Are you thinking about becoming a private tutor?

In Australia, around 20% of students access tutoring in some form, with an average of upwards of $3500 a year being spent on tuition.

Private tutoring jobs allow the tutor to have control over the timetable and hourly rates. In addition, working in a one-on-one setting with students and helping them achieve their goals is professionally and personally satisfying. The market is becoming increasingly popular with people looking for both part-time and full-time tutoring opportunities, and more and more students are turning to private tutors over tutoring companies.

It's easy to become a tutor then?

For the most part, yes.

Before start to assist students and provide academic support or skill development, there are a few things you'll need to do. Creating your online tutor profile is one of them.

There's no covering it up — when people are looking for tutoring services, and scanning profiles to find a tutor, the first thing they'll look at is the dollar sign. The hourly rate charged by a tutor becomes a powerful first impression. The next piece of information clients will look for is experience or qualifications — and if these don't match the rate, they'll keep looking.

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What are some online tutoring and home tutoring opportunities?
In their search for work-life balance, some qualified teachers will leave the formal education system in favour of becoming a tutor. (Source: Visualhunt)

Some tutors offer unbelievably low rates to attract more clients.  Super-cheap rates could, in fact, have the opposite effect — rates that are too low may make clients think you're lacking in skills, or too good to be true.

The 'right' hourly rate is hard to pinpoint. There's a very fine line between overpriced and underpriced, however, it's crucial that you get this correct.

Before you spend hours conducting an internet search to find that 'magic amount' — listen when we say the standardised hourly rate does not exist. We know this because we've checked. Spend the time, instead, considering your skills and your requirements. Then set about working out a rate that is individualised to you.

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Here are a few steps to help you with this process:

Step 1: Check Out Any Rivals for Tutoring Opportunities

Starting any new business requires market research — who are your competitors? You need to do the same before you become a tutor.

Start by looking at the range of tutoring rates already out there. Doing so will give you a better understanding of what people are likely to pay for your tutoring services.

Tutoring Rates Based on Subject Area

A great place to begin comparing is by looking at the range of rates charged for your subject.

Often subject-specific tutoring rates are determined by demand. For example, if you wanted to learn more advanced pieces on your saxophone, and there were not many teachers in your area, the available ones could charge a higher hourly rate. In the same way, if there were a large number of tutors to choose from, they would probably all have lower rates to remain competitive.

If your subject requires expensive equipment, which you were allowing the student to use, your fees would reflect this.

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Do you need to provide resources for students when you become a tutor?
Some subjects and skills require equipment and other resources. (Source: Visualhunt)

Depending on the field you are in, your association may be able to guide you with recommended fee structures. For example, the NSW Music Teachers' Association suggests fees beginning at $92 an hour for qualified teachers.

Tutoring Rates Based on Location

Another factor to consider is where you will find your clients. Once you know, you'll need to become familiar with the area.

If you offer home tutoring at your house or at your students' homes, you will be sourcing your clients from your local area. One on one tutoring prices can differ considerably based on location and may be affected by:

  • availability of tutors to service the area
  • schools (public, private, elite) in the area
  • socio-economic conditions of the area
  • wages

The best way to understand these factors is to research how much other tutors, particularly those teaching your subject, are charging for face-t0-face tutoring in that location.

If you want to widen your client field, offering online tutoring may be an option — but it's a lot more competitive. As an online tutor, your 'market' is the world — anyone with the internet can access your services if they wish. Time spent calculating an average hourly rate across Australia and other English-speaking countries for tuition in your subject will be beneficial.

What rates should online tutors charge?
The market for online tutors is global, but rates need to be highly competitive. (Source: Visualhunt)

Step 2: Work Out Where You Belong in the Market as a Private Tutor

During your market research, you would have discovered there are several tutoring niches. You now need to work out where you fit.

Hourly tuition rates are often based on the tutor's experience in both teaching and the subject. Often, qualified teachers work as online tutors either in the evenings after school, or when they've left the profession. Clients are happier to pay higher rates to tutors with more experience.

If you can determine your level of experience, you can put a price on your knowledge. Once you understand your experience level, you can search for tutors with similar experience, in your location and subject, and investigate how much they are charging. There are three broad levels of experience:

Experienced Professionals and Experts

Tutors who have academic knowledge along with hands-on experience in their field are the most highly valued and can charge higher hourly rates. Known as 'native speakers' in foreign language study but experts or professionals in other areas, these tutors have specialised and current knowledge. They are particularly sought after by students at an advanced level or who are seeking a top level of academic success.

Trained, Qualified Teachers

Tutors with education certification not only have deeper subject knowledge, but they also have expertise with a range of pedagogical strategies and a sound understanding of national curriculum and exam processes. Qualified teachers are often in high demand from students needing academic tutoring and a structured approach. As with field experts, tutors with teaching qualifications can charge higher fees.

Students are motivated private tutors, and are great for peer tutoring, study skills and study groups.
For some people, it's more about the motivation and enthusiasm of student tutors than the qualifications. (Source: Visualhunt)

Tutors Who are Currently Studying

Student tutors are at the lower end of the hourly rates spectrum, but possibly the higher end when it comes to passion and enthusiasm for their subject. University (and sometimes senior secondary) students often elect to become a tutor, offering supplemental instruction to their younger peers to earn extra cash and gain valuable experience. Although student tutors do not have teaching backgrounds or certification, this rarely has a negative effect on their students' academic outcomes. The benefits of working with a student tutor include their up-to-date education system knowledge and the fact younger learners may be better able to relate to them. Tutors who are students themselves tend to charge a much lower rate than other tutors.

Make sure you obtain testimonials or feedback regarding your tutoring and subject knowledge and add it to your tutor profile.

Step 3: Include Your Expenses when Setting Your Tutoring Rates

Now that you've considered the market, your subject demand, location and your background experience, you may have a better idea of the hourly rate you can charge. Before you advertise this, however, you should check this price will cover the expenses you will incur as a private tutor, and the amount of time you will take to prepare for each lesson.

Registering with Superprof means you won't be charged a commission on your lessons. In other words, if your rate is $40 an hour, you'll see $40 for each lesson in your bank account. This means there's one less thing you need to incorporate into your fees

Time for Lesson Preparation

Individual students have different academic needs and an excellent tutor spends time preparing for these prior to each lesson. Preparation includes providing feedback, generating study plans and providing ongoing academic advice aimed at student success.

Many tutors spend, on average, an hour preparing for each hour-long class. This means your hourly rate is essentially halved. For example, if your hourly rate is $40, and the preparation time for your tutoring program is one hour, you'll really be earning $20 an hour.

Travel Time

When you're engaged in one-on-one, in-person tuition, someone is going to have to commute — either you or your student. If you advertise yourself as a mobile tutor, make sure you consider your travel time and associated costs when making decisions about your rates.

You may decide to incorporate travel costs into your fee, or you may ask the student to pay for this separately. Either way, make sure the extra fee properly covers your costs.

Teaching Resources and Subject Equipment

You may decide that you are going to supply the necessary equipment and resources. This is particularly beneficial for beginning students who may not want to pay for expensive materials when they are only just starting out and don't know if they will continue on their learning journey. For example, a student learning an instrument for the first time might not be keen to buy their own instrument until they know if they enjoy playing it.

Do I include individual tutoring expenses in my tutoring rates?
Consider your piggy bank when you're setting your tutoring rates and make sure all your expenses are covered. (Source: VisualHunt)

Specialised equipment is not cheap and tutors who provide it will often need to charge higher rates. You have two main options — clarify that resource or equipment use is included in your fees, or charge a separate fee, perhaps per semester or term. Always ensure your equipment is of good quality and in sound condition — this also applies when you are tutoring online.

Tax

At the end of the financial year, you will need to fill in tax return, and may be required to pay income tax and/or other contributions such as superannuation. Unlike an employee whose tax is deducted from their fortnightly wage, as a self-employed private tutor you will pay any tax owing in a lump sum. It is essential you incorporate tax fees into your rate, and possibly even set them aside in a separate account once received.

Like employees, if you're self-employed you can claim for business-related expenses. Doing this may reduce the amount of tax you owe but it is important to ensure you keep receipts and other records of purchase. The website of the Australian Taxation Office has a list of claimable expenses, along with all the other information you will need.

Step 4: Work Out the Specials or Alternatives You Will Offer

The competitive nature of tutoring may mean you need some special offers to make you stand out from other tutors in your field.

Once you've weighed up all the factors, ensured the figures are accurate and set your hourly rate, you'll be ready to advertise your tutoring support services. Every so often, particularly when you're starting out or if business is slow, you might want to offer special deals or packages.

There is nothing wrong about doing this, but just make sure you don't make your variations too complicated. Rates and variations that are straightforward and consistent are easier to manage at your end.

Rates for Group Tutoring

Both parties benefit from group tutoring. Individual students pay less, but the tutor earns more (and the preparation is pretty much the same for one as for five). The average discount for group sessions is around 25% per person, depending on group size. The larger the group, the less individuals should pay as they will be getting less individual attention from you.

Rates for Different Student Levels

As the tutor, we've already mentioned that your hourly rate should take your level of experience into account, however, the level of your student will also have an effect.

Beginning students may expect to pay a lower fee as the level of knowledge they need is only at an introductory level. On the other hand, students who are at an advanced stage of learning will expect to pay a higher rate as they will need a higher level of teacher expertise.

This same variation in rates may also apply to the age of the students you tutor. For example, parents of primary-aged students who want maths tuition would not expect to pay as much as a parent whose child is at college level.

You may feel that free tutoring will set a precedent, however many Superprof tutors do offer the first lesson for free so students can test to see if they like the subject or the teaching style.

Package Rates and Term Bookings

When you become a tutor, your primary concern is going to be ensuring your income is regular.

Offering package rates, where students book a series of lessons and pay in advance, or requesting a block booking of a set number of weeks, is one way to overcome this. The disadvantage is that many people will balk at paying a large sum in advance, so it could be worth your while to offer an incentive, such as a 10% discount for advance bookings or every tenth lesson for free if paid upfront.

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.