Tutoring is a potentially lucrative side hustle that’s particularly good for people with teaching experience. Read on to find out more about how to start a tutoring side hustle, how much it pays, and what opportunities are available.
Anyone can become a tutor. You don’t need any specific credentials or experience—you just need to be able to find students who want to be tutored by you.
However, it obviously makes life a lot easier if you’re proficient in the subject you want to teach. That will lend you extra credibility and make it easier to find students.
How to pick a subject
There’s a market for tutors in dozens of subjects. Popular ones include:
- English: The demand for English tutors is nearly limitless. As you’d expect, many students of English are second-language (ESL) learners who are based in other countries, so this is a great option if you want to teach online.
- Test preparation: This refers to prep work for standardized tests, such as the SATs or ACTS. Test prep is a particularly well-paid tutoring subfield.
- STEM: Many students find these fields challenging. If you have a background in science, math, or something tech-related (such as programming), there are plenty of people who’ll pay extra for your expertise.
The importance of specializing
Your instinct might be to pick a broad swath of topics to increase your pool of potential students, but we spoke to one experienced tutor who told us that it’s usually better to find a niche—the more specific, the better.
“Anyone considering doing online teaching should specialize,” he told us. “Otherwise it’s too competitive and your rates will be very low.”
For example, if you want to teach English, it’s best to narrow that down and teach business English or preparation for a specific English exam.
Tutoring platforms vs. independent tutoring
If you’re considering tutoring as a side hustle, there are two ways you can get students:
- Through a platform: The easiest way to get started tutoring is by signing up for one of the many online tutoring platforms out there.
- Independently: You can also start your own tutoring business. This is more work, but it also has higher earning potential.
We’ll look at both of these options below.
Online tutoring platforms can connect you with students. They also sometimes provide other assistance, including:
- Premade lesson plans (or lesson-planning tips)
- Teaching materials, such as worksheets
- A virtual classroom where you can conduct your lessons
Of course, teaching platforms don’t provide all of this for free. In most cases, you won’t actually have to pay to use them, but they’ll take a cut of your profits. You’ll earn less tutoring on a platform than you would if you looked for students by yourself.
Many online tutoring platforms also have requirements regarding the qualifications you need, and sometimes have limitations on who can work for them (e.g., you may need to be eligible to work in the US).
If you want to sign up to a tutoring platform, there are a lot of options to choose from. Here are a few of them:
Tutor.com is a platform that supports many different subjects, including math, science, languages, business, and more. They teach K–12 and upward—including college, graduate school, and continuing education courses.
Requirements: To work for Tutor.com, you’ll either need to have a 4-year degree or be in the process of getting one. You also need to be eligible to work in the US and will have to pass a background check.
Pay: The pay is fairly average according to Glassdoor, which puts the hourly rate at $16–$26. However, the average tutoring session is apparently quite short at just 20–25 minutes, so you won’t normally get anything like the full hourly rate for your lessons.
2. Varsity Tutors
Varsity Tutors is a flexible platform that claims to cover more than 3,000 subjects. There are also plenty of options for the age groups you can teach, with classes for “kids, adults, and all levels of virtual learning.”
Requirements: Varsity Tutors accept applications from tutors in the US and Canada. You’ll need to pass a background check, and according to online reports, you also need to have a 4-year degree or be working toward one.
Pay: Payscale says that Varsity pays $13.51–$23.17 an hour, with an average hourly rate of $17.39. Indeed gives a slightly lower estimate of $16.55 per hour. Lessons vary in length, with some as short as 30 minutes, and others as long as 240 minutes.
Wyzant offers more than 300 subjects for learners of all ages, from elementary school students to adults.
Requirements: To sign up with them as a tutor, you have to live in the US and have a Social Security number. You’ll also have to pass a quiz on each subject you want to teach. Wyzant’s website doesn’t specify whether you need a degree to tutor for them.
Pay: Wyzant is a bit different from the other platforms we’ve mentioned so far; they let you set your own rate for private lessons. However, they’ll take a cut of what you earn—normally 25% of the lesson fee. They also charge additional fees to students on top of the lesson fees that you set.
TutorMe covers over 300 different subjects for students in K–12 schools and higher ed.
Requirements: You don’t have to be located in the US to work for TutorMe, but you must meet their education requirements. You must be a university student or graduate with two years of tutoring or teaching experience and “a mastery of subjects tutored” (the application process includes prompts to test this).
Pay: The TutorMe website says that tutors get $16 per hour. You’ll be paid both for the time you actually spend teaching and the time you spend providing feedback to your students.
Skooli specializes in mathematics but also hire English, science, and business tutors. They support tutoring for students in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.
Requirements: According to Skooli’s website, you need to have one or more of the following to tutor for them:
- Bachelor’s degree (or higher) in a related field
- Government-issued teaching license
- Specialized instructor qualification (e.g., a mathematics certification)
They don’t specify any particular limitations in terms of location for tutors (or whether you need to be eligible to work in the US, for example).
Pay: Skooli also doesn’t specify how much they pay. However, many reports online claim that the hourly rate is around $25 (and you apparently have to earn at least $100 before you can receive a payout).
Recruiting your own students is a potentially more lucrative alternative to using tutoring sites and apps, as you don’t have to share your profits with the platform (many of which will take a huge cut).
If you don’t mind spending the time and effort building a roster of clients, it’s worth giving this a try.
Here are the steps you should follow to start your own tutoring business:
1. Decide whether you want to teach online or offline
You can teach in-person lessons or connect with your students via video call. The choice comes down to your preference; offline lessons feel more personal, but they’re less convenient than online lessons, which you can conduct from anywhere.
Teaching online also allows you to cast a much wider net to find students instead of limiting yourself to people in your area.
If you want to tutor online, you’ll need to decide what software to use. Zoom is an obvious choice, although with the free version, meetings time out after 40 minutes, which is obviously inconvenient if your lessons are longer (e.g., an hour long).
Other platforms you can use include:
You also may also need hardware such as:
- A webcam (if there isn’t one built into your computer or if it isn’t very good)
- A high-quality microphone
- High-quality headphones
- A digital writing pad
Of course, you won’t need any of the above if you only offer in-person tutoring sessions. You just need to pick a place to hold your tutoring sessions.
Some in-person tutors go to their students’ homes and some tutor from their own homes. You can also go to a public place, like a coffee shop or library.
2. Price your tutoring service (and choose a payment method)
When you start your own tutoring business, arguably the most important decision—after the subject you’ll teach—will be the rates you charge.
Rates for tutoring can vary massively. As a very general guideline, Indeed claims the average tutor charges $16–$36 per hour. It’s certainly possible to make more than that if you’re particularly in-demand, although in the beginning, you might need to set your rates lower to land clients. (Just make sure you’re not undervaluing your labor and time.)
In addition to deciding your rates, you also have to decide what payment method you want clients to use (e.g., cash, check, Venmo, or PayPal) and whether you want them to pay for blocks of lessons upfront or to pay as they go.
3. Market your tutoring service
If you’re striking out alone as a tutor, you’ll have to find students yourself, meaning you’ll have to market yourself.
This will probably be easy if you’re already a professional teacher or a professor. We spoke to one English teacher, Mark James Edwards, who has been providing one-on-one tutoring sessions for many years and has also taught online university classes.
He recommended word-of-mouth referrals as a way to get students: “Advertise through your existing network. Let your real-life students know if you’re teaching online.”
If you don’t have a network yet, here are other tips to help you spread the word:
- Use freelancer platforms: Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer are popular options for advertising tutoring services. Bear in mind that these will take a cut of your earnings.
- Distribute business cards: It’s very simple to design and print business cards on sites like Vistaprint and Canva. You can use these to network with people in person.
- Advertise yourself on social media: You can use Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms to advertise that you’re taking on students.
- Find sites that don’t take commission: Some sites will let you create a tutoring profile without charging you anything. KidoServ is a site that connects students and tutors free of charge. You can also try local classified sites like Craigslist.
- Word of mouth: Once you’ve got a couple of students, you can ask them to let their friends, colleagues, or classmates know that you’re available for work.
- Offer free trial lessons, workshops, or seminars: Contact local libraries, schools, and recreation centers to ask whether they’ll let you host free seminars or workshops. This is a great way to gain exposure. You can also entice people to try your services by offering free lessons—even just a 20-minute mini-lesson can work.
- Reach out to local schools or universities: Many schools will let you advertise your tutoring business on campus by putting up flyers. If you’re a test prep tutor, this is one of the best ways to find students.
4. Keep financial records (and consider registering as a business)
In the US, if you earn over $400 from gig work, you have to report the money you make and potentially pay taxes on it.
Make sure you put aside a percentage of the money you earn to pay your taxes at the end of the year. How much you need to pay will depend on your state’s tax laws and your financial situation. For more information, you can call the IRS helpline at (800) 829-1040.
It can make things easier if you formally register your tutoring job as a business. You’re not required to do this, but there are benefits to doing so, both legal and financial.
If you keep records of all of your business transactions over the year, it’ll make life easier when tax season arrives. Fortunately, there are apps available to help you do this. Try Expensify and Emburse.
Separate your finances
It’s a good idea to separate your business finances from your personal finances—again, largely for tax reasons. What’s more, this will also protect your personal assets in the unlikely event that somebody sues your business.
As you’re probably gathering, running your own tutoring business is much more labor-intensive than working for a platform, which will handle a lot of this work for you. However, again, your profit potential will be much higher.
Whichever choice you make, as long as you put in the work to find students and make your lessons as useful and engaging as you can, you’re sure to find enough success to make tutoring into a worthwhile side hustle or even a stepping stone to a teaching career.