The 5 Ws of Getting Started as a Private Tutor: Why Should I Tutor?

Hello readers!  It is I, Tavis “The Tutor King” blogging again after a very successful year with The Profs.  It was a fantastic summer as I had a few brilliant students doing master’s and bachelor’s degrees who just flourished with a little bit of support and guidance.  All this is business-as-usual for us at The Profs, however, this time was particularly  special for me because one of my students, who has just handed in his dissertation, asked: “So Tavis, how do I become a private tutor?”  Whenever this question comes up, it makes everyone at The Profs burst with pride!

Now it is December, which is this is the beginning of the busy season for most of us, and I thought, why not do my guide on getting started in the tutoring biz.  This series will focus on the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of getting started as a tutor.  Let’s get started with, Why.

Why should I become a private tutor?

Let me tell you a personal story; one The Profs has heard many times by now.  When I studied for my bachelor’s degree in psychology, I wanted to be a counselling psychologist.  But the problem was that I was poor.  Much research has shown that careers in counselling are nearly impossible for students who do not come from privilege because the costs of training are too high.  When I realised this, I thought: ‘OK.  I can still be an experimental psychologist.’  But then during my master’s degrees (that’s right, plural) I realised that that job wouldn’t be a great fit for me either.  With the marketisation of the academy and increase in adjunct faculty, short-term post-docs and zero-hour contracts, there is no job security. Yet, there is an expectation that your work-life balance should be heavily skewed toward all work, all the time.  So then I thought: ‘Well, I really just wanted to work at a uni to be a lecturer—so why not be a teacher?’  However, while the incentives exist, the problem was that for me to qualify, I would need to complete even more training and education (and I need a third Level 7 qualification like a hole in the head).  And as I wanted to be a psychology teacher, as opposed to maths or proper science, I’d have to foot the bill.  This meant that I couldn’t be a teacher.

So, can you imagine?  There I was, with two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees and I still couldn’t earn a living doing what I loved to do—helping others and teaching them about the subject I am most passionate about.  It’s not fair, but them’s the breaks.  And then one day on a very sad birthday, I met a private tutor.

This private tutor turned out to be a friend of mine. He told me that while he was an accountant by day, he was working by night as a maths tutor. After a few years of working like this, his tuition income was nearly equal to his accounting job, and he was almost ready to quit his job to tutor.  Learning this, I had an epiphany.

I am a counsellor the day I decide to be a counsellor; I am a psychologist the day I decide to be a psychologist; and I am a psychology teacher the day I decide to be a psychology teacher.  Being a private tutor combined all three jobs into one, and required no more training, no more degrees, and no more costs to achieve.  On my birthday in 2010, I became a private tutor and it was the best gift I could ever have given to myself.

Now your reasons for being a tutor may be similar or vastly different.  I became a tutor because I felt excluded from the higher echelons of psychology and I quickly learned it was my perfect job in the end, anyway.  But maybe you did get that perfect university job, but hate the long hours and how you don’t get time with your friends, family, or just for yourself.  Private tuition is a great way to bring balance back to your life.  Maybe you want to make more money.  I can tell you—the money is there!  Private tuition is a growing industry and it needs strong leaders to separate the education consultants from the professional plagiarisers.  Maybe, you believe that helping one person to overcome a difficult goal makes all the difference in the world.  Think about it: If you could have your perfect job tomorrow, and nothing was stopping you—would you be brave enough to take it?

I understand that many people find the idea of running your own business risky and being self-employed definitely has its own downsides too.  Successful businesses are not made overnight; they take a lot of hard work and time to build.  I only started earning a full-time income after working for four years as a tutor—and I think I achieved that quickly!  Some have worked for longer.  Starting a business is not a decision one should make based on a conversation at a sad birthday party.  But for me, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This brings me to the final point of this blog series.  In academia, the competition and back-stabbing for resources and jobs is painful for me to watch.  But in private tuition, I know for a fact there is plenty of work to go around.  Last year, I had so many clients I couldn’t possibly take anymore—so I am encouraging others to join our profession because we need you! So why not join The Profs as we radicalise the field of education?

Make sure to check out the next post in the series, where I talk about What you should tutor!