation before we get to what they’re supposed to know. It always worked. The few hours I spent teaching them the basics helped us get into a better shape and they’d make huge progress afterward.
- always be honest and caring. I was demanding and very honest. If they ‘sucked’, I’d let them know we need to work a lot, since they were lacking the knowledge needed for their class. They probably hated hearing it, even if they agreed (my services were needed to teach them, so they needed me). This allowed us to start clean, we all knew where we stand and what to do. ALL my students got some amazing results afterward, it was because of their own hard work and dedication.
Have you done any tutoring? Do you still do? Is this for you a viable small business idea?