A+ Resources For Tutors
In the following series, Philip White, a Maths tutor for over 15 years, offers tips on how to start and run a successful private tutoring practice.
It is a common misconception to believe that you need to have certain qualifications to offer private tuition. You do not need any. However, if you are not sufficiently knowledgeable about the subject you are teaching, you will not survive for very long.
Furthermore, you will generate considerable dissatisfaction, since anyone replying to an advertisement for private tuition has a right to expect competence on the part of the tutor. Your conscience will tell you whether you are up to the task of giving private tuition in your chosen subject.
2.2 Personal Qualities
I believe that the four most important qualities in a good teacher/tutor are:
If you have these qualities, you will be an effective tutor.
2.3 Tuition Profile
You are unlikely to generate sufficient income, at least initially, to warrant the expense of a professionally produced brochure. However, if your letterhead is impressive, you can create an excellent image for yourself at little expense by producing what I term a Tuition Profile.
Your Tuition Profile should be printed on your letterhead, and include:
- any current teaching positions, and any relevant past experience
- your qualifications (include grades if they are above average)
- registrations with tuition agencies
- testimonials from past pupils
- special services (such as progress reports)
- location of tuition
- tuition rates
- terms and conditions
Ensure that the quality of the printing or typing is the best you can obtain. If you do not have a PC/printer I would advise you to have your Tuition Profile professionally typed.
Either way, with a bit of imagination, you can create an excellent image at little cost. All of which will help you to attract pupils, and thus build a highly profitable business.
If your home is suitable, and you have a quiet room in which to tutor, I would advise you to tutor in your own home. If you decide to take up this option it is inevitable that you will not always be able to present quite as professional an image as you would like. However, the advantages will definitely outweigh the disadvantages.
There are several reasons for this:
Tutoring in your own home will save you petrol costs. These will be much greater than any lighting/heating costs you might save by tutoring in other peoples homes.
You will also be able to schedule several lessons back-to-back. 5 hours tutoring at £10 per hour will earn you £50 for exactly 5 hours work. However, if you travel to your pupils homes, you will have to allow up to half-an-hour between tutorials. Clearly this means that you are making much less efficient use of your time.
By offering tuition in your own home you will be much more in control of the environment in which you are tutoring. You can arrange your tutoring room to suit yourself (in terms of lighting and comfort). You will also have all of your books and past exam papers within easy reach.
If you are tutoring in someone else's home, you will have less control over the environment, which could affect the quality of your tuition.
I have already mentioned the efficient use of your time. However, if pupils are visiting your home, it is their responsibility to arrive on time, not yours. If you arrive late for a lesson at a pupil's home, you are likely to feel embarrassed, and flustered. Furthermore, if are late for one lesson, it could have a knock-on effect on any further lessons you have scheduled that day.
Unless a pupil has exceptional circumstances, or lives two doors away, insist on tutoring in your own home. I have never lost a pupil because they were unwilling to travel to me.
If you are tutoring sixthformers, you will find that most of them have already learned how to drive, and probably have access to their parents cans (if they do not already have their own).
The biggest problems you will encounter if you are giving tuition in your own home are:
- the inevitable disruption of the rest of the household
Both of these are dealt with more thoroughly under the section entitled Possible Problems.
2.4.4 Answering Telephone Enquiries
Always make sure that you have all relevant information close to the telephone. In particular, your Tuition Profile should be close at hand, so that you can answer any questions authoritatively.
Try and secure a booking for a first tutorial while you are on the phone, otherwise you will find yourself waiting for enquirers to get back to you. If an enquirer is reluctant to book a first appointment, there is a good chance that they are wasting your time, or that you have done something to put them off.
As soon as you have booked a lesson over the phone, confirm the appointment in writing as soon as possible.
I always enclose a brief covering letter, giving details of the date, time and place of the first lesson, together with a copy of my Tuition Profile.
The cover letter and Tuition Profile are both word processed, and despatched in a white "windowed" business envelope.
I always post such details first class, to ensure that they are received as quickly as possible. If you can create truly professional image from the outset, your new pupil will be reassured that they have made the right decision, and your teaching relationship will be off to the best possible start.
It really is worth investing in a reasonable PC and printer. You do not have to go over the top, but an investment of a few hundred pounds will repay itself many times over.
The more business-like you appear, the more successful you will be.
Furthermore, an additional benefit of owning a PC is that you will be able to control the financial side of your business much more effectively. There are a number of excellent, cheap programs available as shareware.
2.4.6 Business Stationery
An investment of £50 or so in a good set of letterheads will also pay dividends. If possible, have the letterheads printed on 100 gms laid paper. The extra quality will be well worth the slightly higher price.
Similarly, a good business card, together with compliment slips, would also be a good investment.
However, I would only consider these optional extras if your anticipated tuition income warrants the additional cost.
Tread carefully at first, and concentrate on producing a good quality letterhead.
2.4.7 Location Map
This is another nice little extra. Draw your own attractive location map and send it to prospective pupils with your Tuition Profile.
Anything which makes life easier for your pupils is a good idea, and will further enhance the perceived value of your service.