The 5 Ws of Getting Started as a Private Tutor: What Will I Tutor?

Welcome back to the next post in the series! If you haven’t already read it, you can read the first in the series, here!

“What will I tutor?”

Great question!  What should you tutor?  Well, here at The Profs, we tend to tutor what we have our degree in but this is not exclusively the case.  In fact, you don’t necessarily even need a degree to be a successful tutor.

I have a friend who has raised three brilliant children and they are all off to uni studying toward their bachelor’s degrees now.  When they were growing up—long before they even had their GCSEs—they were taught how to play piano through (you guessed it) private tuition.  Even before they had their A-levels completed, they all had their Grade 8 in piano.  They then became piano tutors themselves and at the ripe-old-age of sixteen-years-old, were earning in excess of £60/hour!  Nevermind that their actual fields of study at university had absolutely nothing to do with music!  So while traditionally, many people tutor in a subject they have a degree in, the degree can matter less than true motivation. You should tutor what you have a passion for, whether you have a degree in it or not!

Have you narrowed a subject down yet?  Did you find it difficult?  Yeah, I know.  It is difficult to pick, even if you have something you are passionate about.  Take me for example:  my primary degree (and passion) is in psychology however, I also have a degree in liberal arts, which means I know my way around sociology, philosophy, and religious studies.  Heck, as a soft skill I’m even a dab hand at using Microsoft Office due to putting myself through uni as a medical secretary and that is a subject I have been paid to tutor others in, as well!

When you are starting out, it is OK to have more than one or even several subjects you may be interested in tutoring for.  When I started out, I tutored all these subjects because I wanted clients and I didn’t care what I had to teach to get them.  This worked… for a while.  Eventually, when I built my reputation as an excellent psychology tutor (and an average tutor in other subjects), I had so many psychology clients that I was able to discard teaching the tangent subjects and just focus exclusively on psych.

But there is more to What than picking a subject… You have to choose what learning level as well. For me, I discovered A-level psychology first.  A-level psychology is very demanding, it lasts two years (or more) for students.  I tutored exclusively A-level for three years before I had my first Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree clients.  It was a further year before I had my first GCSE Psychology client.

But your subject may be taught at an earlier age.  If you tutor maths, English, science or another second language, tuition can begin with primary students.

You need to think about the learning level you will most appeal to primarily because you will need to start investing in the right learning resources and textbooks for that level. There is no point in buying loads of A-level textbooks (which can be expensed) if you plan on conducting the bulk of your business on Key Stages.

You could cast your net wide or you could narrow in on what you want.  I personally think you have to be intuitive about your specific subject and quick to respond to the demands of clients.  If you plan on tutoring A-levels, are you prepared to turn away a primary school student if their parents call?

Once you know what you want to tutor, the most important thing to remember is—you can always change your mind.  For example, since working with The Profs and online tuition, I’m doing less A-level work now and more university level work.  This has been great for reducing my travel time.  Furthermore, despite my background being in quantitative psychology (statistics), I’m getting more and more qualitative psychology (interviews, netnography, anything that’s not a number), So what you tutor can be revisited at any time as well.