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Has anybody made a full time career out of private tuition?

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by geek84, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Good Morning Folks

    Has anybody made a full time career out of private tuition? If so, how did you manage to do it? Do you get enough income to cover household expenses and have a bit left over to spend?

    What about saving for a pension? How do you go about doing that as a private tutor?

  2. Georginalouise

    Georginalouise New commenter

    I'm a full time private tutor. I was previously made redundant, so did have money behind me for the first couple of very lean years. I now have more disposable income than previously, but largely because I no longer have to pay any childcare, which was £1400 per month prior to redundancy. I have a private pension that I pay in to regularly.
  3. GordonNome

    GordonNome New commenter

    Define "full-time career"!

    I tutor daytimes, some evenings and one weekend day. I currently have 20 hours contact time per week, so with planning and marking I do 28-35 hours per week. It is my sole job.

    Does it pay as much as my previous job? No.

    Would it pay the mortgage/bills if I had to do it all on my salary alone? No.

    Is it more flexible around family commitments and crises? Yes.

    Do I enjoy it more than my last job? Yes.

    I am fortunate in that I am not the only working adult in the house. Childcare arrangements fall to me as does sickbed duty and all that goes with young children. That's fair and reasonable as I am not the main wage earner.

    I have a small private pension from previous jobs but do not currently pay into one. This is something I plan to rectify within the next 2-5 years, once childcare costs reduce.
  4. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Good Morning Folks

    Thanks for your replies.

    Georginalouise - I hope you don't mind me asking, but how do you advertise your services in order to get enough students on your books, so that you make a reasonable weekly income?

    Thank You
  5. Georginalouise

    Georginalouise New commenter

    geek84, it takes a lot of hard work! I started seven or eight years ago.

    I started with one student, a friend of one of my children and I tutored her for free. I then set up a website and joined a local agency. I put a paid ad in the Yellow Pages (as it was then) and started on the local business networking circuit. By the end of first the year I had six students and by the end of the second, I had ten. I dropped the agency work but saw two GCSE kids through their exams as that only seemed fair. Nowadays the majority of my work is referrals but about 20% still find me through the internet. I've my website, a Facebook page, Twitter, and they've all generated some work.

    My figures are similar to GordonNome, I currently have 18 teaching hours a week and my rates lean to the high end. I reckon I spend between 25 and 30 hours a week 'working' in that there is indeed the prep and marking, networking (I still try and get out a couple of times a month) also the accounts and admin, and the hidden things like rushing to Staples when the printer runs out of ink.

    Bear in mind the work is feast or famine for me. April, May and June is frantic and I can be teaching 30 hours but in July and August there is nothing, so I've got to put money aside to cover that. And this year from September, it was a very slow start.
  6. Dougal68

    Dougal68 New commenter

    I've pretty much made a full time career from it. I still work 2 mornings a week in school as I feel it's important to keep in touch with what is going on in the school system.

    I tutor 60 students a week in groups of 5, each paying nearly £30 for an 80 minute session. There's obviously outgoings, which is mainly the rent of a building I lease, but it's far more enjoyable than being in the classroom full time.

    I've been tutoring now for nearly 10 years, it takes a time to build up the numbers, but I now have a waiting list that is nearly 2 years long.

    It certainly helps to be in the right area. The biggest downside is the hours are not great if like me you have a young family. Working long evenings means I don't see as much of my children as I would like to, so much so that I'm contemplating a return to school!
  7. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Good Morning

    Once again, many thanks for your replies.

    Douglas - I hope you don't mind me asking a few questions-

    I presume you need a teaching degree to teach in schools?

    How do you manage to teach groups of students? Is it for entrance exams?

    You must be very good at what you do, how did you manage to create a waiting list 2 years long?

    Thanks in advance for your response.
  8. Dougal68

    Dougal68 New commenter


    Yes I'm a fully qualified teacher with over 20 years experience - I think this helps (but is not essential) when building up a waiting list, together with being located in an area of great demand. I did one advert when I started the business in a magazine which goes into schools. That brought in about 12 students, and from then on everything has been through word of mouth.

    When I began tutoring I expected students to stay with me for no more than 1 year. The vast majority now seem to be staying until they're 16. Some have been with me for over 8 years! I think many parents in the area would like to send their children to private schools (and if Mr Gove gets his way...!), but can't afford it, so see me as a kind of 'halfway house'.

    The tutoring is in maths and English, a small amount of entrance tests but I try to avoid that. The students each have an individual plan at their level so a group of 5 students can be made up of a range of ages and abilities. It's hard work, but teaching 5 students is alot more rewarding than teaching 30 in a classroom - you actually get to talk to each student!!

    If you're prepared to work hard, are located in the right area, are honest with pupils and parents, it's possible to earn more through tutoring than you would in the classroom, and avoid much of the grief that goes with the classroom!

    More than happy to answer any question, give advice to anyone thinking of starting up. I'm based in North London.
  9. Georginalouise

    Georginalouise New commenter

    I'm the opposite in that I only teach 1-1, and at my house. Once you have a good reputation locally, the work just comes to you. I'm holding a waiting list for after the summer exams this year. I've currently two year 10s on it and one year 9. In hindsight, it took about five years to reach this point. If you want to be a full time tutor, you have to really work at it in the early years. It's a business that you have to work 'on' as well as 'in'.

    To put a figure on it, my taxable income last year was a couple of hundred under £20k. This year I suspect it will be a bit less because of the slow start. It's certainly enough for me, with the benefit that I am home for the children.

    I have considered becoming a "tuition centre" and decided against it. I would need to recruit others to teach and there are issues with location. My USP (when I ask parents why they have chosen me) is that I am completely independent and I treat children as individuals. Many parents tell of bad experiences with agencies or tuition centres and that is why they deliberately looked for a private individual. Often it's "I've asked around and heard you are really good" and that is something that no amount of paid advertising will ever get you.
  10. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Good Morning

    Many thanks for your replies.

    I am not a qualifed teacher but hold a degree. I have not had much luck in getting students on my books, despite advertising in gumtree and local newspaper. Could you advise the best places to advertise?

    Dougal68- Is there a reason why you try and avoid entrance tests. i would have thought that would be a profitable area?

    Thank You.
  11. Georginalouise

    Georginalouise New commenter

    To be really blunt.

    As a mother, would I pay a graduate with no teaching qualification £25 an hour to tutor my children in response to an advert? No.

    As a mother, would I pay an ex-primary school teacher £40 an hour to tutor my children on recommendation from two good friends, when that tutor doesn't advertise at all and holds a six month waiting list? Yes.
  12. GordonNome

    GordonNome New commenter

    If you are aiming at school students then it is not particularly surprising if you have had no luck. Newspapers have not been a success for me. Gumtree attracts some very interesting characters, but not much in the way of real business. Try UKTutors etc.

    However, as GeorginaLouise says, most parents would choose someone with a proven track record over an unqualified tutor. Which subject(s) are you planning to tutor? Are you fully up to date with the curriculum at each level for that subject? Are you aware of the differences (if any) between the requirements for each exam board? Do you know exactly what to do to boost the D grade to a C/B or the B to an A? If not, then you need to get that knowledge ASAP.

    Alternatively, depending on the subject, you could look outside the traditional "school pupil needing extra help" market. For example, if you tutor maths then you could look at adult pupils who have a low level of maths attainment but need qualifications for work (although I think most FE colleges offer that kind of support). If you teach languages then there is a significant market out there for adult daytime learners whether for business or pleasure.

    Take a good long look at yourself. What do you offer? Which subject, which levels, what makes you qualified to teach that specific subject/curriculum level? Then look at your rate and make sure you are pitching yourself well within the range for your area.

    For the record, I do not hold a PGCE, QTS or similar. I do have a degree in my subject and a TEFL qualification for my EFL work. I also take time regularly to make sure I am up-to-date on exam boards, curriculum and assessment changes etc.
  13. Dougal68

    Dougal68 New commenter

    As Georgina stated, I think you are at a great advantage when trying to attract students to be a qualified teacher, more so, one that is also still teaching in school. However once you get your students, it's all down to how you engage your students and the progress they make.

    I don't enforce any period of notice with my students - I would rather that if the parents feel they are not happy, they can withdraw their students immediately, so long as all fees are paid up to date.

    If parents are happy, they will tell others and your numbers will grow quickly.

    The main reason I try to avoid entrance tests is I get many parents who have unrealistic expectations. They believe that because they are paying for tutoring their child will pass the test. If I have been working with a student for a couple of years, and the parent expresses a wish to try for the entrance exams, I can give an honest opinion and provide the help if both parties agree it is the best way forward. I guess I'm in the lucky position after 10 years of not having to fight for new students - but it takes hard work and commitment.
  14. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Thanks everyone for your advice.
  15. I began a 'full time' career in tutoring October 2013. I am a qualified chemistry/science teacher, with 7 years school experience; I also privately tutored whilst completing my degree.

    I have opened a tuition centre, which is beneath my flat (I rent the room, which has been converted into a classroom). So far, I have had 15 students through the doors. Of those, 9 have become regular students and 2 were short term adult exam crammers. A further 2 left to a tutor who offered English GCSE (I now have an English tutor!).

    It started slow but is building up quickly. I get regular enquiries each week. I have delivered about 1000 professionally printed leaflets, I had a small response from these.

    I advertised in a newspaper for 3 days, this got me nothing!

    I advertise on gumtree, regularly, I keep my advert at the top, I get most of my enquirers, and students from here.

    I advertise on tutor hunt, I get some response from here.

    So, for me, the best advertising medium is Gumtree.

    I am also going to try putting a banner ad on the side of a local phonebox, this costs about 160 for 2 weeks.

    Another possibility is hiring a stand at the local ASDA and targeting parents.

    I started up through the Gov New Enterprise Scheme, this gave me access to a business mentor and we drew up a business plan. I also had access to a book keeper etc. However, the biggest incentive to the scheme is that you get a grant of 65.00 weekly for the 1st 13 weeks of trading, this drops to 33.00 for the next 13 weeks, then you are on your own!!

    I am surviving....thus far!!!!
  16. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Good Morning

    Many thanks for your reply mini7263. I guess the one big advantage you have is that you are a qualified teacher. I am not - however, I do have a degree.

    I would also like to start a tuition agency, and was wondering if you would be kind enough to give me further advice -

    1. I presume it is hard work at the beginning - in that you have to interview tutors for various subjects before they join the agency?

    2. I presume the initial costs would be quite high?

    Thanks in advance for your response..
  17. geek84

    geek84 New commenter

    Good Morning Folks

    Anybody got any suggestions for the above?

    Thank You.
  18. reva13

    reva13 New commenter

    Hi geek84 - firstly, great topic and all the info on this thread has been really insightful.

    I have just set up my own agency (although I am trying to avoid using this word because it can sound quite impersonal when advertising). I began working on it on the 1st of this year and just officially opened this week (all very exciting!) Here's my thoughts:

    0. Where are you based? The London tuition scene is booming with agencies being set up by the day. Other large cities have their own demand, but London is the 3d biggest private tuition market in the world (after Honk Kong - where they put their tutors on the sides of buses! - and New York - where the hourly rates go up to $250 and they have offices like lawyers do here). Private tuition is a very expensive investment and so you will want to be located nearer to wealthier areas of the country (on average) if you want a stable income (not to mention, it is easier to cut down travel time if you do not plan on tutoring from home).

    1. Oh dear lord the time commitment is huge!!! Do not go into starting up a business lightly. I underestimated the work, thinking that my connections alone would make it easier. I do not think that I have had more than five hours sleep in a single night so far this year, trying to balance my own clients with my agency commitment. I am being incredibly strict about who I interview and only about 10% of my applicants get through. I should probably mention here that I am providing university tuition, which is quite niche, but nevertheless the start up process is similar - I just need particularly academic tutors! Many agencies do not interview, and some just phone interview. Personally, I could not put a tutor in front of a student without having met them first - and were my clients younger - without CRBs too. It would be difficult selling your tutors if you have not met them first. Writing a website takes longer than you may expect, and getting it to work and come across as legitimate is even more difficult. Then you have to think about what distinguishes you from all the other agencies, how to get ranked on Google (SEO) and how to get payment from your clients, without your tutors putting it into their own pockets first (perhaps looking into the legal side and contracts - doe example, if you guarantee a tutor's pay then legally you are employing them and may have to pay national insurance contributions for them!) If you've made it this far through my post, I expect that you can see the difficulties I've faced recently!

    2. The initial costs are mainly time. Setting up a website is a cost and mine just hit a fourth digit (even with heavily discounted mates rates!) Advertising is a further cost, but that depends on your strategy and target audience.

    3. My advice would be to start off tutoring through agencies (they take a large cut, but they also get you the business you need to begin building your reputation). Also put yourself on gumtree, tutor pages and free tutoring webspace. Ask all your friends with families and children if they would like tuition - and to pass your name around - this is a fantastic way to get clients, and it's so simple. Once you have a reputation and some savings, you can start to consider setting up your own agency, but I'd strongly recommend getting to know the industry first, how clients think, and (most important) what will make your agency different. Competition is incredibly high now, so think carefully about what you and your tutors will bring to make you stand out.

    I really hope this all helps. I'd be more than happy to discuss this further, and share my experiences - I'm learning a lot, very quickly!

    Richard| Founder of The Profs
  19. In answer Geek84

    1. I'm not an agency, I'm a tuition centre, www.birminghamprivatetuition.co.uk To begin with I did all of the teaching, maths and science to GCSE, English to ks3 and chemistry AS/A level.

    It is now picking up, I had 6 new students start last week (all through Gumtree); I have also took on a post grad to teach English GCSE and A level.

    2. The main cost for me was purchasing flooring, desks, chairs, whiteboard, books etc. I also had to do some renovation work, which I paid for but I now have a very cheap rent to offset that initial outlay. My landlord is a printer :) so my leaflets were free!

    I did my own website, it's free hosting for the first year and then peanuts. It cost an initial approx £10!
  20. As people have indicated - it depends.

    Important factors include:

    Your expectations of a 'living'.

    Where you live (more rich clients in London).

    Your subject(s).

    Your experience.

    I don't earn my living just from tutoring - I have a very high expectation of a living which I can feed quite well from just my teaching day job. I also get pension, sick leave and paid holidays from it - quite a lot to give up isn't it?

    I am tutoring A Level Maths to supplement my day job and it pays for nice holidays etc. - the things teachers aren't supposed to have and am averaging £45-50 per hour. I have acquired clients purely by word of mouth and the advertising costs were £nil. I could double my weekly commitment of 5 hours average to 10 tomorrow.

    I get a decent price without argument and could also probably increase it if I got greedier. My clients know that and they don't give me any grief - idiot parents can be more stress than you can imagine as your relationship is more personal - unless you're careful.

    But I am an A Level examiner, I know the syllabus backwards and save tons of time for students and my experience makes the job easy for me. I couldn't possibly do this if I was learning my trade and I REALLY know assessment and the tricks of the trade - no matter how good you are at your subject, assessment is something separate and different that you have to learn.

    Some subjects are wanted - Maths and Science for example but others like ICT and Computing which I used to teach are box office poison round here.

    I couldn't equal my day-job income from school tutoring very easily and with the fringe benefits are you sure you want to go that way?

    But it is nice to have on the side.

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