How to become a private tutor
High flyer in your uni subject? You could try your hand at private tuition! It can be a great little money earner and will do wonders for your job prospects.
Private tutoring is something that loads of students get into whilst studying in order to make some cash on the side.
Not only is tutoring flexible work that you can fit around your studies, but it also looks great on your CV if you can show that you're so amazingly capable in your subject area that you're even trusted to teach it to others!
Sound good to you? We've got everything you need to know to get started!
What’s on this page?
The benefits of private tutoring
First thing's first! In case you need a bit of convincing, here are four reasons to get into private tutoring while you're at uni:
- It pays well – You can earn some pretty decent cash as a private tutor. The exact amounts will vary depending on where you're based, what your subject specialism is and how much of an expert you can really claim to be, but we're talking at least £20 an hour.
- It's great experience – Tutoring privately will also look amazing on your CV, especially if you're able to get enough work to become your own mini business with your own website and everything. By taking the initiative to tutor, you're also demonstrating that you're entrepreneurial and business-minded.
- It's flexible work – It can be tough balancing work with studies. But with private tutoring you can pretty much pick and choose the hours you work, although evenings and weekends are the most popular with clients. If a deadline pops up, you can normally reschedule with your student without too much hassle (although we probably wouldn't recommend making a habit of this, unless you enjoy being horribly irritating).
- It's actually good for your studies – How amazing would it be to get paid to study? By offering tuition in your specialist subject, this is essentially what you're doing! There's no better way to solidify something entirely in your memory than in teaching it to others.
What skills do you need to be a private tutor?
In order to be a great tutor (and therefore really rake in the cash!), you'll need to have the following:
- Serious subject-specific knowledge – There's really no point in offering your services as a tutor in your subject unless you really know your stuff. Unfortunately, just thinking you're great at it doesn't count – you need to have hard proof (good grades, great references, etc.) to prove yourself in this area.
- Great communication – You need to be able to engage well with your students and make things easier for them. If you're a bad communicator, you're just going to baffle the person you're teaching, or even worse – stress them out. If you're working with younger people, you'll also need to communicate efficiently with parents and inform them of their child's progress. If you can't do that well, it's unlikely they'll feel confident enough to keep you on.
- Good knowledge of revision and exam techniques – Doing some research into the latest revision techniques is vital! Just because mind mapping doesn't work for you, doesn't mean your pupils will be the same type of learner (another thing you should be researching into).
- Time management – You'll have to learn to balance all your clients with your uni studies and remember to plan in advance before each session. If you turn up unprepared (or even worse, late), you'll get a bad reputation and won't have much success.
- The patience of a saint! – This is actually one of the most important qualities needed in a tutor. If someone has hired a private tutor for themselves or their child, it's likely because they're struggling with a particular subject, so don't expect them to get it straight away!
What qualifications do you need to become a private tutor?
You might need a PGCE qualification to become a teacher in UK schools, but there are no specific qualifications you need to become a personal tutor. Having a degree is useful as this shows authority in the subject, but not essential. If you have a postgraduate qualification, even better!
If you don't have a degree, previous experience in teaching or coaching will stand you in good stead, as will high grades at GCSE and A Level. Even babysitting experience will show that you're good with kids!
But ultimately if you can sell yourself and your expertise, and provide a good service, you should be able to generate more customers through recommendations and word of mouth.
Although it's not legally required, it's a good idea to get a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check if you'll be working with anyone under the age of 18.
Parents will often ask to see this before they'll consider taking you on, and even if they don't, you'll score some serious professionalism brownie points if you can stick one of these under their noses!
A check costs £25 and you simply apply via the government website.
Job responsibilities of a private tutor
Becoming a private tutor comes with loads of perks, but you need to put the work in. As well as doing the tutoring session themselves, there's a lot of behind the scenes legwork that needs attending to.
Here's a quick rundown of a tutor's responsibilities:
- Assess your pupil's skill level and needs – Each client will be different and you'll have to tailor your tutoring accordingly
- Schedule and plan sessions – They need to cover the relevant content, and you'll have to use different teaching methods to keep them engaging
- Research the curriculum – Things might have changed from when you were at school, so you need to get to grips with exactly what you need to cover so your pupil is successful
- Produce progress reports – To prove to your student and/or their parents that your service is having an impact, you'll need progress reports to show their development
- Organise payment – Whether it's through a third-party service, cash in hand or another financial arrangement, you need to make sure the cash is coming in
- Promote yourself – It's a never-ending cycle as your pupils won't stick around forever! Make sure you're constantly advertising your services so you have a steady stream of new clients.
How much money can you make as a private tutor?
Private tutors normally charge between £30 – £42 per hour. Tuition slots usually last an hour (let's be honest, not even your own attention span can stretch much further than that) so even if you only manage two sessions per week, you're still making a decent amount of money on the side.
You should probably charge slightly less if offering an online/Skype service, and you could try offering a discount for customers who book sessions in bulk for guaranteed income.
You could also increase your earnings by teaching more than one person at a time. However, some sites advise that you should only really charge a further 10% of your hourly rate per extra person, so depending on what you agree upon, this might not be worth your time.
Whatever you do, make sure your rate covers your overhead costs! Make sure to factor in the cost of teaching materials, as well as the cost and time of travelling wherever you need to be.
Do you have to pay tax as a tutor?
As you'll be self-employed, it's your responsibility to complete your self-assessment tax return at the end of each financial year.
The upside is, however, that if this is your sole income during uni and you only work a couple of hours per week, it's unlikely you'll exceed the £12,500 personal allowance bracket (the amount you're allowed to earn before you have to start paying income tax). Don't worry – we have it all explained in detail for you here!
5 steps to becoming a private tutor
You might be keen to just dive straight into it so you can start making money as soon as possible, but taking the time to get this initial stuff right will set you up well for things going your way in the long term.
Write a strong CV
Your CV is the best way of giving potential new customers an accurate picture of you and your abilities.
Therefore, make sure you don't skimp on this bit one iota – use our guide to writing the perfect CV to make sure you ace it!
It's also a good idea to source a couple of great character references (from an old boss, one of your uni lecturers, or a family friend with an important job title, perhaps) as this will really sell you.
Decide what skill level you're aiming for
You're way more likely to recruit new clients if you target your services at a specific skill level.
For instance, teaching primary school kids is a whole different ball game to coaching 17-year-olds through their A Levels, so although there is nothing stopping you from doing both, it's sometimes better to concentrate your efforts on one area.
The main tutoring areas are:
• Primary school core subjects and SATs tuition (Key Stage 1 and 2)
• Secondary school core subjects (Key Stage 3, GCSE and A Level)
• International qualifications (e.g. International Baccalaureate)
• Language tuition (all levels)
For instance, if you decide to focus on offering tuition for GCSE students, you can really get to know the curriculum and what students are required to do. You can then offer a better service as a result, rather than spreading yourself thin covering a lot of areas.
Put a pitch together
This is where you get your advertising hat on and write something similar to a covering letter, where you confidently state what makes you an ideal tutor for someone looking to brush up on your specialist subject.
Include good grades, major relevant achievements and even throw in a quote or two from uni staff or testimonials from previous students (if you have any).
You can then use this pitch as material to convert into an advert for your services! Which brings us on to our next point...
Using the pitch you've already created (see above), you can now edit or cut it down to suit your audience or advertising space, and start getting the word out there.
The best places to start advertising your tutoring services would be:
• Online forums (uni forums, expat forums, etc.)
• Notice boards (at uni, in shop windows, at your local library or community centre)
• In Facebook groups (try resident groups in your local area). You could also make your own business page)
• Putting flyers through the letterboxes of people in your local area
• On classified sites like Gumtree
Set up your tutoring sessions
Whether you're tutoring online or in person, communication with your tutee is key! Arrange a time and place in advance and make sure you turn up on time.
Ask lots of questions to find out exactly what help your tutee needs, and research the curriculum and marking criteria in depth. It's a good idea to have an introductory session to establish what you tutee wants from the sessions, and set some realistic goals.
Whatever you do, make sure you're prepared. Turning up with nothing every week and expecting to just help your student with their homework won't impress anyone.
Best private tutoring sites
There are several websites out there that work like tutoring agencies where you can sign up to be matched with potential students.
However, it's worth knowing that these sites will either charge a one-off fee or take an ongoing cut of your wages, so you might be worth trying to source the work yourself first, and use these sites as a last resort if you're struggling to recruit.
This is one of the biggest private tutoring sites in the UK, with 35,000 students using its services every day and over one million tutors across the globe!
You simply sign up, publish your tutor ad and interested students contact you. You can accept or reject their requests, and then swap contact details to arrange to meet.
You set your own rates (make sure to check out the competition first) but if you don't have a student review you have to offer your first session for free to get the ball rolling (although this doesn't have to be a lesson, it can be an introductory 'get to know each other' session). There are also no charges for tutors, so you won't be at a disadvantage for going through the site.
Superprof is really easy to use set up and it doesn't ask for references either. I teach cello and double bass so I don't really get anything from it to be honest, but it's probably because it's quite a specific thing.
I think a good picture and description of lesson structure would probably help a lot in appealing to people.
Zoe Seekings, studied at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
With First Tutors you can offer tutoring sessions either face-to-face or online, and again, you set your own fees and don't pay any charges.
To get set up you'll have to submit two references, plus some information for an ID check. You'll receive an email when a tutee requests your services and you have to log in to the member's area to respond – make sure you do, because if you ignore requests, your profile will be suspended!
Anyone can sign up, so you don't need any specific experience or qualifications.
MyTutor claims it offers "the best uni job in town", with pay as much as £24 per hour, no need to travel and the ability to choose your own hours. They pay directly into your bank account every two weeks.
To sign up you need to fill in an application form and book a video interview with one of the MyTutor team. Once you get started, you set your own prices by choosing from seven bands ranging from £18 to £40 per hour - you'll end up with between £10 and £27.50 per hour after MyTutor charges and VAT.
Plus, you'll receive £10 for every new person you introduce to the site!
My main advice for MyTutor is that, initially, you don't earn that much (although still not bad compared to a bar job, for example) but if you stick at it and get some regular customers, good reviews and a bit of experience, you can start to make quite a bit.
It's really easy to use and the tech support staff are brilliant - they're so helpful over the phone and reply to emails really quickly.
Emily Roberts, University of Glasgow student