Becoming a tutor can be a fulfilling career choice, and with online tuition now an increasingly popular option, it can be a very flexible and practical choice too.
In this post, we share our top tips on how to get started with your online tutoring business, including advice on how to price your services, find students, and market your business.
The demand for online tuition across all academic subjects has never been higher. The need for flexible tutoring than can take place anywhere, and adapt to a student’s busy life, is at an all-time high. So, now is the perfect time to set up your own online tutoring business. If you are knowledgeable and passionate about a specific subject, and have adaptable and effective communication skills, then you have what it takes to start a career in tuition.
Whilst you don’t need a PGCE to become a tutor, or indeed any formal tutoring qualification at all, there are certain skills you’ll need in order to succeed in tuition, especially online. In general, tutors in the UK are more qualified than the students they teach – they are usually educated to degree level and above, although some are undergraduate students.
However, even with a degree as a launch pad, it can be daunting to know where to start, so for a great overview of how to get started in tuition, you might want to start by reading our posts How to Become a Tutor, and How to Start a Tutoring Business.
For an in-depth overview on how to set up an online tutoring business and become a part of a £6 billion industry, keep reading.
Deciding Which Subjects and Levels to Teach
The first step in setting up your online tutoring business is to decide which subject and levels to tutor. As mentioned, you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a tutor in the UK, but the more qualified you are, the more valuable you will appear to potential tutees.
The two main factors to consider are which subject(s) you are most qualified in and, if there is more than one, which one you are most passionate about – this will be the best subject to tutor, as passion is infectious! For example, if you have a Master’s Degree in Maths, this would be the most obvious subject to specialise in. Having studied the subject in-depth, you will have the knowledge and understanding to tutor students of varying levels and abilities.
Once you have decided on a subject, you need to think about which level(s) you will tutor. In theory, you should be able to tutor up to the level of your highest qualification, but most of your tutees are likely to come in the form of GCSE, A-Level, and possibly undergraduate students.
When deciding on which level to tutor, it is also important to consider the demand for your subject; Maths, English and Science are consistently the most in-demand subjects when it comes to tutoring, and mainly at GCSE and A-Level. And of course, you can also carve out a niche in other academic areas, such as the 11 plus, if you have the expertise to do so.
Finally, before you begin tutoring it is worth obtaining a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate. Although this is not a legal requirement, it is useful to have, particularly if you intend on tutoring students under the age of 18.
The Skills You Need to Become an Online Tutor
There are various skills you need in order to become a successful online tutor. Beyond your in-depth knowledge of your subject area, you’ll need to have:
IT Skills – In order to effectively tutor online, you will need to be completely comfortable using online teaching platforms and the functions they are equipped with, such as sharing documents and sharing your screen with your students.
You will also need to make sure that you are able to use any additional tools you may need, such as online whiteboards, Google Docs, or video links, so that your lessons are interactive and well-rounded. Most of these skills can be picked up easily, and there are lots of handy online guides to help you along the way.
Teaching Skills – As a tutor, you’ll be teaching students of varying ages and abilities, so you’ll need to possess an adaptable teaching style, and the ability to communicate effectively with students at varying levels.
When tutoring online, it is essential that you take into consideration each student’s learning style – be that auditory, visual, or written, for example – and incorporate learning materials that will engage them and maintain their attention. This could be in the form of videos, online quizzes, or collaborative documents.
Business Knowledge – Most tutors are self-employed (even those who work through agencies), so when you set up your online tuition business you will automatically become a business owner. Whether you conduct your business as a sole trader or limited company, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with areas such as tax and marketing your business.
Luckily there are many resources and people, such as accountants and local council business advisors, who can provide support in these areas.
Choosing Your Teaching Platform and Equipment
Once you’ve chosen the subject and level you’re going to tutor, you’ll need to decide which platform to use for your online lessons. There are many free services available, with the most popular including:
- Google Hangouts
- Microsoft Team
- Whereby.com (formerly Apppear.in)
All of these platforms offer similar video conferencing services, though you may need to pay a monthly fee for some in order to have longer sessions, or group lessons. It’s definitely a good idea to try out a few different platforms, and their functions, before settling on one, and you could do this with a friend or an existing client. Make sure that you are able to competently use the platform and carry out tasks such as file and screen sharing.
Once you’ve chosen your online platform, you can consider whether you’ll invest in any additional equipment, such as a headset or microphone. This additional tech is available at varying prices across the internet, so it’s worth taking the time to do some research and read reviews before purchasing. This is equipment is not, however, essential, and you can easily teach online with just a computer and reliable internet connection.
For more information on what you need to tutor online, check out this video from tutor Sonia George:
Set Your Online Tutoring Rates
After you have finalised your online tutoring set-up, it’s time to start thinking about how much you’ll charge for your online lessons. If you’ve never tutored before, it’s a good idea to research how much other online tutors with similar experience to yourself and charging in your subject area and level. In general, online tuition tends to be slightly cheaper than face-to-face lessons, as there are fewer overheads for the tutor (e.g. travel), but rates still vary widely across all subjects and levels.
When starting out as a tutor, it can be tempting to set your rates quite low in order to attract students but remember that your rate reflects your experience and value as a tutor. Moreover, take into consideration the time and effort that goes into planning your lessons, not just the hour or so you spend online with your student. All of these aspects should be taken into consideration when deciding how much you will charge for your online tuition.
Registering with HMRC as a Tutor
Most tutors set up a tutoring business as a sole trader. As a sole trader, you’re the only one that you’re responsible for. It’s essentially you that runs the business and you don’t have any employees. To register as a sole trader, you need to contact HMRC within 3 months of teaching your first lesson (although ideally before). You can register with HMRC online, or by phone. As a sole trader, you’re also responsible for completing your own tax returns and paying your own tax, although you can pay an accountant to help you.
Your second option for legally setting up a tutoring business is to form a limited company. A limited company means that your business has been incorporated at Companies House. It essentially means that your tutoring business is separate from you, as the owner. It also gives you limited liability, meaning that you aren’t wholly responsible for your company’s debts.
There are benefits and advantages to both legal structures, which you can find out more about in this video from Crunch Accounting:
Insurance for Tutors
Like DBS checks, there’s no legal obligation for tutors to have insurance, but if you’re serious about offering your services, it’s worth thinking about, especially if you plan to tutor from home. There are two types of insurance that tutors normally have, which are:
Public liability insurance - protects you against legal liability following an injury to a student (through a trip or fall, for example) or damage to third party property (spilt coffee on a laptop, for example).
Private indemnity insurance – covers you against any claims that you made a mistake in your work, or failed to provide an adequate service.
We’ve written about your insurance options in more detail in our post Insurance for Tutors: What You Need to Know.
How To Find Online Tutoring Jobs
Possibly the most important, but also most challenging, aspects of establishing your tutoring business is marketing your services and attracting clients. Our post, 7 Steps to Effectively Market Your Tutoring Business Online, might be a good place to start, as it contains lots of useful tips on how to spread awareness of your online tutoring business.
Some other useful ideas to start marketing your business and find tutees are:
- Register with tutoring sites and agencies – using these sites will take the hassle out of finding students.
- Set up your own website – alternatively, you could create your own website to market your online tuition business. This means you won’t be reliant on agencies or other tutoring websites in order to find students. Moreover, taking time to learn about SEO can also mean that you can be easily found by potential tutees.
- Use social media – sharing news and information about your business, along with interesting subject-related content, is a great way to attract prospective students.
- Word of mouth marketing – many tutors find new students by building up a good reputation online, and through word of mouth referrals via current students. This, however, is obviously more effective once you have been tutoring for a while.
You might also want to keep an eye on tutoring jobs boards like the one we have at The Tutor Website, and consider signing up to our private tutor directory, in order to maximise your chances of being found in your local area through online searches.
Preparing for Your First Lesson
Once you have your first clients, and are ready to begin tutoring, it’s a good idea to consider how you will approach your online lessons, and to plan them in advance. Whichever online platform you have chosen, you’ll need to make sure that each of your students is able to access the platform, and comfortably navigate their way around it.
Your first few online lessons can often be a case of trial and error, so you might want to offer free initial consultation lessons, where you and your tutee can both get to grips with the platform and its functions.
In addition, you may also want to e-mail over any learning materials and worksheets that you will use before your lesson, so that the student can be prepared beforehand, and familiarise themselves with the content. You can also screen and file share through all online tutoring platforms, so this is not a necessity.
Before your lesson, you can also decide if you’re going to use other resources, such as videos or online quizzes, to enhance your lessons, and test all links to these multimedia tools before you begin teaching. Another aspect you may consider is recording your online lessons, so that your student can use the videos to revise or refresh their memory of any tricky topics. Again, it’s a good idea to make sure that you know how to use this function on your chosen online platform before you begin tutoring.
Overall, online tuition is a flexible, fulfilling, and fun way to learn and teach for tutees and tutors alike. With the plethora of online platforms and resources now available at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to start your career as an online tutor.
For an in-depth guide to working as a tutor in the UK, our eBook, How to Start Your Own Tutoring Business is available to buy exclusively from The Tutor Website.