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Full-Time Tutor, Part 2

Since my first part of describing full-time tutoring was written when I had been a full-time tutor for about a month, I have decided it is time to do an update. Many things have not changed, but I figured a condensed list of things to know that may come up as a full-time tutor would be helpful to some of you reading this.

1. First and foremost, to be a full-time tutor, one must have a passion for tutoring. There is no substitute for passion (and patience), and it is needed not only to tutor better but also to survive the career.

2. Know that tutoring is unlike any other career that I know of. No two weeks will ever be the same. I'm not just talking about different sections of math books either (although that does change of course). In my experience, my schedule is only a rough estimate of the week ahead. Students will cancel, new students will come in, someone will want additional time to help for a test, etc.

3. Learn to love to drive. It is possible to get students to come to you, but more likely than not, you will be going to them or to another location (such as the college library or a cafe). Reliable transportation and ability to deal with directions is a must... unless you get a GPS for your car (which is a good idea anyways for changes while driving).

4. Be prepared to do paperwork. If you are reading this, I assume you are familiar with the write-ups that WyzAnt wants, but also be sure to keep track of each student's payments as there will be someone who needs to remember what was paid when. Also, it helps to keep track of expenses for tax season (and don't forget the quarterly payments either).

5. Do not be afraid of phone calls nor emails. This is not generally a good business choice for someone who is shy about calls or waits too long to reply to emails. A lot of students (and parents) expect quick responses. Some of mine expect instantaneous responses sometimes...

6. Be prepared for a tough climb at the start. I highly advise tutoring part-time before changing to full-time. It allows you to test yourself to see how well you do and starts to build up your business. The first month or so can be difficult to not only adjust to tutoring full-time but also to develop a strong enough client base to support yourself financially.

7. Learn how to say "no." The truth of the matter is that there are only 24 hours in a day. Once you start to develop your career, it is likely you will have students contact you who you cannot accommodate. I strongly advise figuring out a backup plan for these situations. For example, with a lot of students who approach me from my private business who I cannot help, I suggest trying to find someone on WyzAnt.

8. Figure out a time when you will NOT be tutoring. This will often be Fridays, the least selected day by students. Weekends are generally in high demand, especially Saturday, so expect to work then. It can take some time to get accustomed to working until night and having mornings open, but that will likely be the case when one's schedule starts to fill up.

9. Remember your families as well. One of my biggest daily challenges is to balance my students' needs with my needs and my family's needs. Ask your family to be patient as you find how to balance all the aspects of your life since becoming a full-time tutor will likely screw up your schedules and plans. Take the time to find the balance.

There is a lot more I can say, but I don't want to scare you away from reading a huge blog. After some more time, I will probably return with an update and expand more ideas, such as how to deal with summer as a full-time tutor (something I will be learning about myself in a few months...)

As always, I do respond to any comments you leave, so please let me know your thoughts and opinions. :)


I do not give out my salary information, nor should anyone else.
Steve, last year I did not get a second job over the summer; instead, I saved up over the winter to get me by during the definitely lighter summer months (I was down to about 15% of the tutoring I did during the school year). It was very tight close to the end, but I did make it through. This year, I am looking into a side job in the summer in order to make sure things are not so tight. One thing that helps a lot for the summer is tutoring for the ACT/SAT/other tests beyond school. Many highschoolers do not want to study for the ACT/SAT during the school year and instead do it over the summer.

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your informative blog posts on being a full-time tutor!

Right now I am a part-time tutor and I occasionally write math materials for schools. I enjoy what I'm doing very much but because of taxes/insurance I feel that I have to look for other jobs. I'm in the process of applying for teaching jobs but I'm not sure that a teaching career is for me (although I love tutoring). I think it's mostly the idea of managing a classroom of 30 kids that scares me.

Have you ever considered teaching? I'm looking for advice on what to do - whether to pursue teaching or whether to continue tutoring/writing.

Thanks for time!

Hello Julie,
Being a full-time tutor is certainly a roller coaster ride. It will teach a lot about the dependence on God to get through the trying times, but in the end, I wouldn't trade it for any other job I know of.

There are many differences between tutoring and teaching. It goes beyond just the difference of one-on-one to one-on-many. There's also the issue of school boards, parents, crowd control, etc. From what I have gathered, there is a lot of politics involved in many of the schools. If you can find a good one, then it can be a good fit, but that can be hard to do. I have plenty of ideas for improving school systems but very few (if any at all) will ever come true since they would require people to be open to new ideas for learning, which few are.

I don't want to be overly discouraging about teaching. My knowledge is limited in that field since I decided not to pursue it. The best advise I can give to you is to start talking to other teachers and see what they have to say about their careers. That can prove invaluable in your decision.

Besides that, my advise is the advise that my mother passed down to me: try to always have two possibilities for a career so that if one fails, the other can take it's place (I've already used it once, changing from a business analyst to a full-time tutor and now have computer programming and analysis as two back-up options).

I'm really enjoying your blog posts, Brian!  It's very generous of you to share so much advice with other tutors, especially those of us who are just starting down this path.
Hello Rose-Anne,
I'm happy to help. If you want more information/help, I have two large forum posts in the "Tips for Tutoring" section for additional help :).
Hi again, Brian!  Thanks for the pointer--I'll check out your forum posts.  I wish you had a tip jar so I could show my appreciation for the value you are adding to my experience with WyzAnt :-)
Have you written any posts on how you adjusted your hourly rate as you gained more tutoring experience?  It can be such a touchy or tricky subject, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.  I know for beginners, you recommended an initial price in the ~20% range of what other tutors are charging for your subject areas.  But what about when you move beyond your beginning days?  Or if you decide to branch out into tutoring an area that is new to you as a tutor? 
Hello Rose-Anne,
I have written many individual posts on rates, but not one centralized post on it. Perhaps it would make for a good topic for a third guide from me (in the forums that is). It's a touchy subject and one that has many different paths that one can take. I'll see about making a compilation topic for it.
As of yesterday, that massive post is up in the forums. It took me about a week to write, but I hope it helps a lot with your questions.