How to become a private tutor
High flyer in your uni subject? It could be worth trying your hand at private tuition. Not only is it a great little money earner, but it will also do wonders for your job prospects...
Private tutoring is a pretty common way for students to make money at university, and it's no surprise why.
Tutoring is flexible work that you can fit around your studies. And, better yet, it also looks great on your CV as it will show that you're so amazingly capable in your subject area that you're even trusted to teach it to others!
Keen to work as a private tutor? This guide has all the info you need to get started.
What's in this guide?
The benefits of private tutoring
First thing's first – in case you need a bit of convincing, here are four reasons to start private tutoring while you're at university:
- It pays well – You can earn some pretty decent money 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 essentially run a mini business with your own website and everything. By taking the initiative to start tutoring, 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 usually 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 revise? 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 teaching it to others.
What skills do you need to be a private tutor?
In order to be a great tutor (and therefore make more money), you'll need to have the following skills:
- Great subject-specific knowledge – When offering your services as a tutor in your subject, it's important for you to really know your stuff. Unfortunately, just thinking you're good 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 engage with students to help them learn. It's particularly important to have good communication if you're doing private tutoring lessons over a video call, as it can be harder to teach and learn over virtual chats. When working with younger people, you'll also need to communicate effectively with parents and regularly update them about their child's progress.
- Good knowledge of revision and exam techniques – Doing some research into the latest revision techniques is so, so important. Bear in mind that, regardless of whether or not a particular revision technique works for you, your pupil could respond to it differently as they might not be the same type of learner (another thing you should research).
- Time management – You'll have to learn to balance all of your clients' tutoring classes 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.
- Patience – This is actually one of the most important qualities needed in a tutor. If someone has hired a private teacher for themselves or their child, it's likely because they're struggling with a particular subject. With that in mind, don't expect them to become an expert straight away – stay calm, let them learn in their own time and stay positive.
What qualifications do you need to become a private tutor?
You might need a PGCE qualification to become a teacher in UK schools, but you don't need any specific qualifications to become a personal tutor. Having a degree is useful as this shows authority in the subject and could help you secure work, but it's not essential.
If you have a postgraduate qualification, this will really help you stand out to potential clients.
Or, 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 be useful as it will show that you're good with kids!
But, ultimately, if you can sell yourself and your expertise, and provide a good service on a freelance basis, 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 present them with your DBS check.
A check costs £23 and you simply apply via the government website.
Job responsibilities of a private tutor
Here's a quick rundown of a private tutor's key 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 each class engaging.
- Research the curriculum – Things will have likely 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 in their exams.
- Produce progress reports – To prove to your student and/or their parents that your service is having an impact, you'll need to do 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. We explain about paying tax as a private tutor below.
- Promote yourself – Advertising your services as a private tutor is an ongoing requirement as your pupils won't stick around forever! Make sure you're constantly promoting your work so you have a steady stream of new clients.
How much money can you make as a private tutor?
Private tutors usually charge between £30 – £40 per hour. Tuition slots tend to 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 you're offering an online private tutoring service, such as over Zoom or Skype. Plus, 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 offer group discounts.
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 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!
Tips on how to become a private tutor
If you're hoping to become a private tutor, here are the best things to do to get started:
Write a strong CV
Your CV is the best way of giving potential new customers an accurate picture of you and your abilities.
So, make sure you don't skimp on this step – 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 help to sell your services.
Decide what skill level you're aiming for
You're much 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).
If, for example, you decide to focus on offering tuition to GCSE students, you can really get to know the curriculum and what students are required to do to succeed in their exams.
You can then offer a better, more specialist private tutoring service as a result, rather than spreading yourself thin by covering a lot of areas.
Put a pitch together
To pitch your tutoring service, you'll need to write something similar to a cover letter, where you confidently state what makes you an ideal tutor for someone looking to brush up on your specialist subject.
Include good grades, relevant major 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 promoting your tutoring services would be:
• Online forums (university forums, Mumsnet, 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, and you could make your own business page)
• Putting flyers through people's letterboxes your local area
• On classified ad 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 each 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 it might be worth trying to source the work yourself first, and use these sites as a last resort if you're struggling to recruit students.
This is one of the biggest private tutoring sites in the UK, with over 11 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 either arrange to meet or start online tutoring.
You set your own rates, so make sure to check out the competition first to get an idea of what to charge.
If you don't have a student review, you need to offer your first session for free (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 £27.50 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
Make sure you don't neglect your own exams while tutoring. We'll show how you can revise in one day and still nail it.